Tips for Surviving the DC Winters From Locals

Posted on Friday, May 13, 2022

If you're planning to take a short-term business trip to our nation's capital between November and March, you're probably wondering what to expect from the winter weather. How should you dress? Are there special supplies you should plan to bring with you? What's the best way to get from point A to point B when you're traversing a lot of snow? (If you're traveling from a more temperate spot, brace yourself—DC gets COLD.) We've gathered some tips and tricks from DC natives that will help you survive the long, long winter. 

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 1. Layers, Layers, Layers

Most folks in DC do a lot of walking, regardless of the temperatures. Whether you're planning to catch the Metro or if you are just hoofing it all the way to the office, you want to be as toasty as possible. However, once you've entered the heated office, you don't want to swelter in your sweaters and wool socks. The solution? Layering. If you dress  in several lighter layers, you can remove them as required. And don't forget your scarf—the wind can be brutal. Waterproof gloves are highly recommended, too. Many natives suggest investing in a good pair of waterproof winter boots. If you don't like the look of boots in the office, be prepared to bring appropriate footwear with you so that you can swap your snow boots for something more formal. 

 2. Go Outdoors

It might sound counterintuitive, but the more time you spend outside, the more accustomed you'll become to the cold. It won't be as much of a shock to your system, and it won't take as long for you to get used to it if you're used to spending time outdoors. 

3. Stay Active

Of course, your inclination might be to curl up with a cup of cocoa and watch television for the rest of the winter, but becoming a couch potato won't do you any favors. Yes, exercise is the healthier option, but it will also do wonders for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, and when your body is trying to stay warm, even more of those feel-good chemicals are released, meaning that an outdoor workout will leave you feeling better than when you began.  Winter exercise also encourages you to stay hydrated, and it can help you get much-needed vitamin D if you work out in the sunshine.  

4. Create an Emergency Kit

DC has been subject to some pretty intense snowstorms in the last few years, so it wouldn't hurt for you to be prepared. Keep track of the weather reports, and if you see that there's potential for a lot of snow or freezing rain, stock your home base with plenty of non-perishable food and bottled water, and don't forget to keep your electronic devices charged. A handy charging device like the Kensington AbsolutePower (featured here) will help you stay connected even when you don't have power.  Be sure that you've got plenty of warm blankets and flashlights with spare batteries, and you'll be ready to ride out the storm. 

5. Be Aware of Dry Air

Sure, there's a potential for precipitation, but the air is drier than normal. Be sure to take good care of your skin and your eyes—they'll be susceptible to dryness, so a good moisturizing lotion and some quality eye drops are a good investment. If you're really concerned about the issue, or if you're  predisposed to nosebleeds, you might invest in a portable humidifier. Bonus—this will help to eliminate the static shocks that can be so painful, too!

 6. Give Yourself Extra Time

If you're depending on mass transit while you're in DC, you should pad your schedule a bit for your transitions. Buses will be running behind, particularly if there's a great deal of snow, and the Metro can be delayed as well. If you're planning to walk, remember that you've got to layer on your outerwear and, once you've reached your destination, you've got to take it all off again. (And swap your shoes, if you've invested in those boots we discussed before!) Allowing yourself a little extra time will reduce your stress in the long run. 

DC's winters can be mild or wild, but it's smart to be prepared for the latter. Keep your eye on the weather report, and follow these helpful tips, and you'll be okay. 

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