10 Tips to Plan a Successful Europe Road Trip
Planning a road trip does take a bit of effort but arm yourself with information and some preparation and discovering Europe by road will be an unforgettable experience. After all, having your own set of wheels offers another level of freedom and flexibility to discover destinations that are off the beaten path. To start you off on how to plan your travel in Europe, we’ve put together a guide with some tips and tricks for driving through this diverse and historical continent.
- Establish a budget
For the travel junkie, few things are more disappointing than planning the trip of their dreams and then discovering they cannot afford it. It’s best to establish a budget early on and map your itinerary accordingly. Travelling during off season is easier on your wallet and some destinations are also cheaper than others. That being said, there are always ways to save. London or Berlin may be expensive cities to visit but you can make the most of being on a road trip by exploring the cities during the day and drive out to suburban hotels at night.
- Find the right car with the right set of wheels
If you are going to be making this trip in your own car, remember to check the tyres to help you stay safe on the roads. Look at tread depth, tyre pressure and the weight that you will be putting into your car. It goes without saying that you check these aspects before signing on for a rental car as well. Manual shift cars are most common in continental Europe, so if you are more comfortable with an automatic, be prepared to pay a tad bit more. Also make a mental note of which side of the road the country drives on. (Keep to the left in the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus and the right in European countries.)
- Check your car and travel insurance
It’s never wise to skimp on car and travel insurance to protect you from accidents, emergencies and thefts en route, if they do happen. In some cases, your home insurance can cover you abroad as well, but if not, purchase insurance from a trusted service provider. Look up your credit card’s contract as it’s possible that you’re already covered for basic civic damages and rental. Always read the fine print in your policy and compare it with other car and travel insurance policies before you settle on one. But if you’re visiting high-risk countries like Iceland, for example, you might need to book extra insurance for ash damage (!).
- Inform your bank of your travel plans
This may be an obvious step when travelling but is especially important to do when travelling within Europe because you will possibly visit many countries. Add every single one to your travel notification so that you don’t have to worry when you’re being spontaneous and living in the moment!
- Get your passports and permits in order
Since travelling within the European continent is relatively hassle-free, it might be easy to forget to take along your passport, but set yourself reminders to take them along so that you never find yourself turning back for them. Also remember to get your international driver’s license since some countries expect you to have one in addition to your regular one.
- Plan routes and itinerary if you’re on a budget
While you may not be a detailed planner and want to go where the road leads you, if you’re on a budget, having a rough itinerary with routes mapped out will help you squeeze out the most from your trip. Although counter-intuitive, it will actually help you be more flexible (you’re on a road trip afterall) because you will know what you’re working with in terms of budget, destinations and evening stops.
- Be mindful of logistics for a hassle-free trip
Check the toll in every country you’ll be driving through before you leave. Also remember that some countries have highway vignettes instead of tolls, passes that you either stick to the inside of your windshield or keep with you at all times. These passes allow you to drive on highways in those countries. Get a weekly, 2-week or monthly pass according to the length of your Europe road trip. For example, in Croatia, you pay only tolls, in Slovenia its only highway vignettes, and Austria has both, with special tolls at certain tunnels.
- Keep your phone going
Every time you cross over form the border of one country to another, you lose your connection, so it’s worthwhile to add a European plan to your connection if you’re from outside the continent. Another option is to get local SIM cards along the way but this could be cumbersome if you will be visiting more than 2-3 countries. Whatever you chose, remember to keep your phone unlocked so the connections work in all destinations. While we’re on the topic of the phone, store the Europe-wide emergency contact number 112 in your phone. It is almost equivalent to 911 in the US in function. This number is also applicable as an emergency number in the UK, although they also have 999 for the same purpose.
- GPS, Google maps and Waze are your best friends
You may want to go old school and use paper maps and while they do have their place, it goes without saying that both Google maps and Waze are extremely handy during road trips, but for different reasons. Waze is useful for real-time directions as it takes into account accidents, traffic etc. but Google maps lets you save previous routes that you can access if you run out of data, are lost in a village where you don’t know the language.
- Don’t forget the cooler
Having all your meals in restaurants and cafes is sure to be hard on your stomach, not to mention your wallet. Pack a cooler that will keep your drinks chilled and snacks and breakfast basics ready for when you want to eat on the go, treat yourself to some munchies without pulling over or save on restaurant bills.
Has this list whetted your appetite for traveling to Europe? Be prepared for anything, allow yourself the occasional splurge since you are saving on airfare and remember to spend time with the locals. It will be a trip you’ll remember for years to come!