If you’ve ever wondered what to pack in your case, backpack or overnight bag for a stay in London or the rest of Great Britain, wonder no more. Here’s a local’s guide to what will make your stay happy, whatever time of year you visit. We’ve got you covered for your packing essentials, how to fit in (or stand out) and what you might not have thought of for your stay in the UK. Grab your bag, and let’s get started. Here’s how to pack for London.
A Word On The Weather In London
You’ll have gathered that we Brits like to talk about the weather. And indeed, the very variety of our weather is one of the things I love about living in the UK. It’s seldom predictable, and often a bonding experience among strangers as we chat about what’s in store for us.
London has a fairly small range of temperature variation compared to other cities, with averages never dropping below 5 degrees Centigrade in January. You can bank on there being rain for just under half the days each month. The hottest months are July and August, peaking at 19 degrees. You can therefore imagine how much chatter there has been about the heatwave of July 2018, when temperatures reached close to 30 degrees centigrade (and higher than this on the Tube).
What To Pack For London In Summer
Summer in the UK is always a bit of a conundrum for weather. In some years, you’ll see plenty of summer showers, but in others, as in 2018, you can see a spell of protracted hot weather. So my advice is, as always, to check the long range forecast before you travel, and adjust your list accordingly.
In June, July and August, I’d normally expect to pack layers for London. If you have either short sleeved tops or dresses and their complementary bottoms where appropriate, you’ll be fine in most London heat. Add a thin jacket or hoodie, and it will cope with the less sunny days.
Let’s talk rain. If you’re travelling around London, try to do without an umbrella if you can in summer. You’ll be in and out of attractions and on and off the tube or buses, making an umbrella a soggy extra burden on your day. If you’ve got short enough hair, embrace the water, or else use a hat or a hood. Your increasingly damp and unhappy left hand will thank you for it. As will other pedestrians on the narrow streets.
Packing List for London In Summer: Clothes
Depending on the length of your stay, I’d recommend the following:
- tops or dresses for the number of days you are staying, plus a spare
- bottoms to go with the tops (twice as many tops as bottoms)
- one or two smarter outfits for dressier evenings, or more if you plan to have energy to hit the town more often
- one or two top layers, like a cardi or a jumper depending on your vibe
- footwear – you’ll walk lots in London. So bring your comfortable shoes. For summer, I’d pack sandals, flat pumps and the kind of trainers that could pass for shoes. It’s good to have something with closed toes, both to keep the rain out, and to keep your feet less grubby
- accessories – a big scarf is always useful. If you’ve got long hair, clips or ties can be essential if you’re on or alongside the Thames, where it gets pretty breezy
- undies, socks if needed, PJs, and something really comfortable to lounge around in the time you’re in your accommodation. London is buzzing, but sometimes you’ll need to chill. If you add a couple of camis or tees, you’re covered for cooler days too
- swimwear and cover up if desired
- workout gear, including those trainers we talked about under footwear – it saves bringing two pairs
I have some quick thoughts on fashion or comfort. While the two aren’t always mutually exclusive, it would be a shame to enjoy London less than you might because you are sliding around uneven pavements or trying to keep your skirt blowing over your face on the riverside. So I’d err on the side of comfort for the majority of the time. In a city of over 8 million people, there’s likely to be someone dressed rather like you, wherever you fall on the sartorial scale.
Packing For London In Summer – Creature Comforts
London, like any other big metropolis, can make you feel a bit grubby at times. So be aware that you might want to scrub more often than you do at home, and sometimes before going back to your accommodation. Your toiletries could include:
- shower gel and lotion, face wash, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, shampoo and conditioner
- wipes and anti-bac for a day out of your accommodation. If it’s going to be hot while you’re visiting, a cooling face mist is brilliant
- lip balm
- mints or gum
Packing for London In summer: Essentials
There are some things you must include when you pack for London:
- travel documents, including your travel insurance
- spare prescription glasses and/or sunnies
- medications and a copy of your prescription. Basic first aid can also be hepful
- Consider downloading a free app like Citymapper to help you navigate the city with ease
Packing For London In Summer: Tech
If you get caught up in the bustle and excitement of London, you may not be spending much time in your accommodation. So your tech might be needing a charge while you’re on the road. Consider bringing:
- chargers and converters/USB ports. Some venues now have places to charge your tech on the go, so research and bring your cables and adapters if needed
- a portable wifi spot
- chargeable power banks, so you can recharge your phone on the move
- a power bar to enable you to charge more than one item at once
- SD and memory cards
- camera with lenses, batteries, and accessories
- tablet or laptop and external hard drive to back up your files if you’re not storing them elsewhere
Don’t forget that the UK has different plugs and sockets to the rest of Europe. Check you’re bringing the correct adapter; it’ll be the one with three prongs.
Packing For Summer In London: Extras
You might want to add the following when you pack for London:
- an e-reader or book
- journal and pens
- reusable water bottle
- reusable bag for picnics and shopping
Packing For London In Winter
In many ways, my packing list for London in the winter is not a great deal different from that for summer. Despite the picture above, snow is relatively unusual unless you move out of central London. To my bag I add:
- a couple of chunky or less chunky jumpers depending on the temperature
- a thicker jacket with a hood
- a big scarf or two, a hat and gloves
- flat ankle or knee boots with some grip – pavements can be icy, although seldom snowy
When you pack for London, it’s worth bringing extra socks, gloves and scarves. Add extra bottoms such as leggings if you bring a short coat. On wet days, the moisture can seep in thoroughly, and if you can’t get things dried overnight, it makes for a miserable and chilly morning the next day.
Be aware that many buildings are heated extremely efficiently in winter. So when you emerge from the cold outside, be prepared to carry some of your outer layers if you are inside for sometime.
Packing For London In Spring Or Autumn
You’ll be quite right in thinking that London in Spring or Autumn requires a hybrid of the packing options for summer and winter. Both seasons can be rainy from time to time, requiring some level of waterproofing. Checking the forecast before you travel is key to having the best idea of what to expect.
Although the level of chill is always relative, London in Spring or Autumn is unlikely to be cold. So stick to light layers, and anticipate that you’ll be a bit damp occasionally, but won’t need full winter cover-ups. London is full of deciduous trees, meaning that they drop their leaves in autumn. This can make for a slick surface in parks and leafy parts of the city, so shoes or boots with grip are a good idea.
Packing For The Rest Of The United Kingdom
Being a big metropolis, London has a smaller range of temperatures than much of the UK. It also often receives less snowfall, and less of the wilder weather. So if you are travelling to other parts of the UK – and you really should as it’s beautiful – here are some more suggestions on what to pack.
Scotland and The North In Winter
We’re talking chilly, folks. It’s not unusual to have snow, and a fair amount of it. So you’ll need suitable footwear with grip, and a coat long enough to keep your torso and most of your legs warm. Don’t forget that gap between the bottom of your coat and your boots, into which bone-chilling cold can seep. Bring more layers and add thermals if the forecast suggests it’s a good idea.
The Big Outdoors
The United Kingdom has a great choice of outdoor spaces to see and explore. If you’re heading out into the big beyond of our National Parks and Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, then don’t forget to pack proper hiking gear. Trails and moors can be rugged and steep, and you’ll need both proper footwear and the normal safety gear for hikes. Weather can also change suddenly, so be prepared for this if you are not a hiker at home and used to taking account of the weather. Something windproof is also a very good idea; it can be bracing out there on those hills.
This beautiful island has so much wonderful coast to explore, whether you approach it via the coastal footpaths, or driving straight to the beach. The sea temperature throughout the UK can remain extremely chilly even in a heatwave. If you are visiting in spring or autumn, you may well need a drysuit if you plan on swimming or doing any kind of watersports. Suit hire is available on most beaches that offer watersports.
Don’t forget that many of the UK’s beaches are rocky and craggy, or full of shingle rather than sand. Unless you have very robust feet, you’ll need water shoes to get down to the waterline. The coast is also often really windy, so be prepared to need more layers than you would a mile or so inland.
Visiting Cities, Towns And Villages
For most of the big cities, packing advice about London also applies. If you are heading to smaller towns and villages, especially those with a lot of history, be prepared for cobbled or uneven streets, and bring footwear that can cope. Layers are still definitely your friend, and can help you cope with the many seasons in one day that are typical of the British climate.
If You’ve Got Your Packing List, Why Not See More Of Beautiful Britain?
For London itself, you can’t go far wrong in checking out the all-encompassing site of Visit London for all of your travel information. I’d also recommend Transport for London’s Journey Planner to work out your routes across the city.
Less than an hour and a half from London, you could be dipping your toes into the sea below Brighton Pier, or exploring the historic countryside of the Vale of White Horse. A couple of hours further, and you could be in Shakespeare country or exploring the Staffordshire Potteries. Or just take that packed bag to the train and catch the overnight sleeper to the Scottish Highlands for a whole big adventure.
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