It’s been almost one year since I took the trip of a lifetime to London, England with a quick weekend in Paris (can I go back right now??). I went on a three-week British Media Studies trip in May and June with my journalism college. It was like study abroad, except we didn’t have class there and we spent a lot of time meeting with top media professionals in London to promote positive relationships between our college and the media companies. When we weren’t schmoozing amazing journalism professionals, we spent our time sight-seeing, shopping and pub-hopping. I, more than anyone, know that there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to packing for a different country, especially the UK, so I hope this list of practical items will help you pack an extremely efficient suitcase.
Puffer Vest: My smartest move was taking my J.Crew Excursion Puffer Vest. I wore it with everything–jeans, skirts, sweaters…I stuck out like a sore thumb, but the pink (Herringbone is pictured above) looked great in my tourist photos against the classic British architecture.
Neutral Sweaters: I took a thinner, black, cashmere sweater and it kept me warm while looking put together. It was a great base for my puffer vest. Not to mention, Brits love their black basics–you’ll fit right in!
Polo: The prep in me recommends you take a white polo button down. It will give you a lot of bang for your buck as it’s versatile and fits in with British style. All the different combinations of vest, sweater and polo will last you a week.
Sleeveless Top: I was in London in May and June and we actually had amazing weather. There were as many warm, sunny days as cold days. I actually had more sleeveless shirts packed and at the last minute swapped them out for some sweaters–thank goodness! But having short sleeves added another layer to my traveling wardrobe. I wore them with a denim jacket for extra warmth in the morning and tied it around my waist for the afternoon.
Denim Jacket: On warm days when it wasn’t supposed to rain, I would only wear a denim jacket with my short sleeves and pack my light rain jacket in my tote bag. Another *great layer*!!!
Barbour: I am a die-hard Barbour fan and getting to wear a Royal family staple in actual England?? I was so excited to show the Brits that Americans appreciate timeless fashion as well. Barbours are great because the wax finish means they are waterproof as well as being warm and having many pockets.
Long Rain Jacket: You can definitely swap the Barbour for a longer rain jacket. Get one with a hood that covers your bottom in case you sit somewhere wet.
Scarf: I kept a spare scarf in my bag for emergencies when I got cold. I got a black and white blanket scarf so that it went with everything and it was just as fashionable as it was practical. I loved that it was so big, but packed so small.
Jeans: Take your favorite pair of jeans. Maybe two pairs, depending on how long you’ll be there. I took skinny jeans that went with Converse and booties. I wore skirts a lot, due to the dress code of our media visits, so one pair was more than enough for three weeks. That’s right, I did London in a skirt most days.
Black Jeans: Keeping in the “British fashion” theme, black jeans will immediately dress up any outfit. Mine even had a few rips (one of my trendier moments) and looked just as good with Converse as they did with booties. They were just nice to throw into the mix because they weren’t normal blue jeans.
Booties: Flat or heeled, whichever you feel like. I only wore heeled booties at night, but you have to remember that you walk A LOT in the city. If you are nervous about rain you can waterproof your boots. Brits don’t wear tall rain boots, so leave the tall Hunters at home and waterproof your booties. Which leads me to my next recommendation…
Bean Boots/Short Rain Boots: Tall rain boots are so heavy and really clunky, so I recommend taking short rain boots or Bean boots with you. They are comfortable, stylish and highly functional. They aren’t necessary if you are already taking some flat or low-heeled booties, so it’s up to you to decide for yourself.
Comfy Black Flats: I almost took my Tory Burch flats, but they aren’t comfy enough for walking 10 miles a day. Instead I had a pair of black flats I got years ago from DSW that I was ok with basically ruining on the trip. It was imperative that they were comfortable. Other girls bought new shoes from Primark (the UK’s Forever 21) on the trip, which ruined their feet. Take some well-broken-in flats!
Tennis Shoes: There are a lot of comfy, stylish tennis shoes on the market right now so I bet you have some in your closet that just popped into your mind. I bought some Adidas on the trip, which luckily didn’t give me blisters. Not one of my smarter ideas, but it worked out for me and they were WAY more comfy than my Converse.
Longchamp Tote (featuring my roomie, Annie!)
Compact Umbrella: Duh.
Longchamp Tote Bag: Next to my vest and black flats, this was THE BEST thing I brought on the trip. Pick-pocketing is a real thing in Europe and they are good at it. This bag has a full zipper, which I kept in front of me (so someone didn’t unzip it because I had my back to the zipper) and is waterproof!!! My roommate and I both brought our Longchamps and agreed that they were the best travel bag for this occasion. Another girl on our trip even ran in to Harrod’s to get one for herself. Plus, we were never pick-pocketed with these.
Power Converter/Plug: I wouldn’t recommend buying the UK to US outlet plugs in America. You can get them cheap at Boots and they are guaranteed to be the right kind. If you are going to another country during your stay, you can even get plugs for a lot of European countries. You will have to buy a hair dryer/straightener/curler there if you don’t buy a converter, so bring your own and just pay the 10 bucks for the plug in. Your first day figure out those types of practical things.
Going Out Clothes: The only place we went, besides pubs, was a ping pong bar that wasn’t very dressy. I did learn that the Brits take their going out clothes very seriously so you need to be looking nice for their clubs. Like don’t just roll in one night after sight-seeing because you probably won’t get in.
Food and Drink: My go-to evening beverages were Rekorderlig and Pimm’s. There was nothing better than a Pimm’s outside on a nice British summer day…Nando’s is a great peri peri chicken restaurant that Annie and I ate at like 12 times. It’s so good and isn’t British food! We both have very different palates and loved it. Ask for tap water when you go to a restaurant to save money. Don’t be surprised that their portion sizes are A LOT smaller than America’s and they don’t obsess over sugar like we do. Skip Starbucks and try Caffé Nero for your morning coffee. I was very impressed that I could just drink it black, which I wouldn’t do at Starbucks. Hit up the Udderbelly when you’re over at the London Eye. Food stands and Pimm’s–the best! Borough Market is fantastic for lunch because there are so many authentic options. Another awesome market is Exmouth Market, which was right by our flat so we were there often.
Time: Fair warning, the Brits use a 24 hour clock. Get used to doing the math in your head!
The Tube: Ahhh I love the Tube. It is so easy to figure out and if you have the Citymapper app it will break down your Tube route so simply anyone can do it. You can get across London in no time with this app. Wifi is pretty easy to get in London, especially if you did an over seas deal with your cell service, which makes this app so helpful when you’re out and about.
Please, for me, have the best time ever and take tons of pictures! Finally, one last piece of advice…Mind the gap!
Holly Hoehner is a public relations senior at the University of Oklahoma. She considers herself more of a Russell Westbrook than a Kevin Durant and enjoys learning about and participating in the digital age, blogging about anything that comes to her mind and creating witty Instagram captions. Holly was raised a die-hard Sooner fan in Edmond, OK.