Last Updated: 02/11/2016
A driving holiday can be an adventure unlike any other. Whether you’re exploring the long, winding lanes of the country or cruising along scenic coastal roads, the freedom of driving away from it all can be a truly life-changing experience.
No matter the size, make or model, your car is the key to unlocking some of the most breath-taking views and picturesque landscapes that will create memories that will last a lifetime.
Obviously, this is only if everything goes according to plan. Sometimes you can find yourself lost in the pouring rain, in a town with an unpronounceable name, stuck without an umbrella or a clue what to do.
While you can’t control unexpected downpours, you can prepare for almost all eventualities. With our handy driving holiday guide, you’ll have all the tips and advice you need for driving abroad and at home.
Before you go
Making sure everything is planned before you leave is the best way for your holiday to go smoothly. Wherever you’re going in the world, you need to make sure your car is prepared for the journey ahead.
Car service and maintenance
Ideally, before driving around Europe you should take your car to be serviced to ensure everything is working properly. If this isn’t possible, there are a few simple check-ups you can do yourself.
Make sure to check the pressure and tread of your tyres. A car without roadworthy tyres can break down at any moment plus in some countries in Europe, visible damage to your car can cause problems entering and leaving.
You should also check your oil is topped up and that your coolant levels are correct. Simple checks like these should be done regularly on all cars but especially when you’re driving away from home. They will keep you on the road and stop annoying, avoidable breakdowns.
A foreign road trip can be an exciting adventure, but there are certain risks involved. Insurers know this and that’s why many don’t cover driving in other countries. You need to check if you have this add-on product, otherwise, you could find yourself with minimal insurance while driving in Europe or faced with an expensive extra premium to get full cover.
You don’t want to find yourself on the road, exhausted, having been driving for 10 hours straight without stopping. Driving holidays can be arduous for a solo driver so it’s recommended you share some of the responsibility with at least one other qualified driver.
If you want to share the driving, adding new drivers onto an existing policy, especially to drive abroad can be difficult. One way of ensuring everyone is covered no matter how many drivers there are is to get a temporary car insurance policy. You will be insured to drive in the UK and Europe and any no claims discounts are protected because it’s separate to your existing cover. Temporary cover is available from 1-28 days and is quick and easy to arrange.
Packing your car
Stopping every 10 miles because your rear view is blocked by a mountain of bags and cases is not the way you want your driving holiday to begin. Packing your car properly before you leave will save you time and energy later on.
Start by working out how many suitcases and bags you can realistically fit into your boot. It’s always worth doing a run through before you leave to iron out any issues.
When it comes to the actual packing, make sure that the heaviest items go on the bottom and towards the centre of the car. You’ll get the most out of the boot space and ensure that the weight is evenly distributed. You should then pack the lighter and smaller things on top, filling any gaps that have appeared. It’s also worth checking your tyre pressures again with that added weight.
Pack in order of access, with things you need to grab quickly like a lunch bag or extra blankets near the front, with suitcases at the back. The long drives without stopping will sometimes leave kids bored and restless, so make sure you have any toys, devices or refreshments in the cabin with you before you leave.
It’s important that you don’t pack your belongings above the headrest level as this can block visibility and cause injury if things aren’t secured.
Besides your clothes and recreational items, it’s also important to pack a well-equipped driving holiday car kit.
Driving holiday car kit
There are a number of basic essentials all drivers should have in their car when heading out on a driving holiday. These items will help you in an emergency and in some European countries, they’re a legal requirement.
Ensure you have the following items in your car before you head off:
o Full driving license
o Copy of your DVLA driver record and a licence check code if needed
o An IDP (International Driving Permit) – required in some countries
o Your Vehicle registration document
o A copy of your our motor insurance certificate
o Sat Nav (Many countries that allow Sat Navs, such as France and Germany require you to deactivate any speed camera alert functions.)
o Jumper leads>
o Waterproof jackets
o Wheel removal tools
o Duct tape
Legal requirements for driving in most European countries:
o GB Sticker (Only If your number plates doesn’t include the GB Euro symbol)
o Headlamp Beam Converters (Because British cars are designed to drive on the left, their headlights can often blind other drivers. These converters safely redirect the beam.)
o Warning Triangle
o High Visibility Jacket
o First Aid Kit
o NF Approved Breathalyse (France only)
Rules and regulations
If you’re driving abroad, you’ll want to learn the rules and regulations of each country you drive through. You can never assume that all laws will be the same as here in Britain, so be sure to thoroughly research your route or you might find yourself being stopped for something you were completely unaware of.
For example, did you know it’s illegal to carry bikes on the back seat of a car in Portugal or that you should never overtake a bus that’s stopped to allow passengers on or off in Serbia? Whatever the rule, you should make sure you know the basics before you enter a new country.
While you’re there
If you’ve properly researched the country or countries you’re driving through then there shouldn’t be too many shocks along your way, but you should never be complacent.
Follow local rules
Remember to always follow local rules and customs when it comes to driving. No matter how morally right you may be, the likelihood is you won’t win an argument and you could end up up in serious trouble.
Have a rest
Holiday driving is long and will take its toll on drivers. Being in unfamiliar surroundings, having driven for hours on end, is a recipe for disaster. You must take regular breaks in safe areas, even if you don’t feel tired. A coffee or other caffeine boost will only help over short periods of time and aren’t a proper substitute for rest.
Tired driving on its own can cause you problems but there are other risks on the road you have to be aware of.
Be aware of other drivers
You should always be careful of other drivers around you, but especially so in foreign countries because of their different driving styles. It can often disturb drivers who are new to an area so a defensive approach is always the best way when driving in Europe.
If you have an accident
It’s more than likely that your driving holiday will go without any problems but of course, accidents can happen. If you have an accident whether another driver is involved or not, it’s important to contact your insurer and the local police as soon as possible.
If another driver is involved and you can communicate with them, get their full details and take any photos of the damage. If you don’t speak the same language or can’t communicate easily, wait until the police arrive and let them help.
With proper preparation and a bit of common sense while on the road, a driving holiday in Europe can be a once in a lifetime adventure. With just the open road ahead, there is no telling what you might discover along the way