This June will mark four years since I first came to London and studied abroad through my university. I remember packing for the summer and thinking two months was an awfully long time to pack for. I of course ended up over packing and practically took everything in my wardrobe including the kitchen sink. I remembered wishing there was a guide for what to pack and how to dress before coming over here and I’m sure there’s a lot of other girls out there who are embarking on their first study abroad adventure across the pond who would love to be in the know too! Here is my essential packing list for all the gals out there who are preparing for their London adventures.
- Ballet Flats – I personally think a few pairs of ballet flats are one of the most important things should invest in before you study abroad. I made the mistake of packing my trusty pair of Jack Rogers metallic sandals for the summer, thinking that would be all I need. I was sorely mistaken, pun intended! My feet became destroyed from walking around and eventually my sandals ended up breaking and I had to buy a pair of flats anyways, which also gave me horrible blisters because they were a cheap pair. My best advice is to buy a few different pairs of very comfortable flats a few months in advance and break them in before you fly over to London. My favourite ballet flats are from Banana Republic. I think they are the most comfortable, wear well and are made with soft leather that won’t tear up your feet whilst traipsing around the city. Leave the sandals and heels at home, ladies.
- Camera and Memory Cards – When I studied abroad, social media was nowhere near as visual as it is today. With that said, I still wanted to document every single part of my time over here and brought my mom’s Canon point and shoot camera and I’m really happy that I did because I can look back at my photos for years to come. While iPhones take wonderful photos and are handy to have, I still suggest bringing a compact camera with a few memory cards as your photos will be higher quality. London is such a beautiful city and if you’re like me, you will want to take photos of literally everything. My suggestion for a small compact camera that takes tack sharp photos and won’t break the bank is an Olympus Pen EPL-8. I use it for everyday shooting and it has been fantastic. You can throw it in your handbag and pull it out to shoot at anytime. No heavy duty equipment required!
- Cross Body Bag – I am a huge fan of cross body bags. They are convenient, light weight and perfect for touring the city and beyond. You won’t want to bring a huge tote bag as it will get really heavy lugging it around all day. A cross body bag will hold all of your essentials and much more secure than a tote bag, clutch or satchel. COACH has my favourite cross body bags and I get a new one every year, but there are tons of really cute ones out there that come in all different sizes depending on what you need to fit. Invest in one you love before your trip!
- Rain Coat – It rains a lot in London despite what season it is and I can’t recommend buying a raincoat or a trench coat before visiting. Your instructors will take you on tours both rain and shine and you don’t want to be drenched, freezing and sick at the end of the day. I brought two rain coats – an athletic waterproof wind breaker for excursions and a nice trench to wear during my internship.
- Light Coat and Winter Coat – The weather in London during summer can be really unpredictable. It will rarely be 90 degrees and sunny. The summer I studied abroad, it rained every single day with the exception of 3 days and it was cold – around 50 degrees was the average this particular summer. Some days, however, it shot up to about 70, so it really just depends! I recommend bringing one light weight jacket – a denim one or light leather jacket, and a heavy duty parka for the not so warm days.
- Sweaters – As I said before, the weather is so unpredictable, but if you pack a few light weight sweaters and layer, you will be fine! The majority of the summer I spent studying abroad, I lived in sweaters and my white jeans.
- A Pair of comfortable boots/booties – In addition to flats, bring one pair of either tall boots or booties to keep your feet warm at night. I love Frye Boots and Cole Haan. I have a tall pair of black Cole Haan swede boots with a heel that are perfect for dinners out and a pair of Frye cognac riding boots to wear during the day. Both are super comfortable and keep me really warm.
- An LBD and a few smarter outfits – Afternoon tea? A nice dinner out with friends? You’ll want to dress up and look a bit more smart than you normally would for these occasions. I suggest bringing a cute little black dress and a few other blouses, skirts, trousers or dresses. Some places have dress codes here where you have to be dressed up and you won’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.
- Black and Tan Pumps – Bring one black pair and one nude pair of heels, that is all you will need, I promise. They will match with everything and will be perfect for a night out. If you are like me, and your heels get destroyed from the pavement within about 1 hour, you can buy a cheap pair from HM over here.
- Scarves – scarves never go out of season in London! Bring a few comfy ones to wear everyday, or you can buy a few pashmina ones from over here. I got one in every colour the summer I studied abroad (I have a thing for bright colours). They were nice to bring home with too!
- Umbrella – this is something you can of course, buy over here. I suggest buying a really sturdy one the first time around so you don’t have to keep buying a new one every time it breaks (trust me, the cheap ones do break). Carry one with you everyday, because one minute it can be sunny and the next it can be down pouring.
- Bathing suit, cover up, shorts and T-shirts – You’re probably wondering why I would add this to a London study abroad packing list? Well, you will probably take one or two fun trips with your friends to Spain or somewhere warmer than London and you’ll want these things when you go! We went to Barcelona and soaked up the sun and laid on the beach for a few days, which I highly recommend!
- An Extra Weekender Bag or Duffle Bag – For those weekend trips away. You will most likely take a cheap airline such as Ryanair, which have really strict luggage policies. My suggestion is to invest in a Vera Bradley duffle bag or something of the like to pack your clothes in that you can then carry on to the flight easily. Just fold one up and throw it in your suitcase when you fly over here.
- An Extra Towel – For when you do have weekend trips away and stay in a hostel or for laying on the beach. Trust me, you’ll want one.
- Prescriptions – Don’t forget your prescriptions! You can of course get some medicines over the counter here, but anything prescribed by your doctor is important to pack.
- UK Plug Adapter – You can buy these over here, but you will want one on your first night to charge your phone, iPad, lap top or for your hair straightener and curling iron! You can buy them from Amazon or any travel or luggage store.
- Laptop/iPad – I originally wasn’t going to bring either of these when I studied abroad, but I am really glad that I did because I uploaded a lot of my pictures and used it to Skype my friends and parents back home. Get a nice protective case for it and carry it on the plane. I wouldn’t recommend bringing these items when you take your weekend trips away, it’s too risky leaving them in the hostel, but they’ll be safe in your flat in London.
- Chargers – lap top, iPad, iPhone and camera chargers are all essentials! It’s easy to get iPhone chargers over here, but more difficult to get camera chargers and you won’t want to splash the cash on a new lap top charger.
- Comfortable trousers/black jeans – Pack a few pairs of comfortable pants and black jeans. Everybody in London typically wears darker colours. Don’t feel that you need to follow the rest of the pack, but if you want to blend in a bit more than I would bring a few pairs of darker pants to wear for everyday. When I studied abroad, I wore bright pink trousers, turquoise pants, neon sweaters and I stuck out like a sore thumb. At the time, I didn’t think twice about it. London is a very fashionable city where mostly anything goes, but if you do want to blend in a bit, opt for darker colours.
- £300 cash – Funny story – My dad dropped me off at the airport before I studied abroad. I very idiotically thought the currency was Euros, not Pounds (I know, what was I even thinking??). My Dad bought me 400 Euros so I had some extra cash when I got there. I had landed in London and was all set to hail my black cab (again another horrible and dreadful mistake) to take me to my flat. He charged me £80 and when I handed him the money, he was incredibly confused and said no I need 80 pounds. Feeling very discouraged and silly, the driver drove me to an ATM and luckily, I had just enough in my account at the time from some money I had transferred over to pay for the cab. I gave him his £80 and went on my way, still carrying all this money that I couldn’t use. Sadly for me, it was a bank holiday two days in a row for the Jubilee, so I couldn’t even go to the post office or bank to transfer the money into pounds! At the time it was a bit of a disaster, but it ended up being a funny story. Moral of the story is – 1) the currency in England is Great British Pounds, not Euros and 2) Have £300 cash hidden away incase of emergencies – credit card gets stolen or your bank accidentally places a fraudulent hold on your account.
What Not to Pack:
- A Blow Dryer – The amps in this country differ from that in the US. We tried using a blow dryer that was plugged into an adapter and it actually blew up and set off the fire alarm in my flat on the first night. You can buy a cheap blow dryer over here from Boots.
- Expensive Jewellery – it could get misplaced or lost and you don’t want to lose any sentimental jewellery while you’re here. With all the moving and travelling, things can get easily lost.
- Unnecessary items – Just remember, you will want to leave room in your bag to bring back some things! I had to pay loads for 2 overweight bags at the airport coming back because I made the mistake of packing way too many things I barely wore and bought things to bring back with me that I had to stuff in my bag to fit.
If you have any other questions about what to bring or to pack, please comment below or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you have a fabulous trip across the pond! x