How to plan a road trip

Quick and easy, Eurotunnel opens up a world of possibilities for self-drive holidays in Europe. Covering everything from the practicalities of driving abroad to how to make the most of your adventure, our guide on how to plan a road trip in Europe will set you on the right route.

Hitting the open road with the windows down and the wind in your hair is one of the most romantic notions of a carefree getaway. Even better, from lush wine valleys to idyllic beaches, you can drive your own car on a spontaneous adventure via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle without needing to set foot in an airport.

A little planning goes a long way on the open road and self-drive holidays in Europe can be among the most fun and exciting trips you’ll ever take. To help you get started, we have put together a road trip checklist on how to plan a road trip with friends, as a couple or as a family.

A woman and two children stopped by the road next to countryside to picnic in the field behind the car
Travelling by car means you can pack whatever you might need. Kitchen table? No problem!

Plan – but not too much…

You’ve got to start somewhere, so have in mind the kind of trip you’re looking for. To plan a road trip with multiple stops, it pays to have an idea of the length of time you can be away and any key destinations you want to visit. Setting out won’t be a problem; a crossing from Folkestone to Calais only takes 35 minutes on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. When plotting your route, try not to fill every day with an itinerary, as driving can be tiring, so you’ll need to factor in some time to relax. Allow enough hours to drive between stops with a few spare days in case you want to stay on somewhere a bit longer than you expected.

Set yourself a budget

As well as the prospect of adventure, freedom and ticking off a list of different places on one trip, a big incentive for self-drive holidays in Europe is budget. Taking Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is more cost-effective than flying, especially if you want to plan a road trip with friends or family.

The prices are per vehicle, with Single or Long Stay tickets starting at £85, so if you’re holidaying with a small group, a significant saving can made per person when compared to flying. Take a look at our tickets and fares page to see the full range of options.

As well as saving money on fares, there are no baggage size restrictions on Eurotunnel, meaning you are free to bring anything that fits in or on your car. Pack whatever you think you might need for no extra cost. From skiing and surfing to biking and hiking, the potential for adventure begins when you leave the house.

Wedges of French cheese stacked up on a counter
Regional specialties are perfect for picnics – ask locals for recommendations

Keep it simple

You may want to go everywhere and see everything but the way to plan a road trip in Europe is to be realistic about how much you can see and do. Road trips are a lot of fun but as with any holiday, you need to factor in things that may be out of your control, such as traffic jams, bad weather and making detours for food and rest. Plot in some anchor stops but be flexible to avoid disappointment if you don’t get to every place you hoped to.

Two people relax in the open boot of a car with a view of the sea
Taking a break from driving to stretch your legs doesn’t have to mean stopping at a service station…

Be spontaneous

This might seem like a no-brainer – the whole reason to plan a road trip with multiple stops is to escape the rules, restrictions and cabin fever of taking the train or a plane, right? As a first-timer, you might feel like it’s safer to stick to your road trip checklist and stop only at the places you’d planned in advance, but if you follow the rules too rigidly you might miss some hidden gems.

The best part of touring Europe by road is the freedom to control your own adventure. If you see somewhere that catches your eye, a little café, nature spot or almost-hidden tourist attraction, be spontaneous and pull in to check it out. Often the most memorable and authentic sights are the ones you just stumble across, and they are always the ones you can’t wait to tell your friends and family about when you get home.

Get the local knowledge

The Internet is an invaluable resource when researching how to plan a road trip in Europe but the real wisdom comes from local knowledge. Don’t be afraid to talk to the locals and ask for tips or directions. The lady who just served you in a café might know the perfect beach, just minutes away. The doorman in your hotel could live in the village, and be the key to finding its best coffee, cheese or gelato. Sharing your travels with other holidaymakers can also point you in the direction of memorable restaurants, picnic spots, swimming holes and lesser-known attractions.

Bike standing on a roof rack on top of a car driving down a road
You don’t have to stick to four wheels on a road trip – pack your bike and hit the trails

Obey the rules of the road

Top of your road trip checklist for self-drive holidays in Europe should be the rules and regulations for each country you plan to travel through. Road rules vary from country to country, so make sure you aren’t inadvertently breaking the law. Here are a few French road laws that first-time British drivers may not be aware of:

  • Dipped-beam headlights must be used in poor visibility and in tunnels.
  • The drink-drive limit allows only 0.05% alcohol in the bloodstream (0.08% is the legal limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
  • Drivers are prohibited from using any device that attaches to the ear, including Bluetooth headsets/earphones.
  • Motorists must carry a warning triangle and a reflective high-visibility vest at all times. These are included in our handy AA Euro Travel Kit, which can be found in the AA shop at our Folkestone terminal.

Be insured

Make sure your at-home car insurance and roadside cover includes taking your car into Europe. If not, our tailored insurance policy is perfect for UK drivers using French roads and was created in partnership with the AA and Allianz Global Assistance. Finally, check you have a Europe-wide GPS and take some paper maps to avoid getting lost. The roads in Europe are generally well signposted, but it’s not advisable to rely on your mobile for directions in case you lose signal, especially in more remote areas.

Book a ticket with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle early to secure the best fare.