4 tips for packing for multiple climates

In my years of travel, there have plenty of trips where I visited two different climates. This is especially prevalent Packing for two climatesduring seasonal changes. Right now in Texas it’s technically fall (mid-October) but it was 94 degrees yesterday. 94! It’s insanity. If you were to travel to Dallas and Chicago this week you would need to do a lot of planning to make sure you had appropriate outfits for both climates.

But my mom wins the prize for multiple climates in one trip. Right now she is on a month-long trip that started in London and is finishing in Zimbabwe. The lows in London were around 40 degrees, and yesterday in Zimbabwe it was 103! Before she left we spent a lot of time figuring out her packing strategy. Here is what we came up with:

  1. Start with a list. If you could pack anything in your closet for each location, what would it be? Write it down. What activities will you do in each location? For my mom, in both countries there is a mix of meetings (always meetings!) and sightseeing. This means she needs professional clothes, casual clothes, and very comfortable shoes. After you’ve got a dream list of everything you could possibly need, look for overlap. Then look for replacements. Maybe it would be great to take 10 different shirts, but I bet you have five shirts that would work in both locations with some creativity.
  1. Plan to layer. Can you add a cardigan to a gauzy blouse+slacks combo and wear it in the colder location? What about warm tights, a scarf, and a blazer with a dress? Wearing the same base pieces in each location means you have to pack far less.
  2. Packing cube. Use a packing cube to keep location-specific items separate. For my mom, there were a few very light-weight items that were reserved specifically for Africa that were initially compressed down in a packing cube. Once she headed to Zimbabwe she put her coat, hat, and sweaters in there. That way it’s easier to get to the clothes she needs, when she needs them.
  3. Plan to do laundry. If you’re gone for a week, you can probably layer your clothes for both locations without needing to wash anything. Much longer than that and you will definitely want to plan for laundry! Check with your hotel to ensure there are laundry facilities on-site or nearby. If not, bring some hand wash detergent and plan to use your bathroom sink.

Often, following these steps will allow you to pack for a trip with multiple locations in a carry-on. In my mom’s case, clothes for a month just took up too much room. Sometimes you just have to check your bag, and that’s okay! Just do your best and try not to pack too much more than you need.

Here are some sample packing lists and outfits I’ve used when traveling to two climates:

Readers, what is the most extreme temperature change you’ve ever had on one trip?

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  1. Great tips! I don’t like checking in luggage and packing a lot of clothes so I usually avoid travel to different climates on one trip if I can help it.
    My most extreme temperature difference was in January when I visited Singapore and Brunei (which were in the 90s) and then visited a part of Japan which was in the 20s and 30s. Fortunately, I only had to pack casual clothes which made it easier.

  2. I traveled for about 5 months, from Wales to Kenya, last March to September. I only packed two carry on bags, but I didn’t have to worry about professional clothing.

    And I still packed too much. I had a scottevest trench with about 18 pockets I would fill up and carry on the plane. Often, I would get lucky and be offered to check my larger bag for free. But I still spent a fortune sending things home. Then somehow would end up with too much again, even though I rarely buy anything remotely resembling a souvenir.

    It really had a negative impact on my trip. The larger suitcase, still a small 20″ roll aboard, converted to a backpack. I meant to use it that way going up and down stairs at train and subway stations. But it was too much trouble, once the straps were out, you couldn’t go straight to rolling because they’d catch on the wheels.

    I’m hoping to return next spring for six months, and I’m already planning to be absolutely ruthless in choosing my clothes. The variety I had was not worth the weight. I want to be able to – literally – just pick up and go. I had years to plan for that trip and I got it wrong. Not quite so wrong that it ruined my trip, but from now on, I plan to be much more easily mobile. Basically, lots of black with colorful scarves and jewelry.

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