Q&A: Tips On Surviving Your First Winter Season

Hi friends! Considering we haven’t officially entered the fall season yet, it may seem like I am jumping the gun on this post. But, I have received a handful of emails regarding moving up north from a southern (warm) part of the country lately, and I thought sharing my answers here might help others out there who are also getting ready for a big move.

Longtime readers might remember my 10 Things I’ve Learned Living Up North post I put together while tackling one of the most brutal winters Michigan has ever seen!

I listed a lot of my tips there, but I still feel like there are more I could offer in a question and answers type of format.

Here we go!


tips to surviving your first winter up north


I have zero winter clothes. Where do I even start?

Building a good winter wardrobe could take years and years. Quality items like coats, boots, and gloves generally cost a lot more than sandals and sundresses, so you’re probably going to feel overwhelmed trying to build a winter wardrobe all at once.

Before we moved up to Michigan, I went into stores like Nordstrom Rack, Target, and TJMaxx to see what jackets, coats, boots, and accessories like scarves, hats, and gloves I could start with at decent prices. I think I bought a total of six or so sweaters, a couple of pairs of jeans, a pair of brown boots for the fall (we moved mid-October), and a handful of scarves and beanies.

October Fashion Winter Clothes

Throwback to living in a hotel, circa October 2012!

I waited to purchase my thickest winter coat(s) and accessories until we moved, since there are more climate-friendly stores and inventory options in the northern part of the country.

My biggest piece of advice is to start by investing in items you can layer with:

  • long tank tops, long sleeve shirts, flannels
  • thick leggings and skinny jeans (so you can tuck them into tall boots)
  • tights or thin leggings to layer under your jeans (yes, I do this)

You’ll also need:

  • at least one pair of water/snow-resistant boots
  • at least one long, thick winter coat
  • puffer vests and lighter coats (for those in-between fall and winter days)
  • at least one thick beanie
  • texting gloves (so you don’t have to take them off while running around outside)
  • ear muffs (for days you don’t want to mess up your hair with a hat)
  • scarves (I have a variety of styles, and thick, acrylic materials are my favorite)

winter scarves and beanies

Don’t underestimate the power of accessories. I’ve learned that the more hand/neck/ear skin you cover, the warmer you are. (This seems like a concept that goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how many people skip over wearing gloves, hats, and scarves, and then complain of feeling frozen.)

You can always take them off, but come prepared!


I am attending Central Michigan University next fall as a Junior, but have no idea how to prepare for the winter-clothes wise. What are some good brands that I should start stocking up on now?

After living in cold climates for a couple of brutal winters, I have found some quality, long-lasting brands to turn to:

In cold climate areas like Michigan, you can find a lot of free standing The North Face, Moosejaw, etc. stores along with similar outlet versions.

life in leggings in north face hoodie and crop legging

There are numerous winter outdoor apparel stores like REI, Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as several department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Sacks Off Fifth (outlet version), Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Nordstrom Rack. Every once in a while, you can find the brands I mentioned above at a Marshalls, Stein Mart, or TJMaxx!

I’m always on the hunt for good deals on winter apparel, and the best time to find the good prices are obviously in the off-season. If you aren’t moving until next year, check out the website deals around the holidays and especially in the spring.


Are there any other things I should know about how different the climates are?

My life in Florida is completely different than my life in Michigan. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I used to spend a lot of my free time outside while living Down South, and it’s something I truly miss every winter Up North.

That said, you just have to appreciate your surroundings. Currently, my family is still complaining about the unbearable heat and humidity in Florida. Right now (approaching the fall) is when Michiganders win in the weather department. It’s beautiful out!

fall leaves and trees

The winter is harder to take, but it’s also beautiful. There really isn’t anything like staring outside a window and cuddling up with a blanket and a warm beverage during a snowfall. It’s one of my very favorite things about living this north.

winter snowfall michigan

You really can live out the phrase “walking in a winter wonderland”. <3


As a Florida native, I honestly don’t know how I will survive my first winter in Michigan. Any tips?

Dealing with the winter season isn’t easy, but then again, dealing with the summer heat and humidity in Florida isn’t either. Talk about going from one extreme to the other!

Living in extremely low (well below freezing) temperatures isn’t for everyone, but there are a lot of great things to take advantage of while you do your best to embrace a true winter season. For example, I went sledding and skiing for the first time last year. We also hit up the cider mills (hot cider and donuts are the BEST) as much as possible, and go apple picking in the fall. Those are some things you just can’t find in Florida.

You should definitely read my tips I shared about living (and learning to drive) Up North. To summarize, don’t attempt to drive in the snow or ice with a rear-wheel drive car (all-wheel is ideal), go slower than the older folks drive in Florida, allow more than enough time to stop, and don’t drive when you don’t feel comfortable.

My biggest piece of advice for you would be to equip yourself with proper winter clothing (read above) and enjoy your surroundings. You also now have a free pass to drink warm beverages whenever you want and wear hats, leggings, fuzzy socks, and comfy boots for half of the year.

heather in activewearusa patagonia coat

It’s a beautiful thing!


Do you get winter depression, and if so, how do you deal?

Absolutely. Winter depression is real, you guys. Coming from somewhere labeled “The Sunshine State”, adjusting to not being able to go and enjoy a walk outside every day is still something I struggle with. There will be days and even weeks that go by where I don’t go outside unless it’s one hundred percent necessary, and the cabin fever can really get to you.

It helps to focus on things you can do to keep you busy inside like trying new soup recipes, crafting, or hosting dinner parties.

hearty italian tortellini soup

There are people that continue to walk, run, and take part in activities all year long, but I am not one of those people. When the wind is blowing and/or the temperature is cold enough to sting your face, I just don’t see any enjoyment there. I feel accomplished if I get a run outside in from the months of December – February!

To help break up monotonous days and months inside, I like to plan some sort of trip to a warmer climate in the month of January or February. I usually go home to Florida to see my family, but anywhere with a break in snow and copious amounts of sunshine will do. I feel like it’s almost necessary to unthaw and stay sane!

Also, there comes a point where you just have to get outside. If I’m really itching to go for a run, I’ll pick the warmest day of the week and layer up to go for a short mile or two around the neighborhood. I usually feel good once I’m out there, if I’m dressed properly. Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl pants and go for it.

running with roadie in the winter

Check out my Workout Gear For Winter Running post for tips on gearing up for outdoor activities in the winter time.




As much as I’d love to stay and chat more about the winter, I need to get over to work.

If you have any more questions about braving the winter from a Southerner’s perspective, please use the comments section and ask away!

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