After booking our 13 days (of wonderful-memories-waiting-for-us-in) London Adventure, I reached out to some friends who had traveled to London and asked for advice on packing and traveling tips. Thankful I did.. they were spot on and we were gratefully prepared. Hope that these tips will make your traveling easier!
1. *Use smaller, carry-on sized luggage…especially if you are using the Underground/public transportation. The sidewalks can be a bit hard to manage with luggage, and your younger kids will need sturdy rolling suitcases. Invest in the good stuff! Don’t worry about actually carrying it on, check it on the plane. Wrestling 3 suitcases down from the overheads and maneuvering in the tight aisles had no real benefit.. so we checked them. But boy were we glad to have those smaller pieces when we were squeezing onto the underground!
2. Travel duffel bag(s) for extra purchases. Totally worth it! Make sure you buy a sturdy one (or more)… specifically reinforced zipper and sturdy material, allowing you to check without worry! We used these for clothes on the way home and packed all the breakables/bendables in one of the hard case carry-ons. Grabbed them at WalMart, looks alot like this XL Travel Duffel Bag Life saver!
3. Handy Passport portfolio for all of your passports to stay together (don’t forget to make copies of your passport (even take a photo on your phones) and leave copy with someone in the States in case you need it. I found a zippered case with multiple slots and big enough to hold all 5 Passports at HomeGoods, but you can buy the same holder on Amazon here.
4. Ibuprofen or Tylenol..you will be walking a lot and it’s likely there will be tears from aching legs/feet and headaches from all the excitement.
5. Walking shoes..comfortable and already broken in. However.. Londoners and Parisians really wear very stylish shoes. Even their tennis shoes are great looking! So go ahead and get something nice that won’t have you feeling shoe shame on your many underground rides. And, actually, a second pair of shoes is recommended to give your feet a change on a two week tour! Remember there is LOTS of walking in your future.
6. Lightweight backpack/purses make for easy travel. My girls and I all have rope sling KAVU bags, and that allowed the 3 of us to help carry phones, keys, cards, pamphlets, money and water bottles, all while remaining hands-free. We saw many people toting the big backpacks, for large cameras, baby gear, etc. With all of the walking you’ll be doing… pack light and make it easy!
7. Extra phone charger packs…. you don’t want to lose service because you run out of battery. We made sure each of our bags had a charger (grabbed a few cheap-o, lightweight ones for the girls at Target in the DollarSpot and we kept a larger one similar to this one on us too). Getting stuck in London without access to our map app (try City Mapper the best!) would have been a disaster…we were hyper vigilant about our phones/batteries. Oh.. and bring an extra charging cord (or 2)… definitely cheaper to buy those in the states that abroad!
8. If you are visiting in warmer weather, make sure to toss some chafing ointment in your bag. London is known for rain, which means your kids (and you) will likely get somewhat wet while sightseeing. Lots of walking + friction = misery. Trust me.
9. Money- get $100 -$200 converted in U.S. airport before you depart. The exchange rate is costly, though we found the best deal in Windsor across from the Castle! Your credit cards and debit cards are accepted in most stores and restaurants. But,we visited the markets and allowed the kids to have some cash for souvenirs where we needed Pounds (England) and Euros (Paris). **Remember to always call your credit card company and your bank to let them know anytime you’re traveling internationally. You don’t want to be stuck in, say Ethiopia, and have your credit cards frozen for suspicion of theft….no, no you don’t.
10. Extra Glasses/Contacts. This is not the time to miss out because you can’t see. And, you really don’t want to go looking for an optometrist while on vacation. Pack your extra pair of glasses/contacts and set that worry free!
11. Electrical Outlet adapters…a few different options because not all plugs are the same! We brought 2 different ones, and only one worked in each flat. Which meant we spent time rotating cell phones through the night to make sure everyone had a full charge as well as the battery pack. One of our flats came with adapters, which was super helpful! Make sure to ask.
12. If you are planning to pack light and use the washer/dryer combo in your flat, just know that these are the smallest machines you have ever seen. Definitely pack lightly, with layers, and many days of options. No need to bring your own suds..they won’t use Tide Pods. You’ll find London and Parisian approved detergent at the neighborhood market. A typical night for us was a load of laundry (two really) and all of the half-dried clothes laid around the flat for overnight drying. When in Rome…
13. Headphones for the flights. This is probably a personal preference. My kids prefer headphones for longer use. You will be given disposable earbuds on most international flights, so no worries if you forget yours. But headphones really help with the noise and we find them to be more comfortable all-around. Ill-fitting earbuds for 8 hours on a plane…ouch.
*Let me add that along with a small, rolling, carry-on sized suitcase (which we checked) each kid had a carry-on bag with essentials like a travel pillow, socks for cold feet, headphones, easy snacks and chewing gum for the cabin pressure, book/magazine, chapstick, and one set of clean clothes (just in case).