Packing Tips for Your Eurail Vacation
One of the best things about travel by train is the freedom it gives you. No weight limits when it comes to your luggage. No fiddling around with clear plastic bags for liquids, pastes, and gels. And no taking your shoes off every five minutes to satisfy the whims of the security officials. Your luggage is your own.
However, that does also mean that your luggage is your own problem to deal with. Where you go, your luggage goes. Aside from if you leave it in lockers at stations, looking after luggage is your responsibility and it will be something you’ll need to pay attention to for the whole of your trip.
It makes sense, therefore, to do your best to get it right. Read further for packing tips.
Suitcase or backpack?
This is probably the biggest decision to make. Bear in mind that even if you take a taxi to and from every train station, once you’re on the platform, you have to be able to move your luggage yourself.
While most European train stations have elevators these days, they don’t have luggage trolleys. Aside from negotiating your way along the platform, you’ll have to be able to lift your luggage on and off the train. (A dashing Italian man may rush to your assistance – but I wouldn’t count on it.)
And while you’re free of those weight restrictions that apply to air travel, you’re not free from the laws of physics. You need to be able to handle your luggage, from thronging city crowds to cute but bumpy quaint cobbled streets. Pack light and only pack what you can happily maneuver.
So (ahem!) suitcase or backpack?!
It depends on what you feel comfortable carrying. The soft sides of a backpack mean they’re slightly easier to squeeze into lockers and the (often) tiny space designated for luggage on European trains.
When I was younger, I used a backpack largely because I thought it was the thing to do. Now I’ve switched to a suitcase on wheels and I wonder what took me so long. A sturdy suitcase on wheels makes moving my luggage much easier plus its hard surface protects my gear (laptop, camera, fragile shopping items) more reliably.
The only time I run into trouble with a hard suitcase is in stations without elevators when it’s awkward to carry it up and down the stairs.
What to pack – the essentials for Eurail travel
1. Your Eurail Pass, map, and identifying documentation
Tip: Pack this somewhere easily accessible, as you’ll need it frequently on the trains.
2. Foreign currency
Yes, euros have made this job much simpler but remember that you can’t use them in the following countries: Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
Many buffet cars on trains and small shops in stations won’t accept card payment. So if you want something to eat or drink on your journey then either buy it beforehand or make sure you have some cash with you.
You’ll also need coins to operate several of the lockers at train stations and very few taxis across Europe accept cards. Many won’t give change.
3. Electrical adaptors
Three prongs for Britain, two round ones elsewhere.
4. An overnight kit
If you’re planning on sleeping on trains then put together a small wash bag of essentials: toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush (if required), inflatable pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, extra socks, and a sweater. Pack it somewhere easily accessible – you won’t have space to unpack all your gear to find it.
5. Travel insurance
Unexpected medical costs can lead to bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars. How will you pay?
If you need to take prescription-only drugs then bring both the medication and the prescription with you.
7. Dressing the part
It varies from country to country but apart from Britain and Ireland, Europeans tend to pay attention to what they wear and make an effort to dress well. Men rarely wear shorts or sandals and both sexes rarely wear sneakers out to dinner.
What not to pack – unless you want to
Please don’t worry about running out of things like shampoo, shaving cream, sanitary towels, tampons, sunscreen, and so on. Europe is a shopper’s paradise – you can easily buy all of those things here and bringing too many with you from home will simply weigh you down.
Lastly, of course, don’t forget to leave space for all your shopping and souvenirs!
Still preparing for your Eurail adventure? Check out what else you should consider when you plan your trip with Eurail!