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London is calling.
Your flights and accommodation are booked, and you’ve planned your itinerary and all the attractions you want to see. It’s nearly time to go. So let’s get packing.
Packing for London can be a bit daunting so I have broken it down for you.
Having spent 8 years in the city as both a resident and tourist, I have learnt a few things along the way about how to pack for London and its seasons. And, more importantly, what you can leave behind.
Note – this is mainly a packing list for women, but applies to men too. I have also given some tips for packing if you are traveling with kids.
So here they are – my packing tips for London and your 2019 trip!
What's in this article
Top tips for packing for London
There are three major things to consider when packing for your trip to the UK – the weather, how much walking you will do and how much luggage you want to take.
Even in summertime you can experience four seasons in one day in London. And once I got caught in a snow flurry in April!
Check the weather forecast a week before your trip to see what is in store.
Also consider that buildings are well heated and the Underground is not well ventilated so in the middle of winter it can be stiflingly hot when you are indoors.
The key to having a great trip to this wonderful city is making sure you are prepared for the elements and not overpack. I find that the best approach is to find pieces that layer and don’t add bulk.
More about seasonal dressing in the full packing list below but don’t forget a sturdy umbrella!
Walking the streets in London
Chances are you going to be doing a fair bit of walking when you are in London.
Visiting sights, walking the cobbled streets and up and down escalators on the Tube means you need to be practical about clothing and footwear.
I know you like to look great when you travel. So do I.
But here’s the thing, you need to think about comfort too. No one wants to spend their well deserved trip with sore feet and cold hands feeling miserable.
You need comfortable, sturdy and water resistant footwear for winter. And clothes that will keep you warm and dry but are easy to remove when you are indoors.
Plus a few fun accessories and items for when the sun comes out.
Luggage: to check or not?
Personally, I prefer to check a bag when I travel to Europe.
This is because I like to be prepared and get annoyed if I need to chase around a new destination looking for things I have at home. That eats into my trip and vacation time.
I also like to do some quality shopping and bring home some treasured souvenirs. And let’s face it, London is one of the world’s best shopping destinations so scheduling some shopping time is a must.
Our favourite luggage is this hard cover lightweight suitcase from Delsey (pictured above). It’s stylish, durable and the four double-spinner wheels make it easy to move around. I also like that it has a TSA security approved lock.
London packing list essentials
Do not go to London without these items.
✔︎ Passport – this varies depending on your nationality but it is good practice to have at least 6 months validity on your passport. I always carry a printed copy too
✔︎ Visa(s) – make sure you have read and understood the visa requirements for your nationality. Generally, 6 month visitor visas are issued on arrival to nationals of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And at this time EU nationals are free to enter and leave the UK without restriction. You can check if you need a visa for the UK here
✔︎ Tickets and documents – I like to keep as much travel information as I can online. I map out my itinerary and save copies of documents on Evernote. Because I can be a bit paranoid, I also save them on Dropbox and have a separate folder for the trip in my email account. Don’t forget copies of your medical prescriptions.
✔︎ Insurance – do not forget to organise insurance for your trip. It’s one of those things that you probably won’t use but is essential if something goes wrong on your travels. World Nomads offer travel insurance online, you can click here to get a quote.
✔︎ Money: I like to size down my wallet when I travel so I only have the essentials. I travel with a small amount of cash and a no overseas transaction fee credit card. I also have a back up card in case of emergencies.
Pro tip – if you are worried about security get a wallet that includes RFID blocking
✔︎ Portable wifi or International SIM: If you use a lot of data daily like I do, consider buying or renting a portable wifi device like this one from Skyroam – unlimited data for $US 9 per day for up to 5 devices. It can even charge your phone and is small and lightweight. 10% off Skyroam with our code: UNTOLDM – click here to check prices
Another option is to preorder an international SIM before you go. OneSIM offers savings of 85% or more on international roaming charges. Personally I find moving SIMs around to be a bit of a pain though.
✔︎ Smartphone: travel is so much easier now you have a camera and all your documents in a palm sized package. Here are my top apps for London for getting around and seeing the sights. I was a dedicated iPhone user, but upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S9 after I saw the quality of the photos it took.
✔︎ Umbrella: you just never know when a downpour is going to hit in London. It actually rains less there than you would think but when it does, you need a “brolly” – that’s English for umbrella. I have this travel umbrella and it has never let me down.
✔︎ Crossbody bag: a medium sized crossbody bag is the perfect purse for travel. Choose wisely and they will fit your wallet, phone, camera and other essential items leaving your hands free to take photos but at the same time not weighing you down.
✔︎ Camera: don’t forget to capture those amazing travel moments. While phone cameras are getting better every day, I love my Olympus Pen mirrorless camera for getting those wow shots. As an added bonus it fits inside my crossbody bag.
If you’re thinking about adding a new camera to your London packing list, check out our guide to the best compact and lightweight travel cameras
✔︎ Packing cubes: these miracle items have been a revelation for me and our family. They make packing and unpacking a breeze. With packing cubes you can organise your items and have a colour for each person in your party.
Having tried a few brands I prefer these packing cubes for their strong and durable design and finish.
Items for your transit or flight to London
There’s a fine balance between having things you need to keep you comfortable, and not having too much stuff to manage.
I like to fit everything I need into a tote that I can pop under the seat in front for easy access. That’s one advantage of short legs!
✔︎ Large tote with zip: I carry a large tote onboard (like this JCrew one) and find it is the most practical way to carry all of my things. Unfortunately they don’t make it anymore with a zip closure because I love that feature. Try this one instead.
Inside the tote I have pouches for my tech items, toiletries and passports. Don’t forget you need a security approved clear bag for the toiletries in your carryon
✔︎ Headphones: the essential item to help you relax on your flight in my opinion. Block out the noise around you and relax with a movie or 3! We like these Bose noise cancelling headphones
✔︎ Scarf/pashmina: why are planes so cold? I don’t know but because I usually feel a little chilly on any flight I bring a light wool scarf or pashmina to keep me warm
✔︎ Pen(s): you will need this to fill in your arrivals card. I always keep a couple handy
✔︎ Health: I always carry hand sanitizer on planes. And don’t forget your travel/motion sickness and sleeping tablets if you need them
✔︎ Comfort: Make your space as comfortable as possible with a travel pillow (this one is fantastic), eye mask and ear plugs
✔︎ Tech: Don’t rely on inflight entertainment systems. An iPad loaded with movies, tv series and reading material is the best way to get through the long flight.
What to wear in London
London is a stylish city. Fashion is fun and less conservative than in other European cities but you will still feel out of place if you don’t make a bit of an effort.
Aim for smart casual and you will be fine. You will also need something a bit smarter if you plan to go to the theatre or a fine dining restaurant.
Very casual attire such as tiny shorts, flip flops and ripped clothes are not recommended.
Keep it simple and layer
That’s your mantra, as well as these rules of 3
✔︎ Choose a 3 hued colour scheme and stick to it. I like to keep things neutral for my main pieces and add a bit of interest with accessories. Black, navy, light grey and white are my go to colours with pops of pink and/or light blue depending on my mood
✔︎ Only take 3 pairs of shoes. I know this is hard but shoes add weight. I like to take a pair of ankle boots, sneakers and ballet flats. Avoid heels if you can.
✔︎ Bring 3 statement accessories you love to brighten up your outfits – a scarf, pair of earrings or a fun hat can make all the difference
✔︎ Aim to use each item in at least 3 outfits
London clothes packing list
Over the years I have learnt the hard (overpacking) way that if you pack 4 pairs of jeans, you will only wear two of them. I use a week long trip as a baseline for how many items to pack.
If I am traveling for longer then I will need to do some washing. If it’s a shorter trip I take some items out.
Here are the clothing items I recommend that you pack for your London trip. I have started from a basic capsule collection that can be adjusted depending on the season or special activities you have in mind.
I like to think of the activities I will be doing each day and build outfits from there. Usually we do something a that requires me to be a little more dressy at night so some statement jewelry is useful.
Capsule wardrobe for London
✔︎ Underwear, bras (2), socks
✔︎ Pants/jeans: (2-3 pairs)
✔︎ Dresses/skirts (2-3 pairs)
✔︎ Ankle boots, sneakers, flats
✔︎ Seasonal items
✔︎ Long sleeved shirts (2-3)
✔︎ Short sleeved shirts (2-3)
✔︎ Laundry bag / detergent
London winter clothes
Winter calls for a warm coat. Temperatures rarely fall below 0°C / 32°C so you don’t need to bring a snow jacket.
What you do need are lightweight warm layers that can take you from standing outside watching the Changing of the Guard to visiting the British Museum. I swear by Uniqlo’s thermals but if you can’t get them where you live, these thermals also look good.
You could also swap the ballet flats or sneakers for long boots or a second pair of ankle boots.
✔︎ Warm coat
✔︎ Scarf, gloves, hat
✔︎ Sweaters (2)
✔︎ Thermal underwear
Spring and Fall clothes for London
In spring and autumn/fall you will need a three quarter length jacket – a classic trench coat is ideal. If you want the true London look, invest in a beauty like this one (with matching price tag) pictured below from Burberry.
You won’t need your chunkiest scarf but a warm lightweight wool or silk scarf is a good idea. If you can wait until you get to London there is a fantastic range of scarves at Liberty (one of my favourite places to shop)
Summer clothes for London
You will never fully understand the excitement of a sunny summer’s day in England until you live there. Hint – there are not too many of them so people get VERY excited.
Jokes aside, there is enough sunshine to warrant switching a few things up in your capsule wardrobe.
✔︎ Swap the ankle boots for a pair of comfortable sandals
✔︎ Add a jaunty summer hat (this one is foldable!) and some sunglasses
✔︎ Make sure one of your dresses is light and summery
✔︎ Swap a pair of pants for shorts
✔︎ Pack a light rain jacket – you just never know!
Toiletries and make up
Try your hardest to find travel sized versions of your favourite products or decant them into travel sized bottles. You don’t want to waste space in your case with heavy items that you won’t use.
I find shampoos and conditioners take up the most space so I like to use dry shampoo to extend the time between washes.
One thing you must pack is a decent conditioner. The water is very hard in London and your hair will need some extra care and attention. As the conditions are also humid, I also found I needed my beloved GHD straighteners to keep my locks under control.
Be realistic about how much make up you need. You really can survive with one or two eyeshadows as an example. I like Bobbi Brown’s cream shadow sticks as they have a lovely finish and the shape means they are easy to pack.
I also avoid pressed powders and shadows due to the potential for mess.
Use a small make up bag and limit your items to the space you have. You will be surprised at how creative you can be with a fewer products.
✔︎ Eye pencil
✔︎ Makeup brushes
✔︎ Face cleanser
✔︎ Dry shampoo
✔︎ Hair styling products
✔︎ Hair straightener
✔︎ Hair brush / comb
✔︎ Hair bands
✔︎ Toothpaste / floss
✔︎ Feminine hygiene products
✔︎ Nail file / scissors
✔︎ Razor / tweezers
Make sure you have enough medication for your trip plus some extra days in case you are hit with delays or other unforeseen circumstances.
Replacing medication abroad can be difficult, especially without your prescriptions. So bring copies of the scripts with you.
✔︎ First aid kit: you could try to make one yourself but this one is small, lightweight and has everything you could think of
✔︎ Pain relief: you know what works best for you, bring your favourite products from home for headaches, joint and muscle pain. If you are traveling from the United States in particular be aware that some formulations you can buy over the counter at home are not available in the UK – eg Tylenol PM
✔︎ iPad/laptop: I always travel with my MacBook Pro as usually I am working but I’d prefer to go just with my iPad
✔︎ Camera accessories: don’t forget your battery charger and an extra battery. A tripod is useful too.
✔︎ Power pack: make sure your phone stays charged while you are out and about. This portable battery has been keeping us charged for years. Note – you MUST carry this type of battery in your hand luggage.
✔︎ Power strip: keep all your devices powered up with this compact power strip – it even has usb ports
✔︎ Converter: so everything works as it should. If you plan to travel more frequently or are heading over to Europe, this power strip and adapter combination looks like a great buy
✔︎ Selfie stick/tripod: I’m a late convert to the selfie stick but I have to admit they are so handy for getting the perfect solo or group shot. Don’t buy a dodgy one from a street corner. You will be disappointed.
We recommend this one that will hold your phone and camera, has a tripod and wireless remote – click for more info on the ultimate selfie stick
If you need a more sturdy tripod for your camera – we use this one and love its flexibility
Items for kids
Our kids have done many long haul flights in and out of London from Australia. We have got this down to a fine art now so I’m happy to share this with you.
For the flight they have their awesome scooter luggage (read our full review here) which we pack with a change of clothes, some toys, a sticker book, 2 small light books, a water bottle (like these ones) and some healthy snacks.
Their main entertainment is an iPad loaded with games, puzzles and favourite shows. I would not fly 24 hours (even 3) with kids without one.
Keep the toys to a minimum. After many travels with our kids we realised that they just did not play with most of them. And that means there is room for a few special souvenirs.
Kids can follow the main clothing advice but I would throw in a few extra pants, tops and underwear for whatever kids do that always makes them get so messy.
We also like our children to carry some of their things while we are sightseeing so a mini backpack is a good idea
✔︎ 2 x extra tops, pants and underwear
✔︎ mini back pack
✔︎ toys and books
✔︎ extra snacks for the plane
✔︎ water bottle
Obviously, if you are travelling with a baby you will need a whole host of things. Check out this list of items for flying with a baby.
What not to bring to London
I would not describe myself as a light traveller but over the years I have learnt to leave some things behind. These are items that I rarely use, are heavy or can be found easily at your destination.
✘ Full sized shampoo and conditioner – too heavy and take up lots of room
✘ Guidebooks – read them before you go and take notes or photos of key pages with your phone. Even better, download Lonely Planet’s Best of London as an ebook
✘ Valuable jewellery – a security risk and hassle if lost
✘ Hairdryer – most hotels/AirBnBs provide one and you can always finish off with your straightener
✘ Novels – again, too heavy – invest in a Kindle or other ebook reader
✘ Kids toys – as above
So now I hope you know what to pack for London and you are ready for your trip.
If you still need to make plans or are looking for things to do on your trip, check out all our travel tips on our London page including:
- 3 day classic London itinerary
- London accommodation guide
- London at night – the best things to do
- London quick eats and coffee guide
- Visiting London as a family – top things to do
PS – we also have a packing guide for Italy! Click here to view
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