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?

The Best Motorcycle Road Trips for Bikers With Experience

Are you a weekend warrior who breaks out the colors and cuts whenever you can? Do you feel most alive when dawning your dome and taking on twisties? This post’s for you. 

For many bikers, hitting the open road is more than just a thrill ride – it’s a way of life. The road doesn’t know what kind of bike you ride, how seasoned you are or who you’re riding with. But you get to ride the curves in the road and experience mesmerizing natural vistas from the open air. So fill up your tank and start revving that hog for these 10 bucket list biker trips.

#1 Tail of the Dragon – Deal’s Gap
  • Distance: 11 miles
  • States: Tennessee and North Carolina
  • Nearby: Maryville, TN

This easy to miss slice of road is a biker’s dream. Right near the Tennessee/North Carolina border, the Tail of the Dragon is 11 miles of whipping curves and bends – 318 of them actually, but who’s counting? It’s ideally located right on the edge of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it won’t be lacking in views. Wind through these 11 miles slowly and enjoy the ride or test your skills against the dragon!

#2 Skyline Drive

Winding through the entirety of the Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive makes for the perfect fall escape into the Northeast foliage that Virginia boasts. 

#3 Blue Ridge Parkway

For a longer trip, Blue Ridge Parkway only has a 45 mph limit and the roads are extremely well maintained. This is all the better so that you won’t miss the numerous pull off areas for all of the sight-seeing that can be done along this great parkway, including The Great Smoky Mountains!

#4 Beartooth Highway
  • Distance: 50 miles
  • States: Montana and Wyoming
  • Nearby: Billings, MT

Dozens of hairpin turns and switchbacks maximize this modestly populated stretch of highway near the border of Montana and Wyoming. Not for the waxers or independents, Beartooth has more twisties and ups and downs than it does guardrails.

#5 Coastal Route 1

Lobster anyone? U.S. Route 1 runs from Brunswick to Machias and generates an absolutely quintessential experience for a New England road trip that checks all the boxes. From lighthouses to the ocean breeze, you won’t be hurting for places to stop along the way to unwind after throttling through some high-speed curves.

#6 The Three Sisters AKA The Twisted Sisters

Deep within Texas’ stunning Hill Country, this route is comprised of three ranch roads (the sisters) 335, 336 and 337. Bendy hills and amazing curves make for an amazing day for Southwestern riders. Conquer The Twisted Sisters in a day or saddle up for a ranch tour cowboy!

#7 Grand Staircase

Starting near the outskirt of Capitol Reef National Park and cutting through the middle of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bikers can get one heck of glimpse of some of the amazing vistas that Utah has to offer along this 130-mile motorcycle route. Take your time getting to the Grand Staircase, as both Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon are places along the way that you’ll want to soak in.

#8 Peak to Peak Highway
  • Distance: 60 miles
  • State: Colorado
  • Nearby: Denver, CO

If a 60-mile strip of road is going to make our list, you best believe it’s because it’s packed full of hairpins and unforgettable views. Deep within the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Peak to Peak Highway features some of the best of what both Mother Road and Mother Nature have to offer. Elk and Moose are known to cross this road, so you’ll want to take it slow and enjoy the ride. Take your hiking boots to truly make the most of this great 60-mile ride!

#9 California Route 36 AKA Twisty Road
  • Distance: 140 miles
  • State: California
  • Nearby: Eureka, CA

With little to no cell reception, you’re going to want to just grip your bars and trust your instincts on this windy road. You likely won’t find many roads with more intense changes in elevation. If you’re a fan of roller coasters, this is one trip you won’t want to miss!

#10 The Natchez Trace Parkway

This Southern motorcycle route starts in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee (just below Nashville) and finishes in the town of Natchez, Mississippi. With tons of historical southern and Native American landmarks along the way, riders can easily find themselves turning this 400+ mile long trip into an unforgettable weeklong vacation.

If your heart belongs on the road, travel is inevitable. Bonwi can not only help you find the best deals on your hotels and lodges, but our rewards program helps you rack up valuable points that result in further savings on stays you were going to pay for anyway. Find out more here.

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.

Hit These 5 National Parks on a Road Trip From Las Vegas

Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon

road tripfrom Las Vegas

Las Vegas is North America’s center for glitz, glamor, and gambling. Unlike other casino centers such as Macau or Monte Carlo, however, Vegas is a gateway to some of the world’s most spectacular natural scenery. If you’ve ever seen movies that take place among expanses of the wild west with canyon walls as high as a skyscraper, you’ve seen places you can drive to from Las Vegas.

You can rent a car in Las Vegas and after a few hours crossing the desert be standing next to the Grand Canyon in Arizona or exploring the rock formations of southern Utah. This road trip is best done over a week to really soak it all in from some of America’s most scenic highways, but it would be possible to cover it all in a few days since the sites are just one to six hours apart.

Las Vegas to Zion National Park

To begin the journey, leave Las Vegas and head to Lake Mead to see this man-made lake created by the gigantic Hoover Dam. Continue on Northshore Road along the lake until you connect with I-4 heading Northeast to St. George. Stop for lunch or take a hike in St. George, then continue on I-4 all the way to Zion National Park.

Las Vegas to Zion National Park road trip

Zion is known for its variety of landscapes and extensive hiking trails that lead past granite cliffs, meadows, and waterfalls. It’s common to spot mule deer, foxes, and bighorn sheep in the mountain terrain. You’re less likely to see the nocturnal creatures such as the ringtail cat and mountain lion, though you’ll probably spot their tracks in the mud.

The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon

It only takes an hour and a half to drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park, but you will probably be tempted to stop off for photos several times along the way. Once at Bryce, spend some time viewing the incredible rock formations from different angles via the easy trails at the bottom or the more challenging ones that lead into the surrounding hills. Some of the lodging and camping areas are close enough to walk but lights are kept low to see the constellations at night.

To Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

The next two stops on this road trip from Las Vegas are close together, so these would be the best to combine in one day’s visit. Get an early start to get there though as it takes around five hours by the slow and scenic route or four hours by the I-70 interstate highway route to reach Arches National Park. The name is a strong clue of what to expect here, as erosion over many thousands of years has left giant standing arches that glow red as the sun is sinking close to the horizon.

Arches National Park

In Canyonlands, bike paths and trails go through rugged dry canyons and formations with descriptive names such as Needles, Candlestick Tower, Chocolate Drops, and Monument Basin. This Moab Region of Utah is anchored by the town of the same name and this is one of the world’s great playgrounds for adventure activities. Make this your base and you can find dozens of activities to sign up for such as extreme mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, boating, river rafting, and stargazing.

The Awesome Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon from Las Vegas

No matter how many times you’ve seen photos of the Grand Canyon, it’s hard to imagine the immense size and wonder of this great natural geological site. Spread over hundreds of miles, it would take a lifetime to explore it all, but by coming from Utah you’ll visit the less crowded North Rim and have more of it to yourself. It takes six hours or so to get here from Canyonlands, so plan to spend the night at one of the many lodges or camping areas along the highway. By visiting it late in the day and then again in the morning, you’ll see it in a whole different light. If you can do a hike down inside, you’ll get another perspective again. Just bring plenty of water.

The next day, drive back to Las Vegas and complete the road trip loop. You’ll trade in starry skies and open landscapes for the bright lights and noises that never stop, but you should have hundreds of great photos to share from your great American road trip.

For information on all these regions, see the U.S. National Park Service website. To find a great deal and earn valuable points on your stay, see our Las Vegas Hotels section on Bonwi.com.