A collection of random thoughts on traveling to London - what to pack, how to prep, and other things to know:
- Pack layers, an umbrella, and a good pair of walking shoes. The best way to see London is on foot!
- Check the weather for the time you're there! London is similar to Seattle weather-wise but doesn't reap the same benefits (warm air) of being close to water like Seattle does. It's cold in October and 50s feel like 50s. It rained a couple of days while we were there, but we were fortunate to have fairly dry days during the week.
- To minimize how much of my closet I travel with, I always like to pack a capsule wardrobe in a neutral colorway. For this trip, I stuck to tan, navy, and black.
- I also watched Love and London's "What to Pack for London" video and laughed at how Jess specifically said to avoid wearing sweats, sports jerseys and things with words on them in public. You're basically screaming "I'M AN AMERICAN TOURIST!" if you do. Haha!
- Speaking of Love and London, I LOVED Jess' tips on her beautiful adopted city. She has a lot of really great practical advice for traveling to London (and other parts of Europe.) She has a bunch of short videos on YouTube and releases a new video every Thursday via newsletter.
- Get recommendations from friends! I asked my Facebook friends for their favorite sights, eats and things to do in London and Iceland, and they more than delivered a great list for us. We were able to enjoy a good mix of friend recommendations, things we wanted to do, and random discovery on our trip.
- It's helpful to plan and sort by neighborhoods. I started with West, East and Central London, and drilled down into the 'hoods I knew we'd be spending the most time in: Shoreditch, Camden, Soho, West End/Theatre District, Westminster, and King's Cross.
- There's a London Pass you can buy that gives you free or discounted access to double-decker bus tours and admission to many London landmarks. We highly considered it, but Jess from Love and London pointed out that you'd have to visit one or two of the included landmarks each day for the week to get your worth out of it. If you want to spend your entire trip sightseeing, this is a great way to do it. Otherwise, just choose one or two landmarks and enjoy the rest of the city!
- Get an Oyster Card. Public transit is amazing in London, and your Oyster card gives you access to a lot of it. We ended up buying a weekly card at a station, but there's a Visitor Oyster Card that allows you to pay as you go and includes some visitor discounts and perks. You have to buy it ahead of time!
- We used the Tube and Uber to get around the city. The Tube is super-reliable, but sometimes it was just easier to Uber where we needed to go. Uber London is great and there are always drivers around. I have some credits and found out that Uber won't let you transfer them to another currency, which was kind of a bummer.
- CityMapper was my savior for navigating routes on the Tube (and determining if it was easier to Uber.)
- We had a few restaurants that came highly recommended to us, but there are so many markets in London that street food was our go-to for many of our meals. There's also a Whole Foods in Soho which was like a home-cooked meal for us :)
- Tip/gratuity was included in every restaurant check we saw.
- It's not uncommon to see security or other staff outside bars and restaurants offering special deals to passersby. We got some 2 for 1 cocktail deals just wandering past a bar or two recommended to us!
- Our Airbnb in Shoreditch was so perfect for two people who wanted to live somewhat like local Londoners for a week. If that sounds appealing to you, there are a lot of amazing Airbnb listings all throughout London! If you haven't tried Airbnb yet, here's a $35 credit to get you started. It's such a great alternative to hotels and hostels!
- You have to pay (20p) to use public toilets. It's a good move to have some cash on you for little purchases like this. I got some British currency from my bank before we left on the trip.
- "Eat in or takeaway" is British for "for here or to go?" You're welcome.
My Top 5 things to do in London (that aren't Harry Potter-related)
- Dishoom - you can't go wrong with any meal there.
- Brick Lane Market
- The Treasures Gallery at The British Library
- Churchill War Rooms
Articles that helped me:
- Love and London blog and her free London 101 guide
- London: Our Gateway to Europe - Urban Trailseeker (my cousin Erick!)
- Best Days: London - The StyleSmith Diaries (my friend Kelsi)
- Dare to Disobey Rick Steves in London: An Alternative Itinerary - Wayfaring Views
- Where to Stay & Things to Do in London: An Incomplete Guide - Randomly London
- The Ultimate Guide to London's Street Food - Lifehacker
- 19 Places You Must Drink Tea Before You Die - Buzzfeed
Happy and safe travels to London!