3 travel experts share their top tips if a White Christmas is in store for you

A mother and son enjoy their first White Christmas together
A mother and son enjoy their first White Christmas together

“Many South Africans have friends and family in Europe, the United Kingdom and North America and will fly their whole family up for a different type of December holiday,” says Flight Centre leisure marketing leader, Nicky Potgieter.

“There’s nothing like skiing in Colorado (US) in December, seeing the Santa Claus parade in Toronto or visiting the Christmas markets in Europe,” she says.

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She does add however, that travellers should take some precautions when travelling from hot to colder climates. Her top tip is to take care of your skin, especially if you’re used to humid weather and are travelling to a dry, cold climate. 

“Cold, dry climates can cause nosebleeds and skin irritation, so a travel-sized humidifier and saline sprays can help travellers avoid dry nasal passages by adding moisture to dry air with water vapour.”

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Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is just as key in colder climes as in warmer ones, especially as it’s harder to gauge hydration levels in cooler temperatures. And eating anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods can help boost one’s immune system, and hearty dinners with warming spices, such as cumin or paprika, can help keep your body temperature up through the night.

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“Staying dry and dressing in layers can help minimise the risk of hypothermia and keep you warm when going from a terminal to a chilly plane,” Potgieter advises, commenting that when in doubt about precautions, it never hurts to consult a general practitioner or a local travel clinic for advice.

Seasoned traveller, Mandy Watson – a travel marketer and journalist – agrees, highlighting that nothing can prepare a South African for minus 16 degrees celsius temperatures in Denver, Colorado. 

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“I thought I was well-prepared on my first visit but although I had the fleece jacket, the winter socks and boots, I didn’t have a hat or gloves. 

I would definitely at least have packed gloves,” she says, adding that the snowball fight she had with her family upon landing did help warm her up.

Watson says she doesn’t take any medication such as flu jabs etc. before heading off to cooler climes but does keep throat lozenges and some paracetamol tablets in her hand luggage. “My biggest issue is the pressure on my ears when landing so I always suck on a hard sweet once I know we’re descending. The paracetamol is just in case I get sinus from the air conditioning on the plane,” she says.

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Andrea Pearson, who ticked Wales and the Christmas Markets off her bucket list for December last year, says she always takes a sleeping tablet for long-haul flights, avoids alcohol as it adds to dehydration and drinks lots of water.

“Heading from sunny South Africa to minus degrees in Wales, I opted for the extreme layered look on the plane. I bought one excellent quality down jacket a size bigger than I would normally wear so it would comfortably cover me and all my layers,” she adds, noting that she kept it on the plane with her (it made a very comfy pillow) and zipped a lightweight pair of gloves and a scarf into the pockets of the jacket.

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“My (high) fashion of choice was stretchy leggings, decent socks and a comfortable pair of walking shoes in case I needed to move fast between connecting flights and didn’t want to be tottering in heels like a newborn calf,” relates Pearson, noting that this turned out to be the best decision in the end, as she had 30 minutes between flights.

“I also find that indoor places in really cold countries – shops, restaurants, tourist attractions – are really well heated so the layered look works well during the trip as well,” she says.

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Bundling up doesn’t mean you need to embrace your inner Michelin Man either. Here are some top tips for going from hot to cold these holidays:

Carry a large handbag so you can stow layers you’ll need to don when you get to your destination airport.

Leggings are your best friend – light and warm, easy to carry or wear.

Down jackets are better than heavy coats as they take up less space and can be squashed at the top of your bag before you zip it up. When you get to the other side, simply unzip your checked bag and whip out your down jacket.

Layers, layers, layers – you’ve heard it before. Choose one featured item of clothing like a colourful dress. As it gets colder add a long-sleeve T-Shirt underneath, a jersey on top and finally a jacket. Wear thermal stockings or leggings underneath and voila, hot-to-cold in style.

Comfy jeans are always a winner. The jeggings option is great because it doubles as a legging and a pair of jeans. Twin with a pair of calf boots and pack a pair of thermal socks and stockings.

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