How to survive Interrailing in a group

I remember my first Interrailing trip. My best friend and I couldn’t wait to go, talking endlessly about little else for months before we departed. Unsurprisingly our enthusiasm proved infectious and we soon found others who wanted to tag along. The more the merrier we thought – after all, we were all young and looking for fun. What could go wrong?

Well, quite a lot actually. Two of our group hated each other on sight (they first met at the train station on our departure day) and barely spoke for the entire trip. Another (an acquaintance rather than a friend) turned out to be, well, rather odd  – he drunkenly howled at the moon before stripping off in the middle of a shared dorm during one particularly memorable night. He also reckoned he could make it as an Opera star, and didn’t mind sharing his talent with strangers. Another member of the group ended up viciously insulting my best friend, leaving her in tears when all he really meant to do was tease her. Awkward!

It didn’t ruin our trip of course – we had an absolute blast from beginning to end – but there were times when having a smaller group would have been easier. Easier to decide what to do, easier to get out of the hostel early, easier to decide where and what to eat every day. On the other hand, would it have been as much fun? Sure we had arguments but we also had each other for support and to keep an eye on each other. We were our own entertainment.

Since then I have travelled in groups, solo and as a couple. And it got me thinking, if you are going to travel in a group – what should you think about first, how do you survive it and come out smiling? Well, here’s my top ten tips on how not only to survive, but actually enjoy yourself:

  1. First things first – choose wisely. Three or four weeks can be a looooooong time so look at those you are asking to go along with you – will they all get along or are there likely to be fireworks? Are they all on the same or at least similar wavelengths to you? Would you travel with them alone if it was only you two?
  2. So your mate is going, and he is bringing his mate, his girlfriend and her bestie. Cool right? Yip – just make sure everyone has a chance to get to know each other before you go, even a few glasses of wine in a pub is a chance to scope each other out and feel comfortable before you head off.  
  3. Talk. Before you go get some group discussions going so you all have an idea of what to expect and what you want to see or do. It helps everyone to have an understanding of what the trip entails – is it going to be a mad party holiday, a cultural extravaganza or a mix of both.
  4. Smokers v non smokers? Sure, it may not sound like a problem but if you have to wait for someone in your group to finish a cigarette after every train journey or attraction visit then it can get tiresome. I’m not saying you should ask people to quit of course, you might even be a smoker yourself, but do ask people to have a bit of patience and understanding for their fellow travellers.
  5. Plan ahead. Bit of a hassle I know but if you’re the organiser type or someone else is (and there’s always one) then ask people what they really don’t want to miss out on during the trip then prepare a draft itinerary before you go, incorporating everyone’s wishes (or as much as it is possible to). This helps to manage expectations when you’re on the road – plus you can always let the group know that nothing is compulsory of course.
  6. If one of your group wants to lie in and misses that amazing trip to the Trevi Fountain then, hey, that’s up to them – let it go, head off and enjoy yourself. No one goes Interrailing to be the group’s parent.
  7. Be respectful. Everyone is an individual with their own hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities so have a little care, a little respect and a little thought. Let people talk, listen to them and try to understand what they are saying.
  8. Be on time – remember the respectful tip? Well, no one wants to wait for your lazy arse while you roll out of bed half an hour after everyone then take your time getting ready. If you want to stay in bed then do so but don’t expect anyone to be waiting around for you when there’s so much to see and do.
  9. Drink. This is a tricky one – no one wants to stop anyone having a good time but if that good time gets a little out of control then always, always do your best to make amends the next morning. Hey, we know it’s tough, we’ve all been there, everyone understands.
  10. If you are going to drink then be aware of your limits – if you’re the type who ends up in a fight, running naked through the streets or snoring in an alleyway – then maybe go a little bit easy on the booze. Everyone loves a drink, nobody loves a drunk.

I have never once regretted an Interrailing trip but, looking back at that first adventure, I can see now how we – as a group – made mistakes. Us two orgainsers just assumed everyone was like us – wanted what we did, would get along. It didn’t quite work out that way but hey, we’re all still friends so that’s a plus. And I certainly wouldn’t change a thing. I hope the tips above will help you, and everyone you’re travelling with, have a great time. Travel easy folks.

Shirley Kernan xxx

Interrailing Packages Ltd

*Picture by Flickr user, kishore kumar. Used under the Creative Commons licence:


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