Moving across the Atlantic to settle in London is a big step and not one that should be taken lightly. Most people find it useful to make at least one short trip to the capital before they make the big move so they can become acquainted with the city. Even those people who have visited London before can find a pre-relocation visit worthwhile, as it gives them a chance to look at the city through a different perspective—not as a tourist, but as a potential resident.

Travel map of Prime Living Areas in London

Prime Living Areas in London

If you have children it would be a good idea to organize a few viewings of some private schools to see if they are a good fit for your children’s needs.It’ll pay dividends if you do a bit of online research on the neighborhoods that you think you will like (especially the rental prices) before your visit. There is little point in setting your heart on Notting Hill Gate if you simply can’t afford to live there. Try to take your time and really explore an area of town, checking out local shops, supermarkets, cafés, and restaurants as well as walking around the residential streets. Stop by some realtors (called “estate agents” here) to get a sense of current rental prices. Don’t be afraid to go in and speak to them about the market—they may even show you a few places.

Adults supervising children at a soccer training session on a grassy field in front of school buildings.

Choosing the best school for your kids may determine where you want to live in London. Photo © Graham Oliver/123rf.

If you have children it would be a good idea to organize a few viewings of some private schools to see if they are a good fit for your children’s needs (state schools are less accommodating about one-off visits). It is helpful if you can bring your children’s most recent report cards so that the school can get an idea about their academic level. Be sure to ask about application deadlines because most schools want you to apply by a certain date for the following September. Bear in mind that your chosen school may ask that your child attends for a few hours and/or does a written test (and perhaps an interview) to make sure that he or she has the right social and academic background. If your child is not traveling with you, the school may ask the child’s current school to supervise its entrance exam.

If your employer has organized a relocation company for you, let them know that you are planning a fact-finding trip and ask if they can organize an orientation day to show you around a few neighborhoods. There are meet-up groups in London if this takes your fancy, and it would be a way to meet Americans already based in London. Or you could contact one of the women’s clubs to see if they are having a get-together while you are in town.

It is also important to enjoy your visit, so plan your itineraries to include a few ideas for some fun activities to spice up your fact-finding trip to London.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad London.