So it’s a week or two to go before you set off on an Interrail trip of a lifetime. Right about now you’ll be having the stress dreams about running late for the airport, or finding you’ve packed absolutely nothing, or worse still, you’ve forgotten your Interrail pass. Okay, the cold light of dawn and a handy checklist will quickly dis-spell those irrational fears, but what should you really be packing?
It is one of the hardest tasks fitting 2-4 weeks worth of possessions into a backpack. Get it right and you’ll have a whale of a time. With that in mind, here are 8 compact travel essentials every interrailer needs.
The idea here is to Russian Doll the backpack. Keep your main 60 litre backpack for the long-haul travel and safely stowed away in the hostel. Whip out the much smaller backpack (10-15 litres) to be used out and about on day trips. Small backpacks are also great around airports to keep your passport folder, wallet, keys etc. in one place for a quick and easy waltz through security.
Tricks and hints: Stuff a hoodie or coat in the backpack and you have a makeshift pillow for that long overnighter from Budapest to Munich.
2. The bandana
Brilliantly multipurpose, it can crucially be used as an eye mask. There’s nothing worse than waking up in a cheap Florentine hostel room with your mouth tasting like the 1 euro wine from the night before, and the early Italian sun searing into your heavily hungover eyeballs. It’s also a great way to zone out on trains and coaches by wrapping it around your head for some much needed kip.
Tricks and hints: If you haven’t had a chance to shower and need to move quickly, the bandana is particularly good at keeping unruly hair in check.
With the ban on European roaming charges you can use your phone to your heart’s content, providing you have the battery life for it. A portable charger is handy to keep your phone or tablet alive and playing your favourite TV, films and music. There’s only so much nondescript German countryside to keep your eyes entertained!
Tricks and hints: Also incredibly useful for keeping your phone alive late at night in a strange foreign city; particularly if you or a friend get lost.
This has been a hosteling essential since hostels began. Whilst many hostels now claim to offer a boutique luxury experience with ultrafast wifi, trendy common rooms and ensuite bathrooms, it’s always worth taking your own padlock just in case. With many people coming and going, hostels and tourists are easy targets for thieves and a simple padlock on your locker and valuables will stop them in their tracks.
Tricks and hints: As romantic as it may be, lovebirds, refrain from padlocking your favourite bridge. It’s annoying the locals.
There is nothing worse than feeling the beginnings of a slight itch on your heel or toes. Blisters have the ability to halt a eurotrip in its tracks. Were you meant to climb the Spanish Steps today? Not going to happen, blisters have other plans. Compeed has essentially become the go to word for blister plasters. Their gel technology means that their plasters don’t just heal the blister, they also protect them so that you can continue hiking whatever German mountain you were supposed to climb.
Tricks and hints: The ideal resident for the small backpack mentioned above.
A relaxed attitude to hygiene will always accompany interrailing and you may find yourself wearing the same pants for three consecutive days. The feeling is hardly enjoyable and there’s only so much stink that deodorant can hide. For the more basic of hostels where a sink will suffice, pack some hand wash clothing detergent for a thorough scrub. For the better equipped hostels with washing machines, take a few washing tablets so you don’t have to fork out on the Italian equivalent of Persil.
Tricks and hints: Only take hard tablets; the gel explosions in the backpack may smell nice, but highly stressful in a Croatian airport.
This was a god send. The washing line is elastic and compacts down quite a bit. Excellent for drying trunks between two trees on a Portuguese beach, or letting your washing dry between two bunkbeds.
Tricks and hints: Check out local legislation though. Some cities and countries don’t allow washing to be hung between balconies or outside of city building windows.
8. A map
This sounds incredibly obvious but you’d be surprised how many modern travellers are useless without their tech. It’s essentially an offline Google Maps (crazy right?), that you can fit in your back pocket. Should your phone die or you’re lost in the middle of nowhere, a physical map can be a lifesaver. It could also save you the headache of wandering aimlessly around Rome for hours at 3 in the morning.
Tricks and hints: Write down (on physical paper) the address of each of your hostels as well as the nearest landmark. The locals might not know where Hostal Sun and Moon is, but they’re sure to point you in the direction of the nearby Las Ramblas.
Whilst a few of these items cater for worst case scenarios it’s better to be safe than sorry. In fact, you should also figuratively pack another cliche: hope for the best, plan for the worst.
About the Author: Dave Beach is many things. Writer. Traveller. Welshman. When he’s not writing professionally for the property market, he’s musing over a rugby game or contemplating the finer points of his carbonara recipe. Having said that, he’s more than happy to interrupt such musings to answer any writing requests at davebeach24 [at] gmail [dot] com