This past week, I visited England for the first time. While I was there, I made a list of items I either had forgotten to bring (and ended up buying while there) or I was very happy to have on hand. If you're planning a trip to Stratford Upon Avon anytime soon, these items will help you with that packing list.
1. Reusable Water Bottle With Filter
In England, a large glass of water with breakfast seems to be non-existent. As is water in general, as it happens. They did serve water “for the table” at dinner one night, but on all other occasions locating things like water bottles at the hotel was nigh unto impossible. That was a problem for me personally as I feel very dehydrated in the mornings and I like to start the day with a large glass of water, preferably ice water. So while this may be a very American item on this list, I will suggest you take a reusable water bottle with a filter on it. That way, you can start your day with cold tap water and feel confident it's safely purified. This will also save you a lot of awkwardness trying to request a glass of water with your breakfast and having a confused server direct you to the bar. Yes, this actually happened to me. Take the water bottle.
2. Coat with pockets so you don't need to carry your purse
I found it quite cumbersome to carry my purse with me everywhere I went, and it was tiresome to need to set it down every time I wanted to take a picture. At first I thought it would be useful to have the purse so that I could carry my wallet and other items, or to stash away souvenir purchases but what ended up happening is that I needed a tote for my souvenirs anyway, so the purse wasn't useful for that, and I had to keep my wallet in my coat pocket as well because of how often I needed to retrieve it. Between constantly picking up and putting back down my purse along with needing to juggle it when carrying the umbrella or souvenir bag, I would suggest carrying a small wallet that fits into a coat pocket and wearing your coat instead.
3. Sunglasses & Umbrella
I list these items together because the legendary aspects of England's weather hold true, or at least they did for my visit. It would start out warm and sunshine in your face, but within 20 minutes time it would cloud up rain, and then return to sunshine again. And this pattern repeated itself all day long. You never knew when you would need the umbrella, and when you didn't need the umbrella, you definitely wanted the sunglasses. Many native Englanders had raincoats with hoods so you were constantly protected from the wind that rarely ceases but could raise and lower the rain hood as needed. Personally, I found that I preferred the umbrella to a hood because the hood messed up my hair and was uncomfortable. However, if you like the hood or feel you could stand to use it for vacation purposes, that would be one way to carry one less item as well.
You will think you aren't going to be the tourist smashing pennies in the penny press, but by the time you go through Anne Hathaway's Cottage and see what a sweet one they have there, you'll be frantically searching your purse for pennies just like I did. And, if you're like me, you'll find that it's the one precise time you don't have random pennies stashed in your purse, so plan ahead! Pack away a few pennies and be sure you buy coffee first thing after you leave the airport, too! That way, you'll be given change for the 20 pound note you grabbed at the currency exchange that includes the one pound coin you'll need to press your penny.
5. Hand Cream
Maybe it's the airplane, or maybe it's the constant changing back and forth from sun to rain, but I needed lots of hand cream. This was an item I did not pack, but ended up purchasing when I arrived. It was very useful to have for dry hands (and lots of hand dryers in bathrooms will seap the moisture away, too) but it also helped with the feeling of being gunked up from travel. That's a technical term- gunked up. It means icky feeling. You know that feeling you get when you've been travelling from place to place and haven't showered for the day yet, but you still have two tours to go and you're wondering if you stink? Yeh, lightly scented hand cream can really help freshen you up. A small pack of personal wipes, and a bottle of Evian face spray (airplane approved!) go nicely as well.
6. Top Sheet
This came as a huge shock to me and my travel companion when we started to get into our beds the first night there and realized that, apparently, in England, there are no top sheets. The mattress is covered in a top sheet (not a fitted sheet) and you get a coverlet, plus a foot warmer. The foot warmer deceptively looks like a quilt, but it's not. It's a long rectangle made of quilt material that's not wide enough to cover a person and doesn't function as something with which to keep warm. The days were hot in September, but the nights were cold, and you absolutely cannot rely on the thermostat in your room to regulate things for you. So probably an extra blanket isn't a bad idea to take, either. (Or request one from the front desk). I was only there two nights so it was not a big deal to me on this trip, but if I were going to stay longer, I would want to take my own top sheet and I would request an extra blanket or quilt from the front desk.
So that's my list of essential travel items I think you should take with you on your first (and subsequent) trips to England.
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