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How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Trip to the Mountains

How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Trip to the Mountains

Taking a trip to the mountains is an unforgettable experience. A full weekend in the mountains makes for a wonderful vacation, particularly during the winter when you can enjoy the best of the cold, snow and scenery. But do you know how to pack correctly for inclement weather, and which winter travel essentials you should keep in mind for a mountain jaunt that won’t wallop your wallet? There are a lot of things to think about and prepare for, so we present these essential tips for a budget-friendly trip to the mountains.

How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Mountain Trip

1. get Organized in Advance

Traveling spontaneously is great if you have the luxury of time and money to spare, but if you’re traveling on a budget, the first thing to do is come up with a plan. You don’t need to construct a tight, hour-by-hour itinerary, but you should at least have a general idea of how long your trip will last and what route you’ll take to get there. Leaving less to chance means fewer unexpected expenses like last-minute flights (if you are not driving) and avoiding high prices for your lodging.

2. Timing is Everything

Do thorough research on the best times to travel, for both lower prices and to avoid crowded destinations. Avoid trips during the school holidays, since this is when the travel industry hikes up prices to take advantage of families who can only travel during these weeks. Keep in mind that hotels and airlines lower their prices to attract customers during low season.

3. Sleep for Cheap

When you’re planing for a trip like this, keep in mind that your accommodations will usually be your biggest expense. Hotel stays often don’t come cheap, and a more affordable alternative is a condo rental or a homestay like Airbnb, which offers rooms or an entire house or apartment for short term rentals. A homestay saves you cash and can offer a a more authentic snapshot of real life in an area than a hotel.

You might even consider staying with family or friends. Reach out to people you know or plan a trip to somewhere that a long-lost cousin or school friend now lives. This could let you visit places you’d never thought of before.

4. Mind Your Meals

Take time to think about your meals and drinks, and whether you might prepare them yourself rather than eating in restaurants. This can make a huge difference to your budget. Consider lodging that includes a kitchen that has all the appliances and is fully stocked with pots, pans, bowls and utensils so you can buy groceries and cook meals in the rental. At the very least, make sure there’s a microwave and mini fridge.

Also, you should always carry bottles of water with you, and drink regularly to help you stay hydrated and ward off hunger pangs until the next meal. I love this detoxifying water with fresh fruits.

5. Pack properly

Make sure you bring everything you need so that you don’t have to shop (apart from a few souvenirs) while you’re on your vacation. Weekend mountain getaways can help you escape from urban life, but they require planning when it comes to packing right. The weather is usually much cooler in the mountains than it is at lower altitudes, and mountain activities typically also require special gear and clothing. Most mountain towns are small, with few stores, so they may not have everything you need if you forget to pack an important item.

Careful planning before you go will ensure that you pack everything you need for a weekend, without stuffing your suitcase to bursting. The most important thing to keep in mind when creating your packing list is to know what kind of activities you will enjoy while on the trip. You’ll likely go sledding, skiing or snowboarding, so make sure your kids are warm and protected with the right outerwear and gear. No matter where you’re heading, take a warm hoodie, waterproof jacket, and at least one pair of long jeans in case unpredictable weather hits.

Canada Goose Kid's Ski Jacket
CC Knit Cap Beanies with Fur Pom Poms

Your Mountain Trip Packing List 

Here is an expansive checklist we put together, with packing tips for your mountain adventure.

  • A winter jacket – Winter temperatures in the mountains can range from the 30s to 50s, but they often drop below freezing, so you’ll need a winter coat if you plan on walking around outside.
  • A range of shirtsIt’s tempting to reach for your heftiest garments when planning a cold weather wardrobe but bringing lots of lighter items is usually the smarter choice, especially since mountain weather conditions can fluctuate. You can still create that cozy feeling by layering up with a mix of warm (but preferably thin and breathable) shirts, and you’ll have more options to mix and match outfits. 
  • Sweaters – You’ll still want to bring sweaters along, particularly for when the temperature gets downright frigid. You might pack a range of sweaters, from thin merino wool ones to thicker cable-knits. You should also bring along something stylish (the Fair Isle design is popular in the mountains) in case you go out to dinner.  
  • Jeans and pants – If you wear jeans and chinos, make sure they are durable and can stand up to the cold of the mountains. Wool pants are warmer, and many of the styles look more dressy. If you’re doing something more vigorous in the elements, you’ll want really good snow pants.
  • Socks – If you’re planning on walking around outside in the snow, there’s a chance snow or water could get into your boots and get your feet wet, so we recommend quick-drying socks. Sometimes, thick socks seem like a better choice, but they take much longer to dry if they get damp. Thin merino wool can absorb a lot of moisture and still keep your feet dry and warm, plus they dry out after wearing them much quicker than cotton and other natural fibers.
  • Hiking boots or snow boots – If you’re exploring the great outdoors, make sure you have the right hiking boots. If you’ll be tromping around in the deep snow, you’ll want a snow boot
  • Hat and gloves a warm winter hat and gloves are essential for a visit to the mountains. Wool is a good choice for both, but if you want a more functional glove for activities, ski gloves are the way to go.
  • Hand and feet warmers – The air-activated heat packs that you can slip into gloves, mittens, and socks are a good idea, especially when the temperature drops really low. 
  • Thermal undergarments – While winter temperatures in the mountains don’t always get severe, at higher elevations it can get very cold. If you’re at the top of the mountains, a good moisture-wicking base layer is essential. Merino wool is a particularly effective fabric for keeping warm and dry.  
  • Camera – Remember to bring your camera along to document your travels and any close encounters you may have with wildlife. Binoculars are helpful for seeing animals like deer, foxes and even bears up close without risking your safety.

This is a basic overview of what my family packs for most winter trips, whether we’re heading out for a weekend or a couple of weeks. Remember that most people are only going to see your outer layer, so you don’t need to pack a huge variety of styles.

Now that you have our top tips for taking a budget-friendly trip and know what to pack (like your toasty coats, gloves, and scarves to keep you warm) it’s time to head out on your adventure to the mountains!

Take Style to the Summit

Whether you’re heading to the mountains or just hopping around town, check out all the fantastic styles for winter in our Cold Weather Shop – up to 70% off.  

About The Author

Wanda Lopez

Wanda Lopez a blogger at heart and shares her insight on all things food, recipes, home décor, travel and more at mysweetzepol.com. She’s a passionate content editor and contributor for household brands such as Kraft, Publix, Ford, Best Buy and more--all while balancing work, motherhood and all things in between. An educator and avid photographer, she is in love with design, food and the outdoors.

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