What to Pack for Quebec City in the Winter: A Carry On-Only Guide

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Carry on and a Passport - Rachel Off Duty

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This article was written in partnership with Québec Cité. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I had always associated Canada with way-too-cold-to-handle. This is partially because I had never been, but also because my only understanding of Canada had ever been one of snow, and ice, and long, dark winter days (even when it’s… not winter). Having grown up in a tropical climate with no seasons outside of ‘hot’ and ‘kinda hot,’ my perception of most places where people wear parkas and snow pants is unfortunately skewed. 

But when I got the opportunity to visit Quebec City in December, I found myself jumping at the chance, pushing back the quiet but persistent voice at the back of my mind that said but waaaait! You’re going to FREEZE

I’m not alone in my desire to see Quebec during one of the chilliest months of the calendar year. In the winter, Quebec City transforms into a snowy, glowing wonderland – one so beautiful and so magical that it makes bearing a bit of cold weather all worthwhile. It’s that fact alone that attracts so many people to visit Quebec in the winter months each year.

Going to Quebec City in the winter does not have to be daunting (repeats to self). In fact, for short trips and with a little planning, you can do it all in a carry on. Here’s what’s on my packing list!

Woman Wearing a Cardigan with a Carry On - Rachel Off Duty

But First, What’s the Weather Really Like in Quebec City?

Quebec falls in a northern climate zone, so you’ll find temperatures that skew lower than what you might be used to in New York or Michigan (for example), especially in the middle of winter. Expect anywhere from -10 to 30 ºF between December and February. Before you freak out, know that the coldest time of year typically results in some of the clearest skies and the most ideal conditions for classic seasonal activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, and tobogganing. 


What to Pack for Quebec City in the Winter

Since I live in California and can’t ski to save my life, I don’t own things like snow pants or a parka, unfortunately. But what I do know is that packing on layers will be your saving grace for bundling up outside, while being able to quickly adapt once you get inside. Be sure you bring sufficient clothes to layer accordingly, and plan to wear between 3 – 5 layers each day.

Layering Basics:

Carry on and Sweaters - Rachel Off Duty
  • Base: Your base layers, or long underwear, are your best friend. Make sure they’re wool (merino is even better!) and that they fit comfortably underneath your regular clothes. 

  • Mid: Your mid layer is your actual ‘outfit,’ so you should have some creative freedom here. Since I don’t own snow pants, I packed a pair of jeans and culottes that are baggy enough to throw some base layers on underneath. As long as it’s not rainy or snowy, this works like a charm! 

    On top, I like to bring lots of turtlenecks and pullover sweaters to easily cover up the long underwear. I then always pack a thick cardigan or fleece zip-up jacket to throw over my sweater for extra insulation.

  • Outer: More important than almost anything else, make sure your outerwear is as warm as humanly possible. If it’s going to snow, check that your jacket is waterproof or water-resistant. If you don’t have snow pants (like me) and are planning to wear jeans or leggings, try to snag a coat that at least covers your butt. I usually always bring 1 long coat and 1 rain jacket whenever I go somewhere cold! 



Footwear & Accessories:

There are tons of stairs, along with cobblestoned streets, throughout Quebec City. Make sure your footwear is sturdy, easy to walk around in, and waterproof for the most comfortable experience while walking around and exploring the city! I’m bringing one pair of high-heeled ankle boots just in case I go to a nice dinner or event while there, but otherwise, I’d say heels are 100% optional. In fact, I almost never end up wearing my heels when I’m traveling.

When it comes to accessories, make sure you have insulated, water-resistant gloves, a beanie or two, lots and lots of warm wool socks, and a couple of scarves to help protect your neck and face. If you can, I also recommend purchasing some hand warmers to use while you’re on the go in case you need them! 



Packing List (Suitable for Carry On Only!)

Carry On and Clothes for Packing - Rachel Off Duty
  • Base layers (1-2 pairs of long underwear, some yoga pants if desired) 

  • Mid layers 

    • 1 pair jeans

    • 1 pair culottes

    • 1 pair leggings

    • Sweaters (turtlenecks and mocknecks primarily, to cover up the long underwear!) 

    • 1 cardigan

    • 1 fleece zip-up jacket 

  • Outer layers

    • 1 trench or winter parka 

    • 1 rain jacket or other water-resistant coat

  • Other

    • 1-2 outfits for nice indoor events, like eating at a restaurant or going to a cocktail bar. I have a sleeveless black jumpsuit with me on this trip, and I plan to wear it layered over a turtleneck. 

  • Footwear & Accessories

    • 1-3 pairs of sturdy, water-resistant boots 

    • 1 pair of heeled booties (optional) 

What to Wear on the Plane 

In order to free up space and make sure all of your base, mid, and outer layers roll up nicely into your suitcase, use your travel wardrobe as an opportunity to transport some of your biggest and bulkiest clothing. In addition to carrying your coat with you on the plane, plan on wearing your chunkiest sweater and your tallest boots. This way, you’ll not only be able to stretch your carry on storage further, but you’ll also be much more well-prepared – and warm – once you get off the plane! 

P.S. If you’re reading this, this blog post was written in real-time, before my Quebec City trip! You guys are packing with me 🙂 Check back in a couple weeks and I’ll give you an update on how this carry on-only wardrobe fared on my first trip to Canada. Here’s fingers crossed! 

There you have it. The essentials to pack for a carry on-only guide to Quebec City in the winter!


Is Quebec City on your radar this winter? Tell me below if you’ve ever been, or are dying to go!



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What to Pack for Quebec City in the Winter A Carry On-Only Guide
What to Pack for Quebec City in the Winter A Carry On-Only Guide

Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

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2 Responses

  1. I really needed this! I’ve been wanting to go back to Quebec City and I know (being from the south) I didn’t have to right clothes. Thanks!

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