Cheap flights have dominated travel for the past few years, but if you really want to explore Europe at its finest, there’s no better way to do it than by car. Although fuel prices have been rising over the past few years, it’s still possible to enjoy an economical driving family break in Europe – here are a few simple money-saving tips for thrifty holidaymakers.
Compare and save
Before making a ferry booking, it’s a good idea to compare prices between the different carriers and routes. Whilst doing this research may be something of a time investment, it could pay off in savings – departing from Newhaven may be more affordable than Dover, for example, leaving you with more money for ice cream!
Major toll roads vs the scenic route
France, Spain, Italy and Portugal are all popular European destinations for family holidays, and they all operate tolls on their main motorways. There are some benefits to using these toll roads: traffic is lighter, you get to your destination quicker, and you consume less fuel because you’re driving at a reasonably constant speed. However, in France, for example, the average charge is around €1 per 10 miles, and fuel and food stop-off points along these routes may be more expensive.
Alternatively, there are always smaller highways running alongside the main motorways, which are free to use and usually take in pretty villages and towns, allowing you to enjoy the local culture when you stop for breaks. Whilst journeys will typically take longer with this approach, some travellers may find it preferable, and more affordable – just remember to bring a sat-nav if possible, as planning the route will inevitably be more complex than it would be via direct toll road.
Do your research and avoid spot fines
It’s definitely wise to read up on the road rules of the country you are visiting before you depart, to avoid running into trouble with the local authorities. France, for example, doesn’t allow speed camera detectors to be enabled on sat-nav systems, which is punishable with a spot fine of up to €1500. It’s also required that drivers carry a breathalyser in their vehicle at all times – though plans to issue an €11 spot fine for those who flout this law have recently been dropped by French authorities.
Before you set off on your break, be sure to check that your car insurance policy covers you for driving in the EU. If not, then you may need to purchase additional cover for the duration of your trip. Having the appropriate insurance is not only a legal obligation, but also gives you peace of mind that you will be covered for damage to your vehicle during the course of your holiday.