Hiking the Alps, Switzerland

Travels for All Seasons: How to Plan Trips for Any Time of Year

I’m in trip planning mode at the moment and I’ve been worrying about weather. These days my travel plans have to fit around things like courses I’m teaching, times my husband can get away, kindergarten terms and more. It’s a far cry from my full time travel life when I had plenty of time and just needed to pick a destination with the right climate to suit my purpose. So suddenly I can’t just go to a beautiful beach in summer or the Alps in winter to enjoy places as they’re meant to be enjoyed. Bottom line: I have to get flexible about seasons and weather.

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So I’m getting over my aversion to bad weather and thinking hard about how to make the best of the trips I’m planning, even though the time of year won’t be ideal in terms of weather. Perhaps my strategies will help you too, if you end up traveling to fit other kinds of planning limits than the weather.

Alternative Activities

Put some thought into alternatives for activities in your destination. Perhaps you’d hoped to be in Switzerland over winter so you could hit the slopes – but the Alps are also an incredible place for some summer hiking too.

I’m trying to plan a trip to visit some friends in the Aran Islands off Ireland and I’m told it’s a pretty desolate place mid-winter; for a while it looked like that’s exactly when I’d be landing there so I was thinking of lots of good indoor activity instead – probably involving lots of getting to know the locals! In fact it looks like it’ll be a late spring trip after all but at least I’m prepared if the weather turns bad.

Hiking the Alps, Switzerland
Hiking the Alps, Switzerland © Daniel Zedda

No Bad Weather, Only Bad Clothes

Here in Perth, Western Australia, where the temperature never (ever) drops below freezing, we never have snow and we swelter through many century-heat days in summer. I initially found it hard to deal with colder climes on my travels. Numerous people (all of whom came from much colder countries than me) gave me the advice that there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.

It took me a few years to get geared up but I am a firm believer of this adage now. So just get prepared, invest in the right clothes for the weather – be it hot or cold – and be comfortable.

Choose the Right Time of Day

Rather than just go gung-ho into whatever you wanted to do, regardless of the weather, figure out the more sensible way to do it which suits the climate and the season. For example, lots of people who come to Australia want to go bush walking and explore the outback. If they are here during summer then it’s not only really uncomfortable, but it can be pretty dangerous too, as it gets much hotter than most people are used to. Rather than trudge though that heat and risk your health, look at alternatives like waking super-early and doing a nice early morning walk, and then having a siesta nap in the afternoon (hopefully in an air-conditioned room).

One of my favourite Aussie summer experiences was joining a night-time walk which had two advantages. We avoided the heat (and flies) of the day, and because we were guided by experienced bushwalkers we were also shown the abundance of nocturnal wildlife that was out and about at that time (because like us, animals avoid the heat of the day).

The Way They Used to Live II: At the Season's End
At Winter’s End, Finland © Mikko Luntiala

Stay Indoors

If it’s either too hot or too cold, then indoor destinations are likely to be winners. Destinations with quite extreme climates are likely to be set up well in this regard.

I remember visiting northern Finland during winter (and I have to say that although it was by far the coldest place I’ve ever visited, I’d finally got the “right” clothes and it barely bothered me). They had a good selection of museums and exhibitions available that also gave a good taste of what outdoor life there was like.

Rethink Your Expectations

Finally, one of the best ways to deal with traveling in what you might consider the “wrong” season is simply to think about what you’re expecting and then alter your ideas.

For example, if you’re headed to a beach destination but it’ll be the middle of winter and too cold to go swimming, consider how you can enjoy the experience of a beach in winter. I really love bundling up and taking a long walk along a beach in cold weather. It’s never crowded with swimmers, you can often find lots of interesting objects washed up on the shore, and the smell of sea air during winter is really refreshing.

Similarly, if you are heading to a beautiful landscape but the grey weather of winter means you won’t be able to take those gorgeous photos you’d been wanting to, then look for a different perspective. Perhaps macro photos of the vegetation are just as impressive, or a bit of Photoshopping to lighten a dark sky — it’s all a matter of just adjusting your thinking a bit, and then it really won’t matter what season you travel in.

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