I can’t believe there are only a few days left before we take off for London. With all that has been going on with Girls Night Events, I haven’t had much time to sit down and prepare myself for the globetrotting adventure ahead. Thankfully, I have my first international trip under my belt, and we have been working with an extremely resourceful company. After a group meeting and a little research, I’m sharing how I have prepared to visit London for the first time!
- Airline – Virgin Atlantic offers 1 checked back for free (50lbs & under) + a carry on & purse. Any extra baggage will cost $25 each. I suggest planning ahead for your return flight – consider how much shopping you plan to do.
- Weather – London during March averages 40-50° with a 50% chance of rain & 5 hours of sunshine.
- Getting Around – Everything we plan to explore is within 5 miles of our hotel.
- Don’t Forget: Umbrella, walking shoes, coat, scarf, adapter/converter, cash (£), a zippable bag
Prepping for the Plane
- Bring your own headphones to watch movies on the plane.
- Remember to drink a lot of water the week of your flight to help with jet lag.
- Get up and walk around during your flight to get your blood flowing.
- It’s best to keep going when you arrive (if during the day) vs. resting/napping.
- Dress warm – layer up! This also saves space in your suitcase.
- Bring a neck pillow, earplugs and eye mask to help avoid sleep disruption.
Arriving in London
- If traveling with a group (like me) decide ahead of time if you want to cab it or get a transfer service to your hotel. Suggestion: City Transfers UK – the driver will have a sign with your name.
- If using public transportation, mind your own bags and avoid any person trying to distract you. Like any other big city, it’s easy to become a victim of pickpocketing if you’re not paying attention.
- If you plan to use public transportation throughout your stay, purchase an Oyster Card.
- Be respectful of locals. Avoid the tube during rush hour, let others off before you get on, hold doors and don’t forget to say “pardon me”, “please” and “thank you”. Basically, be the kind of visitor you would want in your hometown.
- Tip your driver as you would in the US.
- Make sure you know when you can check into your hotel room. Depending on when your flight arrives, you may need to arrange to have your hotel hold your bags until you are able to check in.
Using your phone internationally
- Leave your phone on airplane mode and use Wi-Fi to email, FaceTime or update social media. Your hotel and most cafés will have free Wi-Fi.
- Buy and install a local SIM card.
- Don’t and enjoy life as it was before the mobile phone.
Money in London
- The currency used in London in the pound sterling.
- 100 pence (p) or “pee” to the pound (£) or “quid”. Tip: make an exchange rate reference note.
- The current exchange rate is 1£-$1.28, meaning London is pricey for Americans.
- AAA offers tip packs; sold based on the rate when they were purchased.
- Most banks will offer an exchange without a fee.
- Call your credit card company and find out if they charge a fee for international transactions.
- Visa, MasterCard & Amex are widely used. Write down the 800# for your card in case it is lost.
- While it is certainly “touristy”, the Big Bus tour is recommended by most. Purchase the 2-day hop-on-hop-off pass to get familiar with the city and discover which areas you enjoy most. This will help you maximize your time, offering a passerby view of the London attractions you don’t want to tour.
- Recommended attractions/tours include: The London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Changing of the Guard, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Parliament + Big Ben aka Elizabeth Tower, and various markets.
I am most looking forward to enjoying London at leisure. If I’ve learned one thing from various travel tempos, taking time the “stop and smell the roses” truly enhances the experience.