With its smooth roads winding the countryside, twisting up and down mountains and brushing by sandy shores; Europe is full of gorgeous road trip opportunities that will show you parts of the continent not seen with other forms of transportation.
But, a gorgeous road trip can only go smoothly if you are prepared enough to take the road and its sometimes-unexpected turns.
Here are a few tips that will help you plan a European road trip.
1. Pick your destinations and create a route:
Probably the idea of doing a road trip came from your desire to go somewhere in specific. Which are those places? Can you visit them by car? If so, what would be the possible route?
Try picking the major sites and base your trip on that. Aside from your major/must-see sights, allow flexibility with everything in between.
The beauty of a road trip is the endless possibilities to get from point A to point B. You can take the easy route, or the high one, the pretty one, the adventurous one, or a combination of everything.
What would be the weather on each country at the time of your road trip? You will need to pack accordingly. Some countries might be warm and dry, but once you cross a few borders you might notice that others can be cold and rainy.
It’s also recommended to visit each destination’s tourism board website to see if there are any events happening there during your visit. Who knows, you might want to adjust your schedule to get there for the event or to avoid it (if you don’t like crowds).
2. Get your documents in order:
You need to have a passport with enough empty pages and at least 6 months of validity before it expires (recommended to have more, if possible). You also need to have a valid driver’s license from your home country (also check the expiration date).
You might also need an international driving permit since some European rental companies do require it to rent a car. Contact them to check on their requirements. U.S. citizens, can obtain the permit through the American Auto Association (AAA).
Do you need visas to enter the countries in your route? If so, can you get them at the border or do you need to apply in advance at the embassy/consulate?
Have your car registration documents handy. Some countries call it the “car passport” and they will ask for it at the border in order to allow you in their country with the car.
And last but not least, verify if the countries you are visiting require the purchase of “road tax”. If so, you need to purchase (the sticker or document) at the border or at a gas station. You don’t want to be fined if you get pulled over by the police or when leaving the country.
3. Establish your budget:
This could be done before or after setting the itinerary and route, or at the same time, since everything is influenced by all the variables. Some destinations are generally cheaper than others, but there are ways to save everywhere: travel in the off-season, pick budget accommodations, plan a shorter trip, and other options.
4. Have travel insurance:
It is important to have
travel insurance while doing a road trip (or any style of travel). The road can be tricky sometimes and accidents can happen. And believe me, they do happen… this comes from a guy who just drove from England to Mongolia and crashed his car in Russia. Luckily there were no injuries, but I had my travel insurance up to date in case I needed to go to the hospital due to injuries. Before starting the trip, check which type of
travel insurance is best for you, depending on the countries you’ll be visiting and the medical coverage they offer. Combine a
travel insurance policy and the
RoamRight mobile app and you will have peace of mind on your next road trip.
5. Don’t forget to pack your car essentials:
Almost everything listed below can fit in a small space in your car.
- Owner’s manual – This should naturally be in the glove compartment. The owner’s manual provides useful information that can get you back on the road, such as detailed images of how to change a tire and so forth.
- Bottled water – It’s important to always be hydrated.
- Snacks – Great for long hours on the road, whether expected or unexpected.
- Maps – A printed map is a great way to navigate Europe in the old fashion way. Don’t completely rely on a GPS navigation system.
- Booster (jumper) cables – Enables you to get your car started with a dead battery.
- First aid kit – To treat any small medical emergency on the road.
- Fix-a-flat or Tire Weld – If your tire has a pretty rapid leak, these are quick solutions to inflate the tire and drive until the next gas station or repair shop. It’s good to carry two cans.
- Tire repair kit – If the tire has deflated rapidly, a tire repair kit makes it possible for you to patch up the tire well enough for a short period.Tire air gauge – Keeping your tires fully inflated not only improves gas mileage, but reduces the risk of tire explosions.
- Road flares – Invaluable at night for others to see you if you’re stationary on the road.
- Flashlight (and extra batteries) – Essential at night for camping or changing tires.
- WD-40 – Helps loosen any bolts and even good to cheat when lighting a campfire.
- Fire extinguisher – This is a must for any fire.
- Portable charger – You can plug into your car and charge up your phone and other electronic.
- Duct tape – This works for everything!
- A carpet remnant – If you’ve ever get stuck in mud, snow, or ice, a carpet remnant is the best cheap way to help get yourself out when placed under the tire.
- For winter – Road salt, a shovel, hat, scarf, and gloves.
- Basic tools – Only if you’re inclined to do some basic mechanical work on your own.
Don’t be scared by this list. The roads in Europe are great (in general), but in any great adventure you should expect the unexpected. Feel ready enough to plan your next adventure driving through Europe?