Being the second smallest continent, Europe has some advantages when it comes to travel, and with Russia itself comprising a whopping 40% of that entire area, the majority of the countries occupy a relatively small amount of space. For those who are looking to explore an entire country, or several in one shot, this makes it even easier to do so in one trip. Added to the this is the general ease in which you can cross borders between most of the countries (at least those in the Schengen Area). Acting as one country for international travel purposes, the Schengen Area allows travel across the borders of the member countries without the need for going through customs or applying for any additional visas. Which, on its own, is a great motivating factor for a road trip in Europe.
This perfect combination of close proximity and open borders comes together to create a continent that is fairly easy to traverse no matter what method of transportation you choose. And there are a myriad of options to travel Europe: trains and rail passes, budget and major airlines, bus routes and car rentals. For us, we love to travel by train, to kick back and relax as we watch the beautiful scenery pass by… but by far our favourite method of transportation while travelling is by car and when we’re in Europe we think car rentals and road trips, every time!
9 Reasons To Travel Europe By Car
We really do feel that a road trip in Europe is the best way to go. In 2015 we took a Germany road trip as well as a road trip in Spain, and both times our car rental from AutoEurope allowed us incredible access to both countries and opened up opportunities we otherwise would never have had. Here are our top 9 reasons we love to travel by car and why we think you need to take a road trip in Europe!
1. Freedom to come and go as you please.
We love to set our own timelines, to avoid the restrictions of an airline or transit company’s scheduled departure times. We can choose where to go and when to leave and then choose how long we want to stay there before finding the next destination. When you travel by car in Europe, you are giving yourself the option to start and end your day when and where you want. It also means your travel days don’t equal a missed day of exploring.
2. You can change plans on a whim.
Much like having the freedom to come and go as we please, we love to be spontaneous and having the ability to turn around, change direction, alter our timing or revise our schedule completely is not something we can do very often when we travel with other methods of transportation. But when we drive, it’s a whole other story. We’ve got the road ahead of us…or behind us, or to the left or right. Really, we can switch directions whenever we choose.
In fact, during our recent road trip in Germany, we found out a friend was flying into Munich the next day. We were in Frankfurt with no plans of heading to Munich but as soon as we heard, we changed our schedule hopped in the car the following morning and spent the day driving from one end of the country to the next. No looking up timetables. No worrying about getting the best prices or how we’d get around after. It was amazing.
3. Sometimes taking the direct route, isn’t the best route.
Along with having the freedom to come and go as you please and to change your plans on a whim, is the discovery that there is often more to see between one destination and another than you realize. During our recent road trip in Germany and our previous road trip in Spain, we found so much BETWEEN each of our destination points. Had we gone from Madrid to Almunecar and back again, we would have missed all the small towns and villages we got to stop at, the ruins and castles, old churches, local restaurants and a plethora of other hidden gems and parts of the country and culture rarely seen by travellers.
4. You can get outside the tourist hubs.
With a car, you’re really unrestricted. This allows you to get outside the major cities and transit routes where main methods of transportation for tourists, like planes, trains and buses, usually come and go. Instead, you can explore more of the country which means you can peel away the layers of the culture, experience some local flare and find accommodations that are more cost effective because they are outside the main areas. Not only do these accommodations have a better price tag than those in major cities, they also usually come with more amenities that you would otherwise need to pay for (breakfast, parking, complimentary water, etc).
5. It can be comparable, or cheaper, in price… so why not take a road trip in Europe?
In addition to saving money on accommodation, we’ve often found that the price of a car rental was cheaper for us than booking transportation to and from the various places we want to see or need to be. While you do have to factor in any added expenses, such as fuel, we’ve noticed it still hasn’t impacted our overall budget.
We use AutoEurope and it has consistently found the cheapest rental price in each of the countries we’ve searched with an easy rental process. In fact, it was cheaper to rent a car, drive pretty much all day, everyday (filling up regularly as we went) in Spain for a week than it would have been to pay the quoted prices for bus, train or plane tickets between the various cities we were looking to see. Bring more people along for your road trip and you’ve cut down the price even more!
6. You can save on dining expenses and experience food like the locals!
We not only save on accommodation by having the ability to search and stay at the best valued hotels, but we also save on food. You can find local stores with ease and by stopping in at grocery stores and fresh markets you can purchase delicious local food and produce at a fraction of the cost of food in a restaurant. Because your transportation is also your storage space, you are able to easily carry your groceries with you. (Note: It’s important to choose your food wisely and plan to eat food that spoils first.) Finally, like accommodations, having a car also allows you to find and dine at restaurants off the beaten path and have some incredible local experiences.
7. Your luggage travels with you, not the other way around!
From checking luggage, to carrying it with you, to lugging it down the street, to bringing it on the bus and off again, luggage can get cumbersome and heavy. We seldom had to think about our luggage, let alone carry it with us. Whether we stayed at a hotel for a longer period of time, or switched frequently, it was easy to bring our suitcases and backpacks with us wherever we decided to go!
8. It’s a backup accommodation.
Yep, you read that right. We’ve taken numerous road trips during our relationship and almost every single one involved some form of slumber in the car itself. Whether we took turns resting up while the other drove, napped at a service centre or full-on slept at a rest stop, we’ve used the car to catch up on our Zs when we were between hotels. It can come in handy when you’re looking to travel longer distances overnight in order to maximize the daylight hours or when plans fall through and you just didn’t make it to the next destination in time to check into a hotel. If delays happen while you’re on a bus, train or plane you’ve got to hope you can find transportation to your hotel and that it has late check-in! Otherwise, you’re out of luck and wishing you had four wheels of freedom to rest up in!
9. You can travel with your own personal soundtrack!
Okay, so this one may just entice us, and with the ability to play music on cell phones and mp3 players, it’s possible to listen to music pretty much anywhere. But we love listening to music while travelling. Associating memories and music can be powerful and it’s also just plain enjoyable. For us, turning up a local radio station or plugging in our own music with the car’s audio jack really enhances the experience. We can cruise along the roads, taking in the scenery and enjoying some great tunes we’ll probably largely associate with the trip for a long time to come!
There you go! 9 of our top reasons why you need to take a road trip in Europe. For us, renting a car in Europe is a no-brainer. Between the cost-effectiveness, freedom and ease of travel and our enjoyment of driving around and really seeing as much of a place as possible, it’s our favourite method of transportation and sightseeing.