So you’ve gotten yourself through all the rigmarole of buying tickets and planning your adventure of a lifetime and now it’s time to get prepared; real time. Here’s everything you need to know (and hopefully a little more)
Bags Packed Baby and I’m Ready to go
The Big One
You’re going to spend a lot of time feeling like a baby ninja turtle when you’re interrailing. No, alas you’re not going to suddenly sprout a shell and begin taking orders from a rat named Splinter (though you may develop a new love for pizza) but you will walk around with your entire life on your back quite a bit; Believe this weary traveler, it’s a heavy task! Picking a bag that fits you well but that’s also the right size for all your needs is imperative. Our group all traveled with bags that were in and around the 50-liter capacity; just right for the 3 weeks we traveled for. Originally, when I sought advice for my travel needs in our local outdoor shop, I was told to buy a 70-liter bag but I can wholeheartedly say that this would have been far too big for what I took with me. One great piece of advice I did get from my friendly camping fanatic friend is that a front opening bag is key. You’re essentially going to live out of suitcase for around a month (or more) and you want to be able to get to your stuff with ease! I’d also recommend packing cubes (I used mine for socks and underwear through my friend Laura had an amazing packing system going on which allowed or one packing cube per clothing category. )
I purchased a Forclain 50ltr from Decathalon for €40 which was exactly perfect for my height (and adjustable). I have a bad back and have been getting physio for the past few months and so I had a little trouble with carrying the weight for longer distances but I found this bag highly comfortable and so easy to pack and repack! I particularly loved the hidden, pocket in the back which was ideal to keep travel documents and gifts and the front loading was ideal!
The Day One
One essential for any interrail trip (Male, female or indifferent!) is a good day bag. In my own research I read lots about security threats, pickpockets, muggings and missing luggage and so I was a little terrified at the prospect of carrying anything of value on me but my worries were quickly squashed when I realised no-one really cared to mug a couple of over-enthusiastic 20-somethings singing Disney songs as they wore brightly coloured summer clothes among drab and dark buildings; we’re not exactly inconspicuous targets…. This doesn’t mean safety isn’t a huge priority when backpacking and thus a good bag is needed for your daily travels. Because of my personal safety terror, I took a small bum-bag which I felt was completely unneeded. I used it once (when biking through Vondelpark) and other than that it stayed clipped to the front of my rucksack (for French men to hand out of on busy trains).
My one wish is that I had been clever enough to bring a small backpack. Occasionally bright Órla packed a shoulder-held “shopper” bag and by the time I had reached Paris, it had become nothing more than a threadbare piece of string holding my purse, camera and iPad in place. Daily use is hard on a bag while traveling and so I’d recommend a sturdy backpack like follows; these can be picked up for a small price but are invaluable to store your uhmm…. valuables!
What to Pack
Depending on the time of year you’re traveling, your packing needs will change but for the most part, I’ll try and cover the essentials. Despite my poor choices in bags, I feel I packed relatively well but if you want to go a little lighter than I (who tried to maintain some air of fashion and grace as I hopped from city to city) by all means, do!
What I Bought:
- 14 pairs of underwear (too little)
- 7 pairs of socks for my trainers (far too little)
- 1 pair of denim shorts
- 1 pair of harem pants
- 1 Bikini (useless unless swimming is planned)
- 1 shawl (amazing as a scarf, pillow, blanket or seat)
- 1 raincoat (for the summer showers and cold nights)
- 1 Bomber Jacket (useless)
- 2 dresses
- 2 playsuits
- 2 cami tops
- 6 light tops (mix and match)
- One long skirt
- 1 pair of walking shoes and 1 pair of sandals
- 2 microfibre towels (which dry so fast!)
- 2 packs of wipes (essential)
- 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner
- So much suncream and aftersun
- Razor with 3 heads
- Small toiletries
- Adaptors x2 and chargers
- Coin purse
- ipad (with books and tv)
- Waterproof travel file
I’ve attached a small checklist below which covers the basics and a little more…
In total my bag weighed about 12kg on the way out and about 14 on the way in (having picked up a few gifts and worn lighter clothes on the way back). I can confirm that these were damn-well heavy!
Hotel, Hostel or AirBnB?
Where you stay during your interrailing trip depends greatly on your budget and you should do your research to make sure you’re getting the best value for that hard earned cash. If you’re extra budge conscious; hostels all the way! Book in advance to get the best deal and if you don’t mind sharing, book a bed in a dorm which can save you lots (but don’t forget a lock to keep your stuff safe; most hostels don’t provide these!) If you’re more flush, then hotel or even self-serve apartments will add a little luxury to your country hopping trip. The third and final option we considered was Airbnb. Based on where you’ll stop, how many people are in your traveling party and your budget; you can find some really great hidden gems that don’t cost the world on Airbnb. Poland is a perfect example of this where we stayed in a large city center apartment for less than €10 a night.
Our full list of accommodation looks as follows.
Krakow: AirBNB close to Krakow Glowny
Hamburg: Sleephotel, Hamburg
Berlin: Generator Hostel
Amsterdam: Bob’s Hostel
Brussels: Midi Station Hotel
Bruges: Hostel Europa
Paris: Air BnB
Budget Well (and Then Budget Again)
I left Paris with €7 in my pocket and a further €37 in the bank that was to do me for an entire month; I’m not the best authority on the art of budgeting. My biggest piece of advice, however, is to be aware of what you are spending and have at least an outline of what you plan on spending…. and stick to it.
Top Tips for Saving Money When Interrailing
- Cook where you can
- Choose accommodation options that supply a breakfast
- Pack snacks and still full for longer!
- Don’t buy food in high traffic tourist areas; eat like a local!
- Bring a packed lunch where you can
- Don’t spend 80% of your food budget on ice-cream (this one’s more a reminder to myself for future traveling endeavors…)
- Shop around for presents and souvenirs – there’s always a cheaper option
- Book what you can in advance; reservations, day trips and all the rest!
Planning a trip? I’ve created a series of Interrailing Planning Charts that are ideal for simplifying the planning process. Want a copy? Subscribe here!