How to Survive a New England Winter

by Sabrina Boyd (@SabrinaKayaB)

If you’ve lived around Boston your whole life, you’re well acquainted with the misery that is New England in the wintertime.

But as a native, I’ve noticed that newcomers tend to think we’re exaggerating the harshness of the season.

I assure you, we are not exaggerating.

In fact, if anything, we’re probably downplaying it, because we’re used to it and 10″ of snow is a light dusting to us.

If you come from an area that closes schools for 3″ of snow, you’re in for a big surprise this winter.

And for those of you who think that winter started in December and we’re in the middle of it now…ha-ha, nope.

Don’t be the out-of-towner who is painfully unprepared for a New England winter.

Don’t know how to prepare? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our guide to getting through a true harsh winter in the Northeast.


(Getty Images) (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Dress the part

The worst thing you can do is neglect to buy winter gear. Don’t think you can get by just keeping your hands in your pockets when you’re outside. Get yourself a thick winter coat, boots, a hat, gloves, scarf, the works.
A smart idea is to get a pair of touchscreen gloves so you can keep your hands covered and still use your smartphone.

*TIP* In a pinch, you can cover your shoes with a Ziploc bag to keep them dry in the snow. It’s also a fun activity – “ice skate” in your shoes!

You can still dress cute while bundling up – winter sweaters and scarves are definitely fashionable – but you really have to consider warmth over fashion. You will regret wearing that short skirt no matter how cute it looks. And trust me, no matter how ugly and bulky your coat is, we understand, you need it.

(Getty Images) (John Moore/Getty Images)

Stock up early

That joke about grocery stores running out of bread and eggs during a storm? It’s true. Same goes for shovels, ice scrapers, antifreeze, and other winter supplies. Anything you can buy now, do. Make sure you have flashlights with extra batteries and some sand or salt for your driveway, and if you hear a storm is coming, stock up on non-perishable food right away.


You need to accept that commuting anywhere, anyhow is going to suck in the winter. That’s just how it is. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t get caught off-guard by it.
For one, always leave early. Whether you’re walking, driving, or taking the T, it will always take longer in the snow, so add some time to your expected commute in your mind before you leave.

(Getty Images) (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


If you have a car, you’re going to have to pay more attention to it than ever in the winter. Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can cause major problems. Make sure your car is in good health going into the winter, before the major snow starts.
When starting up your car, you have to ease the warmth in. Drastic temperature changes can crack glass and damage your engine. Lots of people leave their car running for a few minutes before driving, but it’s just as safe to drive immediately as long as you drive slowly.

*TIP* Don’t crank up the defroster right away. The sudden temperature change can easily crack your windshield. Instead, let the car warm up with regular heat first.

(Getty Images) (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


Watch out for street parking bans! Most areas don’t do street cleaning in the winter, but there will be bans during a snow emergency. Watch the news and note when a snow emergency is in effect, then pay close attention to all the signs on the road so that you don’t get towed.
If you park on the street, you’ll probably get plowed in anyway, and spots will be hard to find with snow crowding the street (and please, don’t be that guy who leaves a chair out to save their spot). So if you can afford it, it’s worth parking in a garage instead. Boston Parking Finder and Spot Hero will help you compare garage prices – hourly, overnight, and monthly. Here are some fairly reasonable garages in the city:

Christian Science Plaza Garage, $100/month overnight
Boston Common Garage, $28 maximum charge for 24 hours
South Station Garage, overnight maximum of $27/day

If you live out of town, I would suggest leaving your car at a train station. Several commuter rail stops have lots or garages, and on the T, Alewife, Braintree, Quincy Adams, & Quincy Center on the red line, Woodland on the green D line, & Wonderland on the blue line all have cheap garages. The Quincy Adams garage, for example, costs $7/day, $8 to park overnight.
Find parking near the T here.

(Getty Images) (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Taking the T

Though you avoid traffic and forcing your car to drive through snow, the downside of taking the T in the snow is that it will almost always be delayed. But probably not as delayed as traffic, so I still recommend it.
Check how the T is running before you leave. @MBTA and @MBTAalerts on Twitter post frequent updates, or you can check on the MBTA website, or sign up to receive text message or e-mail alerts for your route.
You can also download various apps to track the trains and buses. Try ProximiT or NextBus.

Staying warm and sane


When you’re cooped up inside with no sun for several months, you can go a little crazy. Whether Seasonal Affective Disorder is physical or psychological, it definitely does happen.

For warmth, wear layers. Lots of layers. Maybe even get yourself some hand warmers and foot warmers. They make electric rechargable ones that will last multiple winters. Groupon Goods often has discounts on winter gear like that.

For sanity, take vitamin D and/or get a sun lamp. Seriously, the lack of sunlight affects your disposition and your health.

Finally, try to embrace the fun things you can do in the winter. Go sledding, ice skating, have a snowball fight, go skiing. There are some great ski mountains just a few hours away from Boston, and if you’ve never been before, what better time to learn a classic New England sport?

(Getty Images) (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Of course, you should have lots of Netflix movies and TV shows lined up for when you can’t help but give in to your lazy winter mood. And make sure you hang out with friends, even if you just stay in and watch movies. You might feel bad after binge-watching an entire season alone, but it’s somehow less lazy and guilt-inducing if someone does it with you.

(Getty Images) (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If you’ve lived here for a while, what are your tricks to getting through the winter? Tell us in the comments below!


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