Updated on October 8, 2020 by Lyric Fergusson
To help you pack, my husband and I (pictured) created the below checklist of must-have items for anyone traveling to London and the United Kingdom.
You’ll also find a section on what to wear in London, along with what NOT to bring and some tips and guidance from our own experiences. Cheers!
What to pack for London – 17 Essentials
#1 – Windproof Travel Umbrella
From light drizzles to hardy rains, the UK certainly necessitates an umbrella. Be sure to pack one that’s wind-resistant and compacts down so that you can carry it easily when you’re not using it. If you bring a full-sized umbrella or even a less compact travel umbrella, you may end up regretting the bulk. This umbrella does a great job and is windproof, plus it comes with a cover that keeps it safe and packable.
#2 – HERO Packing Cubes
Organization is the key to effectively packing for international trips. These packing cubes make life so much easier by compressing bulky items into smaller sizes and keeping similar items like t-shirts, compartmentalized. They are a total GAME-CHANGER!
Use the coupon code “HERO” to get an exclusive 10% discount.
The night life in London is not to be missed. There are countless amazing restaurants, pubs, clubs, and theatre opportunities to check out. I suggest bringing at least one really killer outfit that you feel comfortable walking in, as you will more than likely be taking the tube and walking a fare bit. I love this jumpsuit because it’s inexpensive, doesn’t wrinkle easily, and looks awesome on many different body types.
#4 – UK Power Adapter
UK outlets and American electronics are a bad combination unless you’re using an adapter. Britain uses a higher voltage than the States, which can easily fry your devices if you mistakenly plug them into an active power outlet. Another thing to be aware of is that in London and other parts of the UK you might have to flip a switch in order to get the power outlet to actually work. They aren’t automatically on like they are in the States. Still, never assume that the power is off!
#5 – Virtual Private Network (VPN)
I now use this everywhere I travel, and any time I connect to unfamiliar wifi. A VPN is designed to remove restrictions to your internet access in places where browsing may be censored, monitored, or limited.
Most importantly though, a good VPN (such as NordVPN) is an affordable way to add a layer of encryption to your online data. This is something that I learned the hard way is absolutely essential – I had my credit card info stolen while using WiFi at our accommodation in Paris, and I’ll never leave my data vulnerable to hackers again.
#6 – Comfortable, Attractive Flats
Since you’ll be on your feet all day navigating a mix of pavement, brick, or cobblestone, you won’t want to risk wearing heels or uncomfortable shoes. That said, it’s still nice to look cute in London and a pair of fun flats like these ones by Bella Marie are a great idea. They come in a dozen colors, add a bit of spice to your outfit, and simultaneously ensure your feets safety and comfort.
#7 – Neck Wallet to Avoid Pickpockets!
Pickpockets are unfortunately extremely common in London. That’s why I highly recommend you bring a wearable neck wallet like the one pictured. I don’t take chances with my credit cards, phone, cash and passport, and this cute little pouch hides all these items securely around my neck (or under my shirt) yet it’s still easy to get to when I need something from it. This one also comes with RFID blocking technology so even “e-thieves” won’t stand a chance at scanning your credit cards from a distance!
#8 – Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger
It’s never a bad idea to bring a portable charger with you, whether you’ll have access to outlets during the day or not. A portable charger can carry multiple charges so that you can recharge several times before having to replenish its power supply. That way you’re able to power up your devices while you’re out for the day instead of having to return to your accommodation and wait for your phone or camera to be fully charged.
The United Kingdom is a rainy place, with rains occurring year-round. It’s also a stylish place, and an overly-casual rain jacket is not ideal if you’re trying to blend in. These trenchcoat-style rain jackets are attractive, and are excellent for comfort and rain protection, as well as a bit of extra warmth.
#10 – Stylish daybag
Navigating London is exciting, and more than likely you will be out most of your day. I always pack a nice day bag like this one to take with me. It’s very comfortable and it’s great for holding all my essentials like water, camera, snacks and my phone etc. And this one by Vbiger is very affordable too.
#11 – Jet Lag relief
Time change and a long journey to London put most people into a fog of jet lag. I like this natural remedy since it works proactively to prevent that exhaustion and discomfort, and treats it after the fact if you don’t use the tablets beforehand. Anything that may prevent jet lag from ruining valuable sight-seeing days is worth a try!
#12 – Activated Charcoal
Digestive ailments are extremely common among travelers due to the exposure to new foods and drinks, and the stress of traveling itself. I love how easily activated charcoal can handle traveler’s diarrhea and stomach upset. It works by absorbing toxins that may be in your system and calming your digestive tract so that you can return to normal as quickly as possible.
#13 – Travel Insurance for London
Having a good travel insurance plan is critical for going to London. This is one of the most expensive cities in the world and if something goes wrong you’ll want all your costs covered. Trust me, I know from experience how a change in flight or accident will quickly rack up mega bills. We love World Nomads because affordable and cover just about anything that could go wrong. They even cover emergency trips home, medical issues while abroad, theft, or catastrophe. This is one of those times when planning ahead is the best option – you don’t want to be stuck out of luck in a bad situation!
#14 – Solid Shampoo
Solid Shampoo is a great way to cut down on liquids and avoid a mess in your suitcase. I find this brand by Ethique works great. It comes in three different formulas, is 100% natural, vegan, and works just as well or better than regular shampoo!
London can be incredibly muggy and hot, especially in the Summer. If you are out sightseeing for the day, just throw a few of these deodorant wipes in your purse or daybag. They work great, take up no space, and will save you from the embarrassment of being stinky on your journey.
#16 – Hanging toiletry bag
I love this toiletry bag by Vetelli and for the price it can’t be beat. It will make you feel fashionable and luxurious even when you are brushing your teeth! Most London flats and hotels have small bathrooms, this bag is a great way to keep all your belongings organized. It’s way better than fumbling around with multiple plastic bags in your suitcase, and makes packing a breeze. The listing says it’s for men, but as a woman I find it to be the most beautiful quality bag I have ever used.
#17 – Rolling suitcase
There are a lot of broken sidewalks and cobblestone streets in London and getting from the airport to your flat or hotel can be a bit challenging. Unlike other rolling suitcases that fall apart over any kind of rough terrain, this case from Olympia has been designed with recessed in-line skate metal ball bearings. It’s also very light (5lbs) and has tons of compartments and self-repairing zippers.
Other items to pack for a trip to London and the UK
Steripod toothbrush cover
Sweater: Women’s and Men’s
Sunglasses: Women’s and Men’s
Vitamins: Women’s and Men’s
UK power adapter
Stain remover wipes
What to Wear in London
You will absolutely want rain gear, and it should be nice-looking – opt for a more stylish option if at all possible. Also remember that layers are key – you can shed them or add them as needed to stay comfortable.
SPRING – March, April, May:
Spring is a season of great variation in weather in Great Britain. One day may be warmer and sunny, while the next could be rainy and overcast. Tourism is light during this season, so if you can handle the weather it’s a great time to visit.
Plan to be prepared for anything with regard to your wardrobe: cute layers (think nice cardigans and shirts) and a dependable rain coat, just in case rains interrupt your day. Temperatures average around 45°F to 60°F (7°C to 15°C).
SUMMER – June, July, August:
Summers are delightfully mild in London. Rains can happen so it’s still best to plan accordingly. For the most part, summer travelers will enjoy easy conditions, which is why this is also the height of tourist season.
Summer in London is similar to spring in many parts of the US – you’ll want a light jacket and clothes that can keep you comfortable regardless of temperature. Bring lightweight pants or skirts and tops, and a scarf or pashmina or two. Temperatures average around 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C).
FALL – September, October, November:
This is the rainiest part of the year in London. Tourists during this time of year will enjoy smaller crowds, but will need to pack for a wet trip!
WINTER – December, January, February:
Temperatures are milder here in the winter than in many parts of the world, and rain is also common in this season.
Temperatures average around 40°F to 50°F (4°C to 10°C).
Parks & Picnic – London has many beautiful parks all over the city and a favorite pastime for Londoners is picnicking and Pimm’s (a very popular summer drink). Some of the best parks include Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, and the Crystal Palace. Wear dark colors that won’t stain if you sit on the grass. Fitted jeans or shorts and t-shirt are the best options for both men and women. Also, don’t forget to bring a nice pair of shades.
Museums – The majority of museums in London are free to visit. The British Museum, National Gallery, and Victoria and Albert Museum can’t be missed! Dress smart in fitted clothing and avoid t-shirts with graphics. Trousers and cardigans are a good choice. Also, bring a pashmina or scarf in case it is cool inside.
Theatre – Surprisingly, most Londoners will wear casual clothes to the theatre. Fitted jeans and a sweater for men, tights with a dress and long sweater for women. Women can also add some stylish jewelry to the outfit like long necklaces or rose gold rings. Both men and women can never go wrong with a leather jacket to finish the outfit.
What NOT to take to London and the U.K.
I recommend packing a camera and a Kindle, and maybe your laptop, but don’t bring much more than that. Unless you have other electronics you’ll really need on your trip, it’s just not worth the risk of them being lost or stolen.
It may rain a lot in London but you’ll rarely catch a Londoner wearing knee-high rain boots. Save space in your suitcase and leave those rain boots at home. If you are going to wear a football (soccer) club’s shirt, make sure you don’t go into a rival teams neighborhood as Londoners are very passionate about this sport and you may get a lot of glares, to say the least. Avoid standing out as a tourist by not wearing fanny packs, graphic tees, sweatpants, sweatshirts and any baggy clothing. Lastly, London’s not known as the cleanest city so it is good to avoid wearing flip-flops.
FAQs about London Travel
#1 – What is a good basic daily budget for London?
#2 – Do I need to tip in London restaurants?
When purchasing takeaway or drinks at the pubs, you aren’t expected to leave a tip. The rules are slightly different in sit-down restaurants. It’s becoming standard practice to leave 10% of your total bill or just the change if you didn’t order much.
Wait staff in most of Europe, including Britain, are paid minimum wage by law so they’re not completely dependent on tips like their American counterparts. However, don’t let your generosity run away with you. Check your bill first. Some places will automatically put a so-called service charge on your tab. This is the equivalent of a prepaid tip, but you don’t have to pay it if your service was bad or you feel it’s unfairly high.
Of course, feel free to leave as much as you like for excellent service. Just keep in mind that American sized tips of 20% or more are considered exorbitant in England. Likewise, if you want to make sure the waiters keep the money for themselves, it is best to hand them cash even if you’re paying with a card.
#3 – When’s the best time to visit London?
#4 – What are my transportation options for getting to/from London from the nearby airports?
Where it is possible to use either the Tube or the Express Trains, those are your best options. If you’re not in a hurry or money is tight, taking the bus is also perfectly fine. However, taxis aren’t recommended because they’re both expensive and time-consuming.
#5 – What if I don’t particularly like fish and chips, can I still find decent food to eat?
However, if you’re pressed for cash, try the French chain Pret-a-Manger. It’s basically like the European version of Panera Bread. I am now hooked on their pickle sandwiches (about £3).
#6 – Can you suggest some good day trips from London?
Oxford, Bath, Cambridge, and Brighton seem to be the ones most commonly mentioned. I personally enjoyed Bath a great deal. It’s a beautiful spa town that dates back to Roman times but was particularly popular during the 1800s. It also makes a good base for visiting nearby places such as Glastonbury, Wells, and Stonehenge. Brighton is another popular day trip from London. It was a favorite beach destination for the Crown Prince in the early part of the 19th century but really gained steam four decades later when the rail lines came into town. Now it’s a bit faded but is nonetheless known for its antiques and bohemian vibe.
Meanwhile, Cambridge makes a good base for visiting the rest of East Anglia including the nearby countryside towns of Ely and Peterborough, which are both home to ancient cathedrals and other interesting sites.
#7 – Are there any areas of London that I should avoid?
Like any major city, London has its fair share of petty crime but the city center is generally considered a very safe place to visit. Just hold on to your belongings and make sure your luggage is secure at all times (even in your hostel room) to avoid any issues.
#8 – Is London a safe place to visit?
Yes. London is among the safest places to travel to, though all travelers should take basic precautions. Along with those recommendations made above, travelers ahould aoid walking alone at night and should never carry excessive cash or valuables. Plan your routes and transportation ahead of time to feel more condifent about your day and your whereabouts.
Likewise, familiarize yourself with common scams that might be used against you to avoid becoming a victim. Just use the same caution you would exercise in any city and you should be just fine, even at night. London is even a safe place for women traveling alone – very few problems arise as long as basic safety measures are followed. Research safety here if you’re concerned!
#9 – What should I do if my clothing or luggage vanished or was forgotten en route?
While second-hand shops can be found in England if you’re willing to hunt for them, there aren’t any major ones like there are in the United States. Your best bet for finding clothes at affordable prices are nationally recognized discount chains like Primark.
#10 – Do I need to buy a map of the Tube before I go?
Not at all! There are perfectly good pocket-sized Tube maps that are available for free at most stations. There are also large city maps on the station walls by the outside doors.
These can help you figure out which way to go in order to reach your destination after you depart the premises.
#11 – What’s the deal with the Oyster Card?
The Oyster Card is a good way to save money on public transport in London because tickets for bus and Tube rides are considerably cheaper if they’re not bought individually. If you plan on using or needing a lot of rides in a 24 hour period, using the card means that transportation will never cost you more than a set amount. Oyster Cards can be bought at any Tube station for a £5 deposit as well as how much you want to put on the card. You fill up the card on the machine readers when you enter the Tube or bus and again when you exit. Once you’re done with it, you can cash it out at one of the machines and get your £5 back as well as any money that’s left on it.
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