Road trip tips for families

With Eurotunnel, there are no limits to the amount of luggage you can take, and no extra fees. As long as it fits in – or on – your car, you can pack as much as you like! Read our top tips for the perfect road trip packing list, whether you’re going away for one week or two months…

If you love the sun, sand and scenery of a European holiday but can’t face playing the plane game with the whole family in tow, have you considered taking the car instead? A long road trip with toddlers may seem like a daunting prospect but a road trip with kids can be fun and rewarding for the whole family.

Taking Eurotunnel Le Shuttle from Folkestone, you can be in Calais in just 35 minutes – less time than it takes to check in at the airport! From there, roads lead into France and on to Spain, Italy, Belgium and beyond.

Two kids sitting in a car stick their bare feet into the sunshine
Take it easy – regular pit stops for a blast of fresh air and sunshine will keep everyone happy.

How to prepare for a family road trip

Driving your own car on a fun European break has plenty of perks, from budget to familiarity, freedom and the opportunity for adventure. We’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know about how to prepare for a family road trip in Europe. Pack up the dog, the kids and the kitchen sink (if you must) and hit the road with our top family road trip tips.

1. The price is right

We all know that a trip with the whole family can pull on the purse strings, but taking the car on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle can drastically reduce your travel costs. The route is priced per vehicle, rather than per person, meaning it’s one fare for up to nine passengers. Even better, prices start from £66 each way for a Short Stay ticket. Plus, with the flexibility of your own vehicle, you can pick and choose the best times to travel.

If budget is a primary concern, travelling mid-week usually results in the cheapest fares. Plus, you can choose from more than 90 departure times per day to find the one that best suits your itinerary. Book a ticket with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle early to secure the best fare.

2. Luggage rules can go packing

Full-size shampoo? A crate of baby food? Stash of wine you picked up along the way? Hooray, there are no 100ml liquid restrictions on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle and, in fact, with the exception of flammable gas canisters, there are hardly any restrictions at all. Tents, surfboards, skis, buggies and bikes – take as much as you can squeeze in. The main question is, is it time to buy a bigger car?

3. Stop, look and listen

They say the journey is more important than the destination and that is never truer than on a family road trip. To make a long road trip with toddlers go as smoothly as possible, don’t try to rush the drive, and make sure you schedule in lots of stops for food, bathroom breaks and the chance to get some fresh air and stretch your legs.

The chances are your route from A to B will be dotted with quaint towns, open countryside, parks, beaches and even playgrounds. Take the time to do a little research on potential places to stop and make the most of your surroundings. One of the biggest perks of a self-drive road trip is discovering smaller, less touristy towns that aren’t served by major stations or airports. Here you will often find the best food, drink and lodgings for bargain prices.

A father and kids relaxing in the boot of the car in woodland.
Do a little research to find tucked-away places where the kids can play and burn off some energy.

4. Your holiday, your rules

Depending on your holiday style, you might want to choose a time when the roads are clear and head directly to your destination as quickly as possible. But, if you are more flexible with your plans, you can enjoy a stay-as-you-go holiday, stopping for longer at somewhere you love or setting off prematurely from a place that didn’t quite live up to expectations.

With the whole of Europe to choose from, you could tick off two or even three countries in a short space of time. A round trip from France, through Belgium and Germany can comfortably be done in 10-14 days if you fancy a widespread adventure.

5. Read the road rules

Before you travel, familiarise yourself with the route you plan to take and read up on the driving rules and regulations for each country. In France, for example, you are required to travel with a high-visibility vest in case of a breakdown and a portable breathalyser. Our detailed post on driving in France has some useful advice and tips. Most European countries require you to have a GB sticker on your back window to identify your vehicle’s country of origin.

Three kids have fun in the car on a road trip
Hit the road and capture your kids’ imaginations with a new adventure every day.

6. The kids are alright

They may be stuck in the car for extended periods, so coming up with some long car journey games will keep kids entertained. Twenty Questions, the ABC animal game (take turns to name an animal for each letter of the alphabet) and I Spy are classic and fun ideas for long road trips that never get old.

Keep kids in the loop by discussing the things they see out of the window to engage them in your trip. With some simple research, you can come up with a mess-free sticker chart game for a long road trip with toddlers; stickers can be awarded for spotting sights such as windmills, rivers, horses, bicycles and bridges, as well as for good behaviour.

7. What to pack

Ah, the never-ending list of things to pack for a road trip with kids. While engaging youngsters in the journey itself, spotting the sights and sharing fun facts about each destination, can kill quite a lot of time and be educational for them, there’s only so much of their attention you can expect to command. Modern entertainment such as tablets, smartphones and portable DVDs have become increasingly common for a road trip with kids. It’s wise to pre-download programmes and games to avoid extra roaming charges or problematic signal areas. Pack portable charging packs as a back-up.

Audiobooks are a great way for the whole car to be entertained together. It’s also wise to pack a first aid kit, plenty of drinking water and extra clothes, outside of the suitcase, in case of spillages. For a long road trip with toddlers, have nappies, wipes and blankets easily accessible. Window shades are often overlooked but vital for younger babies in the sun.

A young family with two small children and a dog on a walk in autumn.
Keep the whole family together and take your pooch on holiday with you!

8. Man’s best friend – taking dogs on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

The other huge perk of driving to Europe by car is that you can bring your pooch with you! Dogs can travel for £19 each way (cats and ferrets, too), although registered guide and assistance dogs travel for free, as do a range of other pets. Official pet travel documentation is essential – read our article on travelling with pets for the latest requirements, as well as top tips from our resident vet. And make sure you book pet-friendly lodgings for your stay.

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