Forget long flights, exotic destinations, expensive restaurants and luxurious hotels. My favourite kind of holiday is the good old road trip. If you are planning a European road trip, these tips will help you to make the most of it.
Let the road surprise you
The beauty of a road trip is that you can go where you want, when you want. Do not ruin that by planning every detail of your entire trip. A road trip should be an adventure. Choose the countries you would like to visit and plan a vague route, but do not book any accommodations. Pack some basic camping gear and let the road guide you. This will allow you to wander off track a little, and unexpectedly discover new places, instead of constantly focusing on following your pre-planned route. Switch your satnav to Avoid motorways, in order to slow down the pace and enjoy the landscapes that pass your window.
A road trip without camping is not a real road trip. Europe is perfect for camping, because camp sites are everywhere. When you set up camp, there is no need to decide straight away how long you will be staying. I recommend to always stay at least two nights though. Spend a day resting up from driving long distances and explore the area. If you find yourself wanting to stay longer, stay. If you have seen all you wanted to see within a day, it is time to hit the road again. Rather than aimlessly driving around, hoping to stumble across a good camp site, bring a European camp site guide book to help you find the nearest camp site. Using these books will be much quicker and easier than finding a camp site on the internet. Keep in mind that wild camping is not allowed in many parts of Europe.
The key to a good road trip is simplicity. This not only applies to the way you treat your route, but to other aspects of your trip as well. Bring a tent that does not take an hour to pitch and be careful of over packing. It may sound obvious, but do not forget that you will be spending a lot of time in your car during your trip. Keeping your car organised and clean will help you to spend as little time as possible searching for things in your car. Since you will not be staying anywhere for a lengthy period, there is no use in unpacking your car at every camp site you visit. As long as valuable items are out of sight, it is best to leave most of your things in your car. Unlike a tent, a car can be locked. Besides, the more items you leave in your car, the quicker you will be ready to move on again in the morning.
Be well prepared
As much as I love a little bit of adventure, it is best to be well prepared before you embark on a grand tour of Europe. Now, I can hear you thinking: “but did you not just tell me to not book anything and that I should just go for it?” I did. And you should. However, make sure the necessary paperwork is in order. Passport and driving license are the obvious ones and do not need further explanation. There are more things to keep in mind though. Check if your car insurance covers the countries you want to visit, and get European breakdown cover. The real adventure should be not knowing where you will go the next day, rather than not knowing how on earth you will ever get home when your car breaks down.
Know the rules
Some countries require you to buy a low emission zone sticker or a vignette. A vignette is a sticker you put on your windscreen, to show that you have paid road taxes for that country. In an age when country borders in Europe have all but vanished, it is easy to forget things like these. Avoid fines by buying your vignette before you leave, or buy one just before you cross the border. Keep some change in your glovebox for toll roads. Last, but certainly not least, find out which equipment is mandatory in the countries you want to visit. The basics are high visibility vests, spare lightbulbs and a warning triangle, but in some countries you will also need a fire extinguisher or alcohol breathalysers.
Are you planning a European road trip, or have you recently been on one? Feel free to ask questions and share additional tips in the comments below.