The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling to London

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Looking for a good checklist for traveling to London?  This post is a complete guide to the most important things to know before traveling to London, and exactly what do to do prepare for your trip.  Traveling to a foreign country can be overwhelming, and planning travel in London is no exception!  but in this guide, you’ll learn how to plan a trip to London, England so that you can cruise around the city like a pro in no time.  If you’re preparing for a trip to London, keep reading for all of the details you need for a smooth visit!

checklist for traveling to London things to know

The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling to London

Planning a trip to London can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time visiting this vibrant gem of a city.  You’re in luck – I’ve rounded up all of the things you need to do before you travel to London, and exactly when you should do them.  Easy-peasy!

You’ll be able to plan your trip to London in a cinch, and then you can focus on having fun while you’re there.

9 Months Before Traveling to London: Book Flights + Organize Travel Documents

The first things to do on any checklist for traveling to London are to book your flights, and get any necessary travel documents in order.  

If you’re planning travel in London, I recommend booking your flights no less than 9 months ahead of time, although sooner is always better.

In terms of travel documents, the UK requires different things depending on your citizenship.  You can check the UK government requirements for entering the UK here.  

Understanding passport and visa requirements is one of the most important things to know before traveling to London, so make sure you don’t skip this step!  

One of the Most Important Things to Know Before Traveling London is that the City is Served by Multiple Airports

Chances are good that you’ll be arriving in London via an international flight.  If that’s the case, 9 months before traveling to London is a good time to book your flights.

I always use to book flights because I find the site’s search capabilities to be the easiest to maneuver, and I always seem to score some sort of deal on cheap airfare to London.

checklist for traveling to London

For more tips on how to fly stress-free, check out this post.  And if you need tips for what to wear on your long haul flight to London, this post has you covered

London Has Multiple Airports, so Make Sure you Check Where You’re Arriving

One of the key things to know before traveling to London is that the city is served by multiple airports.  If you’re traveling to London from abroad, odds are good that you’ll be flying in to Heathrow airport, London’s largest airport.

Read on in this post for more details on the best way to get from Heathrow airport into the center of London.

London’s other airports include Gatwick, Stansted, London City and Luton.  I’ve linked to each of them here for more information on arriving and departing.  Make sure to check your air tickets carefully so that you know which airport you’re arriving into, and leaving from.

Organize Your Passport, Visa and Travel Documents for London

A key part of any checklist for traveling to London is to make sure you have a valid passport, and check to see whether or not you need a visa to visit London on this site.

Visas can take a long time to process, so make sure to start this part of your London travel planning far in advance. This is probably the most important part of preparing for a trip to London if you’re coming from abroad!

Even if your passport is valid today, don’t forget that the UK requires international travelers to have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your dates of travel.  

In other words, if you’ll be in London in June, your passport needs to be valid until at least December of the same year.

What Are the Current COVID Requirements to enter the UK?

Even in 2022, tone of the most important things to know before traveling to London is any COVID-related restrictions.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, requirements are always changing.  When planning travel to London, I recommend that you check for any COVID-related restrictions, including vaccination or quarantine, in the UK at the UK government website.  

Make sure to check UK COVID requirements well in advance of traveling to London, but also again as your trip gets closer, so that you can monitor the situation in case anything has changed.

3 – 4 Months Before Traveling to London: Book Accommodation + Tours

Three or four months before traveling to London is a good time to book your accommodation, as well as any tours that you plan to take during your time in the city.

things to know before going to London

What to Know About Booking Accommodation in London

For accommodation, the best place to start is deciding which neighborhood in London you plan to stay in.  I’ve got the entire rundown in this post on the best area to stay in London for first time visitors to the city.

If you want a shortcut, my favorite hotels in London are The Thistle Bloomsbury Park for budget stays, the Marriott Grosvenor Square for an awesome mid-range hotel, and The Rosewood Hotel for high-end chic elegance.  

Honestly, I would move in to The Rosewood if they’d let me.

When to Book Tours in London

When you’re three or four months away from travel and preparing for a trip to London, it’s a good time to book any tours in London that you’re interested in taking.

London is a city that’s very visitor-friendly, and it’s easy to navigate on your own, but taking a tour always adds a new dimension to any trip.

Preparing for a Trip to London: Book the Best Tours Well in Advance

My absolute favorite tour in London is the Tower of London – it’s a must do, especially if it’s your first time visiting the city.  Grab a tour that gets you to the front of the line, and you won’t waste any time queuing.

If you’re short on time in London, this one-day whistlestop tour will show you all of the city’s highlights in one day.  It’s a  perfect introduction to the city.

And if you need more ideas for things to do in London, check out this London bucket list. It’s got all of the must-sees in my favorite city!

And if you’re looking for something more unique, here’s my favorite non touristy things to do in London.

planning travel in London

Checklist for Traveling to London: 1 Month Before

Next up on this checklist for traveling to London is to get some of the essentials you’ll need in the city and during your trip.

One month before your trip to London is time to stock up on anything you need to buy – starting with these must-haves:

If You’re Planning Travel to London, Make Sure to Buy This London Travel Essential

One of the most important things to bring to London: a power adapter! Adapters in the UK are NOT the same as the rest of Europe, and you’ll need a UK-specific adapter. Here is a great option for a pack of three (I haven’t seen them cheaper anywhere else!).

Exchange Some Currency to British Pounds

Next on your London travel checklist is to change some currency to British pounds, so that you have some on hand as soon as you arrive. This is an important part of preparing for a trip to London!

I generally recommend arriving in a foreign country with about US$100 worth of local currency.  This will cover you for any immediate needs upon arrival, such as a cab to your hotel, or sundries at the airport.

Stop at a currency exchange kiosk, or ask to exchange currency at your local bank.  Try to avoid changing money at the airport, where rates are generally less favorable.  During the rest of your trip, you should be able to withdraw cash from an ATM in local currency.

preparing for a trip to London

If You’re Preparing for a Trip to London, You May Need to Buy a Heathrow Express Ticket in Advance

If you’re arriving in London via Heathrow airport, it’s important to know that Heathrow is located about an hour outside of the center of the city.

The fastest way to get from Heathrow into the center of the city is via the Heathrow Express train.  The Heathrow Express takes about 15 minutes to go from Heathrow to Paddington Station.

If you plan to travel on the Heathrow Express, you should buy your tickets more than 14 days in advance.  This is because tickets for the Heathrow Express are cheaper if they are purchased two weeks in advance.  You can buy them by downloading the app on your phone, and then you can store the ticket right on your phone.

For a less expensive alternative, you can also take the tube from Heathrow into the center of London.  It’ll take about 45 minutes, but it’s far less expensive.

Buy Travel Insurance for Your Trip

Pro Travel Tip: These days, travel can be more uncertain than ever. Check for any COVID-related restrictions at your destination, and never travel without travel insurance! I recommend SafetyWing, because they have flexible + affordable insurance plans, and also cover COVID-related impacts on your trip (not all companies do)!

Things to Know Before Going to London: Buy an Oyster Card for Tourists

Another important thing to do before you travel to London is to buy an Oyster travel card for tourists.  An Oyster travelcard is used for travel on London’s underground subway system (“the tube”).  Oyster cards can be loaded using cash or a credit card at ticket machines in any tube station.

It’s important to have an Oyster card while you’re traveling in London, because it will save you a lot of money in transportation around the city.  Paying for tickets via an Oyster card is a much less expensive way to travel than buying individual tickets.

You can buy the Oyster card for tourists here, and it will be sent to your home by mail before your trip to London.

Book London Restaurants and Activities

One month before traveling to London is the best time to book any special restaurants you want to visit in the city.  Especially if you want to visit the most instagrammed restaurants in London!

London is a crowded city, and popular restaurants can book up far in advance.  By booking at least a month in advance, you’ll make sure that you don’t miss out if there’s a place you’ve been wanting to visit.

what to do before going to London

Activities in London to Book in Advance

Next up on your checklist for traveling to London?  One month before a trip to London is a good time to scope out and book any special activities you might want to do.  Things like theater tickets or tickets to a special museum exhibit can also sell out quickly.

My personal favorite museums in London are the British Museum (it’s free!) and the Natural History Museum.  They always have interesting special exhibits ongoing, so it’s worth checking out their features before your trip.

This is an important thing to know before traveling to London, because booking a month in advance will give you the best chance at being able to do everything you want to do during your visit.

Checklist for Traveling to London: 2 Weeks Before

Now that you’re only two weeks away from traveling to London, it’s time to plan how you’d like to spend your days in the city.  If it’s your first time traveling to London, you’re in luck because I’ve put together the perfect 4 day London itinerary for first time visitors.

Exactly How to Spend your Time in London

The London itinerary I’ve put together includes all of the highlights in the city that you’ll want to see, along with a few special extras that only someone who has lived there can recommend (that’s me!).  And as you’re planning, make sure to read up on all of the common tourist mistakes in London to avoid.

If you plan to take photos while you’re in London, you’ll also love my list of the best London Instagram spots.

1 Week Before Traveling to London: It’s Time to Pack

When you’re only a week away from your trip to London, it’s time to get packing.  

Honestly, I could probably write a whole post on what to pack for a trip to London.  But in the meantime, I’ll link below to some of my very best posts on packing to help you out.

Checklist for Packing for London

Your list of things to bring to London should include all of the usual long flight essentials.  If you follow my printable packing guides, it’ll be easy to pack carry on only.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have cute and comfy walking shoes because you’ll probably be on foot quite a bit while you’re in London.

Finally, here’s a separate packing list with all of the travel toiletry essentials that you should make sure to pack with you.  Need more packing help?  This post has all of my best packing tips for women.

There you Have it – Everything you need in the Ultimate Checklist for Traveling to London!

I hope that this post has helped with planning travel in London! Now you know all of the important things to know before traveling to London. All you’ve got to do now is have a wonderful time while you’re there!

checklist for traveling to London things to know

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  1. I will NEVER use to book a flight again. I tried twice to change my flight and their customer service is nonexistent. They couldn’t tell me if I could change the date and promised that a manager would call me and he never did. Use a proper travel agent or the airline directly.

    1. Hi Colleen, sorry to hear about your experience. I’ve used many times and have not had a problem, but it’s helpful to be aware that this might not always be the case. Many thanks for your comment and for reading the blog!