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You’ve read a stack of Bill Bryson, watched your friends go off on ‘explorer’ holidays, uncovering paths less travelled, and now you’re ready to drive around Europe. The wind in your hair, the open road ahead, and a trail of picturesque yet totally unknown towns in your wake – it’s all yours, but hold up a second – you’ve got to plan it first.

When travelling anywhere abroad, it is vital to plan properly, and this is doubly true when it comes to driving in a strange country. Different European countries have varying laws regarding driving – for example, in Portugal, in order to be driving legally, it is necessary to carry two warning triangles in your car in case of a breakdown.

Are you prepared for the weather that you might face when driving through mountains? Have you considered how long it will take you to become accustomed to driving on the other side of the road?

The big thing to plan is your route – do not leave this to chance. Pick where you will go and stick to it; remember that some mountain passes will be closed at certain times of the year, so do your research about the areas that you want to visit. You may need extra car insurance as well as travel insurance when you drive abroad – see this Saga guide about travel and car insurance.

Part of choosing to travel by car is that it keeps the cost of holidaying down, but you will need to make sure that you have enough cash to keep gas in the tank. Are you going to book your accommodation before you go? While this can save on cost, it will also give you limitations time wise – if you don’t make it to the hotel for check in, then you will lose money.

If you leave booking accommodation in order to see where you end up, then you will still need to research local accommodation beforehand, or you could find yourself in a town with no hotel or hostel, with night drawing in and nowhere to stay.

While leaving things to chance may seem romantic, it is better to leave things to chance in a ‘constructed’ way – give yourselves freedom, but not too much. When driving abroad it is wise to carry emergency cash, perhaps in the form of an empty credit card, so that you can dig yourself out of a hole should you find yourselves in a less than desirable situation.

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