Are you planning a driving holiday in Europe? Concerned about driving through Europe or wondering where the best locations are?
I get it- European road trips can feel intimidating– especially if you’ve never done it before! I remember the first time we set off from the UK- the list of things we needed seemed never-ending and there was so much confusing information out there.
After two years of travelling around Europe in our motorhome, we’ve become pretty good at figuring out what’s needed and how to find out important information. And today we’re sharing that all with YOU!
Here are 15 essential Europe Road Trip tips you need to know before you go!
NOTE: We love to road trip Europe in our Motorhome, but we’ve also spent some time exploring by motorbike, car (and one memorable occasion on a bus *shudder*.) Most of the tips below apply to ALL vehicles you can road trip with, even if I say motorhome.
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Europe Road Trip Tip ESSENTIALS- Check your paperwork
Before you leave, you MUST check your paperwork is in order. Yes, I know it’s boring… but it will only take you 20 minutes and it’s a lot easier than being turned away at the border!
- Check your passport is in date and has at least 6 months left to run before expiry.
- Check your vehicle insurance covers Europe and for how long. Make sure it is fully comprehensive (some providers only offer 3rd party cover in Europe.)
- Check your breakdown cover covers Europe. If not, consider extending it.
- Health/ Travel insurance for each person travelling, plus EHIC cards if you have them. Repatriation cover is a great idea- it can cost thousands to bring someone back to the UK if you need to.
- You need to carry your REAL vehicle logbook, not a copy. If it is a hire vehicle, you need a signed letter giving permission for it to go to Europe.
- You also need an MOT (in date!) and driving licenses for everyone who will be driving. You only need to carry the pink card part.
- If you are taking a trailer, you need to provide proof of its EU certification.
Driving in Europe – what age do you have to be?
You need to be aged at least 18 to drive in Europe and at least 21 years old if you want to hire a car. And remember to check the weight of the motorhome before you rent it- anything over 3.5 tonnes may require you to have additional categories on your driver licence.
European Road Trip tips after BREXIT
Are you planning to drive in Europe after BREXIT? If so, this post has everything you need to know, including rule changes, potential visa requirements, travelling with pets and more.
You will also probably need an International Driving Permit– here’s everything you need to know.
Driving in Europe Requirements
Yep, you need to bring some extra stuff with you when you road trip in Europe, no matter which country you are visiting.
Check here for a full list of all the essential motorhome accessories you need to carry in Europe.
Each country has a list of specific items too, such as a vignette for Switzerland or a low emissions sticker in France.
Do your research carefully in order to avoid large fines. This post will help you find out what you need to carry!
Road Trip to Europe- Is it better to go by Ferry or Tunnel?
This is a personal decision, but consider a couple of factors:
- The tunnel is definitely cheaper, especially if you book in advance and go outside of ‘peak’ times. It’s also considerably quicker.
- HOWEVER, if you are travelling to the west of France, or from the west of the UK, it’s a LONG drive, which can take up a large portion of your holiday. For this reason, if we have only a week to explore France, we often take the ferry.
- Pets are easy to take on the tunnel, but they could be in the car less time if you take the ferry and get a pet cabin (Portsmouth to Le Havre with Brittany Ferries) Again, for this reason, we often take the ferry with our puppy, as it cuts down the time he’s in his travel crate for.
- Think about the weather. In winter, there’s a higher chance of storms; not fun on a boat. In summer the queues through the tunnel are horrendous, so we avoid them if we possibly can.
There really is no right answer, so plan out your journey and do whatever works best for you!
Europe Road Trip tips- where to stay
Where should you stay on your road trip? This depends entirely on what you like to do!
For Motorhomes/ Caravans
- Are you hoping to relax, soak in some sunshine and let the kids play on the beach? You’ll probably find a campsite easier and more relaxing, but they do get pricey (and full!) in high season.
- Do you enjoy moving around every few days and seeing different areas within a country? Look for aires (France), Sostas (Italy) or Stellplatz (Germany). These are approved Motorhome parking areas, often with facilities for freshwater and waste disposal, which are offered first-come, first served for a small fee (often 5-10€) Most towns and villages have these throughout Europe
- Prefer to be completely away from it all? Consider wild camping- either with a motorhome or a tent. This is one of our favourite ways to travel- we love the freedom. Bear in mind the legalities- you can’t just park wherever you like! You will also need to collect and find somewhere to safely dispose of all your rubbish- that’s a beginner tip for camping which everyone should know. But we’ve met some wonderful people whilst wild camping and stayed in some breath-taking spots.
Here’s how to create a PERFECT road trip itinerary– using Google maps!
For cars/ motorbikes
If you’re not camping, you have plenty of other options. You can rent an AirBnB for a week or a couple of nights before moving on.
You can rent a hotel room or an actual B and B (although this can get expensive once you have older children.)
Before getting our Motorhome, we loved B and B’s, as the owners were generally friendly and could tell you all the best places to visit in the area!
Driving in Europe- Be Sensible about Safety
Nobody likes to think about it, but a little caution can save a lot of heartache. We follow these simple rules when we road trip:
- Keep your passports well hidden and ideally don’t leave them in the vehicle unattended, even in a campsite.
- Don’t bring much jewellery. It’s just one less thing to worry about.
- Don’t advertise when you are going to be leaving the motorhome all day (although this can be tough, especially when we roar off on our motorbikes!)
- Never leave your vehicle unattended in a wild camping spot. If we are going for a bike ride, we park in a campsite. Unless we are in Norway, which is possibly the safest place in the whole of Europe!
- Carry a set of spare keys and keep them separate from your other keys.
- 112 can be dialled from anywhere in Europe in an emergency.
- Also, consider safety while driving- especially while driving in heavy rain.
European Road Trip Tips- Electronics
Check your mobile contract to ensure you won’t be charged high fees for using your phone abroad. The biggest thing to look at is data- we regularly use the internet to look up places to stay as we travel, so we made sure to get a package which included free data use in Europe with our motorhome wifi.
Also, Motorhome Sat Navs can use a lot of data if you get the settings wrong, so be sure to get one for use in Europe.
TOP TIP- Beware of using your phone on the ferry- the network charges are EXPENSIVE!
Lastly, it is illegal in many European countries to use a headset whilst driving, even with a hands-free kit. It needs to be on speakerphone in your car.
If you rarely use the internet whilst travelling, you might not need additional internet. However, we work from the road, either writing blog posts, uploading videos or communicating with Mr WB’s clients.
We also love to look up things to do in the local area, so we have several ways of getting internet as we travel
This is something we didn’t think about until after our first European road trip- which meant that we paid a fee on every single bank transaction we used in France!
We have now switched to an account which doesn’t charge for foreign payments and if you travel regularly it might be worth looking at.
Your bank might need to know that you’re going abroad, especially if you don’t go regularly. Otherwise, you run the risk of them blocking your transaction.
Many banks accept notice over online banking. I think our bank has just given up and accepts that we travel all over the place without any warning! 🙂
Travelling to Europe with Pets
We travel back and forth to Europe monthly with our puppy, Mac. It’s not complicated, and it doesn’t cost much more than it would without a pet.
Pets (cat, dog or ferret) need:
- a pet passport (read how to get one HERE)– These might end after BREXIT- stay up to date on the latest rule changes here
- rabies vaccination (and a blood test to prove the vaccination has worked post-BREXIT)
- Dogs also need a worming tablet administered by a vet between 1-5 days of your return to England.
Take this into account when you are travelling back with a dog. Most vets near the British border are used to ‘walk-ins’ and will do their best to fit you in, but others may not have an appointment for a day or two so try to book in advance if you can.
Also, make sure your pet is secured in the vehicle- it is no longer ok for them to be sitting in the back untethered. If the police see a ‘loose’ animal in a vehicle they will stop and could fine you.
European Road Trip Tips- Fines
Talking of fines, in most places in Europe, it is perfectly legal for the Police to stop you on the side of the road and demand instant payment if you are caught speeding (or breaking any other rule).
They accept cash (or occasionally cheque- in their currency!), and if you do not have it they will drive you to the nearest cashpoint to extract the correct amount. They also don’t give change- I know someone who was fined 90€, only had 5 x 20€ on them… and had to go get 10€ change!
Driving in Europe- Tolls
Tolls are a fact of life whilst travelling in Europe, especially if you want to use major roads. Ideally, you want your motorhome to be under 3m tall (any higher puts you as a Cat 4 commercial vehicle)- this is one of the biggest reasons we downsized our motorhome to a lower profile one.
Carry cash for the tolls, or get a toll pass if you’re planning to travel regularly. We use eMovis, which sends us a bill at the end of the month for whatever you’ve used and allows us to speed through the ‘fast-lane’ at the toll booths- very satisfying in summer when the queues are crazy long!
Europe Road Trip tips- what food to bring?
You don’t need to bring a lot of food with you- people in Europe eat amazing food and trying local delicacies is part of the fun.
However, I always try and bring enough food to last a day or so, so we don’t have to find places to shop en-route if we don’t want to.
Keep things simple- cooking in a small space can be tricky, especially if there’s a few of you. If you have kids (or husbands!), you might want to bring a few things you know they’ll eat on the journey to keep them happy. You can read more about our meal planning & ideas HERE
I hope you know feel much more prepared to deal with your European Road Trip! Let me know where you end up- and if you see us out on the road, be sure to say hi!
Planning a Road Trip?? These posts might help:
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Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.