Interrail trip #1: preparation

This post kicks off my 7 part travel series on my Interrail trip which I took recently. I returned less than a week ago and I’m brimming with excitement and the urge to share my stories with you. For those of you that don’t know: I went on a 22 day solo train trip around Europe from June 24th till July 15th. If you would like to know exactly which cities I visited and what I did in each one of them, then stay tuned because those posts are coming up. To start off the series, I thought it best to begin with a post on preparing for this type of trip. Traveling 3 weeks by yourself is no pick nick, if you don’t carefully organize certain things in advance and prepare yourself for what’s to come. My motto is: better be safe than sorry, so here’s how I got round to putting this trip together.

Leiden Central station: the start of my trip.

If you’d like to know how I went about organizing the train journey itself, I advice you to read this May 18th post. At the time, I already wrote up how I had organized my Interrail ticket, which one I picked and why and what my planned route was going to be and why. To sum things up briefly, I went to a local train travel agency and bought my ticket and all reservations in advance with them. I am glad I did, because when you’re traveling on an Interrail ticket you only have limited access to high speed trains. High speed trains are handy to travel long distances in a short amount of time and they are reservation only. The number of reservations for Interrail peeps are limited and once they sell out you might not be able to get on the train of your choosing. Also, because I already had my reservations ready to go, it meant I didn’t have to wait in the long lines I saw at some train stations. In other words: it saves time and headaches while you’re under way when you book your tickets and reservations in advance.

The other thing I booked in advance were my hotels. When you’ve been on a train for 6+ hours, or walking around the city for the same amount of time, it’s nice to have your own room to chill and relax. I used to make all of my reservations. What I looked for in the hotels I booked were: distance from the railway station (I went a maximum of 30 mins walking distance according to Google Maps, roughly 2 km), price and rating. All the hotels I stayed in were more than fine, but I tend to be not so demanding when I’m traveling. I need a room with a bed comfortable enough to sleep in and that’s it. I’m out and about all day anyway so I don’t mind if it doesn’t look fancy or has crappy TV stations. All it needs to be is clean and comfy. Hotel wise Paris and Copenhagen were the most expensive cities to stay in, followed by Venice and Vienna. Berlin and Barcelona were the cheapest and Brussels, Milan and Prague were right on point with what I had budgeted. I will say a bit more about the hotels when I discuss my actual trip.

And that brings me to budget. You have the trip, you book the hotels and then you still need some money to spend on food and attractions and the occasional shopping of course. I usually don’t budget my trips very carefully, I just go with the flow, but for this I wanted to limit myself as my luggage would simply not allow me to take a whole lot with me, plus my job situation was a bit unsure before I left so I didn’t want to overdo it. I used my debit card to take out cash every day (around 50 euros) which I used to buy food and pay for attractions. I also used it for most of my shopping and I allowed myself 30 euros in every city to shop with. I used a credit card to pay for my hotels and for some loose bits and bops that I ended up needing as it was quicker to book certain things online to ensure you could go inside or partake in the activity. I just recently found out that there are special travel credit cards that can make life easier for you on the road. There are so many to choose from, and Credit Card Insider has all the information if you’re looking into traveling for a longer amount of time.

Another thing I did is buy a notebook to use as a travel journal on the road. Especially when you’re by yourself, it’s nice to write things down because this way you can still ‘share’ your experiences, even though there is no one there. Before I simply blogged while on the road, but since I would be going on a backpack-only trip, bringing a laptop would be too much of a hassle.  A little Moleskin notebook with a pen doesn’t take up that much space. So, every night I sat down and wrote down my adventures of the day. This way I’ll always know what my trip was like and I was still capable of sharing my experiences and I just think it will be a nice keepsake to have later in life. I also made an overview in Word of all the train times and hotel addresses. I sent it to my mom and my best friend so at least some people would know where I would be at. I comprised everything onto 2 A4 and you can view that file by clicking the following link: Interrailen overzicht.

Last but not least you need to pack your things up. I was only going to take one large (but not ma-hoo-sive) backpack and one small one. One would hold all my clothes and toiletries, the other would have my valuables, wallet, etc. I made a packing list and gathered a LOT of minis in the weeks prior to the trip. If you’re curious to see which bags I took and how I packed, then stay tuned, because that will be tomorrow’s post.

How do you organize your trips?

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