I have exciting news – we are going on a mini 8 day family road trip to Europe! It’s all been very last minute as we weren’t sure if we’d be going away this summer, but we’ve decided to go for it! In this blog post I will share our European road trip travel itinerary and tips on how to plan a driving holiday in Europe. There are lots of things you need to plan in advance and I’ll share exactly what we’ve been planning and booking before we go on our last minute family road trip.
This year we have been saving like maniacs as Ben is leaving his employed job mid-July to go self-employed as a handyman so we were unsure at first if we would be able to go away for a week before his full-time self-employment commences.
Well, we decided to go for it. We are *just* going to meet our 10k emergency fund savings target before he finishes work and I think a well-deserved week off is a great idea before he gets immersed in self-employment. Our savings have been our main focus this year as he’s leaving work several months earlier than we first planned so we’ve not gone on any week long family holidays for over one year, even though we were so tempted!
We also want to see Ben’s Gran. I don’t think we’ve been for two years now. Ben’s Gran lives in Germany and is 94! She’s now in a care home and we haven’t visited since she’s moved into the care home. I definitely think we should go now and not wait another year.
As we have the Mazda Bongo which we purchased last June and have only ever spent a maximum of two nights in a row camping in it, we thought it would be fun to do a mini European road trip (and perhaps crazy as we’ve never been away more than one night in the van with the kids!)
The flights for us to go to Germany are always around £150-£200 each! So we were also hoping it would be a cheaper way of travelling to Ben’s Gran and we can stop in European cities on the way there and the way back to make it more of a holiday and adventure rather than just a family visit.
Our budget idea was around £1000 for the whole trip including food and activities, but I think we might go a little over this. I think we were being a bit adventurous trying to do it for £1000 especially as we needed breakdown cover, travel insurance and a car travel kit so we can legally drive in France and other European countries. Of course if we already had all these items then it would have been much cheaper and our next road trip will be cheaper because we have them! If we can do this trip for less than £1500 then I think that’s pretty impressive and we’ll be trying to keep costs as low as possible!
So far we have spent £600 on accommodation, European breakdown cover, a travel car kit, travel insurance, ferry crossings, campsites and an Airbnb! We have three more nights to book accommodation and then food, fuel and activities. The breakdown cover (£142) can be used for one year so it’s not just for this trip and we already hope to do a few European trips over the next year including visiting Ben’s brother who lives in Portugal!
We were originally hoping to do a 7 day road trip to Europe, but we’ve no added one extra day as we were trying to cram too much into a week. So we’ll be doing an 8 day Europe road trip.
Our 8 day Europe road trip itinerary
Here’s a look at our road trip travel itinerary for 8 days from the UK to Europe:
Day 1 – Travel to Dover from Gloucestershire. Ferry from Dover to Dunkirk. Travel from Dunkirk to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Camp for two nights at Camping Vliegenbos.
Day 2 – Explore Amsterdam: hoping to do an Amsterdam boat tour that’s child friendly and visit Vondelpark.
Day 3 – Travel from Amsterdam to Soltau, Germany. This is where Ben’s Gran lives. We haven’t arranged accommodation yet, but we will stay for three nights. We wanted to camp in the camper carpark at South Sea Camp as we’ve been there for a day before and it’s an amazing place, but the car park pitches are not available to book. You simply turn up and we have no idea if there will be a space. If it were just Ben and I then we’d risk it, but I think with two young kids in tow it would be better to have something booked. Holiday Paradise also looks good. Ben’s uncle is away on holiday so we may stay at his house. We do need to arrange what we’re doing ASAP.
Day 4 – Day in Soltau. Visit Ben’s Gran. I’m unsure what times we can see Ben’s Gran, so we need to call and find out. Once we know then we can plan what we want to do around the visiting times. This is also Ben’s birthday! Happy birthday Ben!
Day 5 – Day in Soltau. Visit Ben’s Gran and some local attractions in Soltau.
Day 6 – Travel from Soltau, Germany to Bruges in Belgium. This is the longest drive we have at around 6 hours 10 minutes. Stay for two nights in Bruges. We have booked an Airbnb that’s only a few kilometres from the city centre at only £60 per night!
Day 7 – Explore Bruges and maybe go to the beach!
Day 8 – Travel from Bruges to Dunkirk to get the ferry back to Dover. Travel home.
European towns and cities we will visit on our 8 day road trip
Countries we will drive through on our European road trip
All images – Canva Pro
To do list for planning a family European road trip
Organising this trip has meant we’ve had a lot of outgoings before we even get going. There are also outgoings that are not transport or accommodation.
Here’s a list of everything we’ve planned before our European road trip:
I checked our passports are in date and they are all fine. The first to run out is one of the kid’s passport’s in 2021 so we have a couple of years before we need to buy a new passport.
EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)
The EHIC is still valid until 31st October 2019.
“A valid EHIC gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.”
We have ours and you can order them here if you need one: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-ehic-european-health-insurance-card/
We got our travel insurance through Travel Supermarket on TopCashback. We got an annual policy for £55 with insurefor.com and will get almost £15 cashback.
It’s for four of us for a year and includes a pre-existing medical condition, so you can probably find something much cheaper if you have no medical conditions to declare. One Sure Insurance have a cheapest travel insurance price guarantee so check them out.
European breakdown cover
We really struggled to find European breakdown cover as our Mazda Bongo is 24 years old! Most policies will only cover cars up to 10 or 15 years old!
After some internet research we finally found that LV= would offer cover for older vehicles. Phew!
They also have a cashback offer so we’ll get around £10 cashback as we booked from here: https://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/victoriasully/lv-britannia-rescue
Car travel kit for France
We’ve never driven in Europe before, well Ben might have years ago for work, but we haven’t since being together.
There are lots of rules and regulations, especially in France. There are some items you legally must have in the car. Failure to present these items if stopped by the police will result in an immediate on-the-spot fine.
The items you need to pack for the car travel kit are:
- Headlamp converters
- Warning triangle
- Spare bulbs
- Hi-Viz vests for each passenger
- You must have a GB sticker on the vehicle
There’s a great website and checklist here that explains everything: https://www.drive-france.com/checklist/
I managed to order a France car travel kit from eBay that comes in a bag for £23.50. I also ordered two extra Hi-Viz vests for the children for £4.50.
We’ll be keeping the car travel kit bag in the passenger foot well so we can present it easily if we are stopped.
It’s also important to carry pretty much all car documents when driving in France and abroad. You may need to present them if pulled over by the police.
Here’s what’s needed:
- Driving licence
- V5 log book
- MOT certificate
Ferry crossings UK to France
I expect lots of the ferry crossings will get really booked up in the summer holidays so we have booked both our outward and return ferry tickets. We chose to go with DFDS and have a flexible ticket so we can go on the ferry before or after our ticket time if we need to.
It was cheaper for us to go to Dunkirk rather than Calais and saves us around 37 minutes road travel time each way.
There is a cashback offer for DFDS Seaways, but at the time we booked there wasn’t an offer for Dunkirk, only Calais. Here’s their page if you want to check for cashback offers: https://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/victoriasully/dfds-seaways
One of my favourite things to do when I travelled to California for five weeks with an ex-boyfriend was just to find accommodation as we travelled. I loved the sense of freedom and adventure with no set plans and just choosing where we stayed as we went along. If it were just Ben and I going then we could be more flexible like this, but as we have a four year old and a seven year old and it’s the school summer holidays, it’s sensible for us to book places to stay in advance!
Luckily campsites are nice and cheap and so we have booked one campsite so far in Amsterdam at 50 Euros per night. We have also booked an Airbnb which gives us two nights in Bruges in our own private flat with two double bedrooms for only £60 per night!
We will also arrange our Soltau accommodation before we go.
Again, we usually just make things up as we go, but it’s going to be the school summer holidays so we don’t want to be disappointed. We know where we’re travelling to and when and we will be looking into booking some city tours before we leave just to make sure we get to do the ones we like the look of.
I will take see-through documents folders in my day backpack so we have everything to hand should we need it or if we get stopped by the police on the road.
I always pack these and make sure I have everything well in advance of travelling.
Here are the document folders I pack:
- Travel documents folder – Passports, travel insurance certificate, accommodation details and booking references, ferry booking documents
- Car documents folder – Driving licences, v5 log book, insurance certificates, MOT certificate, breakdown cover
That’s everything we have checked and planned in advance of our road trip to Europe. Once we have arranged accommodation for Soltau in Germany then all we need to buy plenty of snacks and food that does not need refrigerating for the journey. The night before we go we will pack our clothes, towels, toiletries and electronics and we are good to go! We’ll be packing as minimally as possible.
Find some great packing advice and road trip advice in these blog posts: