Tips for understanding holiday weather forecasts.

Deborah Mistry

We have all been there: bags packed full of our favourite summery dresses, holiday dreams of many months about to come true, but we are nervously checking the weather every five minutes and it is not looking good…Shall we re-pack? Or shall we just look for another forecast that is more optimistic? We are beginning to feel a bit depressed and anxious and we haven’t even got on the plane yet…Yes, this might be the very epitome of a first world problem, but bad holiday weather, or even the prospect of bad weather can put a real downer on things…

Although I love and am grateful for all foreign travel, like most people in the UK I am always very keen to go somewhere with better weather than here! I have frequently chosen destinations for spring, autumn and winter based partly on their climate and along the way I have learnt a bit about how to research and choose destinations and manage my expectations… Read on for my tips:

Before you book:

Look at the historical weather data, don’t rely on anecdotal evidence. 

Hands up, who has googled ‘What is the weather like in (wherever) in (whenever)?!’ only to find a couple of threads on trip advisor which don’t really help much because everyone had a different experience? Well, there is a more scientific approach. You can find historical weather data on websites like World Weather Online and see what it has been like for the last five years on the exact date that you are going. 

Look at the minimum temperature, not just the maximum. 

Holiday complies famously like to advertise the maximum daily temperatures of destinations on their websites, but this can be incredibly deceptive. It might get to 22 degrees for a couple of hours in the middle of the day in Southern Spain in the winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a hot day or that you won’t need your coat on when you get up in the mornings.

Remember maximum temperatures are normally taken in the shade.

On a cloudy day this won’t make much difference, but on a sunny one it means that it can be significantly hotter than the forecast suggests. 

Look at the rainfall, not just the temperature. 

If you are choosing between two destinations that seem to have similar temperatures, consider which one is more likely to be dry. After all a cold city break can still be fun…a wet one, not so much! With tropical destinations you are often told that rain will only be in short heavy downpours and that might well be true, but the wet season often still means grey skies for prolonged periods. Again, do your research from the historical weather data and try and avoid the hurricane and cyclone seasons even if the prices are cheaper then. 

Consider what is is you really want to do.

Do you want to go sightseeing or just relax on a beach and swim? If it’s the former, then you won’t need such high temperatures…Are balmy evenings eating outside the highlight of your holiday, or are you happy as long as you can sit outside in the sun for a few hours in the middle of the day? Be honest with yourself about how important different holiday experiences are to you.

Have a back-up plan.

Sometimes you do just get incredibly unlucky and plan a beach holiday, only to have very bad weather. Try and find destinations where there are places you can visit and things you can still do if this happens. 

When you are packing:

Don’t take tips on what clothes to pack from other people!

Everyone feels the cold differently. One person’s idea of ’T-shirt’ weather is another’s spring jacket or even winter coat weather. Learn from your own experience. Even if everyone in the airport check-in is wearing shorts, if you know you feel the cold in your legs, just pack some tights! 

Be wary of looking at location tags on Instagram before you leave and basing your outfit choices on what other people are wearing.

A lot of people will take off their outer layers before a photograph to suggest the weather is better than in actually is! 

Finally, remember that some forecasts (the i-phone included) will show the worst possible weather each day!

So don't despair if you see rain forecast for every day, it doesn't mean it is going to rain all day, every day!


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