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October 2021 RS trip to London Packing advice

Hoping my husband and I can travel to London next October, we are looking at the beginning or the middle of the month. I have a few questions and would love some advice on how to pack and how to prepare physically for the trip.
1. Weather: What will the weather normally be around the beginning of October? I tend to wear jeans and long sleeves here in St. Louis, MO area around that time. Just looking for a general idea of what to pack.
2. Makeup and toiletries: I have a very minimalistic makeup routine, most times just foundation, coverup, blush and mascara. How should I pack for this without cutting into needed space for something more important?
3. Shoes under $50: In March I will be looking for good walking shoes that I can break in before the trip, what do you recommend. I am very frugal when it comes to spending money on shoes, I refuse to pay over $50 unless it is a very good shoe. I have flat feet so that is something I need to factor in also. The highest I'm willing to pay for a shoe is 70.
4. Advice regarding how I should get fit: I will be going back to the gym to work off the post covid weight and try to get into shape for the trip. Any advice as far as how many steps in a day I should work towards? I usually get around 4k right now on my fitbit app, but that is because I'm not working right now. Hoping that will chance soon. I was getting 8 to 9k in when I was working. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
7964 posts
  1. I'd layer. I'd plan for some short-sleeved shirts with a long sleeve over it. I've been traveling with the Land's End cotton/modal SS tees (sink wash and dry well) topped with either a quarter zip LS drifit or a cardie. I'd have a waterproof (not water resistant) jacket with a hood. I wear jeans on all my trips to Europe - usually dark wash navy and black, maybe gray sometimes depending on my capsule wardrobe color focus.

  2. No help from me on this...I'm a no makeup gal. If you are asking about other toiletries, I'd go with a trial on 3 oz sizes of shampoo and conditioner to see how much you use over your projected vacation time. I have short hair and can get by with 3oz of both for a month time frame. Most hotels have shampoo in the shower but I'm sensitive to many brands so just take my own.

  3. This is totally going to depend on your foot. I think you may be restricting yourself on your price point. You might find something to fit you that works but your feet are THE most important thing to take care of on a European trip/tour. You are paying thousands for your trip so why restrict yourself to inexpensive shoes? It's fine if you find some that fit well and hold up but if you are not comfortable in your shoes you'll be miserable. I use Altra Lone Peak athletic shoes and pay around $120 per pair. I can wear them out of the box, walk for 10 miles in them without discomfort and they work for me but they may not work for you. I wear them for 1.5-2 years before I sub in a new pair.

  4. I like to work up to a base of 4 miles 3-4 times a week then one day a week I work gradually add 10-20 minutes to that long walk until I'm up to 8-9 miles. I leave 2 or 3 days a week with 4 miles, then just go up on one specific day a week. So....the first week I'm adding in time I'll go about 5 miles(say on a Sunday), then the next week Sunday I'll add 10-20 minutes onto that for about 6 miles. The next week 7 miles, then week 4 I drop back to the mileage for week 2, then week 5 I'll add 10-20 minutes onto the week 3 mileage for 8 miles. I think 4,000 steps is only about 2 miles? (Really it depends on how your activity tracker measures things and how long your steps are). For a RS tour I think this is low. 8,000 is about 4 miles and in Paris and London I'd typically walk 6-8 miles per day. Do you live in an area where you can safely walk outside? I'll try to start in January for a September trip. For myself, I used to get a lot of steps in at work but I'd still do daily walks so I could build up endurance. I also walk slowly - about 20 minute miles so it works better for me to measure distance.

Have fun planning! Are you doing the Rick Steves London tour?

Posted by
17872 posts

Since we all have different comfort levels, I urge you to go to timeanddate.com and look at the actual, day-by-day, historical weather data available there. The statistics go back at least ten years, and I like to look at five year's worth. Monthly average temperatures can be misleading; they hide extremes, and they may be based on a time period that ended prior to global warming. I do use the monthly precipitation and daylight averages found in Wikipedia's entries for most major cities.

As you can see, you may well have days when the high temperature doesn't rise above the mid 50s, 1/3 of your days (or more) may have rain, and there will not be a great deal of sunlight. Those are conditions in which I would be at risk of getting chilled if I got wet. I've found I love traveling with the mostly-nylon pants sold by a lot of online retailers (including PrAna and Eddie Bauer). They are not waterproof, but they're pretty good at shedding water. That feature is important to me, because I travel with a rain jacket/windbreaker rather than a full-length raincoat. If it's going to be at all cool, I wear long john bottoms underneath the nylon pants. That combination worked for me on a couple of rainy 38-42F days in April 2019, though I can't say it was my favorite weather for outdoor sightseeing. I have never taken jeans to Europe and don't know how I'd feel in wet jeans. I do know I wouldn't appreciate their weight in my suitcase.

I agree about the shoes. They are the single most critical item you'll take with you. If you have foot problems in London and have to shop there, the replacement shoes will be more costly. You can keep your travel shoes just for trips, in which case they will last through many, many years. I hate spending money on shoes, but I've been paying over $100 for my travel shoes because my trips are about 140 days each and I average 7 miles of walking per day. I have a high arch and also use non-custom orthotics (over $50). But I'm getting nearly 1000 walking miles out of that combination in Europe, and I continue to wear the shoes and inserts for shorter walks at home until they fall apart. I can tell the shoes are beginning to break down a bit by the end of my trip, but that's possibly a byproduct of opting for unusually lightweight, cushioned-sole shoes (something from the On Cloud line). I imagine stiffer shoes would last longer, but I developed plantar fasciitis the year I wore shoes with a firm sole.

Shoes are a very individual thing. I've read recommendations on this forum for shoes I've tried on and immediately tossed aside because they were uncomfortable for me just standing in the store.

For your cosmetics, I second the recommendation to figure out how much you will need for the length of your trip. Add a bit of a fudge factor and try to find a suitable small container to hold just that amount. That won't work with everything--obviously not with mascara. But with the exception of the foundation (often in glass bottles), the items you mention wouldn't worry me; they shouldn't be that heavy or bulky.

Both shampoo and cream rinse are available in solid form. I use the hotel's supplied shampoo but do need to travel with conditioner since the budget hotels I stay in do not provide that. The solid conditioner works for me (I order Dirty Diva from Etsy, but there are others out there), but folks with challenging hair may need to stick with what they are already using. The trick, again, is to take just what you need in a container of the appropriate size. You may find usable containers at your drug store. If not, check The Container Store. Contact lens cases may work for some creams, but leaking is possible, so I put those in small Zip Lock bags to provide some protection.

Posted by
7964 posts

"Shoes are a very individual thing. I've read recommendations on this forum for shoes I've tried on and immediately tossed aside because they were uncomfortable for me just standing in the store."

Oh yes, 100% agree with this. I have a very wide forefoot. Many of the shoes people here find comfortable just are not wide enough for me and my toe spacers! Several brands like Keen, Merrell and Ahnu have great travel shoes but just don't work with my finicky feet. I'll add that you will want to have shoes with fairly good traction. Not hiking type traction but slippery cobblestone type traction, lol. I'll also say that you probably do not need waterproof shoes if you are going to stay mostly in London and Paris. Even if it's raining you probably won't get soaked enough to need waterproof shoes. I often bring them but it's because I have them.

I also wear an 11 and my local shoe stores generally do not carry over size 10. You are in a bigger metro area so you may find shoes with no problem, but I'll also add that I do a lot of ordering from Zappos which offers free delivery and free return. If it's a new brand I'll order 2 sizes so I can compare and then send one, or both...back.

Posted by
4136 posts

We’re planning right now to be in London for a week in October, on the way home from an Italy trip. We were there in October last year, and got rain most nights, so a good rain jacket (or better, longer coat) will likely be essential. Our B&B had loaner umbrellas.

As you probably know, wet cotton jeans are unpleasant and stay cold and wet. Do you have options for pants that aren’t 100% cotton?

Small Zip-loc bags are great for organizing things, and keep spills in, or other liquids out.

Do any of the specialty shoe stores in St. Louis (not discount, Target kind-of places) have season-ending sales? We have a couple in the Denver area that put remaining stock on sale for 40% to even 70% off, on remaining styles and sizes. That can be hit-and-miss, but make some phone calls now, and you might score a deal on really good shoes, if and when they gave their sale. Some brands I’ve gotten in the past are Clarks and Born. The ultimate fashion shoes with walking shoe style support within the design are Mephisto, but they’re way higher than $70.

Training for my walking a half-marathon involved starting with short distances, and working in greater distance over 4 months. I can’t say how many steps that is for you, or how far you anticipate walking each day (or how many hours walking/standing); maybe start with your 4,000 steps, then work up to 6,000 four days a week after 2 weeks, then 8,000 a couple weeks later, with a 10k or even 12k day once a week after your first and second month. Build in a high step/distance day each week, then taper off to your “regular” step/distance for the rest of the week. Increase your steps gradually, then maintain a plateau of steps, then increase to a new plateau, on and on over weeks and months. A doctor or personal trainer could give you a specific plan, tailored to you.

Posted by
2737 posts

As the others have mentioned, everyone's tolerance to heat and cold are different. Google historical weather for London and pack accordingly, using layers rather than packing anything heavy or bulky.

I also emphatically agree that cheaping out on good walking shoes is about the biggest mistake you can make. Since you live in a city, find a good shoe store with a wide range of brands and staff who can make recommendations and fit you properly. And since you have flat feet, talk to them about the possible benefit of ready made orthotics to wear in your shoes. You may cringe at spending over $100 for shoes, but trust me, your feet will thank you after days of walking +5 miles/day.

Which brings us to getting fit. I wouldn't just count steps on your fit bit. Count miles per day. Start a daily walking regimen near the top of your comfort/endurance level and increase the length of your walk every few days. Including some hills would also help, even though London isn't known for hilly terrain. If you can comfortably manage a brisk 5 miles you should be OK.

Posted by
11972 posts
  1. Weather: What will the weather normally be around the beginning of October? I tend to wear jeans and long sleeves here in St. Louis, MO area around that time. Just looking for a general idea of what to pack.

We've been there a little earlier in the fall, and layers are best. Outer layer should be water resistant or water proof.

Makeup and toiletries: I have a very minimalistic makeup routine, most
times just foundation, coverup, blush and mascara. How should I pack
for this without cutting into needed space for something more
important?

No one in London cares about your makeup regime so leave it all at home unless you can't personally do without it. Then again, I don't wear makeup at all so am maybe not the best person to offer advice here.

Shoes under $50: In March I will be looking for good walking shoes that I can break in before the trip, what do you recommend. I am very frugal when it comes to spending money on shoes, I refuse to pay over $50 unless it is a very good shoe. I have flat feet so that is something I need to factor in also. The highest I'm willing to pay for
a shoe is 70.

Shoes are very personal items so no one here can suggest a bargain brand that's going to work well for you. You'll need to go out and try on multiple types at the price point you desire... which is VERY low for an all-day walking shoe. I am a hiker so paying for all-day comfort on a variety of surfaces is worth every $ for me!

Advice regarding how I should get fit: I will be going back to the gym to work off the post covid weight and try to get into shape for the trip. Any advice as far as how many steps in a day I should work towards?

No one else can tell you this either. It's less about how MANY steps a day you can do (I do 15,000) but how many of those you can do on steep hills and/or long flights of stairs. That said, London is generally pretty flat so I wouldn't worry much about hills. Strap on the new shoes and see how long and how many different surfaces/ascents/descents you can comfortably do in them.

Posted by
4382 posts

I don't have much to add, but I want to jump in anyway.

SHOES: These are, indeed, important, and I agree your price point is too low. You are going to be doing a lot of walking, and cheaper shoes that lack support will lead to fatigue as well as possible knee, hip, and back problems. Like Pam (see Pam, we really were separated at birth!) I wear 11 wide, and finding shoes isn't easy. Finding good shoes with adequate support isn't cheap. See if you can budget somewhere else, and splurge a bit on better shoes.

I don't wear makeup either, so I can't help you there.

Clothes: We did the best of London tour in February some years ago. I got along just fine with layers: silk long underwear, medium weight pants, knit top, cardigan sweater, and a windbreaker. I did spray our windbreakers with water-proofing, which worked better than I thought it would. I had 3 pairs of pants, 3 or 4 tops, one sweater, one windbreaker, undies, 2 pairs of shoes. This includes what I wore on the plane. I had no trouble getting it all in a medium sized (24 Liter) backpack.

Getting fit? Walk. Sounds like the amount of walking you normally do, especially when you are working, is adequate. I would for sure throw in some hills, though. I've found that does more for my stamina than adding distance.

Have fun planning. We love London, and the RS tour is a great introduction.

Posted by
2159 posts

Heed the words of Pam and Jane!

Unlike P&J, I admit to wearing makeup at home and abroad. For traveling, I just buy travel sizes of my favorite products if they're available. Otherwise, I just buy small sizes at the Origins store near my house. But remember - every type of cosmetic and skincare product is available in London, and there are worse souvenirs.

I found a great pair of Merrills on Amazon Prime that were in your price range - a discontinued style. If you don't want to increase your shoe budget (which I really think you should), now is the time to check out sales online. But don't spend thousands of dollars on a trip to Europe only to have it ruined because your cheap shoes are killing your feet.

Posted by
1768 posts

Shoes under $50: In March I will be looking for good walking shoes that I can break in before the trip

Given the likelihood of rain, make sure your shoes are suitable on wet surfaces, including cobblestones. I generally love my Skechers for travel - and pay about $45 (with tax) for a pair - but they are deadly slippery on wet cobblestone.

Posted by
1173 posts

I love London and have been there several times. London will be my next European trip to see all the things I have not seen on past trips and a few things I want to go back to! Great city!

My advice for what it is worth.... Don't have a budget on shoes, buy what is the most comfortable even if it means spending more money. I agree with everyone who wrote you about shoe advice. I hate buying shoes, because for me everything hurts. But once I find a comfortable shoe, I buy it and sometimes I buy more than one pair in different colors! If your feet hurt, your whole body hurts. If your feet hurt, you cannot enjoy what your seeing or doing because your thinking about your feet hurting. Remember, your spending a lot on this vacation, and buying a comfortable shoe will make a huge difference in having a great time or coming home with sore feet and sad time.

I even found great Ecco shoes at the Ecco store in Salzburg once and if though they were expensive, best thing I did was buy those shoes. Wear them every trip and on day outings! I got my money's worth out of them. Remember having shoes that last a long time, pays for themselves!

Bring bandits and stuff for blisters and make sure you bring good socks.

As for makeup, bring it! When you wear makeup every day and it is part of your rountine, you are used to it, you will regret not bringing it. You will miss wearing it.

Layer, layer, layer. Jeans and long sleeve shirts are fine for touring around, you will be going to pubs, museums, sites, walks, so jeans are great. Make sure you bring a raincoat with a hood and a hoodie or blazer or another jacket to layer under the rain jacket. It can be chilly walking around.

As for being fit, going to the gym, taking long walks, that's the right thing to do. If you get tired from standing in museums or walking around, pop into a pub and have a drink. London has tons of pubs and they are all great to visit and sit down in and relax for a short while and rest and then keep going. Going to pubs ( even if you don't drink beer) is a great part of English culture and fun to see the inside of the pubs!

Hope this helps!

Posted by
4136 posts

Ann’s right, and I wish I’d mentioned Ecco as another good brand for shoes worth considering.

I went back thru my iPhone step counter from our most recent London trip, in early March of this year, right before the pandemic was declared. None of the days included specific fitness walks, and there wasn’t time nor energy for “just going for a walk,” between our sightseeing, museum-going, and getting from Point A to Point B by Tube and/or on foot. We also did three London Walks walking tours in our almost 2 weeks, so that added lots of steps. So your experience could be vastly different, but for what it’s worth, the two days with the fewest steps both had more than 8,200 apiece. Many days had over 11k or even 12k. The highest step day, March 13, had 14,899. Wow, 101 more steps and I would’ve cracked 15k! A pair of shoes to wear during the day, and another to slip into for going to dinner, the ballet or theater, etc., is nice, and keeps them comfier overall.

Posted by
17872 posts

Sorry, one other thought about the shoes: If your feet start hurting and you have to reduce the miles you walk, heaven help your budget if you start taking black cabs in London. The Underground is great, but there can be a fair amount of walking inside the stations, especially if you have to transfer.

Posted by
3419 posts

Here's another vote for getting good shoes. Cheaping out on them will be a very painful false economy. Voice of experience here.

After much trial and error, the brands that work best for me are Abeo, Teva and Ahnu (now owned by Teva). REI or similar outdoor stores are good places to try on shoes or boots appropriate for the amount of walking and standing you will be doing.

I say boots because of the ankle support short boots can provide. They've saved me from face plants due to uneven pavement on more than one occasion. And don't even consider anything with a heel or very thick sole, including clogs.

It's too easy to step sideways on the edge of something and find yourself on the ground. I learned that lesson when I minced my way around France in 2012 in some adorable Dansko wedges.

Since then it's been nothing but waterproof flat lace-up shoes or boots for daily wear on trips. I do have some flat Mary Janes for the evening, but my experience is that on the RS tours there's rarely a need for changing into them.

Amazon has an option called Prime Wardrobe. You can order shoes to compare at no cost unless you keep them -- or neglect to return them within the time limit.

Below are some links that may be helpful. The bolded blue text is the link.

The Forum called Best Walking Shoes for Travel right here on the RS website has lots of participants with lots of opinions.

The Walking Company is having a big sale right now. I'd bet they have a store in St. Louis. You might even find some styles in your price range. That's where I've bought my Abeos, but they are sold elsewhere as well.

Tevas are also sold by different vendors, including Amazon. This is a link to their website.

I'm suspicious of any footwear that I have to break in. If it isn't comfortable out of the box, I don't buy it. Having said that I got some Keens for Ireland this year, that are a little iffy. I need to wear them a bit more to determine if they'll be on my feet when I go on that cancelled RS tour in October ( she said hopefully.)

I'd link to the boots that have worked so well for me if they were still available. Some think waterproof boots are overkill. But mine are great for rain, puddles, mud and wet grass, as well as for walking and standing in less challenging situations.

Almost as important as your shoes are the socks you wear with them. I swear by Sockwell and have multiple pairs in lots of colors. I like the Circulators and Orbitals best. They provide warmth, breathability and support for long days on my feet. They're also sold by many vendors including Amazon, but the links above are to their own website.

Posted by
24626 posts

Bring bandits and stuff for blisters

LOL Ann

That is a new idea and one I admit I had never considered - bring your own pickpockets with you and you never have to worry about foreign ones who may not speak your language......

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you everyone for the great advice! Our trip we are looking at for Rick Steves is the 7 or 10-day trip - can't remember, but it is the best of England I think -. Also, I will begin putting money back for shoes as well. My biggest issue is paying over a hundred for shoes and I feel like I'm not getting my money worth since I go through shoes quickly due to the flat feet. Also, I do remember seeing a few "Walking Company" stores in and around the STL area. I will check into those.

Posted by
7950 posts

I have a terrible time finding shoes that are comfortable for me. Even though I’m fairly frugal, I will pay (within reason) what it take for comfortable shoes, especially with travel in mind. I’ve wasted a lot of money on shoes over the years. They feel comfortable in the store so I buy them. I wear them around the house for awhile to be sure. If I think they are keepers after that it’s time to wear them for my daily activities. Often I discovered that they weren’t that comfortable after all. If you have a Nordstrom available they carry many styles and sizes. What I like the most is their return policy. Other stores don’t allow returns if you wear the shoes outside. Not Nordstrom. You can wear the shoes, even for an extended time, and return them if they don’t work out. I often order them online. They have more styles to choose from than a physical store can carry and shipping is free. If not satisfied you can ship them back. I personally hate doing that, but I have a Nordstrom only 15 minutes from my house. Save money elsewhere, but be sure you have happy feet or you will be miserable.

Posted by
719 posts

For England in the Fall I would recommend 'boots' - the leather, ankle high type. Low heel. Leather is fashionable yet still pretty waterproof and being a 'boot' rather than a 'shoe' means more of your foot/ankle will be covered which will make things much more comfortable in wet weather.

I am very cheap in terms of what I usually spend on clothes (Target, H&M, Old Navy) but shoes I will spend a LOT. If just one time you have to take a taxi because your feet hurt and you can't walk back from where ever you are you will have spent more than if you just got good footwear to start with. I understand your reluctance to spend on footwear for home but think how much you are spending on the trip, the extra $50/100 is not that much.

I generally buy my footwear a size (or at least half size) larger than I really need so I can put a good insert inside it. Makes it much more comfortable. I am talking about inserts that cost around $15-20, not the $3 ones.

You need TWO sets of footwear. They should both be broken in/comfortable. But even with months of breaking in I some times find once I'm on a trip and walking many miles a day, something I thought was comfortable is not so much. Being able to switch back and forth helps a lot.

Posted by
7964 posts

Best of England is 14 days, Villages of Southern England is 13 days, Best of London is 7. ALL are wonderful! If you have the time to do Best of England, do that one!

Jane...just laughing...yes, we were separated at birth....or at least our feet were, lol. Currently looking for short boots for a Christmas Market trip but having difficulty finding wide widths in them. If I can't find any, I'll just default to my waterproof athletic shoes.

Lo....I really, really, really wanted those Ahnu boots to fit but just not wide enough!

Several people mentioned Ecco which are lovely shoes. They just do not fit me but they might work for you.

I'm happy you are going to increase your shoe budget! I do agree with others that you should go someplace where they can help you with fit so it's good to try some place like the Walking Company or another shoe store that is geared toward fitting shoes properly. I'd also try on a bunch of shoes then walk away and consider unless you find a pair that feels perfect. Do try on ones that you feel might be out of your budget just to see how they fit your foot.

Can we talk socks? You'll want to wear the same kind of socks to try on that you'll wear on vacation. You want ones that won't rub and cause blisters.

Posted by
2643 posts

May I say, it is wonderful to read a post about packing, etc!

You've received excellent advice above, and although I agree, I just want to discuss this.
Weather: What I've found about the UK is that you never know what the weather will be. They have a reputation for rain, but I have found much more rain in Paris. They can be wonderfully cool in the summer months and hot in the shoulder months. Only when I was planning to work in a community allotment did I bring a waterproof jacket for any of my travels. That being said, if on a tour where your activity is out of your control when raining, it is likely to be a good idea to carry one if you are worried (I'm an umbrella girl and do have a plastic poncho (1"X1" folded) in my bag that I've never needed). The need for waterproof shoes in the city, not so much need, IMO.
Makeup: I, too, don't wear make up, except lipstick for chapstick (well, pre covid)...that being said, have you looked at Boom by Cindy Joseph? It looks like they have 3 small "Boomsticks" that will address moisture, lips, eye shadow and blush, which could be carried on without being in one's liquid's bag. They look like a compromise between no make up and make up? You'd be the better judge of that though.
Shoes: I agree with the others. I'm frugal, but I don't blink at the cost of comfortable and supportive shoes. When I find some that are comfortable, I buy them! Good shoes not only make your feet happy, but also your knees, hips, and back. IMO Years ago, I was with my H when he was buying shoes and I was amazed at the cost. He gave me the above lecture. I tried it the next time I was shoe shopping and never looked back. I use Abeo and Clarks for dressier walking.
If your feet are happy, chances are the rest of you will be as well.
Fitness: You have received some excellent recommendations above. I will add that once you reach an average of 10K steps, you might want to do extra hills and/or stairs. I have stairs in my house and I live on a hill. The intentional use of this topography gets my breathing stronger, which I think is important. The 'Up' work will alleviate the need for too many long walks although I might try Pam's system in the future...but you should be able to walk 6-10 miles comfortably, should you want to do so. I hear the city trips have a lot of walking, but the thing about a city trip is that you can leave for the day or a few hours, should you feel the need to do so. Just for example: When I went on the RS Greece, I had a lot going on before that trip so all I could do was 10K steps with no hills some days, on average, in the last month before the trip; however, I did walk on breakwaters frequently for balance during that last month as well. On the trip, I did the major climb that I wanted to do, if slower than some and faster than others, and joined in anything the group was doing with no issues, as well as having energy for my own explorations. Hold harmless: As I'm not found of up, I did pass on an optional climb that held no interest for me. On a tour, It's also important to be able to stand for long periods of time and walk slowly...sometimes walking slowly is more difficult than at a good pace. IMO

Thanks for this question. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
517 posts

Shoes under $50: In March I will be looking for good walking shoes that I can break in before the trip, what do you recommend. I am very frugal when it comes to spending money on shoes, I refuse to pay over $50 unless it is a very good shoe. I have flat feet so that is something I need to factor in also. The highest I'm willing to pay for a shoe is 70. <

What else are you going to do with your money? Buy good shoes!

I spend $120-200 for shoes. That's for a pair. My feet are my propulsion system and I take VERY good care of them. That includes seeing a foot doctor (a REAL doctor who specializes in feet) regularly and purchasing the best shoes that are designed specifically for my list of foot issues (which I shall not bore you with here).

I've been walking in Altra now for six or more years. Huge toe box, zero-drop, awesome cushioning. These factors allow me to enjoy walking ten to twenty kilometers, without pain, and without aggravating any of my existing conditions. (Altra do not require any breaking in at all but, if you have never used a zero-drop shoe, you will need to break in your feet.)

Excellent shoes have extended both the pleasure and length of my walking life. Buy good shoes.

Posted by
488 posts

as far as makeup and toiletries. It sounds like you are already a minimalist. what you mentioned should pack in a small space. try to find a mineral foundation and then you don't have to worry about liquid. I also pack everything in 3oz or smaller containers, nothing full size. and I take bar shampoo and soap to minimize other liquids.

weather: My experience is that first part of October can still be fall-like, and then it will turn colder and rainy later into the month. I try to avoid jeans, as they are not lightweight and take up lots of space. Of course, it depends on the length of your trip. You can wear them several times without washing. Maybe try to find some with spandex/Tencel in them for more lightweight and easier to wash. Or look for a chino or ponte knit.

I'm with you as I don't spend lots on shoes. I think Skechers shoes are reasonably priced and very good for walking. you may also want some ankle boots that are waterproof.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you everyone for your advice. Even pre-covid my husband and I didn't make a whole lot that is why I am in my early thirties just now going on an RS Tour trip. This trip will be our big-budget trip for a while. I know it sounds silly with my low budget but when you don't have the money you don't have it. In saying that however, I will add it to my budget for going on this trip because I have sciatica and do not want my back and feet to keep me from enjoying my time. Also, I think the trip was the RS Best of London because we could only afford the 7-day trip, not to mention my husband will only be able to take off two weeks at most and after the tour, we are going to visit my aunt in Germany.

Posted by
1237 posts

Congratulations on your first trip to the UK!

Having lived in, and also subsequently visited the UK many times, I would emphasise the great importance of good footwear.
I like Clark's and love Merrell's.
The Merrell's "Jungle Moccasin" type is great and SO comfy, and has great tread on it for slippery streets.
I've had a pair for 11 years, worn them all winter each year in the snow and rain, and they have barely any wear on them at all!
The UK has a mix of smooth sidewalks, uneven ones and cobblestones., so the last thing you want is to slip.
You should be able to find Merrells in a DSW store at a reduced price.

It may rain, it may not; but you will need a windproof waterproof jacket with a good hood just in case.
Layering is a must in case it is warmer than you might expect.
Forget an umbrella.
A better idea is to wear a baseball cap, with the jacket's hood over it, when it rains.
That way, the bill of the cap keeps the hood from slipping over your eyes.
Dress in layers.
I always pack a pair of thin long underwear on every trip.
You can wear it under clothes, or as pj's if it's chilly.
Gloves and a scarf will save you on a windy day.

Start looking in your local thrift and goodwill stores for travel clothing!
At this time of year, they will be starting to get rid of Winter and Fall clothing, so you could well pick up a great jacket or fleece.
No one cares what you look like in a place where you know no one....you just must be clean and presentable, that's all!
When I went to Iceland one winter, I bought two merino wool sweaters in a thrift store for $3. each.
I was not going to pay $200 for a sweater I'd only wear a couple of times.

Start saving tiny containers for your toiletries and makeup.
Fill them now, and measure how many days it takes to use each one, so you will know how much to take on your actual trip.

Happy planning!

Posted by
2373 posts

Ah, Best of London. A great tour! But, of my many RS tours, this one got my dogs to barking many days. It is almost all walking every day all day. One day I clocked 14 miles! Then there are the numerous steps in and out of the tube. Not to beat this to death, but with flat feet and a bad back the last thing to skimp on for this tour is shoes. You’ve gotten some recommendations on specific brands but they may or may not work for you. I have plantar fasciitis and sciatica. I am so glad I found Hoka One One. They are budget busters for sure, but saved my bacon in London. Buy the best shoes you can afford!

Posted by
498 posts

You posed great questions and have received excellent advice. I've spent a fair bit of time in England over the years in every season. Definitely check the weather but plan on rain and layering is definitely the way to go!

Couple of thoughts/suggestions:
1. if you don't have long underwear, Uniqlo sells leggings, camisoles and long-sleeved tops (Heattech line) they are fairly inexpensive and don't take up much space and for the typical weather you'll have in October, will do the trick.
2. Shoes are where you truly want to spend your money.
I second the suggestion for low heeled booties - pavement can be really uneven in areas and booties provide a bit more ankle support. Aim to bring two comfortable pairs of shoes - maybe a bootie and a pair of walking flats. This way you can trade off - each shoe will have different pressure points and alternating them helps keep your feet happy. Happy feet = happy trip!
3. As for toiletries, I try and stick to what I regularly use at home. I use a tinted sunscreen (yes, even in October there are UV rays!) blush, mascara, eyeliner and lipgloss. I transfer the sunscreen to a small plastic bottle - overall, this takes up little room in my liquids bag/toiletry kit.
4. a good waterproof jacket with either a fleece or thin wool sweater underneath will work fine.
5. Aim for 10 -12 pieces of clothing (including what you wear on the plane) - more tops than bottoms - I generally take 3 pairs of pants (2 pr jeans and 1 pr of ponte knit pants) 3 long sleeved t shirts, 2 short sleeved t shirts, 1 merino wool cardigan, 1 merino wool pullover and pjs, 4 underwear, 4 pr socks and an extra bra, waterproof jacket, scarf and gloves. This set up works for me whether I'm going for a week or a month. Just make sure your tops go with your pants and sweaters! A few necklaces, a couple of pairs of earrings and I'm good to go. Not the most interesting wardrobe, but function over form is my mantra.
As for blisters - best bandaids I've found is a brand called Compeed - you can find them in just about any chemist's shop in England - they aren't the cheapest but they really work.

Posted by
6052 posts

There can be lots of positives to an organised tour when visiting a foreign country but there really is no need to do an organised tour to a city like London and if you plan your trip yourself you will save a lot of money. You can also focus your trip on aspects of the city you are really interested in rather than someone else’s list.
Grab a London guidebook to get some ideas and there are lots of people on here who can give you useful advice.

Regarding clothes, wear what you would wear visiting a similar city in the US. There really is no need for any kind of special “travel” wardrobe. Weather in the U.K. is not extreme but it is in unpredictable. Go with layers and definitely bring a properly waterproof jacket. London is no where near as wet as people make out but it will almost certainly rain in October. When it does rain it won’t rain all day, showers usually come and go through a day. I’m going to disagree with the need for long underwear in London in October. Unless you are very unlucky it’s not that cold. Remember if you do get caught out you can always buy something when you are in the city.

If money is tight for shoes, waterproof jackets etc also look at EBay. It’s my go to place for shoes. You can also sell on stuff that you might buy for the trip that you won’t use back home. It’s almost like renting something..

If you wear makeup at home why wouldn’t you wear it on holiday? I don’t wear a lot of make up but I would feel weird if I didn’t wear it when out and about. I really won’t take up a lot of room in your bag.

Posted by
2592 posts

This is blasphemy, but I wouldn't pay RS prices for a London trip. London is very doable on your own because the public transportation there is awesome. You can easily do day trips to places like Windsor or even farther away on the train. If tourism is slow to return, you might get some good deals on lodging.
I agree that you can't skimp on shoes. A friend of mine had foot problems and when she went to the podiatrist, he told her to stop wearing cheap tennis shoes.

Posted by
2643 posts

I have to agree with Cala. You will save a lot of money and have just as nice and informative a time by not going on the RS London tour. London is a great place to start your independent international travel. Tube and busses are easy peasy, and English is their language. (Now I'm not saying the RS London tour is not beneficial, but you don't need it, and certainly if you are stretching your money from the start, just.don't.). Instead, buy good shoes and splurge where you want to splurge during your week in London or save the extra money for your next trip!

Posted by
2373 posts

I had been to London several times. I then took the RS London tour, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, you could see everything on your own. But try to plan the RS tour itinerary in a week with tickets, the navigation learning curve, experiences you probably could not have unless you planned way in advance (the opening ceremony at the Tower of London), having a knowledgeable guide who adds so much to your week. Take the tour!

Posted by
6052 posts

Everyone is going to have a different opinion on this.
If money isn’t an issue do the tour but 4400 dollars for two people for what is basically 5.5 days tour 6 nights hotel is a lot. None of the sites on this trip are particularly difficult to get tickets for and all will have guided tours that you can join.. Travel on public transport is easy and not particularly expensive. Planning your own trip will give you time to see stuff that you are really interested in seeing and leave time to experience the city away from these main tourist sites. London is a great city for a wander with the real atmosphere away from the main routes.

I’m not anti tour. They can be great for a lot of trips but for somewhere like London you really are looking to pay a lot of money for unnecessary “hand holding”, Spend the money you save on theatre tickets or great meals!

Posted by
156 posts

For my last trip I purchased Rockport Copley Waterproof boots and was very satisfied. They kept my feet warm and dry. They do come in wide widths and are currently slightly over $100. We went to Scandinavia in September 2019 and they were perfect. I would strongly suggest you check out waterproof shoes because this is probably the first trip of many.

Posted by
2643 posts

If money isn’t an issue do the tour but 4400 dollars for two people for what is basically 5.5 days tour 6 nights hotel is a lot. None of the sites on this trip are particularly difficult to get tickets for and all will have guided tours that you can join.. Travel on public transport is easy and not particularly expensive. Planning your own trip will give you time to see stuff that you are really interested in seeing and leave time to experience the city away from these main tourist sites.

I'm with Emma on this one, and I loved my RS tour. The OP indicated money was in short supply, so why spend it on an unnecessary fully guided tour when she can have a wonderful vacation on her/their own for half the price? Independent travel is also a lot of fun and provides another aspect of personal growth. Plus, London would be a great place to start. IMO. She's in her 30's. She has plenty of time for arranged tours some where in the future when money is more available. Also, I think the OP might have more energy than the average RS tour fan...

Posted by
183 posts

I read 2 concerns: budget, and moving at a pace that might not suit your comfort level., whatever your footwear. I have taken 4 RS tours and loved every one of them, but it was always because I couldn't handle the logistics due to language barriers (Turkey, and My Way Spain) and am also a solo traveler so transportation, since I don't like renting cars, is an obstacle. I used, however, the outlines of his tour to the Basque region of Spain and France to create my own trip. Read the day-by-day itinerary very carefully to be sure that you really want to see and do what you are paying for the tour to arrange for you- and then check what it would cost to do it yourself. I have also sometimes used a one day tour to get somewhere I wanted to go on solo tours- and the Free Tours, often by history students, are fantastic.
I would also spend some time on Trip Advisor (take it with many grains of salt!) and really talk over your priorities of what YOU want to see. Check Booking.com and use the no-penalty cancellation option. I really like their option of waiting to pay until you arrive- that is another budget- friendly option. You could find an apartment and really save on meals. RS usually has hotels with wonderful breakfasts but I seldom, as a vegan with a lot of dietary restrictions enjoyed the other meals on the tour. I was much happier just grabbing something from a market and love seeing what is available- plus a big money saver.
With language not an issue and excellent public transportation you really might want to consider the excellent DIY advice. BTW, Allbirds "Mizzle" style is another to look at- they run wide and have comfortably accommodated my horrible old feet for lots of walking- and are somewhat water- resistant and warm. I would add that waiting in line and touring museums with concrete floors can be more challenging for me that just walking city streets. You could balance your daily itinerary to account for some time to sit :)
What an exciting adventure to be looking forward to!

Posted by
17872 posts

The Premier Inn chain is a reasonably priced option that has proved reliable for me and many others, should you decide to travel on your own. I do think that's a good suggestion. I think the two of you could have a somewhat longer trip and still save money that way. London is, indeed, a comparatively easy place to travel on ones own. If you think you'd enjoy taking a lot of local tours on foot, you can do so very inexpensively via London Walks. The current price is 15 pounds per person, and the walks last two hours. The best thing is that you don't have to book the walks in advance, so you can check the weather and the tour schedule and then make a spur-of-the-moment decision.

Posted by
3419 posts

I love RS tours. I learn a lot on them due to the organization and guide(s). And as a solo traveler, I have more fun because of the group. But I agree that London is a place where you could do all the planning yourself and spend less money.

I was last there in 2016 and stayed in a studio apartment for a week about 2 blocks from the Holborn tube station. It was a straight ride from there to Heathrow. And it was a good location for the things I wanted to do and see on that trip.

Even traveling solo, I find apartments cheaper and an advantage when staying in one location for at least 5 nights. They have most of the comforts of home and I can be on my own schedule. When my husband was traveling with me, I always rented ones with a separate bedroom and bath that is not ensuite. That way I could get up early and putz around without disturbing him.

Booking.com lists apartments as well as hotels and B&Bs. With London's great public transportation, you can stay almost anywhere, but if you want to walk to most of the things you see and do, staying near them is a bonus.

Google Maps is a good tool for deciding where to stay. You can use it for directions that include walking routes and how long they will take, transportation routes and timetables, you name it.

This link goes to the RS info on London. Lurking and asking questions on the England forum as well as doing lots of Googling can also help in planning. Setting priorities is always a big issue when self-planning.

The fact that you're going to Germany after London, puts a bit of a twist in the clothing advice we've been providing. Depending on where in Germany, it could be colder. Be sure to check on the weather there, too.

Now, about jeans. I usually like really stretchy, pull on pants like many have mentioned. I've avoided jeans due to the weight and slow drying if I had to sink wash them. And I found them very uncomfortable primarily because the waist button and zipper hit on a bad scar from 2 surgeries in the same location.

Over the past year I've had to replace my entire wardrobe due to a significant weight loss. I had no jeans at all and during the process, I tried 2 slightly different styles of jeans from Eddie Bauer.

They are lighter weight, slightly stretchy and dry much faster than normal jeans. They fit me comfortably and I love the way they look. I plan to take one pair of them on my hoped-for RS Best of Ireland in 14 Days tour in early October. Since I wear 1 pair of pants and pack 2, picking which pair of jeans for the trip will be the challenge.

I'm putting the links to them below. These are very well reviewed and popular jeans, so I'd expect they'll be getting more of them in stock eventually.

Women's Elysian Slim Straight Jeans - Color - Slightly Curvy. Fiber content is 62% cotton/28% viscose/8% polyester/2% spandex.

Women's Elysian Slim Straight High Rise Jeans. Fiber content 49% cotton/26% TENCEL™ lyocell/15% viscose/8% polyester/2% Lycra® spandex.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you everyone, and thanks Alan. I wanted to take the tour cause I don't want to have to deal with the mess of planning everything since I've never been overseas before. My husband and I are hoping my aunt will want to come over to London to meet us instead of traveling to Germany. We might only have an extra day or two to visit before heading back home so our plan is to do the tour, then stay an extra day or two, then begin our trek back to the states. I figure by doing one of Rick's tours we can get a feel for the place and anytime we want to come back we can just do a My-way or look up the places and such we want on Booking. I tend to wear jeans for a few days unless they get visibly dirty. I was thinking shoe wise getting a really solid pair of walking boots that would work since yall said they would be good for my ankles and there is cobblestone. I also thought to bring a pair of black shoes that look nice but are great for walking. What do yall think? As far as makeup goes, I am thinking of just bringing foundation, coverup, blush, mascara, and a neutral eyeshadow pallet with a handful of brushes. For S&C I only use Shampoo and have a detangling leave-in Conditioner. I want to try and only take the shoulder bag I purchased when RS had a sale on his travel items here, as well as a backpack my husband can tote around. I have been seeing on the travel part of the forum it is best to only take carry-on bags because it is less likely to get lost as well as not attracting thieves.

Posted by
2643 posts

I take carryon size luggage because it is easy to manage, but I check my carryon wheeled bag, usually. It's less of a hassle for me to check it than to keep it with me around the airport. In many, many years of travel my bag has never been lost, but I do carry all important items in my personal item, usually including a change of clothes just in case. There are also things I do to help the airlines not to lose my bag, which I won't enumerate here as it is off topic, I think.

It is unclear to me if you two are sharing the backpack as your one carryon or if your husband is carrying your backpack and his bag. If you can't carry your own backpack/carryon, you might want to use a small wheeled suitcase so you only have to lift it on rare occasions...or pack even lighter. The first thing to learn in travel is you need to take care of your own luggage...because you never know what might occur that will require you to handle your luggage (and possibly his), and because it is only fair. LOL

Posted by
16 posts

Blockquote I take carryon size luggage because it is easy to manage, but I check my carryon wheeled bag, usually. It's less of a hassle for me to check it than to keep it with me around the airport. In many, many years of travel my bag has never been lost, but I do carry all important items in my personal item, usually including a change of clothes just in case. There are also things I do to help the airlines not to lose my bag, which I won't enumerate here as it is off topic, I think. It is unclear to me if you two are sharing the backpack as your one carryon or if your husband is carrying your backpack and his bag. If you can't carry your own backpack/carryon, you might want to use a small wheeled suitcase so you only have to lift it on rare occasions...or pack even lighter. The first thing to learn in travel is you need to take care of your own luggage...because you never know what might occur that will require you to handle your luggage (and possibly his), and because it is only fair. LOL

What I meant was that he will have a backpack and I will have my shoulder bag that I purchased on the Rick Steves shop when they were on sale. That way we don't have to "check" any bags in. I would much prefer to have carry-ons in the likely chance there is a hiccup than if we just had one carry-on and a roller.

Posted by
7964 posts

I'll just add one more bit of non-packing advice....I like to arrive the day before a tour starts even if it's a city tour. It just makes me less anxious in case there is some kind of travel hiccup and flights are delayed, then you still have time to make your afternoon meet up with the group.

You'll have a wonderful time!

Posted by
24626 posts

where in Germany is your aunt, MrsFrantz21?

It may make a difference to the trip...

Posted by
8 posts

I recommend the idea of saving money by not taking the tour. If your aunt has lived in Germany for any length of time, odds are that she has been to London more than once. Any chance she would be willing to help plan your itinerary?
We use tours primarily for the transportation between points and not having to plan hotels. In a city, it is easy to find an airbnb/VRBO base. A bit out of the tourist area is good because you can visit the bakery and grocery store to get provisions for your stay. The first day, we take a hop-on-hop off tour and just stay on the bus. It gives us a great idea of the layout of the city. Then we plan the rest of the stay. You won't see everything, but this probably won't be your last trip there in your lifetime.
Shoes - take your inserts with you when you try on shoes. Pull out the insoles to see how the inserts work. I have non-prescription inserts and find that by getting a longer or wider shoe, I can put the original insert in over my insert for additional cushioning.

Posted by
2643 posts

MrsF, I think you misunderstood what I said. Wheeled bags can be carryons, as mine always are. It's size, not the wheels. But if you have only have one bag each, then that's great! I misunderstood and thought your H was carrying your bag. LOL. Very much a no-no in our household...altho my rule, not my H's.

Posted by
4382 posts

Taking a RS tour is a great way to start out. Yes, it's possible to travel more cheaply on one's own, but having the housing, most meals, and various sights covered is a relief. In our family, I'm the planner, and in countries where English is not the primary language, I'm the designated communicator. The stress can be exhausting. When we do a RS tour, it adds to the vacation-like atmosphere for me.

We also like to combining RS tours with travel on our own. The trip we had planned for this year (sigh) included about 12 days on a RS tour, and an equal amount of time touring other cities on our own.

One of the things the RS guides do on the tours is to teach you how to travel on your own. Tips about public transportation are invaluable. People joke about the tour guides in Rome giving lessons on how to cross the street, but as many of you know, it's not intuitive. We have learned so much from the 14 RS tours we have taken, and have been able to apply that knowledge and experience when travelling on our own.

So, MrsFranz21, if a tour is what you want to do, don't let people talk you out of it. It's your first time in Europe; relax, enjoy, and learn.

Posted by
617 posts

What Jane said times 10.

First European trip- take the tour. Enjoy yourself, learn and Relax! For the record, My wife and I took the RS tour of Rome after having been in Rome 3 times previously. The logic was simple, if the tour was boring or didn’t provide us with new experiences then we could just skip the “tour” part of the day and just use the hotel as our base and do what we want as we “knew” the city. The only time we “ditched” the tour was at the Vatican Museums as I wanted to see the smaller sections of the Museum that tours don’t go to.— in all other aspects that tour was a joy. Those who only do tours often miss things....AT THE SAME TIME those who shun tours are also missing a lot (sadly they just don’t know it). There is also the enjoyment of sites with others, the group dinners—the social aspect of the tour. Do what you feel is best for you!!!

Posted by
456 posts

I echo what everyone else has said about the importance of good shoes. My only suggestion is that now is probably a good time to start shopping with all of the post- holiday sales occurring. I imagine that there are TJ Maxx and Marshall stores (or similar) near you. Haunt them. I was actually introduced to Ahnus by finding a pair at TJ Maxx. My only regret is that although they had two pairs in my size I only got one. When I went back to get the other they were, of course, gone. If there is a REI near you get on their e-mail list to find out when they are having a "garage sale". At those sales REI sells used items that were sometimes returned for a very minor reason. The tag will say why it was returned and what the condition is. REI also has an on-line "garage store". Returns are possible but I believe you have to pay shipping.

Posted by
2643 posts

Have you read "Europe Through the Back Door"? If not, you should. It's a wonderful educational tool.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks everyone, I am finding everything super helpful...I will keep all of this in mind for the future.

Have you read "Europe Through the Back Door"? If not, you should. It's a wonderful educational tool.

I've not heard of this, what is it?

Posted by
7950 posts

Europe Through The Backdoor is a book written by Rick Steves to give travelers information about how to travel. You can purchase it through this website in the Travel Store. You should see where you can choose Shop Online to make the purchase.

Posted by
16 posts

Europe Through The Backdoor is a book written by Rick Steves to give travelers information about how to travel. You can purchase it through this website in the Travel Store. You should see where you can choose Shop Online to make the purchase.

Oh cool, yea the only thing I've read from him was "Travel As A Political Act" which was what really piqued my interest in travel.

Posted by
2144 posts

I have been to London in late September--occasional rain, rather humid --and brought my usual mix of 3/4 and short-sleeve tops, with an outer layer of a lightweight sweater plus the most wonderful light but somehow still warm rayon blend jacket by Calvin Klein I found on Amazon by chance--it goes everywhere because it's really flattering, has pockets, and I can wear a T and one of the light sweaters underneath without looking bulky. I would perhaps lean more towards longer sleeves than short in October.

Adding to the chorus re shoes--don't set a budget, try lots of styles and remember that a comfy well-made shoe is the foundation of any good trip. I've had a couple trips that started with a pair of favorite but not practical shoes that ended with me buying as many blister bandaids as possible and cutting short some explorations, ultimately ending up buying new comfy shoes to see me through. I have now found the perfect combination and wear my lightweight but like walking on clouds Pikolino Vicar ankle boots and my second pair are Ecco leather sneaker/oxfords--neither needed any breaking in, they are fabulous. If there is a walking or comfort shoe store near you a trip there to see what would suit your flat feet is a good idea. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a costly shoe for much less on Amazon or eBay. And socks--good socks like Smartwool or Darn Tough light wool are perfect, dry easily overnight.

Posted by
4382 posts

"Europe Through the Back Door" is just jam-packed with travel tips. It's worth reading and rereading. I reread it recently when the new edition came out, and bought a copy for some friends who were planning to join us on a trip to Europe. When my friend waved it off, I insisted it was required reading, if they were going with us.

If you don't want to spend the money on the book, chances are excellent your local library has a copy. The older editions are good, but the latest (2019?) has significant updates.

And it's on sale on the website! https://store.ricksteves.com/shop/p/europe-through-the-back-door

Posted by
3419 posts

Absolutely get ETBD. While you wait for it to arrive, get a preview of some advice by going to the Travel Tips section of this RS website. It's a good place to learn what you don't know that you don't know.

Here's the link: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips.

Posted by
598 posts

I wanted to take the tour cause I don't want to have to deal with the mess of planning everything since I've never been overseas before.

I guess I'm puzzled. You don't want to spend more than $70 for shoes (hopefully you've changed your mind) but you're willing to spend probably an extra $2,000 to avoid the hassle of planning?

I've taken several RS tours and think most of them are actually bargains. These are the multi-city tours. The convenience of having a tour bus that leaves when it is convenient for the tour and takes you almost door-to-door is like finding an extra few hours per day that can be used for sightseeing. It would be almost impossible to duplicate the itinerary day-by-day using a car or public transport, and it's much easier to just step on the bus than navigate city to city on your own. Then there's the local guides waiting to meet the group at times that work for the tour logistics; it's unlikely the time you'd arrive in the next town on your own plus dropping your bags off lines up with the public tour start. What the tour does in 3 days would probably take 4+ on your own. Oh, and add in a guide that knows the region and usually adds a few unscheduled stops and the tour becomes even better.

But in a city tour the transportation advantage evaporates, and so do many of the others. RS will have a tour guide & reservations at attractions (often to meet a local guide) that save time. But you can get timed entrance tickets for many attractions. Many museums themselves have daily guided tours. You can go on the numerous walking tours offered by companies in London, some offering skip-the-line admission just like the RS tour. Since you're in London you can easily get to tours at any starting time. You could even splurge for a private guide for a day or half-day.

I'll admit I don't like all the planning; it takes time and there's lots to consider. A single city reduces the hassle significantly. You only need one hotel, not one at each stop. Figuring out transportation between cities is not a concern. RS conveniently publishes the London tour itinerary so you can try to match that, or do it at a slightly slower pace (which is what I'd recommend). You might want to invest an hour or two estimating what it would cost on your own. Look up hotel rates for 6 nites to match the RS 7-day tour (in the tour math all companies use breakfast the following morning counts as a "day" even though the tour is over). Add on a few more days even. Look up admission prices to the attractions in the tour itinerary. Add in a few walking tours. Add in the 3 dinners w/o drinks RS provides. I'm guessing the total will be half or less of what you're planning on spending.

Posted by
16 posts

I have been to London in late September--occasional rain, rather humid --and brought my usual mix of 3/4 and short-sleeve tops, with an outer layer of a lightweight sweater plus the most wonderful light but somehow still warm rayon blend jacket by Calvin Klein I found on Amazon by chance--it goes everywhere because it's really flattering, has pockets, and I can wear a T and one of the light sweaters underneath without looking bulky. I would perhaps lean more towards longer sleeves than short in October.
Adding to the chorus re shoes--don't set a budget, try lots of styles and remember that a comfy well-made shoe is the foundation of any good trip. I've had a couple trips that started with a pair of favorite but not practical shoes that ended with me buying as many blister bandaids as possible and cutting short some explorations, ultimately ending up buying new comfy shoes to see me through. I have now found the perfect combination and wear my lightweight but like walking on clouds Pikolino Vicar ankle boots and my second pair are Ecco leather sneaker/oxfords--neither needed any breaking in, they are fabulous. If there is a walking or comfort shoe store near you a trip there to see what would suit your flat feet is a good idea. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a costly shoe for much less on Amazon or eBay. And socks--good socks like Smartwool or Darn Tough light wool are perfect, dry easily overnight.

Yea I decided to factor in a few hundred for shoes with our budget and then just hope and pray I get a really good deal. Loving all the advice. If I don't respond over the next month it will be because I have some family stuff come up, just FYI. Thanks again, everyone!

Posted by
11972 posts

Another comment about shoes? I always, always bring two pairs of different brand or model, and switch them out over the course of a trip. Along with just making my feet feel better if I alternately give my shoes a rest, it's good to have the spare in case one gets soaked, damaged or turns out not to be quite as great for really long days on foot as I'd anticipated. Wear one pair on the plane and pack the other. LOL, I think we've made the point that shoes are the one thing NOT to scrimp on, eh? Nothing kills an otherwise terrific day of sightseeing - and it's VERY easy to cover 10+ miles a day tramping about European cities - than hurtin' dogs!

Along with others not wishing to appear anti-tour, I'll agree that London would be one of the easiest choices for the independent, first-time traveler. Obviously, not having to deal with a completely foreign language is a major part of the equation, and we found the tube to be an easy way to cover the larger amounts of ground. As you appear to be anxious about a maiden voyage abroad, I might suggest a hotel or B&B with a 24/7 staffed desk versus an apartment so that help is available should you need it? Even if you don't, having it close at hand can provide some extra peace of mind.

Finding one's way around is no different than doing the same in any large U.S. city you've never been to: use a map! Same as at home, hotels can easily be booked online, and attraction tickets pre-purchased as well. The riches of free museums in London, such as the British Museum, National Gallery, Museum of London, V&A, etc. - make up for the steep ticket prices of other attractions, such as Westminster Abbey and the Tower. How steep some of those prices will be will depend on the exchange rate at the time you'll be traveling. Currently it's .73 British Pounds to 1 U.S. dollar. That puts, say, a £25.00 adult ticket to the Tower at nearly $34.00 USD so something to keep in mind if choosing to go solo. Just like shoes, though, budget for the better attractions is not the place to skimp as, well, they're a big reason for going, right? What I would skip? Stuff like Madam Tussands and the London Dungeon.

Anyway, my husband and I are indie travelers and do find that we're able to afford to stay longer, see more of what we want to see and less of what we don't, if going it alone. Planning? Yes, it takes some planning and lots of reading but you'll want to read up on what you'll be seeing even if taking the RS tour! Along with heightening your anticipation of the trip, you'll be able to absorb more of the info your guides will be imparting if you've done some homework. Along with guidebooks, the websites for the attractions themselves often provide lots of valuable background. 😉

Whatever you choose to do, I'm SURE you'll have a terrific time!

Posted by
5483 posts

Congratulations on your first trip to London and first RS tour.

London is my favorite city on the planet.

I’ve been visiting and staying in London since Nixon was in office. As I’ve commented many times before,
“ London is always changing yet always the same. “
Never fails to excite as I explore it’s different neighborhoods, museums, parks, new architecture and take day trips.

I’ve preferred to travel in the Fall. Carry on luggage. From experience what I pack has become second nature.

On average I walk 5-6 miles a day when there so discovering a brand of shoe that was comfortable, and durable was a priority. Keen shoes and sandals have been my preferred everyday and travel brand for years. Not inexpensive but ALL durable, practical and most importantly comfortable!

I take both my Keen slip ons and low cut hiking shoes. Each pair at least 8 years old and still look great! I swear by the brand but you will need to discover what shoes work for your feet. It takes time, research, and most importantly breaking in whatever you buy. Nothing worse than sore feet and blisters when you are trying to enjoy yourself sight seeing. I also recommend Smartwool socks. I never leave home without them.

Lastly and this is merely intel to help you discover things that you might enjoy seeing when you have free time.

https://www.timeout.com/london https://officiallondontheatre.com/
https://londonist.com/
And
https://www.spellzone.com/blog/Sixty_American_English_Words_and_their_British_English_Counterparts.htm

Hopeful it will be safe to travel in the New Year!

Cheers

Posted by
990 posts

I have been to London In October and it was HOT! I brought all my rain gear and only wore it once, so glad I layered and brought short sleeve tops. BTW:I am Carry on only that expands for check in on the way home.

Clothing: Wear any jacket, hat, scarf, Jeans, warm shoes on the plane so you can have more room in your suitcase.
Make-Up & Toiletries: Makeup is more important than other things IMHO. I would reccomend a foundation with SPF I am currently loving BareMinerals Complexion rescue SPF 30, very light coverage. We all use the same basic products, bring the basics and leave everything else at home. I use the Ebags pack it flat for my toiletries and my normal makeup bag for my makeup. I Use everything you do plus a little more. Bring a smalish pallet with neutrals, Morphe has some great smallish basic ones. I bring all my hair care and can last 30 days with the travel sizes tubes filled with my products. I also bring a tiny straightener and normal size curling iron.
Shoes: SPEND THE MONEY! For London in October I would reccomend a bootie (Aetrix brand) that has a good grip to go from cobblestones to slick and maybe wet museum floors, the last thing you want is to take a fall. I purchased a bootie in 2015 (Aetrix $110), same ones have been on multiple trips and worn at work on rainy days. And a Tennis shoe I like Addidas ($50-$75) for the style and support. Thin socks worn with both for comfort. Think if one pair gets wet you need a back up. so many people get Planters Fracitious on trips due to using bad shoes. Buy shoes you will use later on, same goes with clothes.
Fitness: It's so funny how fit we are by the end of the trip, you can physically see it in our videos! I would just walk, walk, walk...I was more surprised by the amount of stairs everywere, Just to go to the bathroom you need to go up the stairs, turn right then down the stairs..

Posted by
1190 posts

I agree w everything that has been written about shoes. In terms of getting in traveling shape, my neighbor rides around town on her bike with a cart behind w concrete blocks in it. YMMV

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you everyone for your advice. I really hope travel bans are lifted this year. My husband and I are working on our budget now for what we are going to spend for the trip. I made sure to set a limit of $250 and if I need to increase I'm okay with that. Thankfully I got a new job - I'm a teacher's assistant -, and so that is an extra $600 to $800 a month we will have to pay some debt off and put back for our trip. Again thank you thank you thank you to everyone! I look forward to taking this trip and bringing a journal of all the places I will see in the future when my hubs and I come back. I did find an amazing BnB that I want to check out while down there since we are going a day or two before the trip and staying a few days after. I hope to get more info so the following year, or in a few years, I can come back.

Posted by
6982 posts

many people get Planters Fracitious on trips due to using bad shoes.

Always amusing to see what spell check does.....

Posted by
548 posts
  1. Quick dry hiking pants; carry a polyester fleece pullover shirt or polyester zippered jacket in case you need to put it on over whatever else you wear.
  2. Leave your makeup at home. Skip using makeup on your trip. See how well you tolerate going without it.
  3. Well built walking shoes cost over $70. Is there is a low-end sporting goods store near you? "Dunhams" is a low-end sporting goods store near me in southeast Michigan.
  4. Yes you should do cardiovascular exercise - it keeps your muscles from atrophying. Most of weight, maybe 90%, is diet related. Make a short list of food ingradients you will judge to be healthy enough, go for 1-2 weeks or more or indefinitely only eating foods you make from scratch using those ingredients, see how you feel. Don't eat any oils, salts or sweetners, loose your need to derive enjoyment from eating, stay hydrated, don't confuse hunger and thirst, don't wrongly use food to cure your thirst, make sure you are not eating too much volume per sitting, considering using a food scale to help teach yourself what appropriate serving sizes look like.

If necessary I can delete this if it is not tolerable or is offensive.

Posted by
4136 posts

many people get Planters Fracitious on trips due to using bad shoes.
Always amusing to see what spell check does...

...Is that something new from the packaged peanut company? Many people do like salty snacks ...

Actually, I’ve gotten additional foot and leg comfort from inserting foam insoles, bought at the grocery store, found next to the shoelaces. Nice after a long days of walking/standing, but that will add another $5 to $9 on top of the price of the shoes.

Posted by
16 posts

Yall with these comments! LOL And Mike thanks for the advice. I appreciate it! Yes, I have eliminated a lot of food out of my diet and trying to stay healthy while only allowing certain cheat foods once in a while. I have a new job now and have been getting in 7 to a little over 10, 000 steps in a day. I also have started back at the gym and in the next month going to get a nutritionist to help me stay on track. Has anyone heard anything about the travel ban?

Posted by
16 posts

So I'm looking at shoes that I can purchase either this month or the next for the trip - if it winds up being available in October. These are the ones I found here at Tevva
They are Mid Hiker boots. The description actually says, "SugarPine Mid Waterproof." What do yall think? I am hoping to have half the money in my savings for shoes and the trip itself by June, and then just keep putting a few hundred in there until October if said trip actually happens.

Posted by
1190 posts

Tevvas have a good reputation... I've never had any, though
I like the idea of buying the shoes now... start by wearing them for a couple of hours on a Saturday in the house.... build up the exposure, remembering that feet are usually puffier in the evening....

Posted by
7950 posts

My favorite sandals are Teva. They are nubuck and nice looking. Very comfortable and I’ve worn them for miles and miles of walking in Europe. I haven’t tried their shoes. You’ve received good advice to wear them around the house quite a bit to see how they feel.

Posted by
348 posts

I have an older pair of Teva ankle boots that are kind of like these, but not exactly:

https://www.teva.com/women-boots/ellery-ankle-waterproof/1103224.html?dwvar1103224color=BLK#start=9&cgid=women-boots

I love them. They've been through several Vermont winters and are still going strong. They are comfortable, waterproof, and still look good after all these years. I've brought them on many trips.

I like them so much that a couple of months ago I bought these tall boots:

https://www.teva.com/sale/ellery-tall-waterproof/1108070.html?dwvar1108070color=BLK#start=24&cgid=women-boots

I love these, too. They were a bit stiff at first because the waterproof leather is thick, but they have softened right up and I'm wearing them almost every day, through snow and slush.

So based on my experience I would highly recommend Teva boots if they fit your feet. I did size up a half size for both my pairs. And look for sales since they are pricey -- but they last a long time.

Have fun planning your trip!