Packing for Your London Holiday

Hand luggage

If you are traveling by air, make sure that your valuables and essentials like medication, important documents, a set of clean underwear, toothbrush, shaving gear, in your hand luggage. That way if your luggage goes to Bangkok while you are looking for it at London’s Heathrow, you have enough with you to manage for a day or two. Garment bag
Pack items which wrinkle easily into a garment bag as it puts only a single, fold in the middle and allows you to soften even that fold by hanging the bag on the plane. Put the hanging items which wrinkle easiest into the garment bag first so that they are furthest away from the fold of the bag. To fit more in, layer several items of clothing on the same hanger. Buy a garment bag that has pockets for bulky toiletries and shoes.

Suitcase

Leave your name and address in your suitcase, just in case of loss.
Small, sturdy, combination locks are best for quick access to your luggage as keys can get lost; a simple combination number that you set is quick and easy.

To save space, roll two or three items of the same type together.Three pairs of trousers, for example, rolled together will be little more than the size of one paired rolled on it own.

Wrap fragile items inside socks and put them in the center of the case, protected by clothing on all sides.

Place your toiletries in a ziplock bag before putting in your suitcase. This will protect your clothes and electrical items in the event of a bottle opening up!

Backpack

When packing for a trip, especially backpacking, not only roll your clothes quite tightly but keep them rolled up with an elastic band. When you are packing things into a backpack, place the lighter items at the bottom and the heavier ones on top. Your bag will feel lighter this way. Also, remember to place the important things on top.

Toiletries

When packing cosmetics and other toiletries, forget the make-up case. Put them in a ziplock bag instead. It saves on space, weight, and protects your clothes from accidental spills. When packing your necklaces, place each one in a straw, by threading one end of the necklace through, and clasping it closed. This prevents the necklace from tangling up.

How to pack a minimum of clothes

When traveling you don’t want to spend most of the time unpacking and packing clothes.

  • Plan to wash your clothes. You don’t have to take underwear for the number of days you are going away, just rinse them out and they will probably dry overnight or at least within 24 hours.
  • Most dry cleaners in London offer a 24-hour cleaning service so you can get clothes dry cleaned while you are away.
  • Choose only those clothes which are absolutely necessary. When you pack each item, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” For example, don’t take dresses if you normally you only wear trousers for sightseeing.
  • Choose those clothes which can serve double duty. For example, your suit trousers should be able to double as slacks (which usually means they shouldn’t be pinstriped or dark blue). Summer dresses can be worn day and night time.
    Take shoes that can be worn either day or night.
  • Use small, lightweight accessories for variety. Differently patterned and colored belts, stockings, scarves, jewelry and hair bands, can make the same basic outfit look radically different each day if those items are the primary source of color.
  • Choose items of clothing which can be worn more than once without washing. This means clothes of medium dark tones, which don’t show the dirt as much as blacks. To the extent you can wear items more than once without washing, you will need less backup clothing while your other clothes are being washed.
  • Don’t take large containers of toiletries and make-up, instead decant some into smaller lightweight plastic bottles.
  • If visiting London, remember it might rain but you should only pack a lightweight raincoat during the summer as it probably won’t be very cold.

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Buckingham Palace

Originally the Palace of Whitehall was the official London residence of the monarch. When that was burnt down in 1698, St James’s Palace on the Mall became the monarch’s official residence.

George IV, before his accession to the throne in 1820, had been living in Carlton House, Pall Mall. When he became king he wanted something more imposing. With great reluctance, Parliament granted the King £200,000 (a huge fortune at the time) to renovate the dilapidated Buckingham House. George IV had other ideas and commissioned John Nash to rebuild it almost entirely. The shell of the original house and some of the floorplan was retained, but the house was made much bigger and the costs of the renovation reached £700,000. George IV died before it was completed and his successor, William IV never lived there either. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to take up residence in Buckingham Palace.

Now the Changing of the Guard ceremony is a big attraction for visitors. The Palace has been the start and end point for many official occasions like the Queen’s Coronation, the weddings of Prince Charles to Diana, and the Queen’s other children as well as for the funeral of Princess Diana. On that occasion, nobody who saw it will ever forget the sea of flowers in front of the Palace’s railings or the Queen bowing her head as the coffin passed.

The State Rooms in Buckingham Palace are open to visitors in the summer giving an opportunity to see the fabulous antiques and picture collection.

Quick Facts

Address: Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1A 1AA

Telephone: 020 7321 2233

Tube: Victoria – Circle, District and Victoria lines

Directions: Leave the tube station, turning right onto Buckingham Palace Road and walk for about 5 or 10 minutes.

Opening times: August and September, check before visiting because State occasions, etc, may cause opening times to change at short notice.

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London Without Tears

Just like all big cities, London has its pitfalls for visitors, make sure you don’t fall into them and have your visit ruined. Learn more about potential problems here.

Crime

Most visitors to London will never come into contact with any kind of crime because the areas attractive to visitors are usually well policed and relatively busy and so less attractive to muggers and other criminals. The exception is pickpockets, they prey on visitors especially and are prevalent in areas like Oxford Street.

Pickpockets tend to work in teams. One or more people will apparently bump into you, pick your pocket or bag and then surreptitiously pass it to an accomplice. You will probably not even notice it has gone until you want to pay for something.

Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket or your handbag (purse) open or slung on your shoulder with the bag behind you. The best place for your wallet is in a pocket that fastens with a zip or button. Wear your handbag across your body with the bag in front of you and closed. Inside the bag, keep credit cards and cash in a zipped compartment.

Street Sellers

These are not the regular market stallholders with regular pitches, these street sellers are the people, usually, men, who set up a suitcase in somewhere like Oxford Street and sell what they claim is expensive perfume or watches for knockdown prices.

Don’t believe it – all you will buy is overpriced rubbish. Perfume boxes may superficially resemble expensive designer labels but they will contain inferior perfume. Similarly, other things sold like this may resemble more expensive items but they are always cheap copies.

You might be persuaded to buy because other people appear to be buying. Don’t be fooled. These people have accomplices planted in the crowd to start the buying.

This kind of street trading is illegal.

If you look around you will see another accomplice or two keeping a sharp look out for the police. If they see the police approaching, the seller will shut his suitcase quite smartly and disappear.

Mock Auctions

These are not as common now as they once were but you still need to be aware that you could get involved. Mock auctions take place in empty shops and a gifted salesman whips the crowd into a buying frenzy by offering apparently amazing bargains. Again, accomplices in the crowd will start buying and then innocent people join in. You won’t get a bargain, just like the street sellers, you will end up with rubbish worth a fraction of what you have paid for it.

Hotdog and Ice Cream Sellers

While visiting London you will probably see hotdogs, hamburgers and ice cream being sold from little push carts, especially in the royal parks. Under no circumstances buy from these. They are not only unlicensed and very expensive, they are also extremely unhygienic and you could easily contract food poisoning from these sellers’ wares.

They have no hand washing facilities, which is bad enough, but these handcarts are stored overnight in filthy back alleys and yards where pigeons and vermin of all kinds could be defecating and urinating on them. Then to add insult to injury, you will probably pay three or four times more for a hotdog or ice cream than you would from a regular outlet.

Beggars

At one time, about 20 years ago, it was extremely rare to see a beggar in London or anywhere else in the UK. Now you will see many beggars, especially in Central London. Most are not a problem and it is entirely up to you whether you give them money or not. Some people say that it just encourages people to beg and you should give the money to a homeless charity like Shelter instead. Others give money directly to the street people. Very few beggars in London are aggressive, in fact, I’ve never seen any of them behaving aggressively. Occasionally, you might find one the worst for drink who is ranting. Just keep your distance and don’t make eye contact and you don’t get involved.

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