Back in 2015 I quit my job, said goodbye to my family and friends and sorted out my definitive interrail packing list. This was all in preparation for two months interrailing across Europe as a single female traveller.
This packing list is based on my own experiences and I can honestly say it worked for me when I was both planning my trip and whilst I was travelling.
What to pack
Apart from personal needs (read mine below), here’s my list:
Essentials to take for travel:
- Passport + one other form of valid ID
- EU health card
- Interrail ticket + itinerary
- First aid kit inc. plasters
- Panic alarm/whistle
- Sunhat + suncream
- Flexi water bottle
- Phone + charger
- Additional USB phone charger
- Sleeping bag
- Antibacterial handwash
- Wound dressing
- E45 cream
- Allergy tablets
- Tick removers
- Zero sugar energy tablets
- Raincoat + bag raincover
- Nail scissors
- Toilet seat covers (trust me)
- European plug adapter
- A list of relevant Embassies and ‘directions to’ for your destinations
- Addresses of all your booked accommodation
- A note of recent medical injections and any allergies
- Pack for ten days and rotate what you use
- Do a practise pack and be realistic about weight
- If you’re not sure you need it then you probably don’t
What type of bag do you need?
This can be a challenging decision and one of the earliest you make. If you’re trying to figure out whether to travel with a backpack or wheeled suitcase, read my pros and cons guide here.
Important things to consider
Whatever you pack, make sure you’ve got the essentials as that’s all that really matters; a lot of stuff you can get abroad but it beats the hassle if you sort it out before you go. See what you can borrow as well rather than spending extra money and just as I did, whittle out what you don’t need.
My packing experience
When I started packing I was taking a 70litre backpack and hadn’t bought the clothes I’d take to get me through the summer. Well, as I lifted this bag that’s about two thirds my height and did a trial walk, I knew it was a no go. It was too heavy even without clothes and I decided very quickly to return it and go for a bag on wheels instead, four wheels to be exact.
After a brief moment of defeat, I was actually relieved. I think buying a massive backpack somehow legitimised the trip in my head, or at least ticked off the major backpacking checkbox… taking a backpack! However, I’m not going to lug it around for appearance sake and am very happy with my brand new large and lightweight wheeled suitcase, plus a manageable daytime backpack.
If anything, this change of heart has made me realise that you really do have to cater for yourself with travel decisions and not go off what other people say or what you think you should be doing.
Without going into the number of socks I’m taking and why, my idea of what to pack is pretty normal clothes wise; t-shirts, shorts, a couple of dresses, a couple of jumpers, underwear and two pairs of shoes. The jumpers are mainly for Norway as it looks like rain this time of year, but I think they’ll come in handy for the cooler evenings later in the trip.
Generally I’ve been good and not overpacked; my rule was to pack for ten days rather than two months, as there are washing services at each of the hostels and hotels I’m staying at.
This is where I had the most fun as I got to buy a lot of new gadgets for travel, most of which I hadn’t needed before.
The list includes what I would recommend for any long or short journey abroad:
- Budget laptop – see mine here
- Portable USB phone charger
- Panic alarm
- Lightweight camera
What I’ve taken as ‘extra’ are hair straighteners for nights out and a new set of iPhone headphones still fresh in the packet.
By far the most useful of these is the portable USB phone charger; this particular model holds five and a half phone charges so I won’t need to rely on available sockets at train stations or on trains to stay connected.
What should you leave behind?
It is hard to leave things behind when you’ve been given them or imagined using them travelling, but a pack list is always going to change especially if your case changes as well.
I’m choosing to leave behind a travel journal, refills of alcoholic hand wash, Deet that I substituted with satsuma body butter on a recommendation, a pack of playing cards, my map printout (I have a digital copy) and for now, my travel buddy sloth, Slowpoke…
…I say for now as I think he’ll somehow get packed as he’s my mascot and there will be trouble if I go to the sloths at Budapest Zoo without him!
A friend said to me that the worst part of travel is carrying your case around, so don’t make it any harder on yourself. If I hadn’t taken the time to try out different bags and get the right one for me, I’d have found out probably half way through Sweden that I needed to buy a new bag and get rid of some of my luggage.