What to pack for a winter trip to Serbia?
The time has come…we are starting to pack for our winter Serbia trip. And of course I am very excited – the kids are finishing up their last days at school and I’ve take the day off to tidy things up here, get final errands done and …gulp…start to pack.
This part of the trip does always give me some anxiety, I won’t lie, but in fact it represents an exciting part of the trip because reality sets in that we are now really going! So this post should be a good release of some tension for me, and finally I can go back and start on the empty suitcase in our room.
“Pack light”, she said…”how?”, I asked…
I’ve been advised by my mother in law, whom we will be staying with for a large part of this visit, to pack light because we can buy new season winter clothes in Belgrade. “So don’t bring much with you”, she said. I trust her of course, because the last summer trip this year, she said that same thing and I regretted that I had brought so much over. In fact, I left some of our heavier weight clothes there in anticipation for our return later this year. We are lucky to have been able to do that. Most travellers don’t have this luxury.
Having said that, I have always struggled with the “pack light” concept. We surely cannot be expected to go from summer to winter with just the clothes on our backs. Of course I will find beautiful clothes there in Belgrade. I know this from all my previous shopping trips. It makes such logical sense. But anxiety, even mild anxiety, seems to beat logic most of the time, initially at least. Being from Melbourne, where we experience 4 seasons in a day, it’s so hard not to pack something for each season, just in case. And guess what? Like a self fulfilling prophecy, the very thing I leave behind is the very thing that I need! Sure, we can buy it. But who wants to spend precious vacation time running around looking for something? It’s one thing to browse at leisure and buy what you want. Quite another to buy something you need at the last minute ie it suddenly gets warm, and you don’t have a single short sleeve t-shirt.
So, you see…for a caffeine fuelled, slightly neurotic person like me (ha!), to say “pack light” is a bit of an unrealistic concept at first. Sorry, you may have been hoping that I give a quick answer to what to pack in this post, but let me work this through – right here, right now!
Last year, I bought the biggest, red suitcase I could find. It is a very light, Samsonite branded suitcase, which I have relied on to get me over the line at customs weigh ins. I say rely on, because inevitably, I go over the luggage allowance and then have to stuff a few things into the kids’ suitcases (what are kids for?!).
My kids’ don’t seem to like taking much with them…though my daughter is starting to copy my luggage stuffing ways, which is already worrisome. Our son doesn’t care if he doesn’t have enough clothes for the other side of the world (though of course, I make sure he has plenty!) – he’s happy with what he has on at the time of travelling, so he packs his iPad, charger, Mickey Mouse plush toy some clean underwear and his beloved Minions pajamas – he’s good to go …or so he thinks! Much like his dad, he is practical when it comes to this packing thing. My husband can easily make it over customs, and mind you, he’s always so well dressed being European and all.
I love being organised…so it puzzles me why this empty suitcase presents such a challenge?! Come on, let’s do this!
My packing list for winter, right now
Visualisation seems to be the key and is working for me right now. I can read all the suggested packing lists online, but I am, right now, focusing on what if FEELS like to be cold. Since winter was like only a few short months ago, shouldn’t be too hard. I’ve taken out some photos of winter in Belgrade and am remembering where I was, what I wore, how it felt etc. I really do need a day off to do this without anyone else to interrupt me. The key to winter, I think, is layering. You don’t want to be too hot once you get inside a warm place, like a restaurant, home or shop – otherwise, you sweat and get cold. This is even more important when it comes to the kids, who are more active indoors than we are.
Here goes…my current packing list for winter in Serbia. I am sure I will add more as we get closer to the date, which I can add to another post.
- Thermal underwear. By far the best investment ever. Last winter in Belgrade, I thought I could do without it. I thought wrong. Even the coldest winter in Australia cannot prepare you for the Košava (pronounced “koh-sha-va”), the notoriously cold wind that sweeps Serbia. This is how it is described:Košava is a cold, very squally southeastern wind found in Serbia and some nearby countries. It starts in the Carpathian Mountains and follows the Danube northwest through the Iron Gate region where it gains a jet effect, then continues to Belgrade. It can spread as far north as Hungary and as far south as Niš. In the winter, it can cause temperatures to drop to around -30 °C. ” (source: Wikipedia)My father warned me about it, I am so glad I packed my thermals. Seriously…get thermals especially for the kids. You can thank me later.
- Waterproof boots. If you plan to go in the snow, you need good waterproof boots. Leather is fine, as long as you waterproof them, or else your feet will freeze. My Serbian grandmother would say “if your feet are cold, your whole body is cold”. That is very true. I will be taking my Burberry gumboots (my favourites!) and I will buy a pair of leather boots (Serbia has gorgeous selections of boots). There, a compromise! For the kids…I will get them also a pair of gumboots, and they too can buy a leather pair in Serbia. I particularly love the faux fur lined ones.
- A coat. I have a quilted jacket, which I would call a wind breaker, because it keeps the wind out but isn’t particularly toasty warm. I can layer up under it without being too hot. This will be fine only because I have checked the temperatures for the week ahead – 8-9 degrees celsius. I am even tempted to opt for my leather coat…decisions… I will definitely need to buy a good winter weight coat once I get to Belgrade, and my mother in law assures me there are plenty of styles available right now (and will be on sale, for New Year sales which is an awesome time to buy classic pieces!). You won’t find the same winter styles in Australia, at places like Kathmandu or Surf, Dive and Ski shops. Serbian winter fashion is just that…fashionable to wear on the city streets, yet very warm. The key to Australian winter fashion, and there may be exceptions which I haven’t yet seen, is to cover up for the slopes and it can be as plain as day, it doesn’t matter.
- Warm thermal socks. Oops…forgot this one! If I don’t get around to it, I know I can buy warm socks anywhere in Belgrade. (I know…breaking my rule above).
- My favourite toiletries. Even though we will get toiletries on the plane, I still have a few of my own favourites which I carry with me. I just need to remember to keep them at 100mls per bottle/container and in a clear plastic bag. I was pulled over in Dubai last time because I didn’t do this, and was politely given a clear, plastic bag. When you rush, you can forget, especially with kids in tow. So, I will take a couple of extra plastic bags just in case. The toiletries will be packed in my hand luggage. Make sure you take facial wipes. Always a refreshing feeling when you need it, or when you have kids’ sticky fingers and faces to wipe down.
- Jumper. I’m going to take my medium weighted one, which will fit over a thermal top. Layering again.
- Scarf. Serbs love wearing scarves, even in summer, I noticed them around the city. Fashionable scarves are to be found everywhere from the marketplace to the high end boutiques. I will take one here, and buy more there. The kids will need a scarf, and again, I can buy more when I get there.
- Warm hat? I think I will just buy one there, but if you have one, take it. There are many beautiful and fashionable ones in Belgrade and our coats all have a hood to get us from the airport to the apartment.
- Gloves. If you have a pair, take them! Leather lined gloves are the ones I like best because they are more waterproof than the knitted ones. You will definitely need them. I once double gloved because it was minus something degrees celsius. I’m going for longer ones, for extra warmth. Like the ones worn by the Etihad air hostesses.
- Jeans. A definite must. Skinny legged of course. I’ll take my blue denim ones I bought last time and I know that I have left a black pair over there. Also, in winter, you will find such a great range to choose from, in different weights. Belgrade is jeans city, given that so many are made in Novi Pazar, South Serbia, and exported to big name brands around the world. And they are inexpensive – a perfectly well made pair for 25 euro. Can’t beat that! And I can definitely fit on some lightweight thermals underneath. Bonus.
Well, that is all the packing I can do right now…I’m off for a coffee (my 3rd this morning!) and then to finish the errands I need to do today. Thanks for stopping by, and if you have any suggestions for packing, please feel free to leave your comments below. I hope that I have also helped those of you, who like me, have pre-long haul trip packing jitters with at least a common understanding – you’re not alone!