The travel diary series continues. This time let’s take a look at one of the best and easiest ways to experience Europe: hiring a car!
I love Europe particularly because it’s so easy to travel here; you don’t have time-consuming border patrols or never-ending queues to the Visa office. Instead you can just drive across a border without even noticing.
I wasn’t used to this until I moved to Slovakia, because living in the UK means that by crossing the country’s border you’ll find yourself in the sea, and in Finland you’d either end up in the sea or in Russia… And the latter is an option that I think nobody wants to risk.
But Slovakia is literally in the middle of the European continent and once, on our way to Austria to a chocolate factory, we just walked across the border like nothing. My mind was blown. Since then I’ve traveled all over Europe and crossed so many borders without even noticing, that it’s become just this one aspect of being part of the EU that I appreciate a lot.
So, when we were planning this particular holiday and the trip to the mountains we knew that we’d definitely need a car. Road trips are the best (unless done in January during the worst snow storm in years) and by remembering a couple essential tips, you ensure a memorable experience with friends. Here follows my guide for;
5 Steps to Booking Your Epic Road Trip
Road Trip Tip 1: Book a car in advance
Booking a car when there are gazillion rental firms to choose from can be a menace. But technology has once again provided us with an easy solution!
We used Discover Car Hire, which works the same way as Skyscanner or Hotels.com: It collects information from thousands and thousands of rental car providers and shows you the ones that match your needs and wants. Whether it’s the price or a specific car brand that you’re looking for.
For us the main specification was space; we needed to fit 4 people with suitcases comfortably in the car. Discover’s application was so easy and straight-forward to use, the only problem was the amount of great options that the app found for us.
Basically, all you have to do is write the city where you want to hire a car into the app and change the specifications according to your wishes if need be. And then just click Search and choose yourself a car.
You only pay a prepayment, which is basically the insurance and only costs couple dozen Euros. The rest you can pay either when you collect or return the car.
Road Trip Tip 2: Do a bit of planning
Now that you’ve got the car booked, it’s time to start thinking about the route that you want to drive.
I can personally recommend a road trip that would take you, for example, from Prague to Vienna to Bratislava to Budapest. That’s 4 incredibly beautiful European capitals within relatively short distance away from each other. Driving times between each of these capitals range between 1-4 hours.
Or another amazing trip (which I am yet to experience) would be to start from Germany to the Netherlands to Belgium to France. That’s actually going on my bucket list RIGHT NOW!
After you’ve got the route decided, do a little bit of scheduling. Not much, though. All you need to figure out, really, is how many nights your trip will take, as in how many places to sleep in you will need to book. For example, I would like to spend at least 1 night in each capital, maybe 2 nights in the bigger ones like Prague and Vienna.
When the accommodation is settled, think about the road itself; Europe is one enormous piece of art and there are incredible amounts of castles, National Parks, mountains, and the most incredibly picturesque little villages that would go completely unnoticed if you’re venturing between cities on a bus or a train.
Traveling with a car gives you the perfect opportunity to really, properly explore the areas you’re driving through and discover things that most people probably never see.
We only had to drive to Eastern Slovakia but we knew that there would be plenty of castles on our way there. And since it was a 4-hour drive, we had to stop somewhere. So, my darling friend found us a castle turned into a fancy restaurant that had catered such names as Ban Ki Moon and the King of Norway. Fit for our standards, I thought.
Road Trip Tip 3: Check the car and tires before leaving the vendor
This was a point that I hadn’t even thought about before, but which is extremely important! After you’ve got all the paper work done with the vendor (as in, prove that you have a driver’s licence) and they show you the car, walk around it with the vendor and check the car for any damages, even the tiniest thing, that the car might have sustained before it came to you.
As an extra measure take a picture with your phone of every scratch and dent that you can find on the car. This way the vendor can’t put any old damages on you and demand you to pay for them. Costs for even small damages on rental cars are often sky-high.
Also, make sure that everything inside the car functions as it should; navigation systems, radio, gears, etc. After that, pack up all your things in the car, settle in and put that peddle to the metal!
Road Trip Tip 4: Prepare an epic playlist and snacks
It wouldn’t be a proper road trip without an appropriate playlist! If you’re a fan of carpool karaoke, make a playlist of all the songs that you and your friends like to sing together. Puts the whole trip into a whole new level!
Or if you prefer chill atmosphere when navigating unfamiliar roads make a collection of some chill jazz&hip hop playlists. I love such playlists at work.
And since it’s a long road, some snacks wouldn’t go amiss. Perhaps avoid heavy stuff, like a whole meal from McDonald’s, and instead pack some smaller snacks that keep the bigger hunger away; like fruits (or candy!), nuts, water(!) and maybe some wine for those enjoying the trip at the backseat (obviously I’m thinking of a road trip with friends rather than with children if alcohol is involved in any way).
We had a wail of a time catching up on the backseat accompanied by some wine with my best friend. Neither of us had met each other’s significant others before so she had been really nervous before the trip. But by the time we arrived to the motor way everybody had already become amazing friends and there was no break in the flow of conversation both in the back and the front of the car.
Road Trip Tip 5: Enjoy the ride!
Forget about your work troubles, family issues, anything that might bother you even in the slightest in your everyday life and concentrate on the moment. The people around you, the music, the jolly atmosphere and all the amazing experiences ahead.
When you’re on the road it’s so easy to literally leave it all behind and enjoy life to the fullest in the best company. Discover really made this road trip so easy for us that I can’t wait to plan another one!