If you like driving and want to get to know the country and its people, a road trip is the perfect trip for you. With our 15 road trip tips, you’ll be well prepared for your trip. We tell you how to find the perfect car for the road trip, where to find the cheapest accommodation and what you should always have with you.
Road trips are great because they turn driving from a chore into a pleasure. Road trips have long since become a popular form of vacation and are no longer just an option for budget travelers. Once the destination has been found, the question of the perfect road trip car arises. For some it’s a classic VW Bulli, for others a 1966 Thunderbird à la Thelma& Louise or a family car – there is the right car for a road trip for all budgets and demands. Book your rental car, pack the cool bag, load the right playlist on your cell phone and the road trip can begin. What you need for a cheap road trip, the most beautiful road trip destinations and what you should always have with you – that’s what we tell you here.
The best road trip tips for touring by car
Where do you want to go, what kind of car do you need and what do you have to pack – we answer these and other questions with our road trip tips.
1. Planning a road trip
Planning a road trip starts with the question – where do you want to go?? Do you want to explore the area right from your doorstep, avoid a long flight and still get from A to B or do you have a very special area in mind that you want to see?
Ideal routes are either circular or have airports at both the beginning and the end of the road trip, so you can quickly and easily pick up and drop off a rental car.
The site (also available as an app) Roadtripper is made for you, because unlike Google Maps, it shows you not only how long you need for a planned route, but also how much you should calculate for gas, sights along the way and much more.
2. Plan a road trip route
For a longer road trip, it makes more sense to buy a navigation device than rent it. Daily rental fees pile up quickly, so on a longer trip, you’ll often pay more than if you bought a piece of equipment. You can also use your own navigation system again and again, at home and abroad.
As an alternative to the classic navigation system, Google Maps offers itself. It’s available as a cell phone app and can also be used offline, just like the MAPS app.ME.
If you like it authentic, you can use a good old map instead of all the technology. It won’t tell you the traffic jam, but it will still get you from A to B. It’s great if you have a passenger who can read maps, so that you can keep your hands free for the wheel.
3. Roadtrip routes around the world
Neon signs on Route 66
Some countries and areas are perfect road trip material. The U.S. beckons with the famous Route 66, Australia with non-stop ocean views, and the Panamericana, the longest road in the world, takes you not only through several countries, but even through several continents.
Road trip USA
A classic USA road trip leads from the east to the west coast. If this is too long for you, you should go to the incredibly beautiful highway No. 1, which leads from San Francisco to Los Angeles: Tips for the perfect road trip through the southwestern U.S.
Great routes for a road trip through the USA we have compiled here: Route for a Florida road trip and the wild route across America
Road Trip South Africa
If you want something a little more exotic, head to South Africa. Nowhere is the view more beautiful than on a road trip along the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town: Road Trip: Discover Africa Behind the Wheel
Road Trip Europe
There are many options for a road trip in Europe, though many vacationers like to head north: The Ring Road in Iceland is super for a road trip and offers 1500 km of pure nature and also the Highlands in Scotland are perfect for a road trip especially for nature lovers. Scandinavia is also popular with drivers, with Sweden at the top of the list for a road trip.
If you like it warmer, grab the car and head south. Here you can find suitable road trip routes in Spain and also Portugal, best in combination. Especially Mallorca is easy to explore by car. Italy and France are also popular for car tours: Tuscany is great for a road trip and France surprises with car tours in Corsica.
Road Trip Germany
But also a road trip in Germany has a lot to offer and it is not for nothing that our highways are so popular with visitors. If you prefer a more leisurely drive in scenic surroundings, plan a road trip along the Rhine Route. From Cologne to Mainz, you’ll pass castles, vineyards, and of course the beautiful Rhine River, where some of Germany’s most beautiful natural experiences await you.
Road trip South America
If a regular road trip isn’t exciting enough for you, rent a motorcycle. A motorcycle road trip is the ultimate freedom, especially if you follow in the footsteps of Che Guevara through South America or cross Vietnam from north to south: 12 must-see places in South America
4. The right car for a road trip
Once you’ve decided where you want to go, it’s time to choose a road trip car. With most rental car companies today, you can choose from a large fleet of cars that will fit your road trip depending on the type of trip and number of people traveling with you.
Tip: Here’s how to book a rental car without a credit card If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s best to book a four-wheel drive, if you want to sleep in the car, a station wagon, and if you want to take Instagram-worthy souvenir photos along the way, a fancy convertible. To make sure you get the perfect road trip car, be sure to book in advance. Be sure to choose unlimited mileage (unless you can accurately estimate the length of your trip) and fully comprehensive insurance. In some countries, you can buy separate insurance for tires and windshields, which is especially worthwhile for a trip over dirt roads. Check the terms and conditions of the rental car company, as many require a minimum age and want to know when you got your driver’s license.
Compare car rental prices
If you are planning a long trip over several months, it can also make sense to buy a used car and sell it afterwards. Gumtree is a good address to find a used car in many countries. Have the car checked out by a mechanic and declared road trip worthy – of course, before you sign the sales contract and get behind the wheel.
5. Little helpers – apps for the road trip
Discover the secret corners of a city with momondo places
Quick and easy to plan a road trip with apps that make your life (and driving) easier on the road. Here are our useful favorites:
AroundMe: The AroundMe app detects where you are and lists everything from gas stations and restaurants to movie theaters and bank branches near you. Practical also in case of emergency, if you need a hospital or to plan a romantic dinner, without having to search much.
Flush: If you don’t want to squat at the nearest roadside, Flush is just right for you. The app finds you thanks to GPS from 190.000 public toilets one very close to you.
Gas Buddy: This road trip app is ideal to help you save money, because Gas Buddy compares gas prices. Even if it’s not always up to date in remote areas, the app is helpful in giving you an overview of when and where you should fill up.
ParkMe: In the evening, you arrive in a new city and then the search for a parking space begins. ParkMe helps, because the app shows you available parking spaces in the area and even the cost. You can specify different parameters and thus, for example, search only for parking garage parking spaces. The app also tells you how many parking spaces are still available, so you can decide whether you’ll manage to grab the last free spot or prefer to keep searching.
Urgent.ly: Just in case, there’s Urgent.ly. This app provides first aid in the event of a breakdown, with just one click. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a flat tire or locked yourself out of your car – the app will get you help.
ADAC: For ADAC members, there’s now also a handy app that calls the roadside assistance team. The app works both in Germany and abroad. Especially clever is the function that automatically transmits your location so that help can find you quickly.
6. On the road online
No matter if you need to find a toilet on the road or if you want to see the most beautiful detours on the map, even on the road it’s just handy to have internet from time to time.
With an unlocked phone you can buy a prepaid SIM card with data volume in most countries. With it you are easy to reach, you can make cheap calls abroad and you have mobile internet.
Alternatively, there are now companies like Teppy that rent out routers for the Internet by the day or week. tepwireless.com
With so much cell phone use, be sure to pack a charger that you can plug into the car’s cigarette lighter – not every car already has a USB outlet.
7. Road trip tips on traffic rules
Familiarize yourself with the traffic rules of the countries you want to travel to. Tips and advice for Europe can be found at the ADAC and abroad at the various tourism authorities.
Remember that in many countries, especially in former colonies of the British Empire, you drive on the left-hand side and therefore the steering wheel is on the right-hand side. If you need to adjust, you should take it slowly and avoid hectic traffic at the beginning.
Very important: the German driving license is valid in the whole EU area and in the European Economic Area. For a road trip in non-European countries, it is also advisable to have a foreign driving license. You can apply for this at the road traffic office and it has to be shown together with your regular driving license.
8. Road trip tips: Music on the road
Every road trip needs a playlist! Download your favorite songs to your smartphone in advance and don’t forget the USB cable to turn up the volume in the car.
If you want to be old school, don’t just drive through the area in an old classic, but also have a mixtape on cassette with you. However, you should also give the local radio stations a chance to discover music that you don’t get to hear at home.
If you want different entertainment from time to time, download the latest podcast episodes or audio books. Ideal if you are actually a bookworm, but have to sit behind the wheel yourself.
9. Small detours
The ultimate road trip tip? The road is the destination! Highways may get you to your destination quickly, but you also miss out on a lot. If time permits, you should also choose smaller roads with less traffic.
You’ll see more, meet locals, and find routes you never would have heard of otherwise. And while you’re at it – detours can be worthwhile. You pass a sign for an old ghost town or a crazy tourist attraction? Follow it, spontaneity is the mother of all road trips.
10. Cooler bag instead of suitcase
For a cheap road trip it is worth to have a well filled cooler bag with you. It is best to stock up at the local supermarket before you leave, as they are often cheaper than gas stations.
When choosing your road trip food, make sure to pack something healthy in your shopping basket. If you spend a lot of time at the wheel, it’s better to have trail mix, fresh fruit and mineral water than chips and Coke.
It’s best to buy stuff that you can put in your mouth without much preparation. Melon is tasty but not a good snack on a road trip. Ideal are grapes, dried mango strips, unsalted almonds or a drinking yoghurt instead of yoghurt cups.
When it comes to drinks, you can use resealable bottles or, even better, camping bottles that you can refill with filtered tap water. Make sure you don’t leave fizzy drinks in the car when it’s hot out.
11. Road trip with friends
Who can come along on the big trip? Choosing your road trip companion is pretty important because you’ll be spending a lot of time together in close quarters. On a road trip with friends, it is best to take another person with you, with whom you can take turns driving. Otherwise, other talents are needed – map reading, storytelling and feeding snacks are valuable qualities of a good co-driver.
If you are traveling with small children, ideally have another adult with you on the road trip to comfort, entertain, and wipe up spilled juice if necessary. Also very important: charge the iPad again and pack tablets against car sickness in case of emergency. If you are mastering the road trip solo, you can sign up for Bla Bla Car. There you can find fellow drivers all over Europe, who are looking for a cheap ride. Ideal to share fuel costs and to have entertainment from time to time.
Gas stations and yards are often not as bad as their reputation. In many countries you will find branches of the local supermarket chain, so you can easily refill your cooler and at the counter you can often try local specialties.
In many toilets you have to pay money or tip the toilet attendant, so it’s worth having some change with you. In addition, it is useful to take toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you.
Otherwise it is worth to go a little bit further into the country during a stopover. You will find charming restaurants instead of fast food chains, markets and cookshops. Real foodies get the latest Michelin guide and plan the route according to the best restaurants.
Hotels can also be worth a trip of their own and even crabby motels like you see in American movies have their own charm. If you want to stay spontaneous when choosing your accommodation, download the momondo app. The “Tonight near me” function shows you which rooms are still available in your area on the evening in question. Find our app for iPhone and for Android.
13. Campe (feel free to do so in the car)
Whether it’s for budget reasons or because it’s so nostalgic, camping is back in style. Instead of a motel room you sleep in a tent in the countryside, in a small VW Bulli or maybe in a campervan. The folded down back seat of many a station wagon is also suitable for simply stopping for a nap on the way.
Then all you need is a campsite or caravan park, a cooler full of marshmallows and, of course, a campfire. In some countries you can also sleep at gas stations and in the USA even in the parking lots of Walmart stores. Gas stations are especially handy, as some even have showers and you can get fresh croissants and coffee in the morning.
14. Road Trip Checklist
To stay safe on the road, it pays to go through a road trip checklist. No matter where you’re going, you’ll need a jumper cable, spare tire, warning triangle and tools, and ideally you’ll know how to change a tire, too.
For longer trips, it is always a good idea to have a few liters of water in your car and an extra can of gasoline (but check the regulations of your country or region – some allow you to carry only a small amount of extra fuel).
Of course, papers and driver’s license must not be missing, comfortable clothes and camping equipment, if you do not want to sleep in a hotel.
15. Play it safe!
If you are traveling alone, you should – as with all other solo trips – let someone at home know when you will be where. It’s best to arrange stages when you’ll check in to reassure worried parents or partners and stay safe on the road.
Take enough breaks to stretch your legs and avoid driving overtired. If the yawning won’t stop, it’s time to stop driving or let the passenger take the wheel.
Even though you can’t plan for all eventualities, you should inform yourself about possible weather conditions beforehand. If you know that you will be driving in the snow or you have to use the four-wheel drive, it is worthwhile to do some training beforehand. The ADAC as well as different car companies offer driving safety trainings in various conditions.
If you’re unsure of the current condition of a road, especially in remote areas, check with the local road department or police beforehand. In some travel countries, you should also avoid driving at night. In Australia, for example, wild kangaroos can get in the way after dark.
Need some more road trip ideas? Then get inspired here before you start and it’s time to book a rental car and have a good trip!