Answers from Our Experts (4)
The most important thing to remember when packing for London is that the weather is very changeable. Visit in spring or autumn and you can easily experience warming sun, biting wind and freezing rain in one single afternoon. So make sure you pack for all eventualities – bring thick socks, a warm jacket and a good umbrella, but also remember your sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. And bring some optimism with you, too.
Other essentials for an enjoyable London stay include sturdy shoes to walk around the city during the day, along with some smarter clothes for the evening (especially if you're planning to visit a nightclub or take in a West End show). Other items you shouldn't forget include a plug adapter, a large amount of currency — it's a very expensive city — and even a dictionary of local terminology. It can be quite a shock how much can be lost in translation between American and British English.
Once you're in the country, you should pick up a central London street map (with an Underground map on the reverse) to help you navigate the winding streets, plus an Oyster Card for when you're sick of walking.
A city break can be tricky to pack for. There is so much to think about, from clothing to camera equipment, guidebooks to cellphones, that it is all too easy to forget something important. Here are my tips for what to bring - and what not to - on your trip to London:
The weather in London is never guaranteed so the first rule of packing for a visit here is: bring lots of layers. In the summer you can get away with far less than you can in the winter, but even at the height of summer you should still expect chilly nights and early mornings so bring a few jumpers/sweaters that you can carry around with you easily and throw on when it gets cold.
Rain is fairly common so a jacket that is at least partially waterproof and an umbrella are a good idea. Even in winter it rarely gets cold enough for thermals but pack a heavy duty coat if you don't want to spend all your time cooped up indoors.
You are sure to do a lot of walking while in London so bring comfortable shoes for exploring. If you plan to go out on the town at night though bring dress shoes or heels, and if you want to visit some of London's luxury hotels and restaurants, a smart dress or jacket will mean you don't feel out of place.
Whatever you do, don't forget to pack your camera. There is so much to see in London and you'll want to capture as much of it as possible. Bring at least one spare memory card and a spare battery to carry around with you, plus the charger.
If you have a smartphone, don't forget the charger for this too, and consider downloading some useful apps for your time in the city. Try London Tube Deluxe for up-to-the-minute travel info, Time Out London for a general city guide and Quirky London if you want to explore off the beaten track.
Finally, don't forget your travel adaptor. The UK uses the three-pinned plug socket, which is different from the rest of Europe and the US.
Bring your credit or debit card but don't worry about carrying cash - there are ATMs everywhere and very few places don't accept Visa and Mastercard. American Express is less widely accepted in the UK than it is in the US so bring a backup card if your primary credit card is an Amex.
For winter, spring and fall visits, pack clothes to beat the chill, a handbag-sized umbrella and a foldaway waterproof jacket, that way you’re prepared for whatever the weather decides to do at the time, without using up all your precious suitcase space. In summer, London temperatures can get pretty high – especially on the Underground – so light layers are your best bet, in addition to the aforementioned rainy day necessities for impromptu showers.
Year-round, comfortable shoes are a must so you can explore the city on foot, rather than relying too much on the busy public transport. Some people choose to dress up for a trip to the theatre, some don’t; likewise, there are many great restaurants that don’t require men to wear a tie and ladies to dress to impress, so don’t feel pressured to pack your Sunday Best unless you want to.
Lastly, a good pocket map, camera, travel plug and some pounds to keep you going until you find an ATM, should cover the basics. And be sure to make a note of the addresses for any great recommendations you’ve picked up on the site from Forbes’ London Correspondents.
What to pack for a trip to London obviously depends on the type of trip you're planning, but there a few items it's best not to be without.
Changeable weather makes an umbrella or waterproof jacket a must. Many London hotels will lend umbrellas to guests, but these tend to be large, branded affairs so if you don't want to be a walking advertisement, it's a good idea to bring your own. Keep a small umbrella in your handbag, briefcase or backpack and you'll always be prepared.
That said, it doesn't rain nearly as much here as people would have you believe. We get plenty of sunshine too. If you're visiting between April and November, don't forget your sunglasses, particularly if you're planning on hiring a car at any point during your trip.
When it comes to footwear, go for something comfortable – you'll most likely be doing a lot of walking. Pack some blister plasters too.
You'll need a plug adaptor to be able to power devices such as laptops, phones and camera batteries. If you plan to use a smart phone for navigating and accessing online city guides and apps, bear in mind that your battery use will be higher than normal – a spare battery pack might mean the difference between locating that hip new bar and ending up in some horrible dive.