How to Pack for a Week in the UK Winter in a Carry On

As promised, I’m sharing some of my travel tidbits from my trip to the United Kingdom, or the UK for short, over the holidays! A group of friends and I jetted over to Edinburgh for New Year’s Eve, better known as Hogmanay, and then took the train down to London for five days. This leads into today’s blog post: 8 days, one carry on, one personal item, and a whole lot of cold weather – can it be done?

As I discussed in my blog post over the summer for my packing list for Hawaii, I love to pack light. Though I felt that that was a challenge at the time, it turns out that colder weather means bigger clothes and they are a lot trickier to fit into a carry on. Today I’m sharing my packing list and the means by which I fit all of my goodies (along with Christmas presents, might I add) into a carry on suitcase and a small duffel!

Carry On Packing Tips for the Winter:

  • When traveling to the UK, or any northern spot in the winter, you should expect to find colder temperatures between 30-50 degrees. The weather can range from sunny, to rainy, to snowy, so it’s important to think about your packing list in layers and functionality.
  • If you plan to travel around the cities in the UK, a purse is a better option than a backpack for carrying items around. I like to use a cross body style purse with a top zipper to keep things safe and hands free. Make sure it’s big enough to fit your camera!
  • When it comes to the actual luggage I use, I love this inexpensive, hard-sided, clam-shell style carry on bag since it allows you to pack in fewer layers which makes it easier to organize your items. I then also pack a duffel that fits under the seat that will fit my purse and some other items like toiletries, my computer, etc. I’ve had this Lesportsac bag for over 10 years and it still looks like new.
  • Something new that I am trying on this trip that was recommended to me is packing cubes. They allow you to organize your clothing, toiletries, and whatever else you might be bringing in your suitcase, and it also helps to pack the items tighter so you can fit a few more things! Using the set I linked, you can fit all three of the medium bags and both small bags, or the large bag, one medium bag, and both small bags into the hard-sided carry on.
  • Some of my key tips for making room in the suitcase include stuffing socks and underwear into shoes to avoid unused spaces and rolling shirts, pants, etc. instead of folding them to save room.
  • To make airport travel simpler, make sure to put your computer and liquids into the duffel bag so that you don’t have to open up your large suitcase at security. Better yet, sign up for TSA pre-check and Global Entry. It is a GAME CHANGER. No taking anything out at security, waiting in a shorter line, and then skipping probably an hour long line when coming back into the USA.
  • Once you arrive at your destination, put your clothes away into the closet and drawers if possible. It will make you feel more organized and less chaotic trying to find everything crammed in to a small suitcase!

What to Pack for the Winter:

  • As always, packing separates in neutral colors or similar color schemes helps you to mix and match items over the week. I picked out a few pairs of pants to start that would work well with many shirt options. Leggings with long shirts and sweaters are a great option for light packing since they roll up to be very small.
  • For shirts, pick 1-2 larger sweaters (I like to go with one pull over and one cardigan style) and then multiple layering long sleeve tees or thin sweaters. Chunky sweaters, while warm and cute, take up a ton of room! Also plan to wear the cardigan on the plane so that it doesn’t take up valuable suitcase space, and it will double as a nice blanket for sleeping!
  • Good boots that are water resistant and comfortable for walking are key for the UK. Wear one pair and pack another in your luggage.
  • In order to make sure my clothing items were versatile and all coordinated, I copied photos of the items from the sites they came from (or similar photos for older items) and placed them into a PowerPoint. You can then mix and match things with pants, shirts, shoes, and accessories to avoid packing something that can only be worn one way or doesn’t go with anything else.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I packed a few very key items that helped me to sleep through the night on the plane!! This is invaluable when changing time zones. You will want to invest in an eye mask (blocks out the bright airplane lights), an inflatable neck pillow (doesn’t take up much space and is adjustable for how much support you want), ear plugs (blocks out crying babies), and Benadryl (helpful in keeping you asleep longer… I never use it to help me sleep normally, but it has changed my life on the plane).

UK Winter Packing List:

For my 8 day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England, this is what I packed (and used!) organized by bag.

Wear on the plane:

  • tee shirt
  • leggings
  • chunky cardigan sweater
  • good walking boots/slipper socks once you go to sleep
  • coat (I take this off and place it in the overhead space)

Carry on bag:

  • 1 heavy sweater
  • 2 thin sweaters
  • 4 long sleeve tee’s or flannel’s
  • 1 dressy top
  • 2 undershirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of legging pants
  • second pair of boots, possibly dressier
  • warm hat
  • leather gloves
  • 2 scarves
  • 2 PJ sets
  • 10 pairs of socks
  • 10 underwear
  • makeup bag – makeup, deodorant, razor, toothbrush, hair ties, bobby pins, hairbrush

Small Duffel:

  • purse containing: phone and charger, wallet, sunglasses, umbrella, external charger, passport, headphones, book/Ipad/Kindle
  • liquid toiletries in a clear bag –  shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash, face wash, toothpaste, lip balm
  • eye mask
  • ear plugs
  • inflatable neck pillow
  • laptop and charger
  • camera and charger
  • converter for UK plugs
  • large water bottle
  • airplane snacks

What are your travel essentials? Every time I take a big trip, I learn new tips and tricks, but I really think I’m getting the hang of it!

P.S. I just added a new menu tab to the site, did you see it? It’s called “Shop” and it contains a list of all of the Amazon items I have referenced in posts before! This includes tons of travel items, craft items, and costume accessories – check it out and let me know what you think!


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