Due to the increase in flight costs in recent years, many travellers are choosing to spend their gap year in Europe, and with the huge list of countries on the interrail route, travellers often find themselves spoilt for choice when selecting their next destination! If you’ve decided that interrailing sounds like a good fit for you, you’ll be wondering what you’ll need to pack for your trip, so we’ve put together a list of some of the items you shouldn’t leave without.
As you’ll be hopping on and off trains and possibly carrying your bag around with you for long periods of time, seeking out a good quality travel backpack would be a wise move. Forget wheeled duffle bags and suitcases, these will be an absolute nightmare to lug on and off trains and wheel around the streets until you reach your hostel.
When choosing a backpack for your interrail trip, we would recommend going for one that is around 40-60 litres in size, otherwise you’ll be tempted to over pack. When you need to pack light and stick to the basics…remember, whatever you’ve stuffed inside your backpack, you will be carrying around for several hours at a time on occasion.
Many of you will be familiar with top loading styles of backpack, which are great for hiking and other outdoor activities. However, if you need to gain quick access to your stuff at the train station or when you arrive at your hostel, having a backpack with a side zip opening will make your life much easier. It’s also a good idea to get a backpack with a detachable daypack, as you can use this for day to day use and leave your backpack in the hostel.
Interrailing will mean sleeping on trains and in hostels, or you may decide to Couchsurf to save yourself some cash and meet some new people. Either way, having your own sleeping bag will make sleeping on overnight trains and in budget accommodation a much more comfortable and hygienic experience.
You will need to select a sleeping bag with an appropriate season rating, so research the climate of the countries you’re planning on visiting and take a look at the comfort ratings on travel sleeping bags, when sleeping indoors a 1-2 season sleeping bag should be more than sufficient in many European countries during the summer. If you get warm easily, you may want to buy a 1 season sleeping bag or simply pack a sleeping bag liner.
If you’re camping during the summer a 2 season sleeping bag will be suitable for most European destinations.
Overnight train journeys can prove uncomfortable if you don’t have the right gear with you. Make sure you bring a travel pillow to give your head and neck some support and some ear plugs to block out noise from noisy fellow travellers (you can bet you’ll end up near a champion snorer at some point!). In terms of travel pillows, self inflating options are a good idea as they pack down nice and compact and can be quickly inflated when you need them.
First Aid Kit
Ok, so you won’t exactly need a comprehensive travel first aid kit but make sure you have a basic kit with essential first aid items, such as dressings and plasters. You should also pack paracetamol, diarrhoea relief tablets and oral rehydration salts, as these items can come in extremely useful when travelling, no matter what part of the world you’re in.
Although Malaria and tropical disease aren’t a problem in Europe, you may still want to consider bringing some mosquito repellent with you, as mosquitoes and other insects can still be an issue. A low strength 20-30% DEET or DEET free repellent should be fine for use in Europe, but if you’re prone to insect bites, you may want to opt for a 50% DEET repellent.
Pickpockets can be a problem in several parts of Europe, especially in the bustling streets of Barcelona and Rome, so make sure your backpack or daypack is secure with a good quality combination lock. Padlocks with keys are fine too, if you prefer these, but getting one with a combination eliminates the chance of you losing your key and not being able to get into your bag.
Cable locks are also a good security accessory to take with you, as these are capable of locking zips as well as securing your backpack and other bits of equipment to hard to move objects, making them difficult to steal. Having a your own padlock is essential when staying in hostels, as it allows you to lock your hostel locker and keep your belongings secure.
Universal Travel Adapter
Most European countries use the type C or F (schuko) plug which consists of two round pins, both of which are included in most universal travel adapter kits. However, countries such as Italy and Switzerland have different plug sockets in use in parts of the country, so you may need to purchase these unique adapters if these countries are on your itinerary. The Italy plug has three round pins in a straight row and the Swiss plug has three round pins in a row, with an offset pin in the middle. For most countries on the Interrail route a European adapter or universal travel adapter should do the trick.
Compression Bags & Packing Cubes
It’s important to keep the contents of your backpack as lightweight and compact as possible, so storing your clothing inside vacuum compression bags will help to reduce their volume by removing excess air. They’re also good for separating and keeping your clothes organised and are often made from water resistant material, so they can double up as a dry bag to keep your stuff dry. Another useful way to organise and compress clothes inside your backpack is to use packing cubes, which help to keep clothes neatly rolled, compact and easier to find.
You’ll find that most toiletries are readily available in countries throughout Europe, but these won’t always be compact or travel sized, so carrying them from country to country can take up a lot of space and add unnecessary weight to your backpack.
One of the best space saving options are soap leaves, which you can get for washing your hair, body and clothes, as well as for shaving. Soap leaves are normally stored in a compact case and fit in the palm of your hand, they also won’t spill in your bag like liquid toiletries.
Other essential items you will need to pack, include a travel toothbrush, mini tube of toothpaste, small comb or brush and deodorant. If you find yourself in need of a freshen up but are unable to get access to wash facilities, no rinse body wash is a good way to get clean without the need for water.
Once you’ve got all your toiletries taken care of, you’ll need something to get dry with. Packing a towel from home is a huge ‘no-no’ for travelling, as they take up masses of space inside your backpack and take ages to dry, causing unpleasant odours after a short period of time.
Travel towels are a more lightweight, compact, quick drying and hygienic alternative and come in various sizes to suit your requirements. There are also many travel towels on the market which have a special anti-bacterial treatment to reduce odour and mould causing bacteria. Not only are travel towels great for drying off after a shower back at the hostel or down at the beach, but the larger sized options can also double as a beach mat for sunbathing.
Maps & Guide Books
We know spontaneity is all part of the inter-rail experience, but having a map to hand or a pocket guide book can help you do some research and make a plan before you get to your next destination. You’ll often find yourself on long train journeys to your next country of choice, so this can be a good time to plan a couple of activities before you reach your destination, in between taking in the scenery of course. Don’t forget to pack a pen or pencil to mark out and highlight routes on your map.
Storing cash, passports and small valuable items inside a money belt is a good way to keep them out of sight and out of the hands of opportunist thieves. Although money belts aren’t the most stylish travel accessory around, you’d be wise to take one with you when travelling around Europe. When you’re on crowded trains, you’d be surprised at just how easy it is to find yourself missing a wallet, phone or passport that some sneaky thief has managed to relieve you of during the journey. It’s really not worth the risk, so get yourself a good quality under clothes money belt and avoid the hassle.
These are just a few key items we would recommend for inter-rail travel, which will hopefully give you a starting point for your packing list. For more travel gear inspiration, check out our online store for lots of lightweight and compact accessories, perfect for your trip to Europe.
Rachel has worked for the company for 9 years and as one of our buying team, has a wide knowledge of travel gear. She has travelled in Europe and Southeast Asia, but her dream destination would be South America to experience Carnival in Rio, unleash her inner Attenborough in the Galapagos and sip on Colombian coffee in colonial Cartagena.