As my summer holiday to Italy approaches, my thoughts turn to the one and only time I have ever driven abroad, coincidently also in Italy. It was a pretty stressful experience if I’m honest. My ex partner didn’t drive so the onus was on me, and suffice to say going up the motorway the wrong way wasn’t a great start.
Having said that, I got all four of us to our resort in Lake Garda in one piece and I was very proud of myself for managing it. But I’ve not done it since.
Until next month that is. I love a challenge and the fact is, if I don’t drive, we won’t get there! So I thought it would be a good idea to think about what I wish I’d known when I drove abroad last time, and share my top tips with you for making the whole experience a little less stressful.
1. Give yourself plenty of time
When I drove that one time in Italy, we didn’t arrive at the airport until midnight. We were all tired (plus we had a toddler in tow), and all rather grumpy. In hindsight, I wish we’d arrived during the day so I didn’t have to drive around Lake Garda (twice) in the pitch black! Also, make sure the car hire firm you’re using will be open when you arrive – ours wasn’t, which just added to the stress. Fact is, I didn’t do enough research.
2. Hire a big enough car
I had specifically requested a larger car, and paid extra for the privilege, because of all the paraphernalia that goes with travelling with kids. And then the car that turned up was … a Fiat Panda. My ex was 6ft 3″, the children had to sit on the suitcases and as much as I can (just about) laugh about it now, it’s really important to make sure this doesn’t happen to you! I probably should have just double checked with the car hire company before I left, what car we were going to be given.
3. Snacks + games for the kids
If you’re a parent, you already know how important it is to keep the kids occupied. But you will want them to be as happy and relaxed as possible when you get in your hire car, so that you can concentrate on driving, so be extra prepared!
4. Use a reputable company
This might go without saying, but do your research and don’t just go for the cheapest option. Try and get word of mouth recommendations from friends who have used car hire companies and speak to the company on the phone before you part with any money.
5. Check your insurance
Don’t assume your insurance covers you for driving abroad. Call your insurance company to doublecheck and make sure you’re full covered. Often insurers downgrade your cover to third party for driving abroad so it’s really important to make sure you have the cover you need.
6. Kit the car out
In some countries, it’s compulsory to have a flourescent jacket in the car, in case of breakdown … and in others, you have to have a fire extinguisher. Check out the rules for the country you’re visiting and don’t get caught out!
Holiday Autos have created this great video about how to choose your care hire company (it’s actually quite funny) so I hope that will give you some food for thought:
I hope those tips help you if you’re about to drive abroad, perhaps for the first time. Happy travels!
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