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Packing tips with climate needs in mind

Winter is the time of year when travelers are searching for the ultimate mountain cabin and ski experience, or scrambling to book the best beach resort package they can find. (Yes, even if you're a Californian.)

Packing for a smooth climate transition is no small feat, especially when today's checked luggage fees place suitcase space at a premium.

Here are several transition tips to keep those costs in check and to leave extra vacation money for on-site adventure.

Clothing: Tunic dresses worn over leggings can be covered with warm sweaters in colder weather, and fly solo as vacation attire when you arrive at the beach. Separately, the leggings can serve as a base layer under lighter slacks or jeans, and fitness attire at your hotel's gym, provided laundry facilities are available.

Consider a tankini swimsuit for additional fashion functionality. Swimming pools are typically accessible in hotels at both ends of the climate spectrum, so packing a suit is a great way to take full advantage of free amenities.

Additionally, the top part of the suit can serve as a camisole under a sheer blouse when visiting balmy destinations, and provide extra warmth if you're heading out on a ski trip to Aspen, Colo.

Footwear: Wear heavier shoes on days you'll be traveling to or from a warmer climate (and it's always a good idea to wear your heaviest footwear on the plane, no matter what the occasion. This saves weight in your suitcase and creates space for souvenirs. Dress boots are my personal go-to form of footwear, while my husband favors casual dress shoes with plenty of tread to handle snowy parking lots with hidden patches of ice. Beachy flip-flops for the warmer end of the trip pack easily for both men and women, as do a variety of soft adventure sandals. These can double as your slippers, by the way. And note to those people who need arch support: You can find good-looking sandals and flip-flops that provide that.

Health: Changing climates can put you at extra risk for a case of the sniffles. Stay nourished and prepared by using hot water to mix up cups of miso soup, herbal tea or even a packet of Theraflu if necessary. Hot water is a standard free amenity at hotel hospitality bars, and packets of your favorite beverages and soups take up minimal suitcase space. You might also pack packets of hot chocolate or coffee (we like Dr. Drip) to ward off the chills.

Activities: Save luggage space and extra checked-baggage fees by renting recreational gear where possible. For example, although packing your own ski boots is recommended for the most comfortable fit, the actual skis and poles are easily rented from the resort.

Similarly, bicycles and snorkeling gear are typically available for rent in warmer regions such as the Caribbean or Hawaii.

Finally, a last word about packing: Although you may be tempted to haul your electronics with you, consider two things: First, they can be heavy, so you might be tempted to pack them in your suitcase just so you don't have to deal with them. Don't. Many airlines do not cover the theft of electronics. Second, consider which electronics can do double duty. If you want a good camera on vacation, you may not need to pack your trusty point-and-shoot. But many newer phones offering 8-megapixel cameras whose quality is far superior, in some cases, to your older digital camera. You may not need to carry (or rent) a GPS if you're taking your tablet; some have excellent built-in GPS systems that can talk you through your map dilemmas.

A tablet with a portable Bluetooth keyboard can also fill in for your laptop. You'll not only save space by having fewer gadgets but also won't need to haul around a trunkload of charging cords.

Staff writer Catharine Hamm contributed to this report. Theriault is the bestselling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget" and founder of, a website for independent travelers.

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