• 28 October 2022

Rail travel is a unique and fun way to see more of the world. It’s comfortable and convenient and allows you to experience destinations from a totally different perspective! While getting ready to embark on a rail tour, there are a few important things to consider; one of which is what to pack. To help you get ready for any upcoming train trips, Expat Explore has put together a handy list of tips and tricks to assist travellers with packing for their next rail tour. 

5 Tips for packing for a rail tour:

1. Pack lightly

Firstly, and most importantly, pack lightly! The luggage limitations differ on trains due to their size. When on a coach tour, you can bring a large main piece of luggage which will conveniently fit into the coach’s luggage compartment. However, luggage space is more limited on trains. Luggage can be stored in demarcated luggage racks and overhead storage on trains and these spaces are often compact. 

Due to limited space, a small to medium-sized suitcase is advised, along with a small carry-on bag. Both of these should be easily stored in the luggage racks and overhead spaces. Aim to have your bags at a weight that is easy to lift above your head into the overhead storage spaces. 

You will also be carrying your own bags between the train station and hotels on Expat Explore’s rail tours, either by walking (when it is a short distance) or by public transport. This means you should be able to comfortably walk with your luggage for up to 10 minutes and carry your luggage up and down stairs when needed. 

Female traveller with small suitcase on train platform rail tour
Travel smart and pack lightly for your next train tour.
2. Bring the right type of luggage

Bringing a lightweight bag with sturdy wheels is the next important tip! As mentioned above, you need to be able to comfortably walk for up to 10 minutes with your bag. Europe’s historic centres are also home to many cobblestoned streets so sturdy wheels will make a huge difference when navigating these pathways!

For your main bag, Expat Explore recommends a small to medium-sized bag with dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 23 cm and a weight of 7kg. You can take a look at more size guidelines in the image below:

Graphic with luggage dimensions for rail tours

For your carry-on, Expat Explore recommends a small daypack or backpack; this will hold essential items such as your wallet, cellphone, camera, passports, chargers, water and snacks as well as sunscreen/sun hat or hat/gloves depending on the season in which you travel. Maximum dimensions are 42cm x 30cm x 18cm with a weight of 7kg. These are the same dimension guidelines for carry-ons for coach tours.

Travel tip: Bringing a suitcase and carry-on that can easily fit on top of each other, will make walking around much more pleasant! Two smaller bags are generally easier to handle than one large one. Additionally, soft-shell bags are usually easier to fit into storage spaces than hard-shell cases.

3. Only bring the essentials

We offer the same advice to travellers on our coach tours: only pack the essentials. This allows you to have lighter luggage plus leaves you room for a few souvenirs! 

Pack only the essential clothing*, medication and toiletries that you’ll need for the duration of your trip.
*Additional specific tips for clothing are listed below.

With regards to toiletries, many brands offer mini versions of their products which are great options for rail tours and packing lightly. You can also create your own mini-versions where necessary! For example, instead of lugging around big bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash, decant as much of the product as you think you’ll need for the duration of the tour, into smaller bottles. There is no need for towels (unless you plan on swimming or visiting the beach on your tour) as the accommodation will provide bath towels. Most hotels will also offer hair dryers either in the room or at the reception.

The trick is to think like a backpacker! Pack as lightly as possible and swap large items for smaller items where possible; such as swapping large physical items for small or electronic versions. For example, swap physical books for an e-reader to save space. 

Traveller pakcing suitcase of essentials for rail tour
Save space – only pack the essentials for your trip.
4. Pack versatile “combination” clothes and comfortable walking shoes 

While we advise packing light, we know it’s not realistic to only pack two or three outfits for trips that are a week or longer! The trick here is to pack clothing items that can be worn in a number of combinations. Choose shirts, shorts, jeans and trousers that are interchangeable and versatile – giving you several outfit options.  You can also do laundry in the destinations you visit on tour when needed. Your tour leader will be able to provide advice on where to go. 

You’ll be doing a fair amount of walking, so sturdy walking shoes are a must! Depending on the season, these could be comfortable sandals, sneakers or boots suitable for exploring destinations across Europe! 

A final clothing tip is to remember your rain jacket! Europe’s weather can be unpredictable and you want to be able to walk around comfortably, even when it rains. 

Sturdy suitcase and walking shoes on train platform rail tour
Comfy walking shoes are super important when travelling!
5. Make use of packing cubes and organisers 

Our final tip is all about packing smart. Packing cubes and luggage organisers are the surest way to optimise your luggage space when you are using a small to medium-sized bag. They allow you to fit more items into a smaller space. They often also help with keeping clothes wrinkle and crease-free! You can find packing cubes for sale in most home stores and on sites such as Amazon

Alternatively, rolling your clothes (versus folding them) is another great space-saving technique. 

Traveller packing suitcase with rolling technique rail tour
Use the rolling technique to save space when packing.

Related: Read more about packing like a pro here

With these handy packing tips, you’re all set for the rail tour adventure of a lifetime! On Expat Explore’s rail tours, you can look forward to seeing Europe by train in a fun, convenient and affordable way. If you haven’t yet booked a seat on one of our group rail tours, what are you waiting for? Take a look at our tours by train today! 

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