Are you planning to travel to London? What must you pack for the trip? Well, luckily for you, here’s a complete packing checklist for traveling to London, and everything you’ll need. You are most welcome.
Picture the scene: Everything is set. You have your air tickets ready, you have already booked your accommodation, and have all the attractions sites you want to visit in arguably the most exciting city in the world.
You even have a schedule of what to do in the city. What’s remaining? It’s time to pack. But you don’t have any idea what you should carry with you.
What are the right essentials for the season? What should be on your checklist for traveling to London? You don’t want to appear like a lost kid on the streets, or worse yet, the stereotypical American tourist!
Relax, dear traveler, we’ve got you covered with this London packing list. In this in-depth blog post, we shall have a look at all the must-have travel items you need to make your London trip enjoyable as you had hoped.
A few things will depend on some factors like what time of year you visit London, the weather, your estimated budget, and the purpose of travel. I’m also gonna talk about what to wear in London, what not to wear in London, the best luggage, which kit is essential, and the gear you can leave at home. But, I’ll try as much as I can to pivot all through these options so that you get credible advice.
So let’s not waste any time and dig in already. Tally-ho!
Show Table of Contents
- Must-Have Travel Items for London
- 1. Clothing
- 2. The Right Luggage
- 3. Electronic Gear and Gadgets
- 4. Skin Care and Toiletries
- 5. Comfortable Shoes
- 6. Medicine and Basic First Aid
- 7. Reusable Water Bottles
- What Not to Carry to London
- 1. Valuable Jewelry
- 2. Guidebook
- 3. Hairdryer
- 4. Kids’ Toys and Novels
- A Few Things to Know Before Your Trip to London
- Conclusion on the Checklist for Traveling to London
Must-Have Travel Items for London
Planning a trip to the capital of the English-speaking world, but have no idea what to bring? Here are some key items to have on your packing list for London.
No hard feelings if you love glaring clothes, but what you pick for your London wardrobe should be decent. London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and smart, sensible dress is what the locals are used to.
It would be dash bad form if you pack anything but nice outfits, old fruit. Hey, consider it an opportunity to go on a wee shopping spree!
Wearing your red-carpet attire if you plan on visiting some of the nicest bars in London or going for occasional dinners at the Savoy Grill or Dorchester isn’t necessary. But if you’re going somewhere nice, your “togs” should be smart.
Most crucial of all, London weather can be unfriendly if you don’t have the right clothing, and it can be both easy and perplexing to predict what kind of weather you’ll run into. You’re just as likely to experience four seasons in a single day, as you are to see gray skies from dawn to dusk.
Clothing for Summer
Summers in the UK are getting hotter and hotter as the years go by (thanks to climate change), and London is generally the hottest spot in Britain come summertime. This isn’t necessarily thanks to extra sunshine – after all, summer in the UK doesn’t necessarily mean more blue skies.
The increase in heat is more to do with the fact that this is a huge, bustling metropolis of 9 million people moving to and fro. Momentum creates heat.
For summer sightseeing, casual clothes are king. For men and women, a pair of jeans rhymes perfectly with the summer weather and London chic. But, some days can get uncomfortably hot and sticky, and staying in jeans becomes a battle.
For the gents, a good polo shirt is a must, as well as some lightweight button-downs (or button-ups in British parlance) which are great for eveningwear. A pair of light pants, vests, crop tops, t-shirts, polo shirts, and light dresses are perfect for ladies (play it safe, and opt for a dress with a shoulder strap).
As far as footwear is concerned, I’ll go into more detail later. If you’re in a rush, just know that ballet flats are a safe-ish bet for the height of summer, and both ladies and gents will benefit from a pair of comfortable sneakers (NOT tennis shoes – don’t brand yourself as an American tourist) or look the part in a pair of Chelsea boots.
Clothing for Winter
All your clothing should be warm. London can get extremely cold during this season, and you don’t need frostbite to be your travel agent. “But it’s not as cold as Minnesota or Alaska”, yes, I know, it’s super rare that the mercury drops that low in the UK in general – but (and I hate myself for saying this but it’s 100% true) it’s a different kind of cold.
The UK is a very wet place to be. This isn’t just because the British Isles receive the most precipitation out of any other part of Europe. Frequently, even outside of winter, the most common prevailing weather is going to be gray, foggy, overcast, drizzly, and yes, rainy.
This tiny band of islands is in a unique corner of the world that receives very damp weather from all sides, and this dampness, combined with even the slightest drop in temperature, is penetrating. The cold weather in Minnesota, or Alaska, is a much drier cold than what the Brits experience. You sort of feel it on your skin, and locals (myself included) will often experience and complain about dry skin and such during these harsh American winters.
The damp cold in the UK almost literally seeps into your bones and it is incredibly difficult to get warm once you get cold. I say “almost” literally, because of the dampness itself. Being such a damp place, the air in the UK holds much more water than most parts of the United States.
As we all know from middle school chemistry class, water is a great conductor of thermal energy, and so whenever you take in a breath, you are taking in millions of tiny, chilly water particles that will genuinely make you feel colder on the inside. It’s deeply unpleasant, so wear layers.
The most important winter clothing item you’ll need is a warm, heavy winter coat. No matter where you are in the world, as long as it’s winter, you can’t really go wrong with a jacket from Patagonia, or a vest or coat from Columbia, nothing too crazy mind you, you’re not mountaineering, just something to keep the wind and rain out.
But again, for the fashionistas, you can always go one step further. Look into a classic pea coat or duffle coat (both quintessential London looks), or even a hardy oilskin jacket. While more of an English countryside kinda vibe, these tough garments, suitable for men and women, are perfect for keeping you warm and dry.
Everyone should consider heavy pants or thick jeans, and maybe even some long underwear if you’re visiting in the dead of winter. For underlayers, I highly recommend a rugby jersey, which pairs perfectly with jeans. A classic turtleneck sweater like this submariners jumper makes for an extra-British mid-layer.
To keep your neck warm, the ever-practical shemagh still carries street cred in the UK, and a good-looking travel scarf is also great, after all, you’re also trying to be in fashion here. Good gloves are a must, but they need not be super thick (and go for leather or pleather for the chic London look).
You can then top it off with a warm hat. Girls, go grab yourself a cute little tam or a beret, and fellas looking to go full English should don a classic “cor blimey” flat cap in tweed. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like you have the confidence to adopt some quintessential British headgear, settle for a good ol’ beanie or bobble hat.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ll go into greater detail regarding footwear in a jiffy. But again, you’ll find Chelsea boots are a great candidate for London winters.
Clothing for Spring and Fall
While they used to be far more distinct, both London’s spring and fall (or autumn, if you will) are far more fleeting than they once were (looking at you again climate change). When it comes to packing the right wardrobe for the season, this isn’t actually as complicated as it might sound. It just means paying attention to what the weather forecast is like in London just before you pack, and precisely how deep into either spring or autumn you are visiting.
For example, early spring in the UK still feels very wintery, as does late fall. Conversely, late spring and early fall in London can feel quite summery. So pay attention to what time of year you’re visiting and adapt your London packing list accordingly.
If there is one item I would recommend for a spring or fall wardrobe in London, it’s a light jacket. Try a nice softshell (maybe with a hood to keep any freak showers at bay), or something like a natty safari jacket for the lassies, and an ever-so-British tweed jacket for the lads. Bring your hats and scarves along too – and the Chelsea boots!
Dress to Impress in London
I touched on London being one of the world’s fashion capitals, so let’s talk a little bit about dressing to impress in the Big Smoke. In terms of London fashion, there is one main rule: less is more.
Now, obviously, I’m not saying show up to the Savoy Grill or the Dorchester stark naked, nor am I saying pack nothing and buy your wardrobe when you get there (that would make the above section a complete waste of all of our time – although the latter option is always fun if you have the time and money!). I’m also not saying that London has a strict dress code, quite the opposite; you can wear more or less whatever the heck you want in London.
But when it comes to the styles London is famous for, it’s not about having the craziest color combos, or the wildest shapes dangling off your shoulders. London fashion (like with many other facets of British life) is about mastering the basics – taking the core concept of a garment and making it the very best it can possibly be.
Think of King Charles III and Victoria Beckham – both English, both Londoners and both fashion icons for decades. Both of these figures exemplify the theme of less is more. So, if you’re looking to impress with your dress in London, look to these two as choice examples, and remember these key pointers:
- Muted and neutral colors and jewel tones are good.
- Black and gray never go out of London vogue.
- Limit your London outfits to a 3 color maximum. This includes ties and scarves.
- Ladies should limit patterns to a single garment.
- Leggings and a long coat are very in.
- A good suit will get anyone anywhere.
- A gentleman’s suit is instantly ruined with brown shoes, no matter how fancy. Brown shoes are for the countryside and black shoes are for the city.
- Patterned suits are also for the countryside. Or Scotland.
- Whether it’s Chelseas, Doc Martins, Timberlands, Wellington boots, ankle boots, hiking boots, rain, boots, walking boots, or even kinky boots, London loves a decent pair of good boots.
- Open-toed shoes are a continental thing and flip-flops are for the beach.
- You’re not wearing a shirt unless it has a collar.
- Walking around in sweatpants will make you a social pariah.
See Related: London vs. New York: City Comparison Guide
2. The Right Luggage
Travel experts can agree that the longer you travel, the smaller your suitcase gets. Why? You get to know new tricks for packing your suitcase in the right manner to maximize space, and the bigger the bag, the bigger the effort required to lug the bugger about.
It’s no different when looking for what to pack for London. It’s a busy city, so you don’t want a large suitcase that gives you a headache in the busy intersections.
You can comfortably live with a 48L backpack, such as this Osprey. I have been able to live a life out of a 48L backpack on quite a few travels, but really, the choice of vessel is up to you.
First things first: decide if you either prefer surviving out of a suitcase or a large backpack. Either way, you must still have a smaller backpack or daysack/day bag that will help you carry essentials when walking up and down the many streets, stairs, and escalators, as well as navigating London’s superb public transit system.
Some people prefer backpacks to suitcases because they don’t have the energy to drag huge luggage across the streets. Plus, the ever-busy London Heathrow Airport will give you a hard time if you have not traveled light. There is so much walking at LHR, it’s unreal.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean you should or shouldn’t take a suitcase. It’s your choice, and you should pick what best suits you. I will say, that if it’s a must that you choose a suitcase, try to meet at least these requirements:
- You will be staying in a hotel with bigger lockers to fit your suitcases.
- Your hotel has an elevator, and you’re not staying in the topmost rooms.
- London is your only stop.
Why a Backpack is the Best
After doing this globe-trotting malarkey for a while now, I’ve personally found that the backpack is the easiest luggage to live with when you’re on the go. As well as good build quality and adequate padding, the backpack you choose should have an equal distribution of weight to avoid back problems.
A good recommendation is the Gregory mountain backpack. Thanks to the fact that it’s taller than the width, and it comes with a belly band to distribute weight to your hips, its ergonomic features make it less burdensome than others on the market. It’s also incredibly well-made.
Mine has been through a few years of intense travels and it’s been able to hack everything from hiking around Denali to wandering around Covent Garden. It’s a damned good bag.
Anyway, once you’ve arrived at your hotel, you need another simpler bag to carry a few stuff. The right bag for this task should have these features:
- Comfortable to wear and not heavy when empty.
- Have extra room for gadgets like a camera to take some shots and a laptop if it can fit – make sure these spaces can be secured.
- Have anti-theft safety features for petty thieves that target tourists.
- Small enough so that it doesn’t take much room on the tube or in a taxi.
3. Electronic Gear and Gadgets
Here are more sets of essentials that must appear on your checklist for traveling to London. Remember, it’s no use in bringing all of these gadgets in the first place if you’re not staying in London for long. Be smart, so pick and choose.
Since you are potentially on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, it’s good to make some memories. A camera (and maybe some photography gear), therefore, makes it to the top of the list of gadgets to bring to London.]
This unique city, blending modern and historic architecture at every corner, is remarkably photogenic, even when it’s gloomy and gray. I can’t help but take a few shots whenever I’m here.
This means that you need a good camera to capture all your fun moments. You can still use your phone if it has an excellent camera. I hate to say it because I am an old-school shutterbug, but the camera on the Google Pixel is a bit of a beast.
Obviously, you will need to charge these devices to continue using them, and while a portable charger is always part of my London packing list, being able to charge them in the UK is better than bringing a bunch of spare batteries. Remember, the UK uses a 220V 3-pin plug system for electronics. This means that you need to carry a travel adapter and extensions with the right number of USB ports to keep all your devices alive.
While some of these gadgets will work, a few electronics like curling irons and hair dryers might not. Make sure that the travel adapter you buy is of good quality, as the higher voltage the UK uses may short out your electronics with a dodgy adapter. Electronics and gadgets from the USA use 110V, which is much lower.
You might want to keep up with your family, friends, or colleagues back home. While most major networks have accommodations for international phone calls and texts (and all iPhones can call all iPhones), you can save some money on international charges and order a SIM card in advance or buy one on arrival. Alternatively, download WhatsApp.
As always, a good set of headphones is essential when you’re spending time traveling. These are some decent headphones if you want to watch a movie or listen to your favorite jams on the plane or the tube.
See Related: Best Gadgets for Long Flights
4. Skin Care and Toiletries
You need to keep your natural complexion at all times. Well, I do, and you might want to as well.
Note that it’s acceptable to carry all your liquids in TSA-approved travel-sized bottles when traveling to London. These can be stored in zip-lock bags while sparing some space in your suitcase for other essentials.
Not gonna lie, most of the following items are typically associated with women. For all the filthy, dirty men reading this, a roll-on, a few bathing items, shaving cream, and basic dental care are probably enough to keep you from rotting away – although I know a fair few of you will just forgo the whole lot, either deliberately, or you just “didn’t hear” the constant reminders from the long-suffering women in your life.
Facing a different climate and weather, women may need loads of skincare to ensure they are still beautiful in this foreign land. Here is what you might also need to include on your skincare and toiletries checklist for traveling to London.
- Sunscreen if you’re visiting London during summer. Yes, the sun can still harm you even if it’s overcast.
- A quality moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.
- Body lotion and deodorant so you don’t feel that special kind of gross.
- Vaseline is goopy gold. This ancient, magical substance helps in revitalizing cracked or dry feet and soothes sunburn if you forgot your sun cream. Buy Vaseline. Do it.
Bathing and Haircare Items
- A conditioner and travel-sized shampoo. You can add an extra dry shampoo for hydrophobic days. Yes, it can happen! Even in London!
- Your favorite hair products that you use at home. Bring them, depending on your duration.
- Bathing soaps and a razor.
- Wet wipes. Generally, these are great for any traveler.
- Simplify your life and get a travel toiletries kit – don’t know why I didn’t put this first.
5. Comfortable Shoes
This might seem rather obvious, but you don’t want to have the experience of traveling in uncomfortable or poorly-fitting shoes. Imagine yourself scampering to the London Underground with your shoes biting your heels like hell hounds. Talk about dogs barking.
With a pair of bad shoes, all you’ll get in the end are sores, blisters, and bleeding after walking for a few hours. London is a big city, and you’ll spend more of your time walking than driving, biking, or using public transport. Your “plates of meat” will be pounding the cobbled streets or marching up and down the escalators and underground stairs as you visit sights.
Sore feet are going to ruin your London vacation. Here’s the thing: your ability to make the most of your trip to London comes from the shoes you choose. You don’t want to make a mistake here.
The ideal choice of shoes should be sturdy, water-resistant, and long-lasting so that you can use them when back home. They should be stylish, too, and match your fancy London Clothes if at all possible. Since many travelers forget this part, do thorough research so that you don’t become one of them.
They are many good shoes, but not all are good for London. One versatile style of shoe that I have mentioned a whole lot already is the Chelsea boot, ankle boots, born and raised in London. Always a fashionable choice for ladies, gents and everyone else in between, a good pair of Chelsea boots will keep your feet comfortable and dry, all while looking like fire!
Plus, make sure you arm yourself with at least 7-8 pairs of socks that are enough for a whole week before having to do laundry.
PRO TIP: Want to go the extra mile to avoid blisters? Go with an old British Army trick (no, not that one), and wear two pairs of socks at once; a thin pair of cotton (or bamboo fiber) socks on your feet, and then a thicker pair of cotton socks (or wool socks in winter) over the top of these thin socks. This will add to the cushions for the ankles, soles, heels, and balls of your feet, and dramatically cut down on blisters.
See Related: Why is everyone obsessed with travel?
6. Medicine and Basic First Aid
While there are many over-the-counter pharmacies and free healthcare in the UK, it’s still reasonable to carry a medicine kit when traveling to London. This doesn’t mean that it should be a sophisticated kit with disaster medical items. Just a basic kit is okay – remember: there’s free healthcare here.
Among your first aid kit, you should include your prescriptions from home. If you take a few extra things for medicinal purposes, like weekly antacids or daily vitamins, put them in the kit.
It’s also essential for travelers to carry antidiarrheal like Imodium. You never know, (I am regretfully speaking from experience) but traveler’s diarrhea may strike any time when you’re far from the nearest pharmacy.
PRO TIP: It’s unlikely you’ll run into diarrhea in the UK – quite the opposite. I love British food, but a lot of the traditional cuisine can be pretty stodgy.
Consuming a lot of water is essential to combat the after-effects of diarrhea, and antidiarrheal drugs can make you feel secure and tide you over long enough before you reach a local pharmacy.
PRO TIP: All the over-the-counter pain meds you can find in the U.S. you can find in the UK – but some have different names. Luckily, things like ibuprofen are the same (the main name brand is Nurofen), but things like Tylenol/acetaminophen, are known by the international name paracetamol.
See Related: Best Travel Accessories
7. Reusable Water Bottles
If you’ve watched the travel blogger Drew Binky on YouTube, you’ll find he has tons of helpful tips for saving money when traveling. What he stresses is carrying a reusable water bottle when visiting any country. This is something I cannot recommend enough.
Why? You can refill your bottle with water in your hotel room or from London’s increasing number of public water fountains, which are pretty common nowadays. That way, you will not have to buy water from the stores, and you will save some cash that can help you somewhere else.
See Related: Fun Facts About London
What Not to Carry to London
Sometimes it’s good to leave a few things behind instead of lugging them around the world. It reduces your traveling weight which helps you save energy and increase comfort.
And what’s more? It gives you a little extra peace of mind, and you can still buy some of this stuff when you arrive in London. Some items to leave at home include:
1. Valuable Jewelry
You don’t want to catch the attention of thieves. Pickpockets and conmen recognize and prioritize tourists with valuable watches and necklaces.
Leave them at home, and your security and peace of mind will be guaranteed. Plus, flashy jewelry flies in the face of London fashion! If you must bring jewelry, bring something tasteful and understated – or consider going souvenir hunting!
It might have been a good idea to have a guidebook handy in the early years of tourism. But if we add comfort into consideration, it doesn’t add up.
It’s extra weight and it’s so very 19th Century. Plus, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb as the most touristy tourist of all tourists.
What’s better than a relic of yesteryear? The Lonely Planet’s Best of London eBook. It has all the discoveries that await you in London and it’s online – so it weighs literally nothing.
You will get these at your hotel. Also, they cost like pennies in every UK drug store or supermarket.
Also, remember that your U.S. hairdryers may not have rhyming volts. Remember, it’s 110V in the U.S. and 220V in the UK. Also, the plugs are different. It’s just not worth it, ‘kay?
FUN FACT: Plugs for British electronics are of a 3-pin configuration, safer than the old-school 2-pin U.S. plugs, despite running with a higher voltage. These chunky 3-pin plugs are the inspiration for the newer U.S. 3-pin plugs which work along the same principle.
See Related: Best Portable Car Seats for Travel
4. Kids’ Toys and Novels
Toys are unwanted additional weights, and yes, that one special cuddly companion your child may have is just something else you (or they) may end up losing and leaving behind. For that crime, you and only you will shoulder the blame for all eternity.
Books tend to be even weightier than most small toys, and you will be kicking yourself for bringing them along – that is if you have the strength to do so after carrying them around with you. If it’s a must that you carry a weighty novel or bound collection of fairy tales, invest in a Kindle reader and download a ton of eBooks instead – they weigh nothing.
Also, there are many places to buy children’s books and toys in London, so there’s really no reason to bring books or toys if you can. London has kids too. Is that a surprise? If it is a surprise, YOU need to travel.
FUN FACT: Thanks to EU regulations (which somehow still seem to rule Briton’s lives all these years after Brexit) kids’ books and toys in the UK tend to be made with fewer harmful materials and forever chemicals than you’ll find in toys and books found in the U.S.
See Related: Best Travel Safes
A Few Things to Know Before Your Trip to London
- Bring an umbrella (or “brolly”) or buy one. It will see use.
- Flights to London can be pretty expensive, which is a bit of a blow considering how expensive London can be. So do your best to save money on booking flights through sites like Skyscanner, Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights), and Google Flights.
- While it’s very London, it’s not a must for you to take a Hackney carriage (more commonly known as a black cab or London taxi). They can be expensive and might cut deep into your pockets. Instead, take a bus which is significantly cheaper. The top floor of a classic, red double-decker is better if you want to see the magnificent skyline of the city, and is also very London.
- That said, if you want to enjoy a truly private tour of the city and learn about London, I mean REAL London, do get a ride in a black cab. Cabbies, every man jack of them blessed with “the knowledge,” are the finest tour guides in all of London.
- While many people swear by buses, the London Underground, or “the Tube,” is the king of subway networks, and it’s the oldest metro system in the world. It’s fast, reliable, safe, cheap, easy to navigate, and runs throughout the city. Plus, it’s a quintessential London experience. There’s really no excuse for not using the Tube.
- If you’re looking for the perfect market, the Borough Market fits the bill. This place is beautiful and has all the stuff you may need from gifts and souvenirs to groceries. Seriously, you can get every kind of foodstuff here; it’s a great way to taste London. It’s also way less of a tourist trap than Covent Garden (although I do recommend seeing Covent Garden at least once).
- We’re a big fan of cities that have passes that allow advanced and/or discounted access to top landmarks and attractions, and London is no different. The most popular and extensive pass is the appropriately named London Pass. This customizable pass is valid for 2 years after purchase and offers access to over 80 top attractions, as well as road and river tours around the city, and comes with its own handy travel guide.
- There are suitable substitutes for spendy places like the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace, which are less expensive. A few remarkable museums are the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Science Museum, the National Army Museum, and the Natural History Museum. All of these are free, and each one is a fantastic day out.
- See any fancy-looking soldiers out and about in London? Y’know, the ones in red coats and tall hats, or the ones in shiny helmets on horses? DON’T mess with them. If you do, they have a legal right to mess with you. These are professional soldiers on duty, actively guarding or patrolling official British landmarks and interests. They are not there for your amusement.
- While London is a fantastic place to visit, there’s a whole fascinating country out there to explore. So don’t get stuck in London! Utilize Britain’s fantastic rail network to see other unique towns, landmarks, and attractions in Britain, such as Bath, Brighton, Windsor, Canterbury, Salisbury, Oxford, Liverpool, York, Wales, and Scotland! Why not check out these awesome small towns in England? And hey, the best part? London is the nation’s train and travel hub. All roads may lead to Rome, but from London, the UK is your oyster – especially if you grab an Oyster Card!
- Get an Oyster Card – it will save you a ton of money on London’s public transportation, which you should be using religiously.
- If you need non-urgent medical attention in the UK, there is a good chance you won’t have to pay a penny – as practically all Brits say, “God bless the NHS.” Even so, it’s a good idea to get travel insurance just in case you need urgent medical attention.
Conclusion on the Checklist for Traveling to London
When it comes to traveling anywhere, you need to know what to carry and what not to, depending on your destination. And with this here detailed article on the perfect checklist for traveling to London, you can now enjoy your tour of this beautiful city. London is one of my all-time favorite destinations, and there has never been a trip I’ve made here that I didn’t enjoy.
So, you now know what and how to pack for a trip to London from this list of London packing essentials. The critical thing is to make sure that what you pack is not bulky, but still relevant.
Remember, there are a lot of things you can leave at home that you can always source in London. And if you have any trouble finding what you need, it just so happens that the locals speak English – unless it’s Cockney rhyming slang.
So what are you waiting for, chum? Get out there!
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- About the Author
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James is a British-American writer and editor for Via Travelers who has been writing since he was wee. As someone who has spent much time trotting around the globe, James appreciates traveling smart and comfortably, and has every intention of helping VT’s readers do the same!