As someone who freaking loves road trips, I’ve learnt ways of planning those road trips and making them all go as smoothly as they can be. For this reason, I’ve decided to write an article about some things I’ve learnt along the way. Here are 7 things you need to prepare before going on a road trip:
Psssst, if you’re looking for a packing list, check this out.
1. Things You Need to Prepare Before Going on a Road Trip: Service Your Car Before You Go or Rent a Car If It’s Easier
Every year I take that daring decision not to service my car and I really wouldn’t recommend it. I spend the whole road trip fretting in case something happens and also if something DID happen, you may be partially to blame if it could have been avoided. If you have an older car, or a car that isn’t really designed for those long journeys then definitely service it. I’ve managed to drive around Europe over the past 2 years in an unserviced Ford KA and I’ve been extremely lucky, but you may not be.
2. Things You Need to Prepare Before Going on a Road Trip: Look for Parking in Advance
One of the things that I always, always do before setting off for a road trip is to look at parking garages in advance to look for the cheapest one. When you’re on the road for weeks (or even months) on end and you don’t pre-plan your parking, you’ll find that the price really will add up. If you’re travelling between cities, you’ll really feel the pinch as many places even charge you per 15 minutes!
The best thing to do is to find more than one place to park your car, just in case the first option falls through. You also need to look at the distance from the parking garage to your destination. Sometimes it really is worth paying less and walking further to get there and sometimes it literally makes no sense to do that as by the time you reach your destination you’ve already wasted an hour on parking just from walking there and back.
3. Things You Need to Prepare Before Going on a Road Trip: Look for the Cheapest Fuel Rates
Fuel is another thing that you may not take into account. In normal everyday life, a few cents may not make any difference, but when you’re covering thousands of miles/km, then it really does all add up. Stay away from filling up on the motorways and remote areas and stick to the outskirts of cities (these are generally the cheapest). You can actually look up the average price on the internet just before you go and this way you can work out whether you’re getting a good deal or not.
Also, pay attention to your next destination. For example, if I was going from the Netherlands to Belgium, I wouldn’t fill up in the Netherlands, because Belgium is much cheaper, so you should fill up enough to get you there and then fill up in the cheaper country/region. It really does save you a fortune in the end, even if it does add more planning and inconvenience to the trip.
4. Things You Need to Prepare Before Going on a Road Trip: Be Realistic About How Far You Can Drive
Driving is tiring, so it’s really important that you set realistic drive times before you plan and set off for your road trip. You also need to factor in what you may be doing in that day (for example if you’re hiking, you’re going to be pretty damn tired later on) and also understand that as the days go on during the travels, the more tired you’re going to get in general. If you have a fast-paced road trip with lots packed into the itinerary, it’s surprising how worn out you get.
When planning for your road trip, factor in traffic too. If you’re in a busy region, sitting in traffic will be likely and that is all added to the drive time.
5. Things You Need to Prepare Before Going on a Road Trip: Avoid Tolls If Possible (But Make Sure It’s Worth the Longer Route!)
Tolls can be really expensive and you may find that you’ll go through a toll point a lot more than once within a short space of time. Sometimes tolls can be avoided and it will be much cheaper in the long run. When planning your route, go on Google maps and see your route. If you spot a toll (it will tell you), then try the same route again but this time clicking the ‘avoid toll’ option. Sometimes you’ll find that it will add hours to your journey, meaning that it’s not worth it. Other times you’ll find that it’s worth the extra time and sometimes it’s only a minute slower!
Be aware that if you are crossing into somewhere like Switzerland where you need to pay to go on all highways (via a vignette), then go with the quickest route on Google (it will say there is a toll but the vignette is the toll!).
6. Things You Need to Prepare Before Going on a Road Trip: Make Sure to Buy and Budget for Vignettes
This leads me to my next point about vignettes. For some countries, you may need a vignette to drive on their highways. Depending on which country you are going to, there are different vignettes for different things and also over different time spans. Sometimes you can buy day vignettes and other times you have to buy the full year. Make sure to research them first and factor this into your budget as they’re not cheap!
I personally would not recommend buying vignettes in advance in most cases. There is always somewhere you can buy one on the border. I’ve also found that it’s cheaper this way, as long as you go to an official shop right on the border. If you buy online you usually have to pay some sort of admin fee and buying in advance is rarely necessary anyway.
7. Things You Need to Prepare Before Going on a Road Trip: Make Sure That Your Insurance and Breakdown Cover Is Valid (And You’re Within Your Mileage!)
If you’re planning on taking your car for a long, long drive, then there are a few things that you need to ensure before you go. One of these is that your insurance and breakdown cover is valid. If you are crossing countries this could invalidate it if you did not purchase a plan that can be used outside of your country. Breakdown cover is where a lot of people get fooled, so make sure that if your car breaks down that they will cover you! Another is that you are within your mileage that is listed to your car insurance. When you first get insurance for your car, you have the option to choose how far you will travel within a year (e.g. 15,000 km). If you go over this, then your insurance will not cover you.
I didn’t even take any notice of this until the end of the year and realised that I had doubled my mileage for that year! I had no choice but to switch insurers in case they noticed. So don’t get caught out, it’s an easy mistake to make.
Have I missed anything? Drop them in the comments. Don’t forget to like Never Say Nether on Facebook for more!