On a road trip, the joy of driving can be just as satisfying as getting to your destination. Here are some tips to make sure everything goes smoothly, beyond “make sure you know how your car works.”
Be flexible with where you stay
This sounds counterintuitive, but you don’t need to book all your lodging in advance. What if you have to change direction, or can’t make it to a planned stop? The last thing you want is the pressure of having to make it to a booked hotel because you’ve already paid a deposit. Consider it, unless there are specific places you want to stop at, or are travelling with a large party during peak season.
Pick a car you can sleep in
You could do this if you want to save money or can’t get a place. You can get cars with removable seats so you can lie down; and cars with tinted windows so you can sleep and keep your stuff inside without people noticing. You could do it yourself with tinting paper or black curtains.
Get the right shoes for the job
“The Original Car Shoe” sounds like some cheesy late-night informercial, but it dates back to a 1963 Italian brand now owned by Prada. The idea -- soles that aren’t so thick you can’t feel the pedals, but not so thin you can’t walk anywhere. The classic choice is a moccasin, because of the little rubber “nubs” that make it easy to push the gas and brake pedals. Plus they’re comfortable, easy to slip on, and you can still look fabulous outside the car.
Check to make sure you have the weird stuff that’s required legally
This isn’t as simple as a driver’s license and insurance paperwork. Some European countries are pretty specific about the hardware you need. For example, Italy requires a reflective jacket or waistcoat, Austria and Croatia require first aid kits, and many European countries require or recommend warning triangles (that’s a physical red triangle that you can put on the road.)
Get a ride for free
Don’t want to deal with all that, but you still want to experience the joy of driving? Check out a French ride-sharing company called Blablacar, which is like Uber but connecting people between European cities, and drivers don’t make a profit. The idea is to put people who need rides in touch with people who have open seats in their cars, and everyone shares the cost. It operates in 20 countries, most of them in Europe, and it recently expanded to Brazil.