Solo road trips can be incredibly liberating and absolutely worth exploring if you’re seeking a Julia Roberts ‘Eat-Pray-Love’ style experience. But if the practicalities of driving alone in a foreign country puts you off, we’ve teamed up with the car hire experts at Rentalcars.com to provide their top tips on how to have a smooth solo journey:
Plan, plan plan – although the thought of travelling wherever the wind takes you is exciting, planning always makes life easier. Swapping spontaneity for preparation is particularly important for solo-explorers. During peak seasons, flights, accommodation and car hire options get booked up fast, leaving you with less choice and higher prices. Although going alone might mean you have more flexibility about what dates you travel, it’s still important to decide on your chosen accommodation, as well your driving route and book ahead where possible. Rooms for singles often have a surcharge attached to them, so enquire early to avoid any surprises.
Swot up on the local lingo – before you get to your destination, spend some time researching basic phrases in the local language. It’s also a good idea to look up road local signs and speed limits to ensure you’re crystal clear on all rules of the road. It’s best to do this before you leave the UK, but if you do forget, remember to take advantage of free-Wi-Fi hotspots in the airport to have a quick check.
Get your road trip anthems in gear – every great road trip needs a great soundtrack, and the benefit of going alone means you will be in full control of what’s on the stereo. As a handy tip, pick the songs that give you a feel-good feeling and perhaps some that you wouldn’t dare play with anyone else in the car – think guilty pleasures! Previous studies in the US and the Netherlands have reported that music can help to elevate your mood while driving too.
Most cars these days have an AUX lead to connect to phones. Having your playlist ready to go on your phone means you can tee it up before you set off and then focus your attention on the road.
Stay on course with navigation tools – The last thing you want when travelling alone is to get lost, so plan your route before you set off. Whether it’s a day of sightseeing or a cross-country road trip, be clear on directions. It’s great to explore off-the-beaten-track, but not if you can't find your destination or find your way back again!
For exploring cities, download local app maps, like HereWeGo and always take a traditional paper map with you, just in case the technology fails.
Safety first – when travelling and driving alone, it’s important to take even extra care and ensure you have emergency numbers at-hand, and in particular – the contact details for break-down services. You’ll need to check you have local numbers for each leg of your journey and if you’re not sure, ask the rental car company for the details.
Check out the safety of the routes you’re taking too and if you only want to drive in daylight, you’ll need to plan your route based on the number of hours in the sun.
Also remember what safety rules you’d follow in the UK and make no exceptions when abroad e.g. don’t stop or slow down for any vehicle that isn’t clearly emergency services, do not park up in badly lit areas and make sure to keep your fuel topped up at all times.
Take rests when driving – If you’re going at it alone, be realistic about the distance you can cover in one day. With no one to share the driving with, you’ll need to plan regular comfort breaks, so if you need to reach your destination by a certain time, factor this in. Before you start a long drive, be fully rested and ready to concentrate. The AA recommends that when travelling long distances, drivers should not drive more than eight hours at a time without a significant rest, and you should always take regular fifteen-minute breaks for journeys that last over three hours.
Stay in touch – we’re in an era where it’s easy to update friends and family over social media, but to be extra safe, don’t rely on Facebook posts and Instagram stories to let people know where you are. Make sure your nearest and dearest know your route, should they need to get hold of you. Most mobile networks charge no extra for using your phone across Europe and there are some great deals for using data world-wide, so it’s never been easier to send that ‘I’ve arrived’ text.
Tips from RentalCars.com - www.Rentalcars.com
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