I come from here:
Buffalo, and Western New York in general (it is NOT upstate, people!) is pretty notorious for it’s terrible winter weather. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Buffalo and when I finally got to escape and go away for college… I went to the University of Rochester (Meliora!), a mere 75 minutes east of my home town.
It was no escape from the brutal winters of Buffalo… in fact the winter in Rochester might actually be worse than in Buffalo, especially since as a student living on campus, your main mode of transportation is by foot, even in the winter. I remember waking up once a week at 5:45am to make it to my 6:00am shift life guarding at the school’s pool and there were days that I almost literally was crying because it was so cold and dark and the only sound was the crunching of my hideous boots on the unplowed Phase Bridge and the freezing wind trying to strip me of my fuzzy hat. “WHYYYYY??” I yelled to no one, more than once. It was cold. It was so so incredibly cold (a January average high of 32°F/0°C) that I could not even imagine how I could possibly feel colder than I felt in those moments (until it DID feel colder with the windchill factor). I can’t remember how many times I vowed to myself that I would move to a place where it was always warm, or at least a place where the winters weren’t quite as harsh. I would never subject myself to such temperatures again!
Then I graduated and moved here
I spent my Thanksgiving frolicking in 70°F weather, the worst of winter was some heavy rain, and by early May I was relaxing on the beach. And now, I’m currently spending my first summer in Spain and it’s SO HOT. I have never experienced such an intense and never ending heat! It’s unbearable to be outside while the sun is up, unless you’re at one of Cádiz’s many beautiful beaches constantly bathing in the crisp water. But sadly, living 40 minutes away from the beach one cannot go every day. So you can find me here, sitting on my boyfriend’s mom’s couch (did I mention that I’m living with my “in-laws”?!) sweating from each and every pore until it gets dark and the town wakes up.
Having now experienced what I consider to be both extreme cold and extreme heat, I’m choosing COLD as the better weather for travel. Of course I’m excluding the pleasant mild weather that is everyone’s ideal… clearly we’d all choose that. Unfortunately, especially working as an auxiliar, if you want to go on a trip that’s longer than three days you’ll have to go during winter break, semana santa, or after the program ends in June. If you haven’t yet experienced Holy Week in Spain, I definitely recommend you see it for at least a few days as it’s probably the biggest holiday there is here. So then you’re left with winter break and summer break. If you have the resources, travel during both! But here is why I think you’ll be more comfortable traveling when it’s cold.
At least when it’s cold you can still DO things. Bundling up can save you from the chill and there are plenty of beautiful sights to see, even if it is just from between the slit of your hat and scarf. This past winter I spent 2 weeks traveling to Krakow, Vienna and Budapest and though we had to wear fuzzy leggings under our pants and wear four layers on top, it didn’t stop us from enjoying these cities to the fullest. Not to mention the extra calories you burn trying to keep your body warm… chimney cakes, anyone?? If I even THINK about having to go outside in this Spanish heat, let alone having to do simple tasks such as going to the grocery store or god forbid sight seeing, it makes me groan. Maybe this makes me a whiney baby, but I don’t care. In heat, I can’t function. I melt to the floor a puddle of water like the 60% water being I am.
Another pro to winter travel is the lack of other tourists! Everyone travels in the summer…but don’t underestimate the winter! Lots of attractions and accommodations have lower rates in the off season and you can definitely reap these benefits. Of course there will always be tourists any time of the year, but in the winter the crowds are a lot smaller and free walking tours can end up being really personalized if there are only a few people on the tour!
Probably the best reason to travel in the winter is the Christmas markets that can be found all over Europe! I had my first encounter with a Christmas market in 2009 when I ended up in a small German town while visiting a friend in Zurich. I absolutely fell in love with the smells and the colors and all of its kitschy goodness. Who can turn down a glass of hot spiced gluhwein to warm up your belly and your frozen fingers; not to mention that getting a little buzz going will definitely help you de-frost. I love all of the hand made goods found in Christmas markets, the interesting candies and desserts, live music and so much holiday spirit. While it’s so hard to be away from family and friends for the holidays, visiting a Christmas market will definitely put you in the holiday spirit and make you feel like you’re in a beautiful winter wonderland.
So, what’s your opinion… travel in the winter, or in the summer? Of course if I had the money I’d travel in any season, but I haven’t won the lottery yet so until then you can find me bundled up somewhere cold!