What to Expect on Your European Road Trip

European Road Trip

European Road Trip

If you want to make the most of your European vacation, you can live like a local by renting a car.

Still, traveling somewhere new can always be a bit stressful, so we created this helpful resource to get a better idea of what to expect driving in Europe for the first time. This will afford you the freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go.

How much time should you factor in for road travel?

With 44 countries packed into a landmass that’s similar to the US, you can immerse yourself into a number of different and fascinating cultures in a very short amount of time. While Europe is comprised of many countries, most of these countries will actually compare more directly in terms of size to individual states.

For example, the major highways going from west to east in France total 590 miles, while the major highways going from west to east in Texas total 790 miles. The key difference, however, is that it would take 3 days to drive across France, while the trip across Texas could safely be done in 1 day. This is due to road systems being much more direct in the US, rather than slower and winding through much of Europe.

Keep this in mind as you plan out your trip. Always factor in extra stops along the way to fit in time for pictures, site-seeing, shopping, amazing food and other surprises (good and bad).

What are the rules of the road?

  • Expect to drive on the right side of the road except in the UK.
  • There are no right turns on red unless a sign specifies otherwise.
  • On turnabouts, give yourself a full loop before taking your exit to avoid any snap decisions.
  • It is unlawful to pass in the slow lane.
  • Some countries will require the use of headlights (even in broad daylight).
  • Speeding is often enforced via a camera system, so don’t just watch for police vehicles if you want to avoid getting a ticket.

What can I expect in terms of regulations, safety and costs?

Don’t drink and drive! Outside of the UK, expect all countries to have a lower blood alcohol tolerance than our standard .08. Most European countries will enforce a .05 blood alcohol limit, while some will require drivers to have .00 alcohol in their systems to operate a vehicle.

Expect tolls, especially along the Mediterranean coast. Some countries will require the purchase of a sticker (many rentals will have an up-to-date sticker). Toll roads may seem inconvenient but factoring in the time and gas of the more scenic routes, it’s a fair price to pay.

Certain cities may require a congestion charge in an effort to limit traffic within the city. It may be wisest to park outside of the city limits and take public transportation into the city.

Some cities have banned car traffic altogether. Watch for zones that indicate that parking is not permitted, as tickets can swiftly be enforced without your knowledge until you receive the bill at home a month or two later.

It’s best to enter your European road trip with an open mind. Some areas can be strict towards its drivers, while other areas can be very loose (in Italy, drivers can sometimes view red lights as optional, if they do not see any cars coming). Speak with your car rental agency for further driving details and understand that the overall experience is absolutely worth making a few adjustments to your expectations.

When parking, understand the differences of each city/country. In the UK, drivers expect plenty of space in between vehicles, while in France, drivers are encouraged to leave off the parking brake to allow other drivers to nudge (seriously) neighboring vehicles back and forth until they can fit in. Make sure you cover your rental with the appropriate insurance to avoid costly fines.

Assume that each country has its own set of colored lines with different meanings for parking, passing lanes, etc. Get to know the specific details of each country you will be driving in ahead of time to avoid the potential for fines or accidents.

How do I rent a car in Europe?

Just as with domestic travel, you can rent a car for European use on most travel booking websites. You can also add options like GPS, car seats, luggage racks and more.

Make the most of your European travels by collecting valuable travel points on your car rentals and hotel stays. Turn your points into a free flight, hotel stay or fun gift card if you are a Bonwi member. Find out more about Bonwi’s membership program here.

How To Do A Staycation

How To Do a Stayvation

Your state may not be one that is aggrandized on the silver screen, but it’s likely filled with amazing places to see, food to eat and cities/towns to explore on your next staycation.

Whether you’re a nomad or a home-body, it’s awesome to get out, experience something new and recharge from time to time. But not everybody has the time or budget to hop on a plane and take a week or month-long vacation. Luckily, there are beautiful and inspiring things happening nearby. Here’s what you can do to get out of the house and start making staycation memories.

Do some online research

A smart way to connect or reconnect with your local area is to view your local region through the eyes of a tourist. What are travel bloggers saying about camping, outdoor activities, site-seeing, food and shopping in your area?Which hotels offer jaw-dropping amenities?

  • Set up a starter checklist of must-sees and must-stays in your hometown, county or region.
  • Dive deeper into city websites, forums and even social media accounts.
  • Sites like Instagram allow for location tagging so you can see exactly where some of the most iconic scenes are located.

Don’t be afraid to just hop in the car without a plan and just see where the day takes you.

Get out and drive

If you’re ever going to take the road less traveled, you may have to find it yourself. There are a ton of digital resources out there to find all kinds of amazing drives, hikes and eats. However, some of the best areas in your state aren’t going to come up on Trip Advisor, Yelp, travel blogs or even Google Maps! Don’t be afraid to just hop in the car without a plan and just see where the day takes you. Get wild and upgrade your ride by renting a convertible for a day or two.

Ask a local

If you’ve lived in multiple regions of the country, you likely know that the best way to get to know an area is by living there. Want to know the ins and outs of a new city? The quickest way to find out is to ask a local. Stopping for gas? See what the attendant has to say about the area’s food scene. Checking into your staycation hotel for a night or two? The front desk staff should have a great idea of some of the best activities nearby for your specific interests.

Get wild and upgrade your ride by renting a convertible for a day or two.

Trips from a hat

Just like the well-known skit from “Who’s Line is it Anyway”, placing different trips into a hat or bowl to randomly select keeps you and your partner, friends or family spontaneous. Whether it’s a state park, view, road, city or restaurant that you would like to see, failure to launch is a common struggle that keeps us tied to our normal routines. This hat trick will help.

In your research of local areas of interest, print out the names of each location and place them somewhere accessible. Set a regular time each week or month to select an adventure “from the hat” and say goodbye to the endless vortex that is:

“What do you want to do?”

“Oh, I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

Trust your instincts

Looking for a great bite to eat while out on the road? Searching for a change of scenery? The best thing to do may just be to follow your nose, eyes or gut. Some of the best local favorites an area has to offer may be so well known that they don’t focus on marketing their business. If this is the case, you could easily overlook an area classic for something a little more typical.

When you’re looking for a great escape, it’s okay to just slow down and feel out a given area. Use your senses to truly experience a given destination. If you smell something you like, go taste it! If you see something you like, go check it out! If something seems exciting, go explore it! If a place feels good to you, settle in and let it be your home for however long you’re there.

Failure to launch is a common struggle that keeps us tied to our normal routines.

Taking these little staycations can help you reset after a busy or stressful week, connect with your local area, inspire your sense of adventure and recharge your creativity. In other words, wander more and worry less! With Bonwi’s rewards system, you can accrue points with up to 40% back on hotel stays and car rentals. Where to?

Save Money on Transportation While Traveling!

Travel-Transportation-Tips

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For travelers looking to stretch their vacation dollars, cutting back on transportation costs may be the easiest way to do just that.

Carpool

In major cities, many taxi services like UberPOOL offer ridesharing or carpooling services; take advantage of these! By sharing a ride with other passengers, you can save around 20-40% on your ride fare. Chatting with locals or other travelers is just a bonus!

Bike

Contrary to popular belief, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are not the only cities where cycling is a popular mode of transportation. Save yourself some money, get around like the locals, and rent a bike! Not only is this much cheaper than other alternatives, but getting to experience your surroundings on two wheels is probably the most personal way to see a new city.

Forget “Recommendations”

When in doubt, you may think to ask the friendly hotel concierge for their recommendation on how to get to your destination. Think twice before doing this; they may be getting a kickback from the cab company they’re recommending, ultimately costing you more out of pocket. Airports have similar agreements as well, so cut out the commissioned middle-man and do your own research.

Rent A Car

If you plan on staying in any location longer than a week, it may be wise to spend a little more upfront on a rental car rather than racking up costs from many taxi rides. Rental cars are particularly useful in more rural settings where public transportation may not be readily available, but be aware of how and where you rent.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Stay tuned to Travel Tip Tuesdays for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

Ready to explore destinations? Bonwi has the best travel deals so you can travel more often, everywhere your heart desires! Try a search today.

The Ultimate West Coast Road Trip

West Coast Road Trip Tips

West Coast Road Trip Tips

The landscape found along the West Coast of the United States between Seattle and San Diego is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the world. The various environments between the two cities include volcanoes, high deserts, ancient redwoods, forested-coastline cliffs, massive rivers, and untamed wildlife. Depending on the time you travel and how you want to experience the journey, such a road trip can be conquered anywhere from one to five days. Starting at the northwest tip of the United States at Olympic National Park and driving all the way south to the Mexican border, this 1,650 mile (2.655 kilometers) stretch can be broken down into sections for you to start and stop as you wish during the best road trip of the year.

Olympic National Park

The park spans 1,442 square miles (3.734 square kilometers) and features snow-covered mountains, a temperate rainforest, and the rocky Pacific coastline. Olympic National Park is perfect for almost all outdoor activities due to its undeveloped and untouched environments. Camping, hiking/backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, fishing, soaking in hot springs, wildlife watching, skiing, snowshoeing, and surfing are a few activities you can take advantage of in this outdoor playground

Distance from Los Angeles: 1,243 miles/1.812 kilometers: (17 hours)
Distance from Portland: 162 miles/260 kilometers (3 hours)
Distance from San Diego: 1,124 miles/1.808 kilometers (19 hours)
Distance from Seattle: 112 miles/180 kilometers (2 hours)
Distance from San Francisco: 796 miles/1.281 kilometers (13 hours)

Joshua Tree

With its desert landscape, dry air, and “anything-goes” vibe, many consider Joshua Tree to be a very magical place. There are areas designated to walking trails and rock climbing found throughout the park. Here you will come across a variety of great stores and restaurants each with their own unique personality. Make sure to visit the Hicksville Trailer Palace and grab a drink at the famous Pappy & Harriet’s Bar & Grill.

Distance from Los Angeles: 128 miles/205 kilometers (2 hours)
Distance from Portland: 1,080 miles/1.738 kilometers (15 hours)
Distance from San Diego: 160 miles/257 kilometers (2 hours)
Distance from Seattle: 1,249 miles/2.010 kilometers (19 hours)
Distance from San Francisco: 500 miles/804 kilometers (7 hours)

 

Big Sur

The drive to Big Sur is known to be one of the best in the country. The road zigzags along the ocean making it a fun and beautiful drive. The beauty that you will see along the way will only continue to expand upon your arrival. Redwoods tower over cafes, hiking trails, and modern businesses. The area is booming with artisans from around the world.

Distance from Los Angeles: 352 miles/566 kilometers (6 hours)
Distance from Portland: 757 miles/1.218 kilometers (12 hours)
Distance from San Diego: 462 miles/743 kilometers (8 hours)
Distance from Seattle: 928 miles/1.493 kilometers (14 hours)
Distance from San Francisco: 140 miles/225 kilometers (3 hours)

 

North Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe offers something for everyone with its ski slopes, boat rentals, camping, fishing, gambling, and nightclubs. It is considered one of the best pit stops for road trippers. Grab a drink at the historic lakefront Cambers Landing Bar, or make have some Tex-Mex from the legendary Caliente, also known as “The Stop.”

Distance from Los Angeles: 500 miles/804 kilometers (7 hours)
Distance from Portland: 581 miles/935 kilometers (9 hours)
Distance from San Diego: 559 miles/899 kilometers (9 hours)
Distance from Seattle: 752 miles/1.210 kilometers (12 hours)
Distance from San Francisco: 199 miles/320 kilometers (3 hours)

Road Trip Packing Tips

Road Trip Packing Tips

Road Trip Packing Tips

There are many benefits to getting behind the wheel and road tripping rather than flying to your vacation destination. Besides being in charge of your departure and arrival time, you aren’t limited to airlines baggage restrictions. If you decide to trade your boarding pass for a car on your next getaway, here are four tips for a smooth road trip.

FUEL UPRoad Trip Tip - Fuel Up

And we mean you, not the car. Before hitting the road, stock up on vitamin-packed, healthy snacks such as carrots, almonds, or fruit slices to remain alert and energized as you go. Gum is also a good thing to have on hand, as repetitive chewing promotes increased circulation.

PACK STRATEGICALLYRoad Trip Tip - Pack Strategically

Loading heavier items first will keep most of the extra weight towards the center of the car, allowing an even load over both front and back wheels; doing so will allow your car to drive normally in spite of the extra weight.

UTILIZE A ROOFTOP /CARGO CARRIER

Rooftop carriers allow more comfort and room for passengers inside, as well as the ability to pack much more than you would otherwise be capable of loading inside the trunk.

KEEP THE ESSENTIALS CLOSEBYRoad Trip Tip - Keep the Essentials Closely

Keep items such as phone chargers, sunglasses, snacks, and beverages in convenient locations that are readily accessible. Make sure emergency items such as flashlights, first-aid kits, or jumper cables remain close at hand and not buried beneath luggage.

Road trips are a fantastic opportunity to put your attention on the outside world and forget about your troubles for awhile. After packing up and embarking on your next adventure, the most important thing is to look up and enjoy the views, the company you’re with, and all the fun experiences that are soon to come.

 

Now that you know how to pack efficiently, start planning your road trip with Bonwi.com.