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Weather in the UK is unpredictable to say the least. And although we don’t get the extreme heat or cold you find in other places, it’s not uncommon to go through some sun, rain and 10 degree temperature changes in the same day. So layering is the key when packing for a trip to the UK, whether in summer or winter. Yes, despite popular opinion, there is a difference between the two here!
This packing list would suit someone who is going to be travelling through a mixture of towns and cities and more rural areas – doing a lot of walking around but no hardcore hiking, and going for casual nights out rather than partying in London’s high-end bars and clubs. It should last you around a week without having to do any laundry – most hostels have a laundry room or otherwise there are launderettes in larger towns and cities.
>> Read more in What You Should Really Pack for a London Getaway
1 pair of jeans – although some travellers are anti-jeans, I like to have mine as they are so comfortable and they’re useful if it’s cold. Plus they can be dressed up with a nice top for nights out.
1 pair of non-denim trousers – jeans aren’t so great in the rain so it’s good to have another option which will dry out more quickly.
2 long-sleeved t-shirts – keep you warm in winter and keep the sun off in summer.
2 tank tops – for layering under the long-sleeved tops in winter and wearing on their own in summer.
2 everyday t-shirts
1 fleece – good for colder days or evenings.
1 smarter top – if you’re going to be in cities, it’s nice to be able to dress up a bit for a night out.
7 pairs of underwear and 2 bras (black and flesh-coloured) – so you only need to do laundry once a week.
3-7 pairs of socks – more during winter than summer.
Waterproof jacket – a lightweight or fold-up one is good so it doesn’t take up much room and can be stashed in your day bag in case of one of those unexpected showers.
And in winter add:
1 pair of leggings – comfortable for long bus or train journeys, to sleep in or as an extra layer under trousers if it gets really cold.
1 long-sleeved dress – smarter than jeans and a fleece, this is good teamed with leggings when exploring cities.
1 jumper (aka sweater)
Scarf and gloves
Or in summer add:
1 pair of shorts – for exploring by day.
1 summer dress – can be dressed up in the evenings.
1 cardigan – to cover up on cool nights.
1 pair of walking shoes/trainers
1 pair of flat ballet pumps – for smarter evenings
Plus in winter add a pair of flat boots (keep the rain and cold off and look a bit smarter than trainers) and in summer add a pair of flip-flops/sandals.
It’s easy to buy toiletries in the UK – both in chemists (pharmacies) and supermarkets. Most places offer their own-brand generic versions of things like shampoo, conditioner and medicines, which are cheaper. Obviously everyone has their own must-haves, but to start you off:
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Hairbrush and hairbands
Sunscreen (more in summer, in winter you might be able to get away with a moisturiser with SPF)
Basic medical kit (painkillers, plasters, etc.)
Insect repellent if you are going to Scotland, the midges can be a nightmare!
This depends on how connected you want to be – travel bloggers end up carrying around laptops and portable hard drives but most people won’t need them.
Adapter plugs – the UK has its own 3-pin plugs so an adapter from the rest of Europe won’t work here, and you may need a voltage converter for electronics from the US.
iPod/other music player for long journeys
Camera – I like to bring a download cable and memory stick to back up when I get chance, using hostel computers if I don’t have my laptop.
Smartphone – if you don’t want to pay roaming charges you can get free wifi in a lot of cafes.
Umbrella – to be carried around at all times, just in case!
Hairdryer – a compact hairdryer is a good idea in winter if you’ve got long hair as there’s nothing worse than wandering around in the cold with wet hair.
Oyster card and Tube map – if you’re visiting London, get an Oyster card to save on travel costs. You can buy them and pick up Tube maps in any underground station.
Earplugs – useful if you’re staying in city centre/party hostels.
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Find out more about Lucy’s travels on her blog ontheluce.com or you can follow her on Twitter @lucydodsworth or on Facebook.
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I have been waiting for this! Thank you so much! You always have the best packing lists!
Plan on it being cold no matter what time of year you are there. I’ve been in July and had to buy a coat! Think layers.
One thing I don’t recommend taking is a hairdryer unless you buy one that is the correct voltage specifically for non-US travel. Even with a voltage converter, you’ll likely blow a fuse if you have one with US voltage. Hostels usually have hairdryers, as do all hotels in the UK. I have long hair and never take one when I travel. I have never had a problem – and I do budget/backpacking holidays frequently.
Layering is a great tip. I’ve lived here for the past ten years, and you can never predict the weather. Sometimes in August it’s cold (55F), but sometimes it’s scorching (90F). Dressing is far smarter here than the US, so you may feel out of place and be a very obvious tourist if you’re too casual (jeans, t-shirts, trainers, fleece). In summer, I’d recommend something like a nice looking maxi dress that packs well.
Definitely take a brollie (umbrella) that works well in wind. Even if it seems like a nice day, it could start raining at any minute!
Going to the UK for the first time later this month, what is the weather like this time of year there? I tend to play into those “what if’s” when packing and over pack! HELP!
I go all the time in the winter. In my experience, it’s only really really cold when the wind is blowing. It also rains randomly for 20 minutes and then stops. I’d recommend a thin rain coat and layers under that, and a small umbrella to whip out when it starts raining.
Liz James says
It’s wet, cold, sunny and warm. Its also fairly windy. I would take a rain proof coat, a jumper or fleece and not worry about taking shorts. We had a bit of snow at the start of the month then a mini heat wave. Take a sun hat just in case and layers.
I traveled through the UK last summer, and brought a hair dryer with me because I was staying mostly in inns and pubs and didn’t expect there to be any provided. I was right, only one hotel had a hair dryer, but my hair dryer didn’t really work even with a voltage converter. It was a waste of space in my suitcase and a waste of money. If drying your hair is a dealbreaker when traveling, I say ask before you book your room.
Good feedback, Sarah. That’s unfortunate that you had to carry that extra weight in your bag!
Don’t forget a brollie is also good to keep the sun off if you need to be walking around at midday. You will burn if it is hot – and we do get good weather here honest!
Hi! I am going to the UK in late October/November, and am really having difficulty deciding on shoes. I already have a pair of good trainers and flats, but boots have me stumped. Any recommendations for good, fairly affordable boots that are good for a lot of walking?
ill be in london this year also around late october to early november.
Now my question
How was the weather?
Was it cold?
Do I need a winter jacket?
What is a smarter top? I’m leaving for the uk in about a month and want to make sure I have everything I need, or will need to buy, before I leave
As someone who lives in England (in the North but there isn’t a huge difference on temp between the two) just worth bearing in mind that you might not be quite warm enough in all the above in winter. I’d recommend a good down jacket because that’ll pack small and squish under your waterproof if needed!
This is so helpful – I’ve been to London before but never packed specifically just for an English summer so this will be a huge help on my upcoming trip!
I am going to be studying abroad for 5 weeks in London next summer. These list really help thanks.
Ladies travelling to the UK, if money is alittle tightand you forget an item of clothing, a tip for buying clothing is Primark clothing shop, reasonable on prices and anything you need. Thereis a big one in London, Oxford street and plenty around the country. We also havegreat second-hand charity shops and if you want a retro vintage second hand shop try the East end thrift shop, this weekend for example 50p sale weekend bargain.
Just to add – the one thing I always manage to forget is PJs! Also, underwear, bras, a book, a camera, passport, waterbottle, a hat, sunglasses, raincoat…
Thank you so much for this list. I just spent two weeks –one in New York and one in London– and I was able to do it all with a carry-on, a tote and a travel purse that fit into my tote.
That’s awesome Barbara!
elizabeth gellatly says
Going in June 2016 and want to just take carry-ons. Wondering what the sizes would be for that, and the weight, if anyone knows off-hand. Thank you for the list!!!
I’m going to the uk in late June early July and Also going to Italy… Thanks for helping out!!
I would be travelling to Newcastle in December. I have heard it is colder there. Anything extra I should take?
Any tips for a girl from Australia going on a Guide camp next year in Lincolnshire in July/August? Will be in England for 3 weeks, and am taking a 65L bag (that does have a possible extension size of an extra 10L if needed), will also be taking a small backpack with me for the long flight.
Was thinking about packing cubes, but are they worth it? Any other tips or things that are recommended to have?
Packing cubes are definitely worth it! I swear by them,and have even given them as gifts to all of my friends/family that travel. It’s best to get small or medium cubes though, as they stack better in backpacks.
Just bought my first set of travel cubes…glad to read this comment. This will be my first use of them….hoping they work out as well for me.