UK in Winter Packing List

I love to shock people by telling them that I moved to the UK for the better weather. Though in a way, it’s true. I’m not great at being cold, and not a big fan of the snow. So moving to a city where the coldest you see in the depth of winter is -5 degrees celsius, is actually an upgrade. Though there are parts in the North that not only get snow but can get a fair bit of snow. Down in London we had maybe three snow falls and that was it. What usually characterizes a UK winter it’s wind, rain, and a damp kind of cold that has a knack for working it’s way to the bone no matter how many layers you’re wearing. But that shouldn’t put you off visiting in the winter months.

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I have never been more grateful to have a hat and gloves that I was when standing on top of that hill at Stonehenge. The wind was just brutally cold.

Winter is actually a pretty interesting time to visit the UK. Things are a little less expensive, and there are less crowds (except at Christmas and New Years) then you will get in the height of summer. In fact it may be easier to pack for the winter weather than it is for the summer, where the shift between day, rain, and night means you need far more things to cover a range of temperatures. Whether you’re walking down Oxford street looking at the Christmas lights, or wandering around a ruined abbey in the country side, take it from a Canadian that all can be enjoyable if you’re dressed properly.

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Because I was there in December, I got to have Tintern Abbey pretty much all to myself!

 

Here’s what you need for a week exploring the UK in winter.

Clothes

  • 2 pairs of jeans: Yes, I know this is controversial choice. Jeans when wet take ages to dry, they’re also heavy and take up space in your luggage. But, if you’re just hanging out in the city they always look good, are warm, and you can get easy access to a washer and dryer if need.
  • 1 pairs of tights: You can get ones that are fleece lined or thermal, which are great when it gets a bit colder.
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 singlets
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 long sleeve shirt: I love tossing my plaid button up over everything. How else will you know I’m Canadian without me wearing red plaid?
  • 1 dress: I wear dresses all year round because I like them. They can be dressed up or down, good for going out as well as wandering around a city. Sweater dresses are also always good options for traveling in winter.
  • Enough bras, panties, and socks to get you through: Quick note about socks. Though you won’t need any high tech camping socks, a couple extra pairs wouldn’t go amiss. With all the rain over the winter, having a couple pairs of clean dry socks to change into will make all the difference.
  • 1 pair of boots: I always wear my black leather boots, comfortable, water resistant, and look good with both jeans and dresses
  • 1 spare pair of trainers: Having wet feet all day really puts a damper on your day. If your usual pair get’s soaked because of rain, then you will want to have a back up while you leave your others to dry for a day.
  • 1 warm and waterproof jacket: The really popular option is the down filled ones. Warm and then can roll up into a little ball in your suitcase if needed. I brought my winter jacket from Canada, but I think I might leave with a down jacket as well for the days with my Canadian jacket is too much, but my leather jacket isn’t quite up to the job.
  • Scarf: You can never go wrong with a scarf while travelling. Just bring a warmer option!
  • Hat: I’ve never been a big hat person, but I’ve acquired a few since I got here. When the wind really picks up, you will be grateful for the hat.
  • Gloves: Similar to the hat, you may not need them every day, but you will be glad you brought them when you need them.
  • Umbrella: A staple on any UK packing list.
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New Years Even standing on the bank of the Themes. It was cold but the champagne kept us going.

Toiletries

Other than your usual suspects, things you should think about bringing because it is winter are:

  • A good moisturizer: Going between the cold wind and the heated indoors will do a number on your skin. Having a good moisturizer is key.
  • Extra tissues: Little packs of tissues are always a traveler’s best friend, but especially in the winter.
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We didn’t let the cold weather get in the way of a day out in Richmond Park to see the deer!

Technology

Less a list of thing that you should bring with you, and more of a few things to think about while pulling together your kit.

  • Cold weather will zap your battery life: And you thought your phone died quickly before! Cold weather and batteries don’t go well together. The longer you have your camera out in the cold, the less life you will have on your batteries. Bring a few extras and/or a back up power bank to keep your electronics running all day long. Another simple solution is to make sure all your electronics go back in a bag when you’re done using them rather than carrying them around in the cold.
  • Wet weather: Water and electronics is an even worse combo than cold and electronics. Be sure that the bags you’re carrying your electronics in are fully waterproof or that you’ve waterproofed any expensive items that will not fair well under a bit of rain. Even just a plastic grocery bag lining the inside of your purse will help keep the water out.
winter exploring

So much to see in the UK, even in winter! Top line: Hampstead Heath, Winter Wonderland (London),  Stonehenge. Middle line: Just outside St. Paul’s (London), Wales, Richmond Park. Bottom line: Tintern Abbey, Giant’s Causeway, and Oxford Street (London).

 

Other Tips for Traveling the UK in Winter

  • Check what is open in advance: I made this mistake in Wales. I thought I would be able to just sign on for a day trip when I got there, only to find out that nothing was operating until the spring. I ended up making my own tour out to Tintern Abbey instead, but it would have been nice to know in advance.
  • Pubs are a great way to get out of the rain and the cold: Pubs are not just for drinking in the evening. Sunday lunch is very family friendly, and a great excuse to sit in a cozy booth near the fire and take a break from the cold. It is also a really great cultural experience. If that cultural experience also happens to include a couple pints of local beer, all the better!
  • The damp will win, no matter how expensive your jacket is: There is something about the damp cold that will cut through your layers, no matter how much you’ve spent on high quality technical clothing. The only thing I’ve very found that really combats it is a hot drink. Once your insides are warm, you feel the damp less. At least for a little while.
  • Transit closures during Christmas and New Years: There was no transit what so ever available on Christmas day. Your only option was a taxi and even then they charged extra because it was Christmas. There is modified service for the whole holiday season, so you need to keep an eye on the TFL website for what’s running and when.
  • Stake out your fireworks spot early for New Years Eve: The best spots are all roped off and are ticketed. The fireworks are set off from the London Eye, so if you pick a bridge to either side of it (Waterloo or Vauxhall), you can get close and not have to pay. By the time we got to Vauxhall bridge, all the good spaces along the bridge were already taken, but we found a way down onto the banks of the Themes and watched from there while keeping half an eye on the rising tide of the river.
  • Don’t be put off by the weather: As a Canadian I really do believe that as long as you’re dressed for everything the weather can throw at you–cold, rain, or snow–you can enjoy being outside. Warm layers and waterproofing will see you through. If what you brought wasn’t warm enough, you can always buy something here. The locals always know best how to dress for their own climates. Just don’t use the cold as an excuse to not get out there.
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