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Holiday driving: top tips when you drive abroad

Going away on a summer holiday is always exciting, but if it’s going to involve some driving, it’s a good idea to be prepared so that you and your passengers stay safe. We have put together a few checklists to help you keep your holiday this year as stress free as possible.

Taking your car abroad this year?

The first thing to do is make sure you are up to speed with all the rules and regulations and then get prepared with all the correct documents and equipment:

Make sure you have the right insurance
It needs to cover you if you break down, have an accident or run into difficulties in any of the countries you are visiting.

Make sure your car is in good order before you leave
If your car is due a service, or a couple of new tyres, get them done now for your own peace of mind. If you are up to date with servicing, check your tyre pressures, check your spare wheel and pack your basic tools for changing it, check that your brakes and lights work, and fill up your screen washer bottle. Check that your headlights are adjusted so they don’t dazzle oncoming traffic – get the right beam convertor kit if necessary. If you are going on a skiing holiday, you may need winter tyres or snow chains.

Take the correct documents with you
Each driver should carry a full driver’s licence (the paper part and the photocard) and you will need your insurance documents (car insurance and travel insurance), your vehicle registration certificate, European Health Insurance Cards and passports. Check if you need an international driving permit or visa (depends on destination).

Take the right equipment
In most European countries you need to display a GB sticker on your car, and you will also need a warning triangle in case you break down, and a reflective jacket. These are compulsory in many EU countries.

Be aware of regulations
Did you know that some countries have banned satnavs that alert you to where speed cameras are in operation? If your satnav has this function, you need to disable it in the control panel.

Reducing the stresses of a driving holiday

If you are planning to cross the Channel or the Irish Sea with your car and go on a touring holiday with the family, don’t underestimate your need to relax too.

If you have another adult going with you, plan to share the driving
Too often, Mum can end up trying to keep the kids amused and organising the picnics and hotel stays, while Dad gets all the driving. Both partners can end up feeling put upon. At least sharing means some variety and the kids will appreciate having both parents’ attention during the journey.

Don’t attempt to drive the whole way in a day
Driver fatigue is one of the major causes of accidents on long journeys. Plan to drive for about 2 hours, then have a short break and then swap drivers, before having a longer break for food 2 hours later. Then do another cycle, two at the very most, and then break your journey with an overnight stay. If you are the sole driver, you will need at least a 20 minute break every 2 hours, and aim not to drive for more than 6 hours each day.

Plan not to drive every day while you are there
Get walking with the family or with your friends – you don’t need to do long car trips and see every sight within a 200 mile radius of your gite or campsite.

Pack the car sensibly
We all think we need more clothes and more ‘stuff’ than we ever use, but excess weight will increase your fuel consumption. A tightly packed boot makes it impossible to find anything while you are on the road, and packing the back seat can restrict your view from the rear view mirror. Take less, and pack what you need for the journey last.

Hiring a car while you are on holiday?

If you are flying to your holiday destination and then want to use a car to explore, hiring a car when you get there may be more cost effective than booking one with your trip. Local prices may be much lower than fly/drive deals – ask your travel agent or search on the internet for possible hire companies and check the costs.

Make sure you get a car that’s big enough
Small cars are obviously cheaper but if you are going on a holiday with two teenagers and you all plan to go bike riding and surfing, a tiny hatchback is going to make you all miserable. Imagine how cramped you will be with all your hired gear.

Check out additional driver cover
Again, if you have more than one driver in your party, sharing the driving shares the load and enables everyone to have a better holiday. But you can’t just drive a hire car without authorisation; if you damage the car even slightly under those circumstances, the financial penalties are, quite rightly, severe.

Get to know your hire car
Even the most experienced driver needs to get to know a different car. Check you know where the lights and windscreen wiper controls are before you drive off, make sure you get fuel if the tank is low, and take things steadily for the first few miles.

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