What to take on a road trip

  • Driving guides
  • Belgium
  • 8 min read
What to take on a road trip

Whether you’re going away for one week or two months, there are no luggage limits with LeShuttle. Read our top tips for the perfect road trip packing list.

Hitting the open road with the windows down and the wind in your hair is one of the most romantic notions of a carefree getaway. Even better, from lush wine valleys to idyllic beaches, you can drive your own car on a spontaneous adventure via LeShuttle without needing to set foot in an airport.

A little planning goes a long way on the open road and self-drive holidays in Europe can be among the most fun and exciting trips you’ll ever take. To help you get started, especially for first timers, we have put together a road trip checklist on how to plan a road trip with friends, as a couple, or as a family.


How to plan a road trip

Planning might not seem like fun, but when it comes to a road trip it really is. Plus, it’s the safer way to travel, so nothing unexpected crops up.

Plan – but be spontaneous!

Have in mind the kind of trip you’re looking for. To plan a road trip with multiple stops, it pays to have an idea of the length of time you can be away and any key destinations you want to visit. Setting out won’t be a problem; a crossing from Folkestone to Calais only takes 35 minutes on LeShuttle.

When plotting your route, try not to fill every day with an itinerary, as driving can be tiring, so you’ll need to factor in some time to relax. Allow enough hours to drive between stops with a few spare days in case you want to stay on somewhere a bit longer than you expected.

As a first timer, you might feel like it’s safer to stick to your road trip checklist and stop only at the places you’d planned in advance, but if you follow the rules too rigidly you might miss some hidden gems.

The best part of touring Europe by road is the freedom to control your own adventure. If you see somewhere that catches your eye, a little café, nature spot or almost-hidden tourist attraction, be spontaneous and pull in to check it out. Often the most memorable and authentic sights are the ones you just stumble across, and they are always the ones you can’t wait to tell your friends and family about when you get home.

A woman with her back to us in an orange dress and hat with two children opposite her eating at a fold out picnic table from their car which is parked next to them with the boot open

Keep it simple

You may want to go everywhere and see everything but the way to plan a road trip in Europe is to be realistic about how much you can see and do. Road trips are a lot of fun but as with any holiday, you need to factor in things that may be out of your control, such as traffic jams, bad weather, and making detours for food and rest. Plot in some anchor stops but be flexible to avoid disappointment if you don’t get to every place you hoped to.

Do your research

Check out our other guides, read travel books, and find out as much as you can to help you plan your trip. The internet is an invaluable resource when researching how to plan a road trip in Europe.

But the real wisdom comes from local knowledge. Don’t be afraid to talk to the locals and ask for tips or directions. The lady who just served you in a café might know the perfect beach, just minutes away. The doorman in your hotel could live in the village, and be the key to finding its best coffee, cheese, or gelato. Sharing your travels with other holidaymakers can also point you in the direction of memorable restaurants, picnic spots, swimming holes and lesser-known attractions.

Two mountain bikes attached to the roof of a vehicle you can’t see with green mountains in the distance

Obey the rules of the road

Top of your road trip checklist for self-drive holidays in Europe should be the rules and regulations for each country you plan to travel through. Road rules vary from country to country, so make sure you aren’t inadvertently breaking the law. Here are a few French road laws that first-time British drivers may not be aware of:

  • The French Government recommend that all cars use dipped headlights at all times. It is compulsory for motorcycles to do so. It is especially important that drivers use dipped headlights in poor daytime visibility.
  • Headlamp beam adjusters must be stuck on to headlamps to suit driving on the right side of the road. These will stop lights dazzling other drivers. If you are caught without adjusters, you face a fine from police. Luckily, we can help at the AA shop in our terminal!
  • The drink-drive limit allows only 0.05% alcohol in the bloodstream (0.08% is the legal limit in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
  • Drivers are prohibited from using any device that attaches to the ear, including Bluetooth headsets/earphones
  • Motorists must always carry a warning triangle and reflective high-visibility vest. These are included in our handy AA Euro Travel Kit, which can also be found in the AA shop at our Folkestone terminal.

Make sure you’re insured

Make sure your at-home car insurance and roadside cover includes taking your car into Europe. If not, our tailored insurance policy is perfect for UK drivers using French roads.

Take your car for a check-up before you leave

Book your car in for a long journey check with your local garage or MOT centre. Things like tyre tread depth, oil, and brake fluid can be checked to make sure your car is ready for a longer journey. Make sure you have enough wiper fluid, and all your lights work too. These checks are usually reasonably prices and the peace of mind you’ll have knowing your car is safe is priceless.

Two pairs of legs in casual clothing stretched out on blankets and relaxing on a beach

Packing for a road trip

Packing everything you need is easy when you travel with LeShuttle, because you have such freedom.

Even if you have a cosy B&B or resort-style lodging in mind, we recommend putting a tent on your road trip packing list, just in case. France has some of the most delightful campsites in the world.

First things first

When planning a driving holiday in a different country, road safety and preparation are just as important as planning your comedy selfie at the Eiffel Tower, or your outfit for a leisurely cruise along the canals of Bruges.

Plan a basic route in advance and familiarise yourself with the rules and requirements of every country you may pass through. For example, in France, you’re required to travel with a breathalyser, as well as a high-visibility vest and warning triangle in case of breakdowns. 

In Italy, headlamp beam deflectors are among the requirements (as above for France) and drivers must be 18 years old or over, a rule that also applies in Belgium. Rules can be different everywhere you go, so a bit of research in advance could save you a lot of hassle or a financial penalty.

A mother and son staring across the view sitting on a sloping rock high above a town and greenery in the sunshine

No to baggage fees and yes to fun!

LeShuttle has no luggage fees or size restrictions, so you can put what you want on your road trip packing list. Seventeen pairs of shoes or one giant kayak? The choice is yours.

If you don’t have a specific destination in mind for your road trip, you are free to explore the best of what Europe has to offer, driving any way the wind takes you. The possibilities are endless.

Pack your hiking boots for a chance to stretch your legs and stand amid the awesome beauty of the Gorges du Verdon in the south of France. If your car has a cycle rack, bring your bikes so you can swap four wheels for two.

The Loire Valley is one of the most beautiful places to cycle in France and La Loire à Vélo bike trail is a wonderful way to see the region’s treasures. If you’d rather take in some fresh air on the slopes, LeShuttle lets you pack sports equipment such as skis and snowboards with no extra fee, so heading up to snow-capped resorts such as Val Thorens by car will save you even more money. Book a ticket with LeShuttle early to secure the best fare.

What food to bring on a road trip

When planning what to bring on a long car ride, don’t forget about feeding yourself, your passengers, and pets. Travelling with LeShuttle means you can have snacks in the car with you, but please be aware of what you can and cannot bring now that the UK is not part of the European Union rules apply. All the guidance from the Government is here .

Practical road trip packing tips

Holidays are a happy time, but with so much potential for adventure, always carry a basic first aid kit and enough water for everyone in the car. Remember to bring hand sanitiser, you’ll be thankful if you get caught short between rest stops, where soap may not be provided.

We suggest putting both a digital GPS and a paper map on your road trip essentials list. A digital GPS can predict route and journey times, nearby fuel, food stops and speed restrictions, plus, a clear GPS location will help emergency services or roadside assistance locate you in the event of an emergency. Keep a paper map in the glove box in case your GPS malfunctions or loses signal.

Finally, bring spare car keys and keep them away from the main set. You may never have misplaced your keys before, but in the middle of the European countryside is not the place to start.

Start your road trip with LeShuttle


We can help you plan almost any kind of road trip, from the best road trips in France to a drive to the Italian Lakes. Start your next adventure with us today.

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