No matter your age, your location, or your budget there are some new things that you can learn to improve your road trip experience. We hope that the following 10 road trip tips will make your trip nice and smooth, even when the road gets bumpy.
Choose the perfect partner
Yes, yes, I know. You have been together for years etc and everything will be fine. But, I know quite a few of my friends who came back and decided to go their separate ways. Road trips always start off well, but without sharing the same goals and ideas of what is comfortable then it might be a struggle. Maybe you don’t mind it being a bit dirtier, but they do? Maybe you don’t mind camping, but they want to stay in nice hotels?
A good sign is if you have any experience of staying together for long periods of time. I know this is obvious, but think for a second. If this is your first road trip and you and your partner are a new couple then how do you know that you won’t want to kill each other? Just because you both love travel, doesn’t mean you both love the same TYPE of travel. If you have not even spent a week together constantly then maybe you shouldn’t go on a few month trip around Europe.
Make sure your car is up to the task, as well as yourself
Depending on where you want to go you will have different requirements from your car. If you are simply going to France and Germany, where the roads are perfect, then you won’t need much. But, if you want to go to Bosnia and Albania then you will need more. A lot more. Or, maybe you are going to Austria in the winter. Different set of requirements again.
Your car won’t fall to pieces, but driving long hours can be testing for some cars and lights might fail. Do you know how to change them? I certainly didn’t when we went to Bulgaria. Do you have the right tyres? Not only is it a legal requirement, but it is also actually helps a LOT. It has literally stopped us from getting to our hotel before, and we had to walk instead.
Taking your car for a service is always the best bet before a trip of medium distance or more. It might be expensive, but the fines are worse. And trust me, you don’t want to be driving around Albania at night with no lights
Know what your limit is (from money to driving)
What kind of travellers are you? Maybe you are lucky and have lots of money that you’d like to spend, maybe not. Would you be happy camping, or do you need a private shower? Maybe you would like to stay in some crazy hotels rather than just standard ones. We’ve spent the night in a fake prison as well in a giant barrel. Especially if this is your first trip then it is incredibly important to decide how much you are willing to spend and be genuinely happy with it. Do not say yes to please your partner, just be honest and say it up front, it saves you from trouble later. If you are the camping sort then SAY IT, long trips need to be as smooth as possible.
Also, work out how far you are willing to drive on a single day. It is incredibly tiring and do not underestimate that. Of course it is possible, but it will make you a bit irritable for sure, which will only make things worse. This is especially true if you are the only driver, like I am. In this case it is really important that the “passenger” does not overburden the driver and equally important that the driver doesn’t just agree to keep the peace. Driving while tired is dangerous enough in the first place without the addition of being on foreign soil.
You will, of course, have to do more than you plan on some days due to traffic or accidents – remember this most of all. We have previously planned from 8 hour days on the way to Greece and ended up with a 15 hour drive. It had to be done and we go through it without any problems, but this isn’t a situation you want everyday as you will want to see the cities you are going to!
Music, but not only music
If you are incredibly fortunate then you are your partner will have the same taste, but miracles can’t happen to everyone. Try to expand your option by including audio books or podcasts into the “listening pool”. Maybe you are both fans or a particular comedian, which always improves the mood. Or, maybe you would both like to pick up some of the language. Maybe you would like to pick up some of the culture and listen to an audio book from the country you are visiting. Whatever you fancy, you can find it.
Alternatively, if you cannot find something that you both like then do not be scared to listen to something separately. This is probably more for those of you who have been together for longer, but it’s a good way to find some “me” time during long trips. It’s by no means offensive if, after a month, someone wants to have a bit of time away from you – or you from them. Then you can come back and talk about something that the other person hasn’t experienced. Road trips often end up with little to no conversation as subjects have dried up and the other person has seen the same things as you. Doing something separately can spark a conversation back up again. Essentially, don’t get into a rut.
Always be ‘appy
Apps exist to make your life easier. Some of you will want to have an old-fashioned trip where you go with just a map and some friends and that’s great. But, for those of you who are more “practical” then apps are for you. Everything from maps, to meet-up apps (and I don’t mean of the one-night type) and everything inbetween – there really is “an app for that”. Have a look and you’ll genuinely be surprised by just how much time you could save by doing something it by app.
Even romantic trips need to be planned from time to time. If you are aiming for something in particular then make sure you get there. If you are going to London, for example, are you sure you can survive the London Underground? Is that the best time of year to go? There’s no point in trying to visit Holland to see the tulips in the wrong season. Also, you don’t want to end up going to Greece when farmers block all of the roads.
Update your damn sat-nav!
That little warning you get when you start your sat-nav telling you how many months it’s been since you last updated it is there for a reason. And no, it’s not to just annoy you. You have probably read all of the horror stories about sat-navs, but trust me – they happen. We ended up wasting hours and putting ourselves in danger in Albania because we didn’t update ours.
Even minor problems can be avoided by spending a few minutes to make sure everything is up-to-date. The more serious road trip tip would be to get a sat nav with live traffic information. This would have saved us so many times that I can’t possibly repeat them all. You get the money back in petrol as well as gained sleep.
Is what you’re doing legal?
Simple, right? Sadly, no. Lots of things are oh so obvious when you don’t have a million other things to think about. The classic example seems to be the Italian ZTL zones. We ended up driving in and out of these restricted zones, but got incredibly lucky. Do you have breathalysers for France? What’s the winter tyre season in Germany? Is your insurance valid for the countries that you are visiting, or do you need to buy a green card on the border? What’s a green card? All of these sorts of questions need to answered before you go anywhere near the countries you’re aiming for. You’ll even be surprised about what countries require you to take a passport or form of identification due to not being part of the EU or schengen areas.
Change and local currencies
You need them. And no, not just a small amount of it. Toilets will sometimes need you to have change, tolls will sometimes need you have some currency on you (i.e if the card reader doesn’t work, or maybe they just don’t have a machine). Stopping somewhere in middle of nowhere to buy some crisps from an unbranded petrol station…guess what? Local currency only. When we stopped in Montenegro to get something to eat from a small bakery we were glad to have cash. Although when the Bosnian border guard tried to make us bribe him then we were pretty glad we didn’t have any.
Cash will not only be practical, but also be gratefully received if you’re going off the beaten track slightly. Most countries will accept euros, but they come at the exchange rate that they decide, hence it’s quicker and easier to pay with whatever the local currency happens to be.
Sometimes you’ll have to drive “confidently”
Before I came to live in Poland I thought I was a pretty good and confident driver. I was wrong. Having now been to almost every European country (I will finish this list soon), I can say that only now am I a confident driver. Driving here is the next level of what I guess I used to call assertiveness. Sometimes you are left with little option other than to just go for it – a perfect example of this is the roundabout at l’arc de triomphe
Many other places have something similar or a driving attitude that is closer to this. You should do whatever makes you feel comfortable, maybe even plan to avoid situations such as this, but the time will come where it’s sink or swim. In the case of the video above, you’re not getting onto that roundabout without being assertive.
Don’t panic, this is an extreme example that even scared me when I was there after driving through the Balkan to Greece. But it illustrates that sometimes you need to sit up straight, take a deep breath and give that accelerator a jolly good press old chap. No one’s going to do it for you.
Have you been on a European road trip and have some advice that isn’t listed here? Are you planning on going on one and would like some extra information? Whatever the reason feel reason to leave a comment and like if it’s been helpful. I look forward to hearing from you.