That’s not a very catchy title is it? Sorry! But that’s exactly what this blog post is about. Before you go on a roadtrip, you need to plan a roadtrip. Especially if you’ve got children. Sadly gone are the days where I could just bugger off on a whim. I’m a grown up now, apparently, and the small people I have to take with me have needs, like being fed, and having somewhere to sleep. So I had to plan.
I can only assume that it was the same drunk me that suggested driving all the way to southern spain last year, that suggested this year we ditch the free apartment and live out of suitcases for 2 weeks, schlepping all over Europe. What was I thinking? 2 children, one of which has serious rage issues, a grumpy husband, and me, in a car for hours on end. How was that ever going to be a holiday? I needed to do some serious planning to pull this off 😂
My first mistake was trying to be a bit inclusive, and asking the children where they wanted to go and what they wanted to see. This is actually where The Kraken is easy and comes into her own. She gave her standard response “I don’t care”. She really doesn’t, she gives zero fucks about anything. It’s her one redeeming feature.
The boy is a different story. I never realised quite how bad his grasp of geography was until now. “I want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Venice, Pompeii, the Northern Lights, Disney World in Florida, and can you drive to China?” It was like he’d just vomited an Atlas at me!
Disneyworld is out straight away, that’s a whole separate dream, and the Northern lights will have to wait a while. Oh, and I shattered any dreams of China straight away. I’m not a miracle worker. I did have a menu for the local takeaway however, so he was placated with spring rolls and noodles 👍🏻
I figured Disneyland Paris was achievable though, and that could maybe cover the Eiffel Tower too. So then I looked at the places in Italy we could reasonably see without stretching ourselves so thin we didn’t have time to enjoy each place. I had visions of us just driving around “look kids, quick, out your window, that’s Venice” Tick. Done. Next. I actually wanted a couple of days in each place at least.
So here’s how I planned it. This isn’t the definitive way to plan a road trip, I’m sure other people are much more organised than me, and probably found better bargains than me, but this was easy. And I like easy.
The first thing I did was get a map in front of me. It seems the boy takes after me, and my geography is also pretty poor. I know where all the countries are, but I’m a bit shit at knowing where all the places are in those countries.
I didn’t get a paper map, I’m not quite that old school, I used good old google maps. I picked a point that was going to be around 4 hour drive from Calais, and that was going to be our first stop. Dijon.
Then I worked my way across, picking other places that were no more than 3 hours apart. I ended up with the following list
Then I had to think about working our way back home, and if I loved my children enough to add a Disney stop at the end of the holiday. Turns out I don’t, but my husband does. So we planned a one night stop in France, halfway between Pisa and Paris, and made Disneyland the last stop of our holiday.
The next part was finding accommodation. Because I’m pretty lazy, and I like things to be simple, I organised all of our accommodation through Booking.com.
To save some money I looked at the areas just outside of the larger towns or cities. For example, instead of Turin, we stayed about 40 minutes away in a little town called San Sebastián da Po, and we managed to stay in a beautiful castle that cost less than a hotel in the city.
Once I’d found a hotel or apartment, I used Trip Advisor to check the reviews. If they were ok, and it had everything we needed, then it went on the shortlist.
I then spent an evening showing my husband all the hotels and apartments I’d spent hours researching. I say showing him…I streamed it to the TV so it was right in front of him, and scrolled through enthusiastically, while he watched videos of motorbikes on Facebook, telling me to book whatever I wanted. I lost my shit at him, told him he was a lazy arse, he told me he was paying for it and that should be enough. I vowed to book hotels that he would hate. That’s love for you.
We (sorry, I) chose a mix of hotels and apartments. Our longest stay in one place was going to be 3 nights. Putting my practical head on, this meant we could get some washing done, so in theory we could take less clothes. Apartments have washing machines 😁 This in turn meant there was more space to fill the boot with Prosecco and other delights to bring home. Win, win.
So that was how I picked our route. Fairly easy. Now here’s some sensible things to remember before you go..
- Check the driving regulations of every country you either are, or might be visiting. We took a drive into Switzerland, and if you’re going to drive on the motorways there, then you’ll need a vignette sticker that you can buy at the border. Certain cities in France you need a Crit’Air sticker which you have to apply for before you leave and takes a few weeks.
- Take chargers, and enough European plug adapters for every electronic device to take with you. If you’re only stopping for a night you’ll need to charge everything at once, otherwise there’s a real danger that the kids IPads will go flat, and you’ll be forced to interact with them.
- If there is anything you definitely want to do, see if you can pre-book it. We booked The Leaning Tower of Pisa, just to save standing in a queue in the heat, but in the summer, some attractions are super busy, and if you’ve only got a day in the place, you don’t want to miss out if it’s fully booked.
That’s it really. I’ll do a more detailed blog post about each area we stayed, and what there is to do nearby. For now, all I’ll say is we had a whale of a time. Don’t let fear stop you planning something different. If we can do it, anyone can.