Casey with a red telephone booth
Travel

What You Need to Know Before Traveling to England

We learned a few things during our trip to England that might be useful if you’re planning a trip there. Our trip was 7 nights in London, 2 nights in the country for a wedding, and our last night in Manchester. Learn from our travel tips and don’t make the same mistakes we did! This post is the fourth in a series of posts about our England adventure:

Avoid International Connections

On both ends of our trip we had a connection in Toronto. Getting to England was a mess. There were storms in Toronto so our flight out of DC was delayed. We checked into both out going flights online. Mr. PC’s second boarding pass came through and said “This is not a boarding pass.” While waiting to leave DC, we asked at the service desk, and were told we’d have to ask once we landed in Toronto. We arrived to Toronto late, with no idea if our connecting flight was also delayed.

I figured since we were staying within the terminal we could just board your next plane. Nope. Wrong. You have to go through customs still. We rushed through, while trying to determine the status of our flight. After convincing security to let us back in the terminal (Mr. PC didn’t have an actual boarding pass) we landed at the service desk. It was past our flight’s original take off time, and the system had closed the flight. No one seemed to be able to look up anything or print Mr. PC’s boarding pass. We also still didn’t know if your flight had left without us.

After being sent to multiple aisles for help, we finally found someone who figured out whatever the issue was and printed both of our boarding passes. He handed them to us and said, “I need you to run.” I ran. Like an out of shape crazy lady with luggage flopping everywhere. But I ran. We made it as the plane was boarding. We did both manage to pee and I bought some Doritos for use to eat for dinner (thanks loonies leftover from our Toronto trip!). It was not the leisurely layover eating a full meal we had planned. We were able to do that on the way back.

Because we arrived late to Manchester, we missed the train to London that we had already bought tickets for. We ended up having to buy new tickets. I was worried that getting tickets last minute like that would be an issue. It wasn’t. Just buy them when you get there.

Don’t be like us. Avoid having to run through customs for an international connection. If that boarding pass doesn’t come through when you check in, figure that craziness out before you get to the airport. Don’t end up with a long winded crappy airport story like we did.

Phone Service

I wanted to avoid paying for an international plan through my carrier. We did some research, and as long as my phone was unlocked we could pop a prepaid SIM card into it to have service through out our trip. When we landed in England Mr. PC had limited service through his carrier and that was enough to tide us through until we got SIM cards.

Our phone numbers changed, but it was a cheaper, and better working, alternative than international plans. A paperclip takes up no room when packing and will pop your SIM out.

What Clothes to Pack

Everyone knows about England’s infamous ever changing weather and unexpected rain showers. It’s mentioned everywhere you look as you are planning your trip. We went in the beginning of August when temperatures were mild to warm. A friend told me to pack all black because that’s all anyone wears in London. All of this led me to do a fair amount planning. I wanted to be able to mix and match colors, levels of dress, as well as layer.

We had to take clothes for the wedding, so that was easy. A nice dress and heels for me, and a suit and dress shoes for Mr. PC. We knew we wanted to walk the Tolkien Trail so also packed appropriate athletic wear.

I packed a few dresses as well as jeans, shorts, a skirt and a couple tops. Keeping the colors of all of my pieces neutral or dark helped minimize the jackets and shoes I needed to match. My plantar fasciitis flares up with lots of walking. These shoes fit my orthotic insoles and were cheap enough that I didn’t care if they got grimy on the rainy London streets. I also took sandals and black boots.

For Mr. PC, I picked out a few pairs of pants and shirts of various weights. Each shirt had to match at least 2 pairs of pants, and vice versa. If they didn’t mix well with others I left them at home. Everything fit without jamming into our 2 carry-ons and 1 checked luggage.

I wish I had taken a pair of tights, there were a few times where I was chilly and would have worn them. We both found our black rain jackets fit in well with everyone else in the London. You can’t go wrong with black and it was my default throughout the trip. Jean shorts were out of place, but it was warm the day we went to Windsor so I wore them anyway.

Bathrooms

I had read online that there were public restrooms in London that you had to pay for. We only came across this at the train station. A few of the toilets were finicky and took a magic touch to get to flush. This comes with the territory of old buildings that may have been around before indoor plumbing was invented. What I thought was strange and never could figure out was the number of doors leading into a public restroom. Many had multiple doors to go through to access the restroom area. Some had hallways or steps between multiple doors. It seems like a lot of wasted space to me.

Shopping

Oxford Street has a ton of stores. We found multiple stores with a variety of casual sneakers or “trainers”. Mr. PC ended up coming home with 3 pair. Lillywhite’s and Sports Direct are good options. He also got a suit at Moss Bros. The gentleman working there was able to tell his size by looking at him. He wore that suit to the wedding we attended 2 days later. I did some browsing but didn’t find anything I had to have.

Apple Market in Covent Garden has a nice selection of vendors selling handmade items. We ate breakfast here and bought some presents to bring back. I got a pretty ring too. Which I accidentally smashed beyond repair six months later when we built our closet. Neal’s Yard and Carnaby are also cool spots to mosey around.

Best Airbnb in Manchester

We haven’t stayed in a bad Airbnb. However, this particular one was spectacular! If you are staying in Manchester at all this is the place. We only staying for one night, but this has to be the best in the city for the price.

The design of the flat was colorful and quirky. Every detail was well thought out from stationary to extra toothbrushes. Within a block or two is a funky fried chicken joint and the Manchester Craft & Design Centre. Both are worth a stop in.

What is your best tip for travel to England?

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