The best thing about road-trips is that, with a little bit of planning, anyone can enjoy them. Here’s our guide to preparing the perfect road-trip adventure.
1. Find the Time
The amount of time you can spend on a road-trip determines how far you can go. Two weeks is enough to cross most of Europe, but if a week is all you have, you can still experience an unforgettable trip closer to home.
The time of year is important too. Traveling in popular areas during peak tourist season can mean your road-trip is blighted by convoys of caravans and tour buses. Choosing your time carefully, to find quiet roads in great weather, can make the difference between a frustrating journey and an awesome adventure. However even in the height of Summer, you can still encounter snow on your way!
2. Find your Route
On a road-trip the journey is the destination. The best way to ensure you have an unforgettable trip is to go somewhere you have never been before. Each moment becomes a new memory and driving into the unknown unlocks your spirit of adventure.
Going abroad is always exciting but, if time is short, look closer to home. Once you get away from the daily commute you’ll soon discover how fascinating the countryside around your home town or state can be.
Study a map. There are loads of great smartphone map apps or, if you’re like us, lay out an old-school road atlas on a table and search for wherever the B-roads wind around the landscape. Lakes, mountains and coastline always make for breathtaking views that can be appreciated both from behind the wheel or from the passenger seat. Those are the areas to include on your route.
3. Find the right Vehicle
Any car will suffice for a road-trip but some cars suit some journeys better than others. You can use your own hatchback, pile into a friend’s estate car, or hire something special for the journey. A group of friends travelling together in a 5- or 7-seater mpv, can be a lot of fun, especially when the roads are easygoing. But when the driving is more engaging, a car for each driver is the way to go.
These are the journeys that sports cars were built for. Convertibles make the most of the great weather while Grand Touring Coupes are perfect for longer distances where border crossings may be involved. Manual cars are more engaging on short routes but tours lasting more than a week are better suited to comfortable automatic cars.
4. Find your Accommodation
A road trip usually involves staying in a different place every night. You can keep it simple and book nice chain hotels right through to the end of your journey, or mix it up with some camping, glamping or trying some local B&Bs. Sometimes road closures meant we couldn’t stay where we planned to so we’ve had to find alternative places on the route. The last resort is always to sleep in the car, but that can be colder than you’d expect so bring a blanket.
There are some great websites that allow you to set your minimum criteria and maximum price for accommodation and they’ll present you with some excellent choices. The earlier you can book ahead, the more choice you’ll have. Read reviews and look for the best you can afford on your budget. You’ll be surprised how good a place you can get for your money.
On the practical side, it can be a great idea to bring your own pillow with you if you have trouble adjusting to a new bed each night, and we recommend that any trip lasting more than a week should include at least one driving-free day to avoid fatigue setting in. If your budget allows, book your best accommodation for those nights to make the most of your rest-day.
5. Do Stuff
While the roads can be spectacular on your trip, don’t forget to plan some things to see and do along the route. Lunch stops and tourist sights are always worth planning for, but allow time for other impromptu stops and unexpected changes of plan.
We normally divide up our days based on breakfast, mid-morning coffee, lunch break, mid-afternoon coffee, dinner, and arrival at our accommodation. The bits in between are filled either by driving or by exploring.
6. Things to bring
While others squeeze the bare minimum into a tiny suitcase that fits in an airline cabin, or pay extra to bring a bigger case, you can go wild stuffing all kinds of things into your car.
You’ll want to keep your passport, travel insurance, driving license, first-aid kit and health documents easily accessible in the event of an incident. You can get more creative when it comes to luggage. Instead of filling a massive suitcase, think about having an open box in the boot with clothes set out so, at the end of a day’s drive, you can quickly grab what you need for the next day and chuck it into a small overnight bag to take into your accommodation. It saves lugging a great big case around with you!
Remember different countries have their own rules, so don’t assume ignorance will keep you out of trouble. In France for example you will need to keep a hi-viz vest handy and a simple breathalyzer kit. You’ll be able to pick that up at the Channel Tunnel and other border crossings
Local maps, emergency contact numbers and enough local currency to get you home should be kept somewhere safe. Don’t forget batteries and in-car chargers for your cameras and phones. An inverter allows you to plug a standard 3-pin plug into a 12v car lighter socket.
Whatever else you bring is up to your imagination and the specific requirements of your plan. As long as you have a car that works and a couple of friends, you’ll have all you need to have the perfect road-trip.
In the end, you just have to get going. It’s easy to over-plan and drive to a strict schedule, but remember that it is an adventure and the road could lead you anywhere. Be prepared to make unscheduled stops and change your route and embrace new things you find along the way. Sometimes the best road-trips turn out nothing like the original plan, but the plan will get you out the door in the first place.
Make it YOUR perfect Road Trip
Ultimately, no two road-trips can ever be the same. The roads will be different, the weather, the cars, the people. The magic ingredient is YOU, so let us know what your perfect road trip would be like, or tell us about road-trips you’ve been on – what advice would you give to others setting out on a road-trip adventure?
(Cover Image: ©Skinidin House Media)