Car getting repaired in garage

How to Get Your Car Ready for a Road Trip


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Car Essentials

Tackling these vital points will ensure a smooth and safe road trip. Do not set off before you (and your car!) are ready.

1. Perform a car health-check

At least two weeks before your road trip, get a car health-check performed at your garage.

Inform them that you are planning a road trip as well as the approximate mileage you intend to cover.

Advise them to also check the profile on your tyres to ensure they are set to last for the entirety of your journey.

They will carry out the necessary checks and advice on anything that needs fixing before the trip.

This is an absolute must and will give you peace of mind for your trip ahead.

2. Get an EU car travel kit (if applicable)

Carrying an EU car travel kit is compulsory in most European countries.

It contains items such as a warning triangle, hi-vis vest and more. The AA provides a handy PDF guide for a compulsory kit.

Whereas AA’s Euro Travel kit can be purchased here.

If travelling via France, you are also required to carry breathalysers with you.

You can either get some French NF Certified breathalysers here or get a complete French Travel Kit here which already contains breathalysers.

3. Get A Head Lamp Beam Converter Kit (if applicable)

When travelling to mainland Europe, the legal requirement is to ‘not dazzle oncoming drivers’ rather than specifically to adjust/convert the headlamp beam pattern. Without adjustment the dipped beam will dazzle oncoming drivers and this could result in a fine.’

In the Travel Kits mentioned above, these are already included. 

Alternatively, you can get a pair here:

Kids spraying water on a car
My kids “washing” a friend’s car in Germany
4. UK magnetic plate (if applicable)

From 28 September 2021, you need a UK sticker instead of a GB sticker. If you are embarking on a European road trip from UK and do not have a UK sign on your license plate, you will need a UK sticker on the rear of your car.

UK stickers are included in most EU Travel Kits – if not, you can get a magnetic UK plate here.

More information can be found on the government website.

5. First Aid Kit

While carrying a first-aid kit is compulsory in some European countries, it is recommended in others and not required in few. The useful PDF document by the AA mentioned above provides further details on most European countries.

Even if this isn’t a requirement in the country you are travelling to, I highly recommend to always carry one. AA’s Standard First Aid Kit can be purchased here.

6. Keep an electric tyre inflator in the car

Owning an electric tyre inflator can be a life-saver. If you lose tyre pressure and aren’t anywhere near a petrol station, having one (or not) can make (or break) your day.

Some break-down kits – such as this and this one from the AA – already contain tyre inflators. Hence, check before purchasing. I have been using this tyre inflator for the past few years and it has saved our day on more than 5 occasions. 

 7. Keep a torch in the car

This is a top tip I recommend to everyone.

Rather than listing a thousand reasons when you might need one, I’ll list only one: You never know when you’ll need one – so just take one with you (and let me know when it came in handy).

I highly recommend investing in a top quality torch – you can’t go wrong with Ledlenser which I’ve been using for several years now.

A child sitting on a rural path in the Scottish Highlands.
Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland
 8. Fill-up screen wash

Even if your screen wash was filled up during the car health check-up at the garage, double-check and refill it if needed.

9. Check kids’ car seats

Kids grow fast. Therefore it’s vital to ensure that their car seats will last them for the duration of your road trip; or upgrade them if necessary.

10. Upgrade car insurance and roadside assistance cover (if applicable)

Before setting off on a road trip abroad, you will need to upgrade your car insurance policy as well as roadside assistance cover to cover the relevant additional countries unless they are already included in your policy.

These covers need to commence from the first day of your trip and last until the last day. In order to be on the safe side – in case of any delays on your return journey – consider extending them for an additional day or two past your planned return date.

11. Driving license, car registration documents, insurance & roadside assistance details
Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg, Germany

Don’t forget to take your driving license, car registration documents, insurance & road-side assistance details with you. Have them handy at all times.

Leave a hard copy in the car and do not solely rely on storing contact numbers on your mobile phone. They need to be easily accessible in case of an incident.

Now that the UK has left the EU, please note that UK motorists need a car insurance ‘green card’ to drive in Europe in addition to their Certificate of Motor Insurance and the log book (V5C) for the vehicle. More information can be found on the UK government website.

It’s not a disaster if you forget to pack a non-essential item; but possessing a “healthy” car, the relevant documents and a compulsory travel kit are vital for your safety and thus an epic road trip!

Car non-essentials
(that make life easier)

1. Fit a roof box

Whether you need a roof box or not will depend on how big your car is and how much you intend to pack. It is a very handy travel kit to own as you practically double your boot space.

Our experience: While we managed without a roof box on our first summer road trip in 2016, we bought one for our trip to the Scottish Highlands the following year.

I had left it too late to book accommodation. Hence, we had to take more stuff because I decided that we would camp instead.

Made by the world’s biggest car-rack brand, I highly recommend this roof box. Be aware that they come in different sizes so make sure to pick a suitable one for your car.

When buying a roof box, you will also need to acquire some roof bars. Simply enter your UK car registration number here to find suitable ones for your car.

Depending on the roof box and accessories you choose, you will need to budget about £500 for the luxury of having extra storage space.

One thing to note when travelling with a roof box is the additional height it adds to your car. Keep this in mind when booking your Channel crossing via train or ferry. A roof box will also limit access to some parking garages but this is only an issue in cities.

2. Fit a cycle carrier

Taking bikes on a road trip; why not?! They’ll be great fun to experience some local adventures en route. 

However, if you plan to cycle only once or twice during your road trip, you’ll be better off renting bikes onsite rather than dragging them along.

When looking into bike racks, bear in mind that there a three types available: 

  • Roof mounted
  • Rear mounted
  • Tow bar mounted

For more information, check out this article by Cycling UK.

I highly recommend Thule’s roof bike racks of which we have two (soon to add a third).

A list of all top quality Thule bike racks can be found here.

A row of bicycles in Bruges, Belgium
3. Organise back seats to keep kids entertained

Keeping the kids’ stuff organised in the back seats will keep them content and save your sanity. I find these back seat car organisers indispensable (and they are also great at preventing dirty shoes being rubbed off on the back of the seats).

They come in a pack of two perfect for two little adventurers.

Back-seat car organisers


Ready, Get Set, Go! 

Or, in road trip terms: Plan, Prepare, Execute!

I hope my insights will help you to plan your ideal road trip; no matter where you are off to. Also, that it will put your mind at ease knowing that you’ve prepared well and took the necessary precautions to ensure a smooth & safe road trip! 

Enjoy the ride!

Last updated on 15th October 2021

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