Whether you are going 50 miles or 500 (it’s better not to walk) you have to make sure you are comfortable. Here are our tips for a more comfortable road trip
If you are anything like me then every holiday season has a build up where you say to your friends “lets go on an adventure”. When I was still at school and university I was never able to find the right people and my plans would always fall apart. Now I go several times a year on journeys that cover around 1000 miles and I’d like to believe that I’ve learnt a thing or two that may come in handy for you, especially when you are just starting out.
Before we get into the basic tips it is always worth repeating that you need to check what the legal requirements are for each country that you are visiting as well as if you have an insurance policy that will let you drive there. High-vis jackets? Fire extinguishers? etc…This article isn’t about what you need in each country, so if you need something like that then check on your governments relevant website. Ill try to spare anything too obvious such as make sure that you have a spare and breakdown assistance!
1) Discuss everything beforehand
Yes, I know. You have a lot of adrenaline and your super excited and just want to jump in the car and leave right now! However, this isn’t your normal day road trip where you go to the beach, or weekend trip when you fly to Spain or wherever it may be. If you are going on a “proper” summer road trip – the kind where you change destination every day or two and are away for at least 4 days – then some things will have to be decided properly.
– Who is going to be driving?
– Will they be happy with the amount of hours they have to do? Have they done it before?
-Who is coming with you?
– Are they the same sort of people? Believe me when I say that taking the wrong mix of people will ruin it for everyone. If you take someone with a short-fuse and put them in a confined space for 8 hours a day then you’re going to have a bad time. If they are someone that you just can’t go without then plan around it.
-Who is paying for what?
-Are you going to be going everywhere together or will you be able to take a break from each other?
The list of questions like this keeps going, but it is something that will change according to your specific trip. Make sure that you are all going to be happy and leave nothing to the imagination. You don’t want to end up camping if you’re into hotels and you don’t want to end up being dragged around museums if you’re in to nature etc…
2) Budget it
Make a list of costs and work out how much everything is going to be. Yes, you can go a very long way from home on not much money if you are all in agreement about camping etc, but do you know how much diesel is in Italy? Why not if youre going there? If you are in a situation where money is critical for you and you can’t afford additional expenses then make sure that none come your way. There are many great articles about how to make your trip cheaper and I suggest you do a bit of reading around on this topic.
This leads into the next point…
3) The car needs somewhere to spend the night as well
Obvious, right? Well just because it says that there is parking on booking it doesn’t mean that it’s free. In Vienna you can pay 20-30 euros a night to park in the centre, even if you book a cheap hotel. Maybe that’s fine for you, but if it’s not then you’re in a bit of trouble.
Ideally you want to stay outside of the city centre. Driving in a foreign country is fine until you reach major cities, then it becomes a bit of a pain. Stay outside of the centre where there is free parking and get public transport unless you think that the hotel parking is a good deal. The drivers will appreciate the rest as well, the last thing they will want to do is concentrate on driving rather than actually sight-seeing. Trust me, there is only so much a driver can see when you’re trying not to hit a vespa.
4)Agree a packing limit and stick to it.
Not so bad if there’s just two of you, but if you’re going with a full car then you don’t want to have someone bring even one large suitcase (depending on your car). Ryan Air size cabin bags are probably going to be the maximum that you can take. This may very well mean that you can’t take your favourite outfit – the horror!
5) Take your own iPod
I’m sure that your car has a more than good enough sound system, that’s not the point. The point is that someone is going to want to listen to something else at some point in time and when you’re tired etc.. that’s when arguments start. Take your own and put whatever you want on there. My driving recommendation is to take podcasts instead of music as I tend to find that I get lost in a podcast a lot easier than music. This is especially good for when you just have motorways and nothing else.
6) Get notes and coins
“Its 2017 you can pay by card everywhere in Europe!” – No, you can’t. Sometimes these things are broken. Sometimes your bank decides to block your account because you’re spending money all around Europe and forgot to tell them about your trip. Sometimes it’s just not possible at all. Spend the few minutes that it takes to exchange some currency well in advance of your trip for a good exchange rate. You dont want to be desperate for a coffee and asking around for change, or trying to park the car and not being able to cause you can’t pay for the parking.
7) Know your car
“Well, it’s a Peugeot 207, done?” – Not really. Find out what fuel it takes and what that is called in the countries you are going to. Because, no, it’s not always called “diesel and unleaded” – you can always ask of course, but it’s easier to google it when you have the chance. Also make sure that the car is actually going to survive this trip before you go – take it for a service and explicitly ask if they think it will survive. It will save you a lot of bother later on.
8)BONUS – For drivers
Your friends are going to piss you off massively. More than they have ever pissed you off before. They are going to keep asking for you to drive them cause its more convenient for them. Or say “why would we take a taxi when we can drive”. They won’t understand that you need a break, especially those who don’t drive. Decide on a maximum and then refuse to go over it. I don’t mean stop by the side of the road and refuse to go any further, but if you are in the hotel after an 8 hour day and they want you to drive an extra hour to see something “well worth it” you are well within your right to say no.
If you feel that you aren’t able to say no, or if you really want to go as well then be prepared to be tired and be prepared to combat it. Keep an energy drink in the door at all times, make sure that you have your ipod for loud music and wind the windows done for a cold blast to keep you awake. If the others complain that they feel uncomfortable then feel free to tell them where they should go. You will know best when you are genuinely too tired to drive and they should respect that, seriously.
But, have patience as they are your friends. Explain it to them nicely.
However, while you’re driving down the motorway and your friend is complaining constantly about how he wanted to go and see this great outdoor free-jazz festival two hours away from where you are and it starts at midnight, then remember that you chose to go with them. There is no point in falling out with a friend over a jazz festival at 11pm on a Thursday night in the north of Denmark roughly 3 years ago and no I’m not bitter.