How to Plan and Pack for London

I feel like this is kind of an ironically titled post; of all the trips I’ve planned, this one felt the most unorganized despite spending hours and months poring over information. It took me so long to piece together an itinerary, but it seemed like a majority of those plans erupted once we were over there.

Nevertheless, I’ll share what I planned, what missed the mark, and hopefully some of my failures will help you out if you’re planning a trip to London soon.

Planning Guides

As soon as we decided on England for our big 2019 vacation, I bought some guidebooks because I love reading as much information as possible before traveling, and even though the Internet provides more information than we can possibly consume, I like having hard copies (hello, English professor in the house). I opted for two of the most popular ones, Fodor’s Essential England and Rick Steves London. You can buy both on Amazon.

The Rick Steves book came with a removable map that noted all the major landmarks and also had a tube station map which was incredibly helpful. We used that map so much that it’s starting to come apart!

And of course I read blog after blog after Pinterest post because I love reading about other peoples’ experiences, challenges, and recommendations.

Even though some things didn’t work out (I’ll give specific details later because I’ll be doing a post for each day we were there), I did feel better knowing that I’d read up on everything. These books have helpful information on tipping, safety, transportation, and etiquette, which is good stuff to know when traveling to another country.

Travel

When we went to Scotland in 2017, we flew via British Airways. We had such a positive experience that we decided to go with them for this trip. Unfortunately, the closest airport that had a nonstop flight was Washinton, D.C. We had a wedding in Raleigh the night before we left, so we stayed there and then drove up to D.C. the next day. In theory, this was a great idea. When we had to drive the six hours back home after our flight, the idea didn’t feel so great. I’m so happy we made it home because I know my eyes closed a couple times during my time driving (I know…).

For travel within London, I looked up so much about the Oyster card before we went, and I still don’t think I understand it. I kept reading that if you got an Oyster card with the London Pass, the most it would charge you for the tube was £6.80/day, but when we finally bit the bullet and bought an Oyster card before using our London Pass, it definitely charged us every time. Maybe because it was a visitor travelcard with the London Pass? If anybody can clarify this, please help a girl out.

Clothing/Packing

I was really concerned about clothing for this trip…maybe too much so? I didn’t want to stand out as a tourist, which meant I read and Googled an absurd amount about what to wear in London. Everything said that shorts or athleisure was a red flag that you’re American. But you know what? There are so many people (including tourists) in so many different outfits that it really doesn’t matter. So don’t be like me and fret about standing out. If you want to wear your five inch heels, then I guess that’s cool, but my feet were destroyed from wearing flats. But wear what you want, and make sure you’re comfortable.

And if you’re standing around staring at a Rick Steves map, that kind of gives it away that you’re a tourist anyway 🤷🏻‍♀️

One of my favorite purchases for my trip to Scotland was space saver bags, and they came in handy for this trip, too. I stuff these full and then roll or squish them to get all the air out and then you end up with some extra room. And the best part is that you don’t need a vacuum, so they work just as well when you’re packing to return! I bought mine at TJ Maxx, but I found these Travel Space Saver Bags for a good price on Amazon. In one bag, I was able to stuff two pairs of jeans, two cargo jackets, a dress, multiple cami shirts, and a bunch of underwear.

The weather also made it a little difficult to pack well for this trip. I checked the weather basically every day for a few weeks leading up to the trip, and it was usually mid-60s with some rain here and there, so that’s what I was expecting as I laid outfits out to pack. But the day before, the weather was showing high 60s for the first few days and then 70s for the rest of the time. The last two days we were there it was hot, so I’m glad I packed short sleeves and a few dresses!

And I’m not sure about you, but I make sure to pack things that will be loose even by the end of my trip. I hate wearing clothes that are tight, and since I love eating, I know something that’s tight or even somewhat tight will be even more so by the end of vacation.

To be helpful, here’s a day-by-day list of what I wore during our trip!

Day 1 – Nike legend capris, Reebok tank, Nike sneakers (plane outfit); jeans, pink cargo jacket, maroon t-shirt, olive green Clark’s lace-up shoes (see below)

Day 2 – floral dress with khaki cargo jacket, flats

Day 3 – pink Gap girlfriend chinos, long-sleeve white t-shirt, floral scarf, Clark’s lace-up shoes

Day 4 – long-sleeve yellow gingham linen top, jeans, Jellypop sandals, bathing suit

Day 5 – olive joggers, yellow striped puffy sleeve top, khaki cargo jacket, Jellypop sandals

Day 6 – black romper, white t-shirt, Aerosoles Ballet Flat

Day 7 – black short-sleeve jersey dress, Jellypop sandals

Day 8 – black Nike sleeveless sweatshirt dress, Jellypop sandals

I also Googled to see if our hotel, the Doubletree Westminster, had a hairdryer, which meant one less thing I had to pack. I took my straightener but didn’t realize that our plug adapter was just for USB outlets, so that was a waste, and I ended up putting my hair in a messy bun the whole week. I probably should’ve also trimmed down the amount of makeup I took – why does being a woman require so many products??

Right before we left I bought two pairs of shoes. The Clark’s (pictured first and purchased as DSW), were great and so comfy (they’re apparently called Cloudstepper for a reason) and Aerosoles flats (pictured second). Y’all. Within 10 minutes of walking, my right heel was TORN UP from the flats. I couldn’t go back to change, so I ended up bending the heels down and turned them into redneck clogs.

How is it 2019 and we can’t come up with comfortable, cute shoes?? Hopefully I can break them in because I do like the look of them, and the footbed is very comfortable. Fingers crossed.

Stay tuned for day-by-day rehashes of what we did, saw, and of course, what we ate!

How do you plan for a big vacation? Do you read every corner of the Internet and have a minute-by-minute plan, fly by the seat of your pants, or get someone else to plan everything?

 


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17 Comments

  1. Stine Mari says:

    I love London and I actually love their underground system! It’s been a few years since last time I’ve been there, and I think they’ve renewed how the Oyster card works, but what I think it is now is that you do get charged for each trip, but once you reach the £6.80 cap, you will ride for free the rest of the day. I need to go back!!

    Like

  2. Christine says:

    I had an Oyster card when I visited London YEARS ago. My best friend was living there for a time. You really do need/want one. I love Fodors and Frommers’ guides. I am also a huge Lonely Planet fan and now avid travel blog reader. Comfortable walking shoes are a godsend! I always tell my mom and husband to break in new shoes at home before traveling. My mom learned the hard way… Great tips!

    Liked by 1 person

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