I live in Switzerland which means I live in the middle of everywhere! Fantastic European cities are just a train ride away. Milan is only 4 hours, Salzburg is 6 hours and Berlin is 8 hours. It makes globetrotting easy but packing for it can be interesting. When traveling by train in Europe you need to approach your packing like you’re packing a carry-on bag. Not only will you have to hoist your bag onto the train from the platform you may find yourself hoisting it above your head if all the prime luggage storage is taken. So think light when you’re packing your bag for your European train adventure.
More importantly though consider what you’re going to do with yourself all day on a train. Here’s what I usually throw in my messenger bag to keep me occupied and comfortable.
Ereader: Long train rides are a great time to catch up on your reading!
Emergency Book: I know it seems redundant but always plan for the worst case scenario of not wanting to read anything you have stored on your Ereader. Trust me, it happens. I recommend a guide book for your final destination city.
Ipod/mp3 player: I like loud music as much as the next traveler but keep in mind some train cars are designated quiet cars so look for signs (usually a person making a shushing motion) and make sure you adjust your volume accordingly.
Snacks: Food on trains can be expensive. So make sure you bring snacks, fruit and maybe even a sandwich on board so save yourself some money.
Two bottles of water: Train air is dry so hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Sometimes if you ask nicely they’ll even refill it for you in the dining car if there is potable water on tap.
Sleeping mask: Especially nice for the 7 am train from Bern to Milan and you’re not quite finished sleeping yet.
Sweater/fleece/hoodie: Super nice if you’re sitting close to one of the doors that will be opening and closing quite a bit.
Wet wipes: Always take them with you to the bathroom. Last thing you want is to end up in the one without toilet paper. They’re also a lifesaver if you have a run in with something sticky in the dining car.
Hand sanitizer: Take that to the bathroom along with your wet wipes. Just trust me.
Underarm Deodorant wipes: After 8 hours on a stuffy train you’ll be feeling less than fresh these will revive you at the end of your journey.
Laptop: The options are endless, movies, games, there’s even internet browsing if you’re lucky enough to get a train with wireless.
Cables and chargers: No matter what class you’re in there is always a place to plug in.
Digital Camera: Long train rides are a great opportunity to play with your shutter speed settings and panning skills.
European/universal plug converter: Don’t pack this in your luggage, keep it handy.
Passport: You can pass into another country without much warning so make sure you have your passport on you when you’re moving about the train. Same goes for your train ticket.
Super extra special bonus optional item
A Zuca Bag: This is the bag I opt to take with me on all my train journeys when it’s not full of my roller derby gear. It’s light, it rolls (and the wheels light up), it fits in the overhead compartments AND it doubles as a chair.
Yes, you read that right.
The aluminum frame on the bag allows you to use your piece of luggage as a chair. I’ve used it on train platforms while waiting and on a crowded replacement train after I had to unexpectedly change trains when there was a problem further down the line. Needless to say I was glad I brought my own chair!
>> Check out the Zuca Bag on Amazon.
About the Author: Tatiana Warkentin is former fundraising professional turned writer/blogger over at The Dubious Hausfrau who moved to Switzerland from Manitoba, Canada with her husband in July 2011. She writes about everything from learning to love kayaking to trying to find brown sugar in the grocery store. When she isn’t writing she is an explorer and adventurer finding time to hike, tour chocolate factories and, fall in love with the view of the mountains from her balcony. Follow her on twitter: @TatianaLouise.
Join the Her Packing List email community!
Subscribe to get our latest packing lists, gear deals, and travel news by email.