Last Wednesday, I spent the day in London because I needed something to quell my jealousy over Luke going to Wimbledon for the day. I took the train from Birmingham into Euston Station without any plans for the day. I knew I'd be out in the sun quite a bit, I knew I'd be walking a ton, and I knew I would be in the city until Luke was heading back from Wimbledon. So here are 10 must-have items, 9 in my bag, 1 on my person.
I never used to carry an everyday bag. It wasn't until my first trip to England, actually, that I started carrying one. I would put my cards and phone in my back pockets and my keys in my front pocket. That didn't always work out so well and I lost my ID on October 4, 2014 & October 4, 2015 and my phone narrowly missed a dip in the toilet more than a dozen times, I'm sure.
For my trip to London, I switched out my small cross body bag for a larger one. A few years back, I splurged on a beautiful Madewell tote that I used to carry daily, but it's sadly packed and waiting to be shipped in Colorado. I got this canvas tote my first week here since it costs 10 pence for a bag at any shop and it did the trick for the day.
1) J A C K E T - First, check the weather. Then, pack accordingly. I went on a warm, sunny day, but without much of an itinerary, I wasn't sure if I'd end up spending a few hours inside at a museum. I went with a jean jacket since rain wasn't in the forecast. If it is, obviously pack a rain coat instead. I certainly needed it on the train into London in the morning and it rolled up nicely at the bottom of my bag for the rest of the day. I thought about going to a park or garden for a little bit to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, in which case, it would have been nice to sit on since I was wearing a white dress.
2) S U N S C R E E N - Again, check the weather. I put on sunscreen before I left Birmingham, but I packed the bottle to reapply through the day. If rain is in the forecast, switch it out for an umbrella instead.
3) P O R T A B L E C H A R G E R - This is a great travel investment no matter where you're going. I got the 20% warning around 2:00, but I did pass the 2 hours on the train on my phone. I made sure to charge my portable charger the night before since I knew I was going to be using my phone to pass time on the train, as a camera, and for Google Maps.
4) U N D E R G R O U N D M A P - This will be your lifeline! Even if you have a smartphone and access to Google Maps (or Apple Maps if that's your style), you won't have service so far below London. The underground is very easy to navigate and without a doubt the easiest and most efficient way to navigate the city. Everything is very clearly marked in the stations and it's easy to figure out which line you need to take because the next few stops are clearly listed and pointing you in the right direction. However, if you have to transfer trains, you need to plan out your trip. It's also worth noting that the underground map is posted in all of the trains, usually next to a map of just the line you're riding. In addition, everything is color coded, including the handles inside the train itself! So if you're on the Circle Line, you'll be holding onto something yellow, checking the stops along the yellow line, and of course looking for "Circle Line" on the outside of your train as it approaches. Easy! Even someone not used to mass transit (like me!) can do it. By the end of the day you'll be feeling like a pro.
5) D A Y T R A V E L C A R D - You can get a ticket for a specific route or a day pass. (If you're there longer, consider a weeklong pass.) For the day pass, you can either get an off-peak ticket, which will have time restrictions, for £12.50 or a ticket without restrictions for £17.50, because I wasn't sure where I would want to go and when. This pass allows you to ride the underground, as well as buses. DO NOT LOSE IT. You'll have to buy another if you lose it. You'll need it both going into the station and coming out so make sure it's in an easily accessible place.
6) P L A S T E R S - Also known as Band Aids. It never hurts to have these anyway. (But it might hurt if you don't! Sorry, I had to.) I used one within the first hour in the city because my shoes were already starting to rub my heels and I wanted to prevent a blister.
7 ) W A T E R - Bring a water bottle or buy a big bottle as soon as you can. One of the things that I've had the hardest time getting used to about England is the lack of free-flowing water, if you will. In the States, you'd consider it poor service if you sat down at a restaurant and they didn't bring you water. In England, you usually have to order it and specify that you want tap water. Especially if you'll be out exploring and site-seeing for long stretches of time, you need to have your own supply. Fill it up when you can, which may be from a tap in the bathroom of a restaurant.
8) M O N E Y - That's a given, right? Well, what I mean is have a few £1 coins in your wallet as well as your cards (or notes, if you prefer cash over card). Have you ever heard the phrase "spend a penny"? It means you're going to the toilet and it comes from the times when it would cost you 1 pence to use a public toilet. Now it's up to £1. Since you're drinking so much water (right?), you may have to go between meals or museums. You don't want to be unable to use the toilet when you have to just because you don't have any change on you.
9) H A N D S A N I T I Z E R - Most of the public toilets will have sinks, but again, you never know. Either way, you're walking around in a large, busy city all day. You're riding the tube and bumping into people. You might just want it.
10) C O M F Y S H O E S - Of course--I cannot stress this enough--wear comfortable shoes. I've been guilty of choosing cute shoes over practical shoes and I paid for it in blisters and aching feet. A few months ago, I found Allbirds on Facebook and almost immediately bought a pair of the Wool Runners in black. I wore them all the time and they served me well on my April trip to England (including being the perfect shoes for the airport and airplane), so when they released special edition colors, I bought a second pair in yellow. I think they're pretty cute and I frequently pair them with skirts and dresses. They did well for my near 10 miles of walking in London. My feet and legs hurt by the end of the day, but that was really just from 21,000 steps of impact and they would have been in worse shape if I had worn sandals or ballet flats, that I know for sure.
Bonus in my bag: I had my headphones to listen to music or podcasts on the train down to London, but it was the first time I've tried to use headphones with my iPhone 7, so of course I forgot the adapter. (#firstworldproblems) I had chapstick because I always carry chapstick, even though I use it significantly less frequently than I did in Colorado. I also had my sunglasses so I could double glass it (wear sunglasses over my glasses). And of course it's 2017, so I had my phone, which was useful as a camera, for Google Maps, and to keep in touch with Luke to plan meeting up with him and his friend at Wimbledon.
Final note: Make sure to plan weather appropriate clothes. I opted for a sundress since I knew it would be hot. There's seriously nothing worse than feeling miserable and uncomfortable and wanting to head back early because you're too cold, too hot, or got wet. I also wore shorts underneath, which I was very thankful for while navigating the tube. The air is funneling through the tunnels and will most certainly blow your skirt up once or twice. I saw quite a few women and girls who were wearing much shorter dresses who had to hold their skirts down.