Everyone has their own way of travelling or moving country – some do it in luxury others do it on a shoestring budget. We tend to go somewhere in between, opting to sleep in beds or on air mattresses as opposed to in 5-star hotel rooms or 16-bed hostel dorms. Every trip, big move and amazing adventure has a period of downtime and waiting until the next step. Since I’m only new to London, I won’t promise to know everything and if you find key information missing – please add it in the comments. For now, here is a list of my initial top 5 tips for living out of a suitcase (when you’re in a state of relocation limbo), the practical side to my previous reflective post about our recent move!
#1: Travel on the cheap
Go off-peak or even better, on foot, to save a few pence here and there! Peak travel times on the tube start from 6.30am to 9.29am and 4pm to 6.59pm, Monday through Friday except on public holidays. To save on travel, get an Oyster card which caps your daily fares when you reach up to £7 from any combined bus, overground rail or underground tube public transit journeys. You have to pay a £5 deposit for an Oyster card and then you’ll need to top it up using cash or card at the station. But if you are visiting the city, you can return your Oyster card to get a refund at the end of your trip, including the deposit you paid!
My favourite way to travel is on foot. London is an easy city to get around with lots of signage and the distance between tube stops isn’t really far at all. Just this weekend we took a long afternoon stroll from the Northern Borough of Camden through St. John’s Wood to Baker Street, stopping for a coffee break. Then we walked past Buckingham Palace before heading into Covent Garden via Westminister to watch the Football Club Final. Google Maps tells me that was a six-mile walk, but because there is so much to see and do along the way we hardly noticed (until the next day!)
#2: Recycle your wardrobe
This is a photo of my new walk-in closet…first time I’ve ever had one to hang my outfits in! Before we moved into our new apartment and while living out of a suitcase, I would diligently roll and re-roll or hang some of my clothes to ensure they looked nice each time I wore them. This is of course assuming you have the luxury of a laundry facility nearby, as it helps keep the wardrobe recycling fresh! My staple items include thin jumpers (sweaters), singlets (tank tops) and light tops in different designs or colours which can be layered with alternating jeans or skirts and scarves depending on the weather for a varying look. I have a couple of different length jackets to dress up or down with and I generally only have three pairs of flat shoes to choose from: a casual pair, a dressy pair and ankle boots for bad weather days.
Tip #3: Give your food some thought
Many places will have some sort of coffee and pastry or set course menu for lunch which can help you save money. There are often ‘burger nights’ and every pub will have a Sunday roast if your stomach’s aching for a bit of home cooking. I’ve been to a few places in Southbank and Covent Garden that have great lunch specials where you can get two or three courses for under £15 per person. So fill up on your lunch break and eat a lighter dinner, to stretch your budget a bit further! Time Out London often publishes easy recipes and since we were lucky enough to stay in a place with a kitchen, I could cook and bake to keep us going. I found myself buying a lot of spinach – you can use it for all three meals and even bake muffins for afternoon tea. If you do decide to walk often, you may even run into a promo worker handing out new drink or food samples, an added bonus of living in a busy city!
Tip #4: Get creative with your time
I have attended a few free events since arriving in London, the one pictured above is from the April edition of Creative Mornings. It’s a free early morning event for creatives in the city complete with coffee, croissants and chats (however on this occasion I found myself immersed in group improv games!) While this type of event might not be for everyone, there are countless lunchtime and evening talks at galleries, museums, educational institutions and start-up incubators. There are also recreational sports groups, outdoor concerts, theatre, pop up shops, food markets and depending on the time of day and which tube station you’re using, there are often buskers belting out tunes to keep you entertained. The opportunities to fill your time are endless!
Tip #5: Don’t fill ALL of your time
I like to keep busy but isn’t it nice to be able to say yes to a spur of the moment event, coffee catch up or just witness something new in your city? Whether it’s walking home a different way or popping into a place you wouldn’t normally visit, London is a big, bustling place full of new adventures to be had.
Happy exploring and best of luck making the most out of your next ‘living out of a suitcase’ experience!