As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it’s no wonder why London is next on your must-do travel list. Not only is it a global mecca for culture, history, fashion and music – it’s got an incredible scene for nightlife, live theatre, and world-renowned cuisine. One thing is for sure – you won’t get bored in London!
Packing for such a cosmopolitan hot spot can seem a bit daunting if you’re used to throwing t-shirts, shorts and hiking boots into your backpack and calling it a day. But this is London. You don’t have to dress like you’re a member of the royal family, but you should choose wisely when deciding what to pack for London – and you also need to fit it all in a carry-on backpack.
Lucky for you – we’ve put together a step-by-step London survival guide that’ll take the guesswork out of your packing strategy. Our goal is to make your prep as stress-free as possible so you can concentrate on the fun stuff – like the actual travel part!
Our handy guide includes a London packing essentials checklist with a top-21 needs list, recommendations on what to wear in London in true London fashion, and an overview of weather conditions by season and what to pack accordingly. Also included is a section with special packing tips for ladies and guys – plus a list of what NOT to pack for London.
So, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Table of Contents
Top 21 NEEDS for London – London Packing List
#1 – Nomatic Travel Bag
If you’re looking for the best all-around backpack in the market, here it is – the Nomatic Travel Bag. It’s superbly designed with pockets and compartments for everything you can think of to maximize every precious inch of packing space. It will tidily and efficiently fit everything on your what to pack for London list. It’s water-proof, durable and is the most modern, sleek pack we’ve ever seen. This bag is perfect for London – and beyond!
#2 – Active Roots Security Belt
London isn’t dangerous for tourists – but it’s a big, important city – so petty theft is always a possibility. You want to exercise adequate precautions and keep your important belongings discreetly close and secure. The Active Roots Security Belt is a perfect way to do this because it looks like a normal, stylish belt from the outside – but on the inside hides a zipper pocket to secretly stash your cash.
#3 – World Nomads Insurance
The only way to properly prepare for the unexpected is to get travelers insurance. World Nomads Insurance is designed by travelers for travelers, so they understand how to cover every globetrotter’s crucial needs – from medical attention or emergency evacuations to unexpected travel cancellations to replacing lost or stolen items. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re saving a few bucks by not getting it because if you end up needing to pay out of pocket, it’ll cost a whole lot more. Check out our in-depth review here.
#4 – Active Roots Water Bottle
With so much to see and do in London, you can be sure you’ll be doing a lot of walking. You’ll need to stay hydrated to keep up your energy. To not be a wasteful tourist, we recommend replacing the plastic water bottles with the stainless steel, eco-friendly, stainless steel Active Roots Water Bottle. It’s 25 ounces – which is 8 more ounces than comparable bottles – so you’ll be able to carry around plenty of cold water that will stay refreshingly cool for 24 hours.
#5 – Combination Lock
Another basic safety precaution to take is always keeping your travel bag locked – particularly when left unsupervised – like on public transportation and in hostel rooms where strangers are always coming and going. A small lock like the Active Roots Combination Padlock is easy to use and locks with a resettable combination. You don’t have to worry about losing a tiny key, and if you forget your combination – don’t fret – it’s resettable at any time!
#6 – Skeletool
Even if this wasn’t top of mind when thinking about what to pack for London, every backpacker should travel with a compact multi-tool, like the Skeletool. You never know when a small knife, screwdriver, scissors or corkscrew will come in handy. There are lots of cool pocket-size and keychain-size options with different available tools. If you want to save a few pounds and drink a beer in your room before hitting up the pub, you’ll appreciate having a bottle opener.
#7 – Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel
Every budget traveler needs a travel towel on their ‘what to take to London’ checklist. You can’t count on getting a tip-top fresh towel at hostels or any budget-friendly lodging, so you’ll want to come equipped with your own. You don’t want to carry around a bulky regular towel, which is why we like the Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel – it folds up into a compact, easy-to-pack size and is super lightweight.
#8 – Fairywill Electric Toothbrush
If a regular toothbrush is on your ‘what to pack for London’ list, we highly recommend trading up to a Fairywill Electric Toothbrush. We’ve become huge fans, and you will too! It has different modes for giving your mouth a powerful cleaning – including a massage mode that feels amazing! It’s travel-friendly with a mere 55 grams in weight, and it’s good for 30 days of use with one 4-hour charge.
#9 – SunGod Sunglasses
You want to blend into London fashion with a fashionable pair of sunglasses. What we love about SunGod Sunglasses is that – while they’re designed for performance – they don’t skimp out on style. You can customize the frames and lens colors to express your inner fashionista – but they’re also durably made with triple-layer scratch resistant lenses and SunGod’s trademarked Adventureproof Frame Material. These sunglasses are practically damage-proof – but they’re covered with SunGod’s lifetime guarantee for free repairs, just in case!
#10 – Travel Umbrella
It’s more likely than not that you’ll encounter rain showers in some form while in London. Even for a downpour or scattered drizzles, you’ll want to add a light travel umbrella to your ‘what to pack for London’ list. And a sturdy, windproof one is best so you don’t end up with an inside-out umbrella! A regular umbrella is cumbersome and hard to pack, so make sure it folds down compactly for an easy fit in your day bag.
#11 – Fashionable Day Bag
For long days of exploring London’s many sightseeing landmarks, we recommend a sleek-looking day bag – which is more appropriate for London fashion than a typical nylon book bag. A chic option is a leather backpack or crossbody bag, which works for both men and women. They’re roomy enough to fit your daytime necessities like phone, water bottle, camera, sunglasses, umbrella and any souvenirs you pick up along the way.
#12 – Hanging Toiletry Bag
The bathroom situation in shared or budget accommodations can be more of a hassle than it should be when there’s a lack of adequate counter space. If you don’t have a toiletry bag – or one that isn’t a hanging one – we recommend adding the Nomatic Toiletry Bag with your Nomatic Travel Bag. Having all your toiletries organized in one bag that you can hang within arm’s reach will save you a lot of frustration.
#13 – Travel-Size Toiletry Soft Tubes
Backpackers who rely on carry-on travel know that packing all necessary toiletries and liquids – while meeting TSA-approved guidelines – can be challenging. Silicone soft tubes with leak-proof flip caps are an efficient alternative to hard plastic bottles due to their shape and pliability. Also, when you’re only allowed 3 ounces of product, being able to easily squeeze out every precious drop of shampoo and lotion is a big plus!
#14 – Digital Camera
With so many photo-worthy landmarks, this bucket-list destination warrants adding a digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera to your ‘what to pack for London’ checklist. If you’re already equipped with your favorite camera for high-quality shots, be sure to pack it. But if you don’t, there are a lot of great cameras to research in a wide variety of budget levels. You won’t regret the investment when you see the amazing photos you have as keepsakes!
#15 – Cell Phone Camera Accessories
You could travel with the most expensive of digital cameras, but it’s guaranteed you’ll still use your mobile phone for at least some pictures. When hitting up London nightlife, whether it’s out to dinner, bars, live music – or a combination of all of it – carrying around your digital camera isn’t exactly convenient. But you still want to capture those night-out moments. A small cell phone attachment – like a selfie ring light – will make those shots really pop.
#16 – Packing Cube Set
Any bit of help you can get to stay organized while living out of a backpack is an asset. If you haven’t tried packing cubes, we think you should. They make a big difference for efficiently organizing and packing down your clothing items. You’ll not only get more packing space, but you’ll also save yourself the headache of pulling everything out of your bag when looking for that one black t-shirt – we’ve all been there!
#17 – Universal Plug Adapter
If you have electronics on your ‘what to pack for London’ list, it’s safe to assume you’ll need to keep them charged. It gets annoying and confusing to keep track of what plugs and outlets work in different parts of the world – there are so many of them! So either triple check that you have the right adapter for London – which uses plug type G – or take the easy route and pack a universal travel adapter that will work practically anywhere.
#18 – Portable Charger
Most travelers use their cell phones a lot while traveling – especially if you decide to get a SIM card and use it as your navigator and tour guide. Finding a nearby outlet to recharge your phone if it runs out of juice isn’t very convenient, so it’s great having a compact portable charger that easily slips into your day bag as a back-up power source. You can also use it for charging other USB chargeable devices, like an iPad.
#19 – Sanitizing Wipes
Keeping your hands clean – especially before eating – is the best way to not get sick or catch a bug – and possibly ruining your trip. Constantly being on the go doesn’t always make for an easy-to-find sink and soap to wash your hands. You always want to have a travel pack of sanitizing wipes readily available. We recommend using them often to keep unwanted germs away – so be sure to have plenty available.
#20 – Travel First Aid Kit
Regardless of your travel destination – even in a safe, cosmopolitan destination like London – always travel prepared with a travel first aid kit. It’s easy to find essentials in London, but scrambling to find your nearest pharmacy when you need something immediately isn’t the most ideal scenario. Even if it’s just for a band-aid to cover up a blister, it’s more comforting to know you have one in stock.
#21 – Travel Pillow
Whether or not your London trip will require long journeys on public transportation, we recommend adding a travel pillow to your what to pack for London gear. A comfy personal pillow is always welcome for long flights, and plus, you can never guarantee the condition of the pillow you’ll get at your hostel or economy lodging. If you stick to one that compacts down and is easy to pack, it’s a valuable item to have.
What to Wear in London
When imagining your capsule wardrobe for what to wear in London, think layers and smart-casual fashion – with an occasional dressy item. Londoners dress for the weather but do so in a well-groomed and presentable way, and we suggest you follow their lead and do the same.
To fit into London fashion, our first piece of advice is to be mindful of the way your clothing fits. Baggy and too-oversized isn’t flattering and is not considered an attractive look by London standards. Casual wear – like t-shirts and jeans – are totally acceptable, if they fit nicely and are well put together. So, avoid wearing workout attire as everyday wear – unless you plan on signing up for a local marathon or spending hours at the gym.
Another piece of advice for your ‘what to take to London’ checklist is to pack solid-colored items that can be easily mixed and matched, and quickly dressed up or down. Black is always a safe, classy way to go. Other classic and versatile color choices are white, grey, navy blue and khaki. Throw dressier items into the mix – like blouses, button-down shirts, blouses, and dresses – and you’ll be covered for pretty much any location or occassion!
The weather will also affect what to pack for London, so below we’ve included recommendations on what to consider for each season.
Visiting London in Summer
Summer – if you’re used to hot summers, you’ll find London weather in June, July, and August much milder with average temperatures between 60 and 75° F. You’ll likely encounter occasional showers, so you’ll want to plan for this with the proper gear and for rearranging sightseeing plans, if necessary.
Because summer is London’s warmest time of the year, it’s also when the city sees its peak tourism season, and you’ll need to be ready for more crowds at popular tourist attractions. If you’d like to have more of Buckingham Palace and London’s National Gallery to yourself, you may want to choose a different season for your travels!
Items that will keep you comfortable in warm to cool weather – and that you can layer as needed – should make up your clothing selections for what to wear in London in summer.
Here are a couple of London outfit ideas for women: one is a pair of black capris with a lightweight summer blouse. Another is a wide-legged jumpsuit topped with a light open cardigan for when temperatures drop after the sun goes down; add a chunky necklace or dangling earrings, and you also have a perfect outfit for what to wear in London at night!
For men, a pair of classic-fit chino shorts with a shallow v-neck t-shirt is a smart summer outfit. Spruce it up for a night out with a pair of modern-fit chino pants and a dark button-up shirt.
Visiting London in Fall
Fall – if traveling to London in September through November, make sure rain gear tops your ‘what to pack for London’ list! The fall months are when London sees the most rainfall – with October and November being the rainiest – so if you’re fine with wet travel conditions, you’ll definitely benefit from fewer tourists and better deals. The average fall temperatures range from 55 to 65° F.
Your ‘fall London packing essentials’ will include a stylish raincoat for daytime sightseeing, an umbrella, at least one scarf and a hat. Women should pack leggings with long sweaters, jeans, long-sleeve tops, and cardigans. Men will want a pair of slim-fit pants, jeans, a sweater and at least one or two long-sleeve button-down shirts for layering.
For what to wear in London at night, go for a pair of dark jeans with a black fitted sweater and topped with a jacket – leather is always chic – and finish off the look with a scarf, warm hat, and leather boots. Be sure to have your travel umbrella to keep that leather jacket dry until you can duck inside for cover!
Visiting London in Winter
Winter – London weather in winter is fairly cold, and rainy conditions can be expected to continue through December, January, and February. The average high is around 49° F with an average low near 40° F. But don’t be surprised if temperatures dip down into freezing – and be prepared for possible snow.
If you’re looking for a time of year to travel to London with the least amount of tourists, winter is your season. The exception might be visitors looking for a romantic holiday getaway and revelers seeking some marvelous New Years Eve fireworks displays – which you’ll have to plan for and book in advance – if you choose to partake in the end-of-the-year festivities.
For ‘what to wear in London’ in the winter, we recommend packing layers and waterproof items to keep you comfortable and dry. For colder days, have one or two base layer options available – like leggings or a thermal shirt and pants. You’ll also want sweaters, dark jeans, and slim pants. Be sure to pack a heavier winter coat – preferably waterproof. Stay warm and accessorize your look with a hat, gloves, and a scarf.
Visiting London in Spring
Spring – London’s Spring months of March, April and May have variable weather conditions – it’s not uncommon to have a warm, sunny day followed by a cold, rainy day. Average low temperatures can range between 45 and 55° F with average highs ranging between 55 to 65° F.
Spring is actually a great shoulder season to consider if you don’t mind a bit of finicky weather. You’ll likely get some beautiful, temperate days for outdoor exploring, and you can always save museum visits for days that the rain clouds decide to roll in. You won’t encounter many fellow tourists, so that’s definitely an advantage for choosing the spring months for your London shenanigans. Yellow daffodils and pink blossoms blooming in the parks make for quite a lovely sight too!
For what to pack for London spring travel, packing layers for fluctuating weather conditions is your best bet – jeans, well-fitted pants, light sweaters, cardigans, short and long-sleeve shirts, and blouses should cover your main London packing essentials. Add some fashionable accents with a lightweight scarf and thin beanie that will also help ward off springtime chills. Remember your raincoat and umbrella!
What Shoes to Pack for London
Exploring London on foot is the best way to get the most out of this magnificent city. When planning what shoes to pack for London, you want to focus on providing maximum comfort for your feet – but not at the expense of style.
A perfect option for men and women – that are both chic and comfortable – are leather sneakers. They work perfectly with a pair of smart shorts and a solid tee – or even a sundress – for what to wear in London in summer. They also work great in colder weather with a pair of dark jeans and a fitted sweater.
For women, a recommended second pair of shoes is a pair of flats for a going out to a dressier dinner or a night at the theatre. For men, a pair of loafers are just as classy and versatile for dressing up or down.
For colder and rainier seasons, a pair of waterproof boots are a good choice. Lace-up leather ankle boots for men are classic for every look and style. Leather booties for women are comfortable and versatile – and compliment daytime and nighttime outfits equally well.
Take the opportunity to show off your best look – you’ll blend right in with the dapper locals!
Females – What to Pack for London
Hey ladies, here are a few tips just for you as you prepare what to pack for London!
- For Fashion – the most versatile item you can pack for what to wear in London at night – and for daytime sightseeing – is the classic little black dress. It’s light and airy enough for warm summer weather – and for chillier spring and fall days – add a pair of leggings underneath and top off with a scarf, and you’ll be more than ready to hit up the town. A simple bangle and pair of earrings will add just the right touch for a fancier night out. You can’t go wrong!
For what to wear in London in rainy weather – which occurs year-round – a raincoat that’s a step up from an overly casual outdoors rain jacket is recommended. A waterproof, belted trench coat is a classic, attractive alternative that fits into London street fashion while being functional and comfortable.
- For convenience – for London nightlife, carrying a backpack – or even a stylish day bag – isn’t practical nor very fashionable. You’ll want a small crossbody purse that will securely and conveniently hold your cell phone, money and credit card, and some lip gloss or lip balm. It’ll pack away easily when not in use, and you’ll appreciate having it.
Males – What to Pack for London
Fellas, we have some tips specifically for you too as you plan what to pack for London!
- For Fashion – ok guys, you too want to blend into London street fashion by packing a few classic pieces that come together for a polished look. Remember that baggy clothes and sports graphic tees will instantly peg you as a tourist. A couple of London outfit ideas for you: a pair of slim fitting dark jeans with a solid, neutral-colored t-shirt for a warm-weather casual look; and a pair of well-fitted trousers with a button-up shirt topped with a slim sweater for what to wear in London at night.
- For comfort – London weather tends to be on the chillier side, so the best idea for you fellas is to pack items that will keep you warm and comfortable – and add a touch of style while doing it. Contemporary British men wear scarves and hats; they’re appropriate for the weather, but they’re as fashionable as they are functional. A cotton slouch beanie will keep you warm in fall and winter but is light enough to protect you against wind and chills in spring and even summer months. It doesn’t hurt that they look cool too!
What NOT to Pack for London
Ok, so now you know the essentials for what to pack for London, now here are some tips for what NOT to pack for London:
- Don’t pack outdoorsy, hiking-type items. Unless you’re extending your trip outside of London and to hiking spots, don’t weigh yourself down with hiking boots or zip-off convertible pants – they definitely do not fit into London street fashion.
- Don’t bring expensive valuables. It’s too easy to misplace items when you’re always on the move, and anything that’s clearly expensive-looking puts you at risk as a target for theft. Always better to be safe than sorry.
- Don’t pack heavy things. Leave heavy books and extra appliances – like hair dryers at home; they’ll just take up space and kill your back!
The Best Backpack to Pack for London
Let’s revisit the subject of your choice of the travel bag because – let’s face it – every backpacker’s most precious piece of gear is their backpack! We know it’s that important. We’ve seen and tried every bag on the market, and we can confidently say that the Nomatic Travel Bag is the best backpack to pack for London. We like everything about it!
For starters, its smart and efficient design is top-notch. It has separate pockets and compartments for everything – from shoes to water bottle, to laptop, to shoes and underwear. It even has an area for cord management and an RFID and security pocket for extra safety. We’re telling you – they thought of it all.
It’s just as awesome on the outside too. The Nomatic is made of long lasting, waterproof material meaning that this bag will be your trusty travel sidekick for a very long time. And its black, sleek design makes this one beautiful to cart through London’s streets and withstand the rain.
And let’s not forget its innovative strap system that lets you switch between backpack or duffel bag-style portability – depending on your needs and mood. The detachable chest and sternum straps are an extra comfort for easing the weight off your back – literally.
Final Thoughts on What to Pack for London
And there it is! Your complete London survival guide for what to pack for London with our practical 21-needs packing checklist, the city’s seasonal breakdown and how to pack for the weather, and specific tips for guys and gals. We also included what not to pack and the best backpack to carry all the gear you do pack.
Remember to focus on a select choice of classic items that you can easily layer and mix and match – with a stylish edge. And, more importantly, include those things that will make your travels comfortable and safe!
And now comes the fun part – get yourself to London and have an amazing time. Big Ben and the world’s best fish and chips await!
Also – don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.
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