What should you pack for a vacation in Great Britain? Layers. And more layers.
It is positively the only way to go. The thing about England is, no matter what the weather is at the moment, it is sure to change shortly. And it is almost impossible to predict the temperatures for any given season. When we were in Scotland last summer, everyone assured us it would be damp and chilly. It was sunny, bright and in the 80s–for days!
Very unusual, yes. But we have learned in the UK to expect the unexpected and pack accordingly.
Now, granted, we tend to go for long stretches of time…sometimes 5 or 6 weeks (we have a lot of family and friends to visit). But the basics are the same.
1. Don’t pack for a year.
There are laundrette’s all over the UK, and it is a great way to pass an hour or two with the locals and catch up on your reading. You can easily go online, google the town you will be in, and “laundrettes”, or ask at your B&B or hotel. They will know. Service wash means the laundrette will do your wash for you and you can pick it up later or the next day. Self Service means you do it yourself, which is what we do. Usually we are driving, and at the beginning of the trip we stop at a grocery store and get a small bottle of laundry detergent. Or the laundrettes usually have them available for purchase. Our detergent stays with us for the trip and makes it even easier to do laundry on the road.
2. Make it easy and comfortable
Pack things that are wrinkle free if you don’t want to iron, although many hotels now have facilities to iron. I usually bring a pair of jeans for those country walks, and a couple of pairs of lighter washable slacks–one that is dressier for dinners out. Instead of shirts, I bring knits–t-shirts for me, polos for him, and light, washable cotton sweaters (jumpers in Brit speak). My Beloved Brit always likes a few buttoned collared shirts of the wash and wear variety for when we go out. I bring one or two washable wrinkle free skirts just in case it gets really warm. MBB does bring one pair of shorts just in case. But we find even when all his friends have shorts on, we might have two or three layers of long pants, t-shirts and jumpers on. MBB calls it being unclimatized. We’ve never regretted not packing a bathing suit.
3. Outerwear and an umbrella
Bring a scarf or two for around the neck, and preferably a rain-resistant jacket (or coat depending on the season) with a little warmth to it, just in case. I also usually pack a light, packable small umbrella. It is England after all. Rain comes and goes. When I did the Diamond Jubilee week in London last year, it rained lightly off and on over the weekend. I was fine with my layers, my little “brollie” and a smile. It was a great time.
Always a dilemma. First and foremost is comfort. England is known to be a wonderfully walkable place, so plan on taking walks in the country, through villages and footpaths, or long rambles around London.
There’s usually public transportation, but walking is how you really get to see a country, and get a sense of the natives. I usually opt for two pairs of very comfortable walking shoes that I can wear with socks, one pair a bit dressier to wear with the nice slacks. I also like a good pair of sandles in the summer for those days when you just feel like wiggling your toes in the sun, and to wear with my skirt.
5. For those special occasions.
Then usually I bring one nice dress, often a very packable light knit, and a sweater I can wear with it for cold evenings.
For most restaurants and gatherings we go to , this is as dressy as we need. I bring my pearls and good earrings in case it gets really dressy.
MBB does bring a solid colored sports coat and one tie, just in case there is a sailing race dinner at a club that requires it.
And that is pretty much it. You start out on a summer morning with a pair of cotton slacks, a t-shirt, a sweater and maybe a rain jacket with a scarf around your neck. By noon hopefully you’re down to the t-shirt, but more likely you are at sweater level. And of course just when you think you have it all figured out, it changes and the temps are in the 80s for five days in a row.
No matter. A laundrette makes it all workable, and no one cares if you wear the same three outfits over and over. Just pick what you love and what you are comfortable with. It’s a snap.
And then My Beloved Brit needs to bring all his sailing gear–boots, foul weather gear, thermals–which is a whole other story, and why we try to pack so light otherwise…