I've mentioned it here and there (probably too many times), but just in case you haven't heard, I'm going interrailing this summer!!
We're heading off around the middle of July until the middle of August to explore all that Europe has to offer. I really wanted to travel as much as possible this year on my year abroad, being pretty centrally based in Germany, but working full time and Erasmus grants just didn't cover flights every other weekend. So we decided to focus on exploring Germany while saving up to do more travelling this summer as a group.
It was talked about for a while and we finally sat down and agreed to do it around January/February time. Then the planning started!
If you're a regular reader of my blog, know me personally, or have seen this post then you'll know how organised I am, and I might've maybe possibly taken over the planning (sorry guys!). Because we're all over the place with different schedules and can't reguarly sit down to plan things, we decided to make a Google Docs document that we could all access it and edit and update as we go.
If you're planning a trip with multiple people, or even on your own, this is the way forward. Being able to update it everytime I see a restaurant review or accommodation recommendations makes life so easy.
Deciding a route
When it came to deciding a route, we came up with a rough route over Skype. We all had one place we really wanted to go and then we worked around that. The route has been changed a bit because of practicalties with trains and what not, but this is our current plan:
London > Amsterdam > Berlin > Prague > Krakow & Auschwitz > Budapest > Croatia (Zagreb & Split probably) > Ljubljana & Lake Bled > Vienna
One of the things we all wanted to visit was Auschwitz. Studying German and learning a lot about the war means I have an understanding of what went on, but I think it's so important to get a grasp of the scale and horrors that actually happened. There's only so much of an understanding you can grasp through books and films, so this is somehwere I want to witness in real life.
When researching this, I found that one of the camps is closed for quite a few days over the period we planned to go. This meant there were only a select few days we could book a tour. We didn't want it to become fully booked and miss out on the opportunity, so we went ahead and booked tour tickets, before anything else had been booked.
This gave us something to work from though: we now knew we needed to be in the area on that date, so we worked backwards, counting roughly how many days we wanted in each city to decide on a leaving date.
Flights out booked.
Some of us also needed to be back for certain things so we booked flights back pretty early on too. The problem was we didn't know exactly where we were finishing, we wanted to end in Croatia but the flights were SO expensive from there (the problem of interrailing in July/August). We ended up looking at flights from a number of countries with a few days flexibility to get a rough idea of where would be the cheapest to fly back from. After a lot of research and search queries on Skyscanner (my absolute fav website for checking flights) it worked out cheapest to fly from Vienna in Austria. We'd actually ruled this off our places we wanted to visit list but I guess it looks like we're going there after all! We're flying in the evening so we probably will only spend 1 night there.
Flights home booked.
Then we looked at train timetables to try and work out a more fixed route, starting from the start. Tom & I have already visited Amsterdam and Berlin last year so we pretty much know what's there and how long we want to stay there so that was easy. It's the places we haven't been that's proving more difficult to decide!
I've been reading SO many blog posts and watching Youtube videos of interrailing to pick up some tips and recommendations of how long to stay in cities, what to do, places to stay, where to eat and so on. If you've got any posts on any of the cities we're planning to go, I would absolutely love to read them! I'm adding every recommendation to our Google Docs to make things easier nearer the time.
Working out the trains
Our next steps are booking train reservations and accommodation, which we're going to do in order of cities we're visiting. We're not quite sure how we want to see Croatia yet or how long we're going to want to be there yet so we'll need some more planning on that. We're also planning on booking tours/tickets for things in advance as we're travelling in such a busy period. I really want to go horse riding around Lake Bled so that'll be one of the things to book!
We had a Skype session last night to book train reservations. Not all trains can be reserved, some are optional, and some are mandatory. We are making reservations on all the mandatory trains (obviously) and also all the overnight trains. Some of the shorter, 2 hour trains we're not bothering to reserve as it gives us some flexibility as well!
The way the reservation website works is a little bit odd, you put in your route, desired train and desired cabin type and then... wait. We spent ages agreeing which trains would be best and then clicked submit to receive a message saying 'we'll get back to you in 2 business days with availability' which is a little bit annoying. Hopefully all of our trains are available!
So the order of planning for us has gone:
- A rough route planned
- Travel there
- Travel back
- 'Finalise' route
- Train reservations
Other things to plan
Obviously I've also wrote a packing list already (yep, I'm keen). I'm pretty small at 5'1" and less than 50kg so I can't carry a crazy amount, and I don't want to when it's super hot and we could be doing lots of walking, so I'm planning on packing as light as possible. I've wrote a list of things I need to buy before we go as I want to spread out the purchases to help with budgeting. Some things on my list include a travel towel, some decent shoes and a backpack - unlike most of the British population, I didn't do DofE and I've never purchased a backpack larger than one I can fit an A4 notepad in, except maybe in year 7 lol.
I'm also planning on vlogging the trip with the help of Ed so I guess this could be the start of my Youtube venture woo! And of course there will be lots of blog posts. I'd love to blog on the go as I'll have lots of long train journeys to write and edit but I just don't want to carry my laptop around. I also don't want to leave my blog for 4 weeks but hate scheduling posts. I'm trying to think of a solution!
I know this post is a little bit different as normally I like to think my posts are a little bit helpful (hopefully) but I enjoy reading posts like these and I wanted to share my interrail journey, starting right from the beginning!
If you've been interrailing or to any of the places we've planned to go, I'd love to hear your experiences - leave a comment or get in touch on any of my social media :)