Tips for Packing: Train Travel Must-Haves

Italo train in Italy. Photo courtesy: NTV
Italo train in Italy. Photo courtesy: NTV

There’s nothing like the train to travel around Europe in comfort, while actually getting to visit up-close and personal with the country you’re exploring.

But traveling in comfort includes packing the right stuff. So, like we always do, we want you to be prepared with some tips for packing, since correctly packing for train travel will enhance an already great experience.

What does traveling light on a train mean?

You know you should always pack light, even though most trains have no luggage restrictions. But when you consider that you’ll be arriving and leaving from the center of town, perhaps even walking distance from your hotel, and not “checking your bag in” like at an airport, you’ll want to be even smarter about packing for train travel.

So let’s start with wheels. Traveling light doesn’t just mean what’s in the bag, but the bag itself. A four-wheel carry-on with a lightweight frame is just the thing. That’s right—make sure it’s light when it’s empty too! It’s that kind of detail that will make enjoying the fantastic European stations and using the luggage racks overhead or at train car entrances easy.

City Night Line train in Germany. Copyright: Deutsche Bahn AG
City Night Line train in Germany. Copyright: Deutsche Bahn AG

Top 10 list: Packing for European Train Travel

What you bring is as important as the memories you take back. How many of these train travel must haves would you think of?

#10: A collapsed, plastic rain poncho to make sure it doesn’t rain. It’s like an umbrella. If you take it, you won’t need it 🙂

#9: Lightweight, wrinkle-free black clothes you can accessorize differently day after day

#8: An expandable tote bag for daily shopping excursions

Lucerne, Switzerland. Copyright: ST/ / Gian Marco Castelberg & Maurice Haas
Lucerne, Switzerland. Copyright: ST/ / Gian Marco Castelberg & Maurice Haas

#7: A wrap or travel blanket to make your own climate control and optimum comfort zone

#6: A European cellphone, calling card, or internet modem. You’ll find all of these from Rail Europe’s ekit partner including a GSM phone package that works all over Europe. Hey, you need some way to rub in how much fun you’re having to the folks at home!

#5: A converter to make sure you can recharge your electronics when outlets are available on board

#4: A smaller bag or pouch that stays with you and holds your valuables like wallet, passport, your train tickets, rail pass, electronics and jewelry

#3: A cable lock you can run through your bag handles to secure to the luggage racks

#2: Your sense of adventure! Because you’re on a train you’re free to get up, walk around, eat when you like and watch scenery every single minute of your trip.

Bernina Express train in Switzerland. © Rhaetian Railway
Bernina Express train in Switzerland. © Rhaetian Railway

#1: You tell us! What’s your favorite train travel must have? Leave a comment below to share your travel expertise with the whole world.

Freestyling in Switzerland.

Sometimes, traveling light can mean traveling without your luggage. Especially for ski trips and outdoor adventures with lots of gear in Switzerland. That’s why there’s Swiss Fast Baggage. It transports your luggage from one station to another within Switzerland. And Swiss Fly Rail Baggage lets you check in your luggage at any airport in the US and pick it up at any train station in Switzerland.

You’re not done yet. There’s more to know.

I’ve just scratched the surface. There’s a lot more practical stuff you’re going to want to know, like TGV trains require luggage tags on each bag. Or that Eurostar has a generous but definitive luggage allowance of two medium-sized suitcases and one piece of hand luggage per person. It sounds like a lot, but since there’s usually no luggage restrictions on trains, it’s important to be aware of.

So don’t stop now. For even more information to keep your trip on track, I’d recommend Frommer’s Europe by Rail. And since the best tips are always born from experience, make sure you stay in touch with what you learn traveling. We’ll be waiting to hear from you.


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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Avatar Marilyn says:

    When traveling with small children, I always use a large backpack instead of a case, so that my hands are free to help the kids make those quick train changes.

  2. Avatar Lilia Real says:


  3. Avatar bucketowater says:

    What’s the best way to travel with passports with teenager boys in tow? We generally stay close to one another, but I carrya purse… Perfect for passport.. What do teens do with passports?

  4. Really looking nice..thanks a lot for the information

  5. Avatar Mabel says:

    Ooh, thanks for this. I’m taking the overnight train from London to Scotland later this year and was pondering what to pack.

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