Cultural Experience | United Kingdom

My Top 15 Packing Items for Study Abroad in London.


Rain coat, backpack, laptop and cell chargers, essentials for London

Okay so when I arrived in London, I don’t know why, but I expected nice sunny days in gardens – it was Summer after all! But I was rudely awakened by the rainy and seriously cold weather in June! So I’d like to share some of my tips on what to bring along when you study abroad in London- so you’re not caught out in the rain like me!

1. A SERIOUS RAIN COAT… seriously.

It doesn’t matter what kind, trench coat, regular zip-up, or a parka, just make sure you have a waterproof jacket with you. Preferably with insulation. I was forced to go in H&M around the corner from my school almost every day to pick up something else warm to wear that day. It’s not cost effective- especially when you have the same items at home.

2. Rain boots aren’t essential.

I found that most Londoners don’t wear Wellies often – they actually use water repellent spray on all their shoes because of how much precipitation they get. It’s a smart idea, and then your boots won’t take up what little room you have for clothes!

3. Backpack, backpack.

Even if you don’t use a backpack for school books, you’ll definitely need it when you take weekends away to nearby countries. You won’t want to lug an entire suitcase around, and this is the perfect option to fit everything you need for a weekend away. I honestly wouldn’t have even made it to Paris if I didn’t have my overstuffed North Face backpack (#tubestruggles).

4. Extra laptop and cell phone chargers.

MY laptop charger snapped in half during my time abroad and you would be hard pressed to find one abroad that will have the same outlet and voltage that you would use in the US. So if you have an extra cord or two, BRING THEM!! I had to rely on my roommates chargers for three weeks, and even the nicest people are going to need their chargers back eventually.  If you don’t have a spare – buy one!

5. Notebook

I always needed a notebook when I was walking around the city, and never had one. I wanted to jot down all these cool restaurants and bars I would see so I could go look them up back at the flat, but I either was forced to put them in Notes on my iPhone (which I hate) or what happened most often is I would completely forget about them.  A small travel journal works well.

6. A Nice Camera.

An Image of the Queen of England and an Image of Prince Harry.

Photo Credit: JK

If you spend a lot of money on one thing before you leave, make it a great camera. One of my friends had an amazing professional-grade camera, and she had the most amazing pictures. On the other hand, my iPhone and regular camera photos weren’t always the best. I mean hers could zoom in all the way across the river to snap a picture of the Royal Family, and my photos were a few blurry figures on a red blob. I highly recommend channeling your inner paparazzi and walking around like a weirdo with your camera around a neck strap. It’s worth it.  Shop around before you go for a compact DSLR camera that suits your needs

7. Scarves.

Image of me in a London Red Phone Booth on Study Abroad

It doesn’t matter what kind, but scarves are so versatile for the limited wardrobe you’ll have over there. It can completely change an outfit that you might have just worn the other day and keep you relatively warmer then just a jean jacket, like me above!

8. Crossbody bag.

An image of my College Friends outside a London Red Phone Booth.

You’ll definitely need a crossbody bag or two on your journey on London. I would recommend a slightly larger one for day and a smaller one for your nights out. That way you’ll have less of a chance of it being snatched, god forbid, and it’s a lot easier than lugging around a big Longchamp to go to a packed museum or club.

9. First Aid essentials.

From stomachaches to blisters we all needed basic first aid equipment almost every day. I actually had to buy new shoes one day as we were walking to St Paul’s because my blisters hurt so badly. Make sure you bring extra sticky Band-Aids (I like the thick finger bandages for blisters on your heels) and Tums. Convenience stores won’t always be open around you, so you’ve got to be prepared.

10. Lighter sweaters and jackets.

London weather can be pretty unpredictable. You can start your day out sunny and warm and end it frigid and rainy. If you wear an outfit for warmer weather, layered over by a sweater and jacket, you’ll be ready for all the weird weather that the UK will blow your way.

11. A sturdy umbrella.

Along those lines, NEVER LEAVE THE FLAT WITHOUT AN UMBRELLA. Well, only if you didn’t follow my first rule of a rain jacket. it going to rain pretty much daily and usually without warning, so you might as well keep dry! Also, make sure it’s fairly sturdy so it won’t blow inside out. I can’t tell you how many soaked people I saw struggling with their broken ones on the street.  Love this world map compact umbrella!

12. Makeup setting spray.

Because of the heat, or rain, or sweat from walking around all day, you’re going to want your makeup to stay put. I found that most of my makeup would disappear by the time we hit a pub in the afternoon. I recently found out about makeup setting spray. Spray a bit on when you’re finished applying everything, and you should look just as amazing at 5 PM as you did when you left your flat at 10 AM.

13. OMG, shoes.

You won’t need more than one pair of heels, unless you’re planning on clubbing every night. So pick a fairly neutral pair that won’t kill your feet as you trek through tube stations. I loved my nude wedges for those nights when flats weren’t appropriate, but I didn’t want to end up stilettos in hand, moping barefoot at 2AM through central London. Along these lines, don’t pack as many shoes as you might want to. You definitely won’t use them, and it’s just extra weight added to that precious limit on your suitcase.

14. Bed accessories. (Yes that means your favorite stuffed animal)

Your single bed won’t be comfortable. I said it. It’s basic and it doesn’t have your favorite comforter on it or your sheets with flowers on them. So bring one thing to help you fall asleep at night, be it a specific pillow, a stuffed friend (yes 20-year olds still have stuffed animals), or a nice throw. You’ll need a good night’s sleep to get you through your busy days, and having something comfortable will put you at ease.

15. Pack a bathing suit.

I know, you’re probably saying, “But Moira, where are you going to swim in cold, rainy, London?” Well, honestly you won;t swim anywhere in the UK, but what if you take a short trip to Barcelona for the weekend? You don’t want to stress about buying a swimsuit for double the price (ugh.. GBP), when you have approximately a million laying around at home.

Mainly what I’m saying for London is pack more warm clothing than I did, waterproof your few pairs of shoes beforehand, and be ready for anything and you will absolutely have the time of your life!

Want More Info? 50 Things College Students Need to Know About London

Top 15 Packing Items for Study Abroad in London

Moira Sim

6 stories

Moira Sim has an unhealthy obsession with online shopping (acceptance is the first step). She watches the Travel Channel more often than one should admit and is currently in pursuit of room decor that will resemble an Anthropologie catalog. She can normally be found near a laptop and the key to her heart is frozen yogurt. Catch her on Twitter @givememoira!


11 responses to “My Top 15 Packing Items for Study Abroad in London.”

  1. Marisa Bateman says:

    Great tips! I second everything on this list, and you are absolutely right about the cross body bags. I had to borrow one for Prague because I never got one!

  2. Lisalilly says:

    Great list, starting my semester abroad in Manchester on Thursday and will definitely use some of them 🙂

    • collegetourist says:

      Hi Lisalilly, We would love to hear your stories from Manchester. You can sign up for a writer’s profile right here on the site. Just click the ‘Write for us’ link in the navigation bar. Good luck on your study abroad adventure.

  3. Maggie Dickman says:

    This is a great list! I am planning on studying abroad in London next spring, so I will have to keep this list handy when figuring out what to bring!

    Maggie D. xx

  4. Mary says:

    If you’re bringing a digital camera, be sure to have extra memory cards!

  5. Becca says:

    I’m leaving in two weeks for England and this really helped ease my mind!!

  6. Hayl Daugherty says:

    I’m planning on studying abroad this summer in England. What are some of the best places (pubs or clubs) to meet young locals? I’d love to make some friends!

  7. Lois C. says:

    These are great. I’m spending a year in England and it’s nice to hear from someone who has had first hand experience. I never thought of starching my shoes before I left. Great idea. Thanks!

  8. Alaa says:

    THANK YOU like a Million time !!

  9. Megan says:

    I’m leaving for London this Saturday and I’m spending the whole semester there. I’m so nervous about packing I feel like I’m going to forget something but your list definitely helped!! Thank you for sharing your experiences 🙂

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