Europe is a fantastic place to visit with some of the most scenic views and the best thing about it is that you can easily drive from place to place. This not only makes it easy to have the most amazing road trips but also makes it cheaper to travel (especially for families of 6 like mine). When planning your road trip of Europe to add to your travel bucket list it is also important to ensure your vehicle is correctly prepared for the long journey
The first thing you need to consider when planning your road trip to Europe is how you are going to get across, or where in Europe you want to start first. The cheapest and quickest way is straight from Dover to Calais – either by Ferry or the Euro Tunnel. But it depends on where you want to get to, where you are coming from and if you want to have a long break from the driving. For instance if you wanted to head to Spain you may be better taking the ferry crossing from Plymouth; likewise if you are heading to the Netherlands and Germany then the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland may be your best bet. Also think about whether you want to return the same way you came, planning in places to stay as you travel around. Consider how long your road trip will take, leaving adequate time to explore everywhere you would like to go. This may mean you can travel all around Europe or just visit each country you wish to explore.
The ideal Road Trip of Europe for me would begin and end in Amsterdam, moving on to Germany, before taking in Switzerland, travelling around Italy, exploring France and Spain before popping into Bruges then heading back home.
Things to know about Driving in Europe
When driving in Europe you need to consider that they have different rules – for example see my previous post on Driving in France. Generally you need to know what the road signs mean, don’t drink and drive, always wear a seat belt, clearly display a GB sticker on your vehicle, plan your route ahead before driving, do not drive when tired and be more cautious, expecting the unexpected. If you are planning to be in Europe for a year or more with your vehicle then you need to let the DVLA know.
Preparing your vehicle for a long journey
Make sure your Vehicle is legal to drive
First of all you need to make sure that your vehicle meets the legal requirements of all the countries that you will be driving through. Do basic vehicle maintenance before you set off; checking the engine oil, coolant, windscreen washer, battery, lights, reflectors, horn, number plates; that the windscreen and windows are clean and clear (ensuring that there’s no damage that would restrict the driver’s view).
You need to check the tyre pressures are correct (when they are cold) and tread depth (at least 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, going all the way round the tyre). Also make sure that the tyres have not been damaged (look for bulges, cuts and stones for example) and consider using specially adapted tyres designed for the weather conditions.
The vehicle must not be overloaded – the vehicle’s handbook will tell you how much weight it can carry and how to load safely. You need to ensure that everything is fastened safely, is not dangerously sticking out and does not obstruct your view. It may be that you need to purchase extra ways to make this possible: such as a bike rack, a roof box or straps to anchor items. Again make sure these are correctly secured (for example making sure your roof box is locked before driving off). You will also want to make sure that the weight is well-distributed around the vehicle. Or you may need to make adjustments to your vehicle such as extra air pressure in the tyres if you are pulling a heavy load. Remember extra weight will alter the way you drive the vehicle – taking longer to accelerate and brake, will affect steering and so you will need to slow down for the corners.
Passengers can be a distraction so let them know what you need (quiet, window open, regular breaks) and provide entertainment and regular breaks (especially for young children). Seat belts must be fitted correctly and worn, with the correct additional restraints depending on age and size for those under the age of 12 years old and 1.35m tall (approximately 4ft 5in). You need to be focused when driving so animals also must be prevented from disturbing you and obscuring your view (perhaps use a special cage, a dog guard or a special harness).
Things you will need for your Vehicle before you set off on a long journey
- Fuel – make sure you know which type and the side of the vehicle you need to fill up on.
- Driving licence
- Vehicle registration certificate
- Vehicle tax (unless it is exempt)
- Vehicle insurance (making sure it covers where you are driving too)
- MOT test certificate
Where would your ideal Road trip Of Europe take you? Please share in the comments below or on the hashtag #RoadtripsOfEurope on social media.