ROAD TRIPS 101: THE BASICS

A top-notch European road-trip requires less effort than you might think.

A sense of adventure and an open mind certainly help, as does a willingness to try new foods, wines, sights, and smells.  It should not, contrary to what most folks believe, require a tremendous amount of money.

With a little advance planning you too can be tooling around Europe, your next adventure just around the corner.

Airline Tickets:
The first rule of thumb is to try to be as flexible as possible when it comes to your travel dates.  Off-season travel will always be cheaper than in high season.

When booking flights I always start with Kayak.

Why?

Because Kayak displays sample pricing for the entire month, not just a single day.  This allows the savvy traveler to pinpoint the cheapest days of travel for any given month.  Don’t think that’s helpful?  Just try finding the cheapest travel days in the month on your own.  My guess is it will take you, oh…. about 30 to 31 separate searches.

Packing:
This is as easy as it gets but most people just can’t seem to pack lightly.

What does “packing lightly” mean exactly?

Well, I checked with corporate headquarters on this one and according to the Le Stuff International Guidelines For Light Packing it means one carry-on suitcase and one tote/computer bag.  Follow this simple rule and you’ll be that lean, mean travel machine skipping past all the chumps in baggage claim.

You’ll also save money by avoiding extra baggage fees.

Car Rental:
Just like airlines, car rental companies employ a complex pricing software designed by Stephen Hawking’s less famous evil twin brother.

The bottom line for Le Stuff travelers?

Book early
Booking early allows you to track pricing trends and hopefully travel when prices are at their lowest.

Learn how to drive a stick for crying out loud
“Why should I learn how to drive a stick-shift?  I’m an American Dammit!”

Just hold on there Top-Gun, renting a vehicle with automatic transmission in Europe is always substantially more expensive than a similar vehicle with manual transmission.

Besides, driving a stick on some of the coolest roads in Europe is really, really fun.

Fill up your tank before returning the car
What happens if you turn your car in without a full tank?

Well rookie, the car company will charge an obscene amount per liter for the trouble they take to do what you should have done in the first place.

Comparison shop
It’s always smart to check several sites before booking.
Not only is this helpful in garnering the lowest price, it will also ease your mind knowing you got the best deal possible.

Four sites I always check:

EasyCar
Europcar
Auto Europe
Sixti

Eight times out of ten EasyCar comes out the clear winner.

Accommodations:
No need to sacrifice charm and style just because you don’t have a lot of money. Some of the best accommodations in Europe are affordable Mom and Pop establishments.

Start with Tripadvisor for price-friendly hotels, apartments, and B&B’s.

For loads of charm be sure to check out the extensive network of Gites in France and Agriturismo in Italy.

In many countries (like Croatia) apartments rentals are your best option (we spent a great week here on the island of Vis).

Food:
If you find that you can’t eat well in Europe without spending an arm and a leg then, well…. something just ain’t right with you.

My best European food memories usually involve inexpensive, family-owned restaurants, a slice of pizza from a crowded trattoria or, best of all, a makeshift picnic with baguette, hunk of cheese, and a bottle of wine from a local supermarket.

Seek and ye shall find my friends.

Quick tips
-French and Italian “truck-stops” located along major autoroutes serve excellent, affordable food.
-Skip expensive hotel breakfasts and opt instead for a local bakery.

Attitude:
Forget everything you just read if you are unable to step onto foreign soil with a positive attitude.

I am constantly amazed by how often people sabotage their travels by affecting a snotty, defensive demeanor.

People are people no matter where you are.  For example, the French are not “rude”, they just sound a lot cooler than you and I do when they say something.

Trust me, be open, friendly, and understanding of the country in which you’re traveling and you will reap rewards for many years to come.

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3 Comments

Filed under Accommodations, Driving, Tips

3 responses to “ROAD TRIPS 101: THE BASICS

  1. wa;t

    Lotsa good sense info. and advice here, Dirk; thanks.
    For a change of pace sometime, do a column for the rich, well-travelled, sophisticated crowd; the rest of us might pick up some tips. I have one for you: on airlines do not neglect asking for a [free] airlines wheelchair to get you through customs, immigration, etc. if you can think of any legit. excuse for yourself or travel companion [and accompany her/him behind the chair!] You’ll be amazed with the ease you pass through many ‘checkpoints.’ Any sprained ankle, recent surgeries, balance problems,’not feeeling well,’ etc. will do.
    walt

  2. Thank you for those really helpful hints before travelling Dirk.
    Few years now I’m working with you for some great Tours in South-East of France and I have to say that I’m always very happy to see how serious and professional you are!

  3. Clarissa

    Great reminders to anyone traveling in Europe or anywhere else. Many thanks for your, always charming, posts.

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