Welome to the second installment of the InterRail series where I’ll be sharing with you how to plan for your InterRail or EuRail trip (I can only speak from my personal experience so you may find that not all of these aaspects may be identical to your situation or you may just want to do things differently!).
*Disclaimer: I have done as much research as I can and all links have been used by myself or my family. Everybody’s experiences will be different and my responsibilities end with making sure the information I’ve provided you with is accurate as of the published date.
The first step in planning your InterRail journey is to work out how long you’ll be going for! This then determines the type of pass you’ll need; the Global Pass, the One Country Pass and finally, the Premium Pass.
Each of the passes allow you to to travel around Europe to different extents with the Global pass being the widest reaching. The important thing to keep in mind is how many days you want to travel and how long you’d want to stay away maximum. When choosing your pass, you’ll see ‘travel days’ mentioned- this simply means the days that you are travelling on the trains (not the full lenth of your holiday). And the best part is, that InterRail offers a number of discounts, including a 35% discount to the Pass for those aged between 12 and 27 years old!
Personally, we (my sister and I) received our InterRail pass as part of a government scheme (DiscoverEu) to encourage more young people to explore Europe and to strengthen relations between European countries (regardless of the depth of Britain’s involvement in the EU, geographically, we will always be in Europe). Our pass is a Youth 2nd Class InterRail Global Pass, valid for 7 travel days within a month.
The next step is to set aside a budget for your trip. Your budget will be influenced by a variety of different factors such as how long you’re travelling for as well as the number of countries you’ll be visiting and quite plainly, what is financially viable for you.
The best way to get an idea of your budget would be to decide what type of accommodation you’re staying in, which types of trains you’ll be using (some trains require reservations for a small fee), spending money and what exactly you’ll be doing in the countries you’ll be visiting (there’s always something free to do but sometimes, a little extra cash makes the trip that much more enjoyable). Once you’ve decided all of this, even if you haven’t got the specifics down, you’ll be able to estimate the amount of money you’ll need.
This is arguably the most important part of the trip; deciding your route means you can decide your accommodation, make reservations etc.
There are two ways you can decide to travel; one would be to spend a couple of days in a lot of different countries, backpacker style and the other would be to keep yourself in a general area e.g. Western Europe or Eastern Europe and take more time to explore your chosen area. Of course, each of these options have their own pros and cons and it really depends on your style and the time you have.
When planning your route, a very useful tool to have is the InterRail journey planner. The journey planner has a very lovely and quite useful map of Europe and the countries that are involved with InterRail. You can then see a visual representation of the train connections between the cities and countries in Europe. As if all of this wasn’t enough, there’s also a Rail Planner app which you can easily find on the app store. The app works offline and also allows you to check train times on the go, adding to your flexibility as you travel.
Our route was decided by the fact that we need to be back before our university starts the term (whoop!) and we also decided that we’d prefer a little bit of an in-depth stay, so we’re travelling by train to Switzerland and exploring Switzerland (again by train), then coming back and spending a little time in Germany before returning to London. I’ve specified by train because I know some people prefer to take a flight to certain cities (such as Amsterdam) to start off their journey without using their travel days!
One of my favourite parts of planning a trip is the accommodation aspect. Generally speaking, there are three different types of accommodation that you’d want to consider.
These are great because they are very affordable and also give you the opportunity to actually meet people. There are also a variety of different types of hostels, from your typical bunk bed filled rooms to more luxurious, boutique hostels.
Airbnb is an online accommodation service that has a number of hosts around the world and even expanded into providing unique experiences in different cities. It’s easy to search the site and make reservations.
Finally, probably the highest in the hierarchy of accommodation would be to book a hotel room for your journey. Now I know I just said ‘the highest in the hierarchy’ but it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. If you’re a frequent traveller and you are on a loyalty scheme with a certain hotel, try asking if they have any facilities in your chosen city or country and see if you are eligible for any discounts.
Whichever you go for is up to you but make sure you do your research and check the reviews for any and every accommodation you’re thinking about booking, even if they are a well known chain. One of the worst things is shelling out money for a room of an expected quality and not receiving that quality in reality. So avoid this by doing your research early!
Draw up an Itinery
Even if you’re going completely wild and ‘finding yourself’, an itinery is still very important. The amount of detail in your itinery will depend on your flexibility and how fluid the trip is but the general outline of key places to go and other information should be listed to make sure each day runs as smoothly as possible. Research activities and sights to see that are off the beaten track to explore as much as possible; we’ve been looking at this awesome blog to try and find aesthetic places to explore!
Last but not least and definitely my favourite part of the whole planning shenanigans is creating a packing list. This is something my mum has taught me to do from a young age and what it means is that when you go travelling, before you leave your hotel (or whatever accommodation you’re in), you can check that you have everything by going through your list as you pack!
To make sure you pack enough clothes that you’ll actually wear, start off planning the outfits you’ll be taking, with versatile pieces to take you from day to night and then another day, space in your suitcase will be the least of your worries. To be help you with this, I”ve come up with a packing list, perfect for any mini holiday, so make sure you subscribe to stay in the know! Comment below what your desert island essential would be!