For the past month or so I have been busy planning a road trip we are about to take around France. I am no stranger to road trips and have road-tripped through Scotland, along the Great Ocean Road, in a Fiat 500 and around the west of America. However, these trips were all very different. In America we were young and travelling off the back of Camp America. It was about having fun and we basically ‘winged’ the whole thing. Australia and the Great Ocean Road wasn’t much different either. The only places we pre-booked accommodation for was the cities and most of the days we wouldn’t know how much driving we’d do. For the Scotland road trip we planned every day of driving and pre-booked every nights stay. It was only just spring and petrol stations are few and far between in the north, we felt like we needed to be prepared. All were amazing, despite the differences in planning. You can wing a road trip and have an amazing time but you’re more likely to have an amazing time if everything is planned out and you can relax.
So here is my 10 step guide on how to plan an awesome road trip
1 Get a Map and Plot the Main Stops
I always begin planning a road trip by marking on the main things we want to see. No matter if I’m planning the whole trip or ‘winging it’. There is no point heading on a road trip and having to miss out something because you didn’t look at the map. Hopefully by plotting on points you will begin to notice a rough route you could take. Keep refining this until you have it perfect and then work out how long you need (this might be as long as the holiday allows or the time you want to spend doing it properly).
2 Book the Flight + Car Hire or Crossing Transport
Once you know how long you’ll need/have you can begin booking things. I often work out what is cheapest at this point and compare flight costs to ferry costs and rental to wear my own car would incur. If travelling from the UK to Europe you could find taking your own car on the tunnel is cheaper than flying and renting. Whichever option you choose make sure you book it, prices will only increase so don’t hold off once you know you want to go. Even if you are ‘winging it’ you need to book this step ahead of time or risk paying a fortune!
3 Work Out Your Over Night Stops
Now that things are booked it is time to get serious with the planning. Get that map back from step one and begin checking driving distances and where you’d like to spend your nights. Is there an awesome accommodation option at X or do you want to spend time exploring a city and need a few days? You may find it easier to plot where you have to be (near a terminal for an early departure etc.) and then add in the fun stuff. Make sure the driving distance between each destination are realistic.
4 Book Accommodation
Now you know where you want to stay, book it. If you are travelling in the high season this is important as accommodation will book up. We are travelling in August and booked six weeks ahead of our trip. While road-tripping I firmly believe the trip is about the journey so never worry too much about how fancy my accommodation is. I quite like camping on a road trip but if that isn’t your thing use sites such as Expedia or Booking to find cheap options (but always check the reviews) or you could even try glamping.
6 Check Regulations for Driving in your Destination + Get Equipped
When driving in France there are certain items you must have in your car by law, however, these laws don’t exists in the UK. Therefore research is imperative to make sure you have those essential and often obscure items. These kind of rules vary all over the world and it is important to make sure you do find this out before arriving. That being said the hire car should supply anything needed for that specific country. However, you need to make sure you are aware of the change in process to car hire abroad.
7 Make Sure you have Break Down Cover and Insurance
There would be nothing worse than breaking down in your home country but when you are a abroad this is more of a nightmare. If you are taking your own car you will need to arrange cover for your destination yourself, this can normally be done with your existing company. If you are hiring a car then make sure you take out the full insurance policy and they will normally provide you with breakdown cover but again check!
8 Print Maps and Accommodation Confirmations
When road tripping it is likely you will end up driving down rural country roads, you know the kind where you have no phone signal and no GPS. It is easy to get lost in these situations if you are not prepared for technology failure. Print maps of directions to tricky places, make sure you have a detailed map book and the actual road address for your accommodation bookings. Just knowing the hotel name won’t be enough, unless you want to drive around the town half a dozen times looking for it.
9 Pack the Essentials – Music, Guide Book, Currency
Now we are getting to the fun stuff… The things that make a road trip, music is key and having a variety everyone likes will certainly make it more enjoyable for all involved. I love bringing a guide book on every trip but more so on road trips. You never know what might catch your eye in the book and send you on a little detour. Nearly every road trip I’ve done has been based around detours suggested by the guide book. It is important to remember currency too, especially small notes and change for those road tolls you are bound to encounter.
And if you have followed step one to nine then you should be ready for the best road trip of your life. Get driving, take frequent stops, go slow, explore, enjoy the journey and get lost on purpose.