In December ‘18 my husband and I took a long road trip from the UK to the north of Sweden and we’ve learned some things about long road trips. We have done some road trips before but nothing this long.
Here are some tips for you, that like us, decided to ditch the cheap Ryanair tickets that let you go with only a carry on and brought a boot full of Christmas presents:
Be mentally prepared: It’s a long trip. You will feel tired, you will need to stop more than you’d like to but it’s also really enjoyable if like us, you’re getting a tour around the beautiful countries of Europe. Make sure you prepare a really long Spotify playlist and possibly get Spotify Premium – you will want to pass some of the music more than once.
If travelling on a Ship (like we did from the UK to France) try to do it during the day: The trip on a Ship is an adventure on itself. Lovely to see that huge sea and the birds flying over it. It made me feel like moving to the coast!
Bring small cushions/pillows/ blankets: This is something we did that helped us a lot. Small pillows are easy to fit behind your back or under your legs when you need to – this helps to avoid cramps, back and neck pain as it gives you support when it’s needed. After sitting down for so long, changing positions is crucial for you to keep going. The blanket helps when you want to snooze, your body temperature goes down and you can end up feeling cold. This also helps in case the car breaks down when you’re travelling on winter.
Stop to stretch: We stopped for around 5 minutes every two hours in the first 6 hours driving and then every hour after that (We drove around 9 hours a day for 3 days). We would stop for around 30 minutes twice a day for lunch/dinner but made sure to have little breaks in between. When we did that we would stretch our legs, walk in a quick pace around while stretching arms and neck. We were not experts on road trips when we did this one but I didn’t have any muscle pains when we arrived at our destination and none of us experienced swollen legs – which is a good sign. While in the car it’s good to move legs and feet (possible up and down if you’re the passenger) just to keep the blood flow going.
Be prepared for road tax: I am not sure exactly which countries you have to pay road tax but Denmark was a surprise. We paid to get in and to get out even though it only took us 5 hours to cross the country. Thankfully we brought our card with us but it’s nice if you can check any kind of additional taxes that the country you’re going through will charge you – this will help you to prepare your budget for the trip!
Food tips: Nuts and fruits will help but won’t keep you going. If you are on a road trip for more than one day, you need to accept the fact that you will have to purchase bigger meals as you can’t prepare all of them and bring it with you without any form of refrigeration (unless you are a raw vegan that can fit a lot of stuff on your back seat).
- Lunch and dinner: I would suggest something filling but light. Kevin and I stopped at Subway/ McDonald’s and Carl’s Jr. but got salad with chicken/meat instead of hamburgers/sandwiches. We ate their big fresh salads at least once a day and it was really good! They didn’t make us feel too full and tired to drive and gave us enough energy to get to our destination at the time we were planning to. We did end up getting one or two Subway sandwiches as they are the healthiest option that is easy to find.
- Fruits: Choose fruits that are easy to eat and to feed the person that is driving, the ones that you can take apart without much fuss. Instead of bringing an orange that is difficult to peel, you can bring already peeled tangerines and give it to the driver piece by piece without making things dirty or having sticky hands. Grapes were our go to this trip and we had lots of it. We did bring bananas that we ended up eating on our breakfasts more than during the trip, but they are filling fruits that I would recommend bringing with you. Already chopped mangoes/pineapple/ strawberry are a good choice as well – don’t forget to bring forks.
- Salty snacks: Crisps were good to keep up with our salt intake – they might not be the healthiest snack but after 2 days driving you need to vary as much as you can. We ended up bringing some cheese sandwiches that we indulged in between lunch and dinner. Babybel/ string cheese are a nice choice for salty snack together with salted nuts.
- Drinks: I think it’s needless to say that you need water. Bring a big bottle, those really big ones so you won’t have to stop to fill it all the time. We got some children’s juice such as those Innocent bottles or the little boxes that come with a straw – this was very helpful specially on our breakfasts when we wanted something more than water.
Make sure your car has everything you need: Before the trip, service your car – change everything that might not make it on a long trip. Check the water and tyre pressure – our car has a tyre pump that was used a lot as we travelled to extreme low temperature. Other than that, make sure you have a first aid kit and another one with all the material you need to be safe on the road (i.e. spare tyre, triangle, night vision vest, flashlight, etc…). If you have all of this sorted, it is unlikely that your car will break down, but this will make your trip much more relaxed as if it does, you’re prepared for anything. Do not travel if something is wrong with your car.
Bring toilet paper/wet wipes: This will help even if you don’t have a toddler with you. You might spill drinks or stop at a place that doesn’t have toilet paper available.
Use Waze/other app for Petrol/Diesel prices: We tried to fill our tank little by little until arriving in Denmark where Diesel prices are extremely cheap. It’s crazy what an imaginary border can do. Belgium and Sweden had much higher prices.
Also use Waze/ other app to find places to stop: Here’s something that Denmark is really good at – there was a stop with food/bathroom/parking every 15 minutes on the road. It was amazing because we didn’t have to worry about it there while in Germany/Sweden they were more scarce and we had to make sure if we should stop or if we could wait 30-40 more minutes to go to the next toilet.
Stop to sleep: One of our best tips will be for you to stop to sleep. Try to stick with your routine – we stopped to sleep at 11pm and woke up at 8am to start driving at 9. Eight hours a day is ideal before being really tired. That’s when we decided to stop both for our safety and the safety of others. You might want to keep going, it’s just 2 hours until you reach the next country, right? Wrong. If you feel tired, stop and sleep. You can start fresh and safe the next day – plus the fact that you will enjoy the view much more.
Do you have any must haves for road trips or other tips that you would like to share?
Ps: I know I have been babbling about a big change on my life/blog recently and thought it would be ready to be shared this week – turns out I will need a couple more weeks until I can share the news. I promise it’s coming.