OBOW Light Travel Forum > Headed to London - carry-on or check my bag?

I am headed to London in a couple of months for a 1-week solo trip to visit a relative. I must admit...while I am VERY TEMPTED to bring my Rick Steves wheeled suitcase (and likely check the wheeled suitcase) with me and my heavy purse, I am finding myself starting to talk myself out of that plan because:

a. of the stupid new American Airlines boarding policy (and I'll be flying on American)
b. I don't want my luggage to get lost, missing, or have thieves disguised as airline baggage handlers steal my stuff.

Once I arrive in London, I'll be taking the Underground to get to my relative's apartment and her place is a 15 or so minute walk from the tube stop where I'll be exiting the subway. Thus, I don't want to overpack, of course.

I also want to leave a little bit of room in my bag for a couple of souvenirs that I might bring home. Am looking for everyone's thoughts & suggestions on how to pack for this trip. I have packed lightly before, but never in October to a wet & chilly place like London.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuggysmama
I interpret the new American Airlines boarding policy as favoring the traveler who CHECKS their bag.
A Rick Steves bag says budget traveler, slim pickings for a thief. So, these two issues favor the checked bag. Valuables of course travel in that larger purse you mention.

HOWEVER, use of the Underground plus walk however favors a smaller, i.e., carry-on bag. If there isn't a charge for the checked bag for an overseas flight, a further strategy is to bring a lightweight duffel bag, packed inside the carry-on bag going over, then on the way home pack that with dirty laundry, and used the space saved for souvenirs and the like.
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlan B
For one week, you don't need a lot of clothes. If you figure on wearing pants/skirt/ tops twice or even three times, you could take three or four tops and three bottoms and mix and match between them.
Add a cardigan or sweater, a rain jacket with say.....a fleece underneath or thick sweatshirt? As long as you have tops for a sudden burst of late summer and can layer for anything wet and chilly, you'll be set. (There have been times when I've had sunburn in October over there)!
Also, does your relative have a washing machine/dryer?
Don't underestimate the power of Marks and Spencer, I grew up with them and still haven't become immune to raiding them everytime I go home. So do keep room spare for presents to yourself.

Travelling with carry on bag only on the Underground is the magic formula and the only way to keep from pulling muscles and hurting yourself.
Good advice from Alan B about packing an extra lightweight bag.
Just being nosey.......what area of London will you be staying in, or which Tube station will you be using?(That'll give me a clue).
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Bag Lass
I vote for carry on only. For a one week trip it is easily doable and Paula nailed the list in her post.

. Also if you did check your bag and it got lost it would likely take most of your stay to catch up with you. I hate that anxiety especially as I only take my favorite things to wear and would hate to lose them. I don't mean valuables, just favorites like the perfect fitting black jeans, shirt that I love etc.
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwhisper
I also vote for carry on. You will be able to wash so you won't need much at all. And layers are definitely the way to go for London's unpredictable weather in October as Paula suggests. I also second taking a folding duffel.

Do you already have a suitable bag or do you need to buy one?
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJL
I used a Patagonia MLC for 8 days in London. Had room to spare.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd
I would carry on. But for reason A and your mode of local transportation. Not for reason B which certainly does happen, but statistically not as common as stereotype. Of course i understand no one wants to be that person it happens to. Do you also have ( tight) connections? I love to shop in London and would leave ample room because you never know and you do want to enjoy the trip as well.
June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph
I'm going to be using a RedOxx Airboss bag + a small Eagle Creek purse that is lightweight & flat against one's body. My RedOxx bag weighs just about 3 lb empty and when it is fully packed, it is much better organized (i.e., stuff doesn't shift around) than my similar Rick Steves bag or the roll-aboard suitcase that I have (the latter of which weighs 6 lb, 6 oz).

My relative DOES have a washer/dryer, so that will help. Relative has told me that we'll be travelling for part of my stay via Eurostar train to "somewhere French-speaking," which will mean either France or Belgium (knowing this family member). :-)

I've also decided that in terms of clothing to pack, it's going to be:
1 pr of black pants
2 shirts
3 pr socks
3 pr undergarments of the female persuasion
1 sarong (got it in Hawaii, weighs hardly anything, can double as a scarf, towel, etc.)
1 smaller scarf

On the plane, I'm going to wear:
long-sleeved shirt

I can't quite decide on my shoes yet - namely, whether to just use 1 pair or pack an extra pair in my bag. What do the rest of you do? I could wear my New Balance sneakers because they are great...I survived 3 long days at Disneyland wearing those things and my feel just got tired at the end of the 3rd day.

BUT...wearing the sneakers means that I'll need a 2nd pair of shoes because I can't exactly go to an Evensong church service at Westminster Abbey wearing sneakers. This, in turn, last led me to wonder whether I should just use 1 pair of shoes, but pick walking shoes that are black or brown leather and more dressy than athletic shoes.
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuggysmama
I've done the Heathrow/take the tube into London trip several times in the old days when we still had Engliish relatives. Sadly, the old folks have all died off over the years, so we don't get back the way we used to. Definitely wear your comfortable sneakers, and don't forget something comfortable and covered up to lounge or sleep in. Just pack a pair of black flats to go with your black pants when you go to church in Westminster Abbey. And I think a bag without wheels is best, for all the reasons others have mentioned many times on these forums.
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
On one trip I wore one pair of shoes and didn't take a second pair. I bitterly regretted this decision, or rather my feet did.
First priority for footwear, wear the most comfortable for walking. Pack a second comfortable pair of a different style, to give your feet a breather and for smarter occasions.

Oooo lucky you going on Eurostar! I wonder if you'll end up in Paris?
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Bag Lass
To answer someone's question, I am taking the Piccadilly line all the way from Heathrow to my destination stop. My flight gets in during the early morning hours, so I told the family member no need to meet me at the airport...I will come to you so it's less hassle.

Thank you thank you for the shoe suggestions! There sure isn't anything much worse when you travel than miserable feet!
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuggysmama
If you're taking the Piccadilly line during early morning rush hour, then you definitely don't want a large bag. That train can get very crowded.

And some of the Piccadilly line stations are DEEP with long escalators. Not much fun with a big, wheeled bag--espeically with the crowds rushing to get to work.

BTW, I always take the tube into town from LHR and never regretted having only a small, wheeless, carry on bag.

Regarding the feet, one trick I use are disposable insole inserts. I pre-cut them before travel and change them out about once a week. The insoles add a little cushion to the foot and help to absorb perspiration and odor. I also take along a travel size Gold Bond foot powder which helps as well.
June 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterFrank@OBOW
Forgot to add in my previous reply that I am flying on American Airlines, so that means that I'll be subject to their ridiculous new flight boarding rules. And I do not have any premier frequent flyer status with American, so I don't get priority boarding at all. I *WAS* going to chance it with the rolling suitcase, but when I saw the post on this site about American's new boarding plans, that is what sealed the deal in terms of me using my AirBoss bag instead.

I just learned from my relative that we won't be in London the entire time...taking Eurostar to Belgium for 2 days, then in Paris for 2 days before returning back to London for a day or so before I fly back home. Based on this, I will *NOT* have as easy access to inside-an-apartment laundry (other than the day I arrive and a day and a half before I fly home). So I am going to plan on doing bathroom sink laundry when my clothes need to be washed. :-)
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuggysmama
I don't understand why onebaggers are getting so upset with AA's new boarding rules

The new rules state that CUSTOMERS WITHOUT OVERHEAD LUGGAGE get to board after the elite.

If they have no overhead luggage, they won't be taking up any overhead space.
June 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterFrank@OBOW

It is precisely because of the new AA boarding rules that I have decided to use this particular bag and store in underneath the seat in front of me. The last thing I want is to have to deal with lost luggage thousands of miles from home. So I will just do some laundry every other day instead.
June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuggysmama
I fly to London about once a year, usually BA now but I've also done United. There's usually a lot more space in the overheads than on your usual domestic flight -- I think more people check baggage by default.

If you are only going to need your extra pair of shoes for Evensong I don't know that you need to bring them. I haven't been at Westminster Abbey but I have been to Evensong at St. Paul's multiple times and people are pretty casual. A lot of them are clearly tourists who've been out and about all day, so I don't think you'd look out of place in more casual shoes.

Your relative probably knows this already, but the half hour they recommend for how early you should get to St. Pancras before your Eurostar train is cutting it very close. You'll have to go through a metal detector and bag scanner -- it's not to TSA extremes but it does take some time, and you do immigration for France before boarding as well. They usually start boarding well before the train time. 45 minutes is better to do it comfortably. And if you get there via tube take a few minutes to go see the exterior of St. Pancras station -- it's beautiful.

Enjoy your trip!
June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
Thanks for the tip! I read somewhere else that 30 min prior to Eurostar departure was probably cutting it close. Will plan on 45 min-1 hour instead.
June 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuggysmama
I traveled for two weeks by train and car around the UK with just one small no-wheels carry-on bag in late October-early November (so long sleeves, sweaters, etc.). My travel companion had a small wheeled bag which was a pain to deal with, especially on the Tube escalators at rush hour and in small B&B's with lots of stairs. I took a small number of clothes and two pair of shoes (both comfy): walking shoes and plain black low-heel slip-on shoes for theatre, opera, nicer restaurants, etc. I went to a launderette once half-way through the trip so I was able to limit the number of undies, etc., I brought along.

Black gabardine "dressy" pants
Grey "jeans" type pants (not denim so not as heavy or hard to dry) (wore on plane)
Black cashmere turtleneck sweater
Black cashmere cardigan sweater (wore on plane)
Burgundy blouse (wash & dry easy care) (wore on plane)
White dressy blouse (also washable)
Black skirt
Short black Chanel type jacket
L/S casual top
L/S base layer
Tights, sox & undies
PJ's & robe & folding slippers (for trips to B&B's down-the-hall bath)
Walking shoes (wore on plane)
Slip-on shoes
Beret, gloves, scarves, raincoat (wore on plane or in pockets of coat)

I could have left the grey pants and black jacket at home but I like the option of casual pants -- and I did not some trail walking along the south Devon Coast. Having the base layer meant that I could stretch the wear-ability of the blouses and casual top on days when it was warmer or when traveling by car or train.
June 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdottie
I was temporarily having 2nd thoughts about this yesterday because I was reading some travel sites that talked a lot about wheeled carry-on luggage. And then I tried listening to my dear husband, who strongly suggested that I bring a wheeled bag....until I realized that he hasn't had to drag a wheelie suitcase across cobblestone streets, up and down Underground staircases, etc., etc.

And my Rick Steves wheeled carry-on bag weighs just a tad over 6 lb, compared to the 3 lb that my RedOxx AirBoss bag weighs instead! I figure that if I REALLY buy THAT many souvenirs, then I can always buy a piece of luggage to pack it home in...or just ship it home OR just bring home smaller souvenirs.

The jacket I'm bringing is polartec and I'm going to either buy an umbrella when I get there or will borrow one from my family member with whom I'm staying. :-)

Dottie - did you find that you really needed your gloves?
June 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbuggysmama
Polartec is good.
All my fleece jackets (except my SeV) and pullovers are Polartec (it dries very well and quickly).

My husband uses an 18" long, small wheeled soft-sided case. We visit York a lot when in England, last time he had to wheel his case through The Shambles.........cobblestone city and lots of tourists!!! He was not a happy bunny. I was carrying my bag cross-body......no problems! :-)
June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaula Bag Lass
I traveled to places like Hadrian's Wall (very barren and windy) in mid- to late October/early November. I needed the raincoat, gloves, beret, and scarf at Hadrian's Wall, but not in South Devon. I wore my two sweaters and base layer for cooler days in Devon.
June 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdottie