Wow, you decided to explore Europe by train with Interrail or Eurail. Excellent decision! I’ve now done 2 trips by train across Europe. In 2017 I traveled from the Netherlands by train via Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania to Istanbul in Turkey. In 2018, I decided to use my Interrail Global Pass to explore Switzerland by train. But what should you be packing for Interrailing in Europe? Here is my practical Interrail packing list to help you get started.
Practical Interrail Packing List for Train Travel in Europe
Interrail or Eurail or Train travel in Europe
Interrail is when you buy a rail pass for Europe as an EU-resident. Non-EU residents who need a rail pass will be using Eurail. And everyone who decided to take the train in Europe (with or without a pass) will be experiencing the joys of traveling by train.
But almost everyone has the same questions:
What is the best luggage for train travel in Europe?
What to pack for my train trip?
Excellent, I share my practical packing tips to make your railway journey in Europe a success!
Best Luggage for Train Travel in Europe
When you face the dilemma of what to pack for your trip to Europe, you have the factor in the different destinations, the weather type, time of year and how long you’ll go. Although many European airlines have luggage restrictions, those do not apply when you travel by train in Europe.
However, usually there are no stewards to help you put your luggage in the overhead bin and you need to get on and off the trains, with your luggage, all by yourself.
One of the first questions you have the ask yourself is: what is the best luggage for train travel in Europe for me?
Backpack for train travel
In my personal opinion, a backpack is the golden ticket for successful packing your luggage for train travel. Here are my personal reasons why I think the best luggage for Interrail is a backpack:
- Your backpack is flexible. Most backpacks are made of fabric and don’t have a hard shell. This means you can easily stuff them in a small space. You can quickly cram your backpack in with other stuff.
- You can lay your backpack down on the floor, underneath the seat or in between seats. Have you ever tried that with a wheeled suitcase? It will ride across the whole compartment and you can chase it down.
- It is much easier for you to carry a backpack on the train. Just put it on your bag and board the train. This will leave both your hands free to grab the door of the train when boarding and taking that huge leap over the 3 small steps. People with big suitcase break their back swinging their suitcase on the train while trying to jump after it.
- Carrying a backpack is also very useful in train stations. More often than not, you have to take a flight of stairs (or 3 or 5) to reach your platform. Even with escalators and elevators, it is still much easier to just walk away with your luggage on your back.
- Most backpacks can be expanded, or you can put things on the sides. A souvenir, that big bulky sweater that you need when you’re freezing or just simple items like a pen. Easily stuffed in the sides of the backpack or a front pocket. Compare that with taking your suitcase from the overhead bin, put it on the floor, zipping it open and going through all your stuff to find that one item.
Best Interrail Backpack
All of the above works best with a front loader backpack with top access and extra zippers. To make things easier on yourself, you should not take a backpack that is too big. You’ll easily stuff it with items you don’t need. And then the thing that should have made your train travel trip easier will become a burden. So what is the best Interrail backpack?
My personal recommendation is the Vaude Asymmetric 42+8 Liters. It has 50 liters in total, you have access at the top but it can also be opened at the bottom so you’ll have access to the full content of your backpack. It has side pockets, adjustable straps, and an adjustable back panel. For me, this is very valuable because I can adjust the back panel. Most backpacks for women have a short back panel and short traps. Where the backpacks for men have a too long back panel and the straps are too wide for my boobs. With this one, I can fully adjust it to my back and my body. Check for prices and availability here.
My boyfriend loves his green Osprey Kestrel 48L backpack. He brought it when we went Interrailing to Switzerland together and I was surprised at how much extra stuff he could pack in there. And the color is really pretty too. Oh, and it has side zippers to access your stuff and is super lightweight. Check if you love the green or the red one here.
Great, you’ve booked your Interrail tickets and found a backpack for your train trip in Europe! What is next? Packing Cubes! They are a big buzz on the internet and every traveler’s gift guide or packing list has them! But what is so great about them? Here are my pros and cons for packing cubes for train travel.
Packing Cubes Pros
- Compartmentalize your luggage. You don’t have to go through heaps of clothes to find that one black tank top.
- Easier to pack. It is much easier to throw 3 or 4 packing cubes into a suitcase or backpack than a stack of shirts, a dress, that vest that won’t fold neatly and socks.
- There is always room for some extra stuff in a packing cube. Stuff in a pair of socks, your bikini, gloves or whatever. You can fill in the empty void in between cloths and still pack up everything with your fingertips.
- Good packing cubes also function as laundry bags. Versatile!
- While going through customs, you don’t need to rumble through underwear and shirts, just put one cube to the side and you can access all the other stuff.
Packing Cube Cons
There aren’t any. Seriously, what are you waiting for?! Buy your packing cubes now!
Interrail Packing List
Now let’s move over to the actual packing for your Interrail trip in Europe. Of course, what you’ll bring will depend on your personal style, how long you’re going and where and when you’re going. As it’s impossible for me to know this, here are some general tips to keep in mind while packing for interrailing.
Pack your Clothes
This might be the hardest part. What clothes should be on your Interrail packing list? How many pairs of shoes can you bring and how to make it all fit?
When you pack your clothes for your train trip, keep in mind:
- You have to carry everything yourself
- You can do laundry when traveling
- Stay true to your travel style
Don’t buy a whole new wardrobe of zip-off pants and no-sweat shirts if you’ve never worn them. Whatever you wear at home when you go out exploring, will be perfect for Interrailing Europe.
Comfortable Leisure Wear
However, make sure you have a comfortable outfit for the actual train travel. I’m not saying you should only pack sweatpants and oversized shirts, but when you take long overland train journeys or even overnight train trips, you need to be comfortable. So leave the jeans with zippers on the back at home. Don’t wear tight jackets or (too) skinny jeans as you’ll risk cutting off your blood supply.
Things I love to wear when I travel by train:
- Colorful leggings. I think they look nice, the fabric stretches so they are very comfortable and they don’t look like sweatpants
- Long sleeved black loose shirt. Matches with everything. It doesn’t pinch, it doesn’t leave marks on my skin, the fabric breathes so you’ll keep warm and cool
- On really long journeys, I slip off my shoes and socks and wear flip flops
Multi-purpose clothes for travel
I don’t do fashion. I’m not a fashionista and I don’t pretend to know clothes or what is in fashion or makes for a cute outfit. I am all about practical comfortable clothes. However, I do know other people like to dress up, look cute for the Gram and rock their outfits.
I believe this can still be done when backpacking in Europe by train. Even if you have a small backpack with you, when you use packing cubes they stay nice.
However, it is important to pack multi-purpose clothes. The red high heels that only go with that one outfit? Leave them! Instead, choose the shoes that go with every outfit. That dress that you can only wear with the one jacket? But the jacket doesn’t go with anything else? Leave the dress and jacket and pick something you can mix and match together.
I usually bring 2 vests that I can wear on my 2 dresses but they also fit on my tank tops with trousers. The leggings I have can go with my long shirts and under the dresses too. (I have to protect myself from the sun, so I always cover my arms and legs).
Clothes packing strategy
When I pack for a multi-stop trip, like an Interrail trip around Europe, I apply a strategy to determine what clothes to bring:
#1 Throw all your clothes on the bed
#2 Imagine the first stop and think what you’ll wear there. Put that aside.
#3 Think of all the different stops you’ll be making and do the same as #2
#4 Now redo step #2 and #3 and imagine the weather will be the opposite of what you’ve expected
#5 Evaluate how many different outfits you’ll have. If you selected multi-purpose clothing items, you have fewer piles because you can wear the same outfit for multiple occasions. In case of bad weather, a versatile outfit only needs an extra layer to be warmer.
#6 Determine if you can bring what you’ve selected. If you can, perfect, you’re done. If not continue below.
It doesn’t fit?!
Ok, you’ve selected too many clothes and it just won’t fit into your Interrail backpack.
#A If you’re going away for more than 5 days, you will need to wash some clothes. There is no point in bringing 10 black shirts on a trip when you can easily wash shirt 3 and 4 and alternate between them. I usually pack items that have a thin fabric and dry quickly.
#B Cut the number of outfits you have in half and bring one or two accessories. If you’re going away for 7 days and you’ve packed 7 trousers, 7 dresses, 7 shirts, 7 tops and 7 fashionable jackets that is too many. Bring maximal 2 jackets to match at least 3 of your outfits each. You don’t need to wear different jeans every day. Bring a different belt or hip purse to spruce up your outfit and make it look different. Bring a shawl or pashmina to change your look with the same basic wardrobe items.
My Summer Interrail Packing Check List
On my 10 day Summer Interrail trip in Europe I brought with me the following clothes
- 2 dresses
- 2 leggings
- 1 pair of shorts to sleep in
- 1 shirt to sleep in
- 2 summer vests
- 1 long sleeve long shirt
- 2 long tops
- 1 pair of slippers
- 1 pair of flip-flops
All these items together made for 5 outfits that I wore 2 times, once in the first week and once in the second part, after washing them of course.
Warm sweater on the train or use a pashmina
The one must have travel item on every train trip is a sweater, a hoodie or a big pashmina. Temperatures in trains change a lot from one train to another and having something warm with you is a must have. Make sure to pack it at the top of your backpack so you have quick access to it. If you don’t need it, you can always use it as a pillow.
What shoes to pack for travel?
Shoes are a real headache when packing for your Europe trip. I don’t go anywhere without my hiking boots and I wear them even when I go shopping because they offer maximum support. Fashionable? No. But do my feet hurt at the end of the day? No.
If you’re considering walking bigger distances than just from the train station to your hotel, it might be a good idea to take your hiking boots. They offer maximum support, they breath, are warm and you don’t have to worry about sore feet (when you break them in well).
The only downside to hiking boots is they require good socks too and you have to wear them when moving from one place to the next as they are too big to pack. When you’re going to Interrailing in Southern Europe in Summer, consider taking hiking sandals.
I love all hiking boots by Lowa as they have half sizes, make my feet look smaller and have nice colors. Check my boots here.
City Sneakers or other normal footwear
Are you a sneaker kinda girl? Is Converse THE brand for you? Then please take them and wear them. If you can walk around on them at home, you can take them to Europe for your Eurail trip for sure! Check out these comfortable walking shoes recommended by
Slippers or Flip-Flops
When it gets a little bit warmer and I’d like to wear my dresses, I wear my hiking sandals or slippers. I love the ones from Teva as they offer maximum support and I can walk on them all day and they come in nice colors (I have these in red and blue). You might need to rinse them after a full Europe trip. For more great travel sandals tips, check out this post.
Wherever I go, I always bring my lightweight flip-flops. They are easy to pack, take up minimum space and I can wear them in the shower. Or I slip them on at my hotel room at night or for a very short walk (to the breakfast room).
As you can see, there is no room for heels or boots on my Interrail packing list. If this is the number one item you wear at home 24/7 then don’t pack them: wear them! But if you need to pack it, they take up too much space and are impractical.
Practical Train Travel Items to pack for Interrailing
Great! Now that we have the best luggage for Interrailing, we have packed all our clothes in packing cubes, it is time for all those other “must-have” items. Surprisingly, they take up more space then you’d think but here is my list:
- Pen. Small and must have when filling out the paperwork for your Interrail trip
- Paper or notebook. To scribble, doodle or give someone your phone number when they run out of juice on their phone
- Cash. Most likely Euros. For those on station vending machines. Or when the catering comes to your seat with some hot coffee or tea.
- Empty Ziplock bags. 2 or 3 will do. Fold them and use them to bring snacks, store papers or receipts or transport souvenirs.
- Padlock. Always good to have. For when your hostel dorm room won’t lock or you want to lock your bag on an overnight train
- Earplugs. When all the impressions and noises on the train become too much. When you want to sleep on a crowded overnight train or when you have a snoring roommate
- Copies of important documents. Always take these when traveling, it’s remarkable how little phone numbers and details we know these days.
- Wet wipes. For sticky fingers or freshen up after a long train journey. Although the pack says they can go into the toilet, I just throw them out. Or bring a reusable washcloth, just wet it and use it (and store it in one of those ziplock bags you’ve brought).
- Adapter and charges. What would we be without electronic devices? Charge whenever you can, some trains in Europe have power outlets
- A battery pack or power bank. Some trains in Europe have power outlets, but not all. I have a very useful Anker power bank. A bit heavy but I can go for 2 weeks without having to recharge it.
- Spork. For when you crave some yogurt. Or instant noodles. Or buy a pack of sliced fruit but don’t want to get sticky fingers.
- Book or other forms of entertainment. Whatever you fancy. Because even on the most interesting train rides, you might want a bit of entertainment.
- Extra cotton carry-on tote bag for snacks. I always bring an extra bag. Or 2 or 3. Because you can’t get plastic bags anymore when you go shopping. And because you can carry some snacks and drinks with you on the train.
- A piece of fabric to clean any windows. Maybe a washcloth or just a piece of microfiber. Wet it and clear those dirty fingers right off. Off course, you could bring some Glassex but that might just be a little over the top.
- Camera. Don’t forget it! I never travel without my Canon Powershot G9 X. I love it’s retro look, light sensitivity and it is so small it fits in my pocket! But, for on-train photography, the best idea is to use your smartphone and put it straight to the glass to reduce reflection. Or roll down a window when possible.
Miniature sized toiletries for travel
They are not only very practical when flying. For a 2-week train trip, you do not need a liter of shampoo. Just pack what you need in those tiny convenient containers. On every trip I go (up until 4 weeks in South America) I managed with just 1-liter bag of toiletries. Here’s my Interrail checking list for toiletries:
- 1 bar of soap. More often than not I leave it at home as the hotels always have soaps
- 1 tiny container of shampoo. I only wash my hair max. 2 times a week so only need a little bit
- 1 deodorant roller stick
- 1 tiny refillable container of make-up remover with a couple of cotton pads
- a small toothbrush
- a tiny tube of toothpaste. I don’t use that much and 1 tube is enough for over 2 weeks for me.
- 1 mascara
- 1 box of eyeshadow with several colors for different looks
- 1 lipstick-sized perfume dispenser. Also refillable
- Brush and comb. Ok. I don’t stash that in the 1-liter bag, but keep it separate.
- 1 razor (because on trains you can bring that stuff)
- 1 nail clipper, you can bring it on the train!
- 1 pod of lip balm. But I put it in my pocket to have it with me at all time.
Don’t feel like putting together your own miniature travel bag with toiletries? Buy one of these convenient complete bags in one go.
Best snacks for train travel
Wow, that seems like a massive list, but trust me, it will all fit into your backpack and not weigh too much when you go Interrailing around Europe. But with long train travel, you might get a bit peckish or downright hungry. Here are some tips for things to pack for drinks and snacks for long train journeys.
- Reusable water bottle. In a lot of countries in Europe, you can drink the tap water. Or buy one big bottle of water with your travel partners and fill up your reusable water bottle. If you get one with a built-in filter, you always have something to drink.
- Pringle crisps. I don’t like big bags of crisps that make a lot of noise. And you have to finish them because where would you leave it otherwise? Pringle crisps are perfect in their cylinder container. And when it’s empty, you can keep it and store other items in it and just put it in one of the side pockets of your backpack.
- Granola Bars. Not too big and they’re basically half a lunch.
- Bag of granola (in a ziplock bag). Buy a bigger box of Granola with delicious dried fruits or nuts and take some with you in a ziplock back. Easy for snacking and healthy!
- Dried apple or other fruit. Again in a ziplock bag. Delicious, sweet and great snacking foods
- Banana in Banana case. I love bananas. They help with my IBS symptoms and they are packed with nutrients. But they go brown easily. Not in one of those super practical banana cases. Love them.
Other practical tips for your Interrail trip
Ok, I’m almost done here. Sorry, I have so much experience and so many practical tips from train travel in Europe, I want to stuff it all in here. Here is a quick list of other non-packing related planning tips:
- Download apps before you go. Download the Interrail app (for iPhone here, for Android here) or the app for the national railway of the countries you’ll be visiting. Super useful for looking up itineraries, booking trips or just to know if the next train station has lockers or not. For most European train travel, the Deutsche Bahn App (iPhone and Android) is super useful, even if your train doesn’t go through Germany.
- Download an offline map and bookmark the important places. Some trains in Europe have WiFi, others don’t have it. Or the internet is patchy. Just download maps.me and bookmark your hotel or the meeting point or that one special cafe to have breakfast at!
- Book your hotels in advance here, also for apartments and hostels. There is nothing more disturbing to me than arriving at a new place and not knowing where I’d sleep that night. Even if it’s only 1 hour in advance, I always book my stays online.
Trial run packing for Interrailing
Wow, this is a long list, but trust me, it is not all that much once you pack it in the right type of luggage for your trip. My last and final tip: do a trial packing run. I’ve packed my bag already 100 of times so I have a routine, but if this is your first Eurail trip to Europe, then prepare with a test run. Pack and see what happens. Do you need to purchase a more versatile item? Do you need to try on outfits to see what fits together? Get it all done on your trail run!
Good luck packing for your Interrail trip and have fun in Europe!
Do you have trouble packing your bag? Don’t know what to bring on an Interrail trip to Europe? I hope my tips have helped you. Share you’re packing list in the comment section below! What is the one item you can’t go without when traveling by train in Europe?
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