It’s no secret that Liv and I love a city break. Until very recently, neither of us had done a proper road trip before though. We did a little bit of driving during our trip to Hawaii last year and most recently we hired a car and drove around Italy (thanks for driving, Stefan). Seeing some of the aptly named “beautiful country” or Bel Paese by car really was amazing – we visited Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento and Matera, with a very brief stop off in Potenza. Watch this space for a post on our #ItalianAdventure.
One of the best ways to see as much as you can of a country is to hire a car and get on the road. I wanted to share some of my tips to help take some of the stress out of road trips, especially when driving around Europe. A few key things you might want to consider before heading out on the road are included below but let me know in the comments if you have any extra top tips.
Give the car a once over
Firstly, ensure the car is at a good standard. You’ll want to check the fluids like oil, coolant, windscreen wash and obviously petrol. Don’t forget to also check that the car battery is in good working order before setting out. Some garages do checks like this for free that take just a few minutes.
You should check that the brake lights and indicators are working, and that the tyres are at the correct pressure. Some countries might also require you to have snow chains in the car if you are driving in certain places.
If you’re hiring a car, like we did in Italy, you’ll also want to check the car for any scratches, marks or damages before driving away from the car rental place. Take pictures and note anything down with the car hire company to avoid any difficult discussions when returning the car.
Bring a sat-nav or download Google maps
Gone are the days of the A-to-Z for most young people – some people wouldn’t even know how to read a traditional paper map now! We had Apple Maps as a backup in Italy when Google wasn’t 100% up to date with some closed roads and diversions. Dropping a pin on Google Maps can also be good for when you park up in an unknown place to make sure that you can find your way back to the car after a bit of exploring.
Keep some loose change in the car
Some parts of Europe have toll booths where you pay for the privilege of driving on the roads. You may be able to see these on some sat navs but the systems can vary in each country and you may end up paying a few times on the same road or motorway. The amount can differ each time but it’s good to have a few coins spare – obviously don’t leave large amounts of cash in the car overnight as you might attract car thieves.
Pack your snacks
Having some nice bites, sweet and savoury, to snack on during the drive is a must (obviously the driver should only eat when stationary and stay fully focused on the road). Taking a packed lunch with you on a day trip is also a good idea if you don’t want to spend too much money on food.
Download your best music playlists
Goes without saying! Lack of signal might make it difficult to stream when abroad, so download before you go. You can even get special driving playlists on places like Spotify these days, or you could even go old school and burn songs onto a CD if the car has a CD player!
Bring some cold water
It’s important to stay hydrated and this will also keep you alert. You can’t drink tap water in some European countries so stocking up on bottled water is a must – just make sure you recycle!
Pack sunglasses and extra layers of clothing
In Europe, the weather can change without a moment’s notice and you don’t want to be caught out in a rainstorm. I don’t always trust the accuracy of weather forecasts so I try to be prepared for the worst – #BritishWeatherProblems.
Don’t be a backseat driver!
If you’re not driving, be on hand to manage the playlist, take pictures, offer moral support, and give directions. If you’re unsure if you’re a backseat driver, the Accident Advice Helpline has released a list of the top 20 signs of a backseat driver from a survey.
Any more suggestions do let me know in the comments below…
~ J ~