Before you set off
Ensure your car is fully insured and that you have European breakdown cover.
Do you have winter tyres and/or snow chains? In most countries it is illegal to drive without snow chains in the car unless you have snow tyres.
Make sure you have a valid driving licence and carry it with you on all journeys.
Check your car has the correct anti-freeze mixture, temperatures can fall up to -25C at night.
Headlamp convertors – -it is a legal requirement to have headlight patches fitted to stop you from blinding oncoming traffic.
Check the local driving requirements – for example in Austria you need to carry hi-vis reflective jackets for each person in the car. Other items that can be compulsory to have in the car include a First Aid Kit, spare light bulbs, a breakdown warning triangle and in France you need to keep a breathalyser in your car at all times!
Plan your journey
We all find it too simple to pop the address into the satnav and off we go. But remember some satnavs don’t allow for winter snow and will direct you over passes that won’t be open in winter. It is wise to have a road atlas as a backup.
The speed limit on France’s motorway is 130kph which is 80mph.
At some point you are going to need fuel. Unleaded fuel is ‘sans plomb’ in French, ‘Bleifrei’ in German and ‘senza plombo’ in Italian.
Make sure you’ve got healthy snacks and meals in the car for the journey. A few simple on-the-move meals, in case you hit a traffic jam, are a good idea. You can then snack in the traffic rather than having to stop as soon as you get moving again.
For the last leg of the journey make sure the kids have been to the loo at the bottom of the hill. An empty child is less likely to feel sick on those twisty mountain roads. Have empty bags, wet wipes, mints and water close to hand just in case you hear those fateful words “I don’t feel too good…”
For the return journey, if you are setting off early, save breakfast for when you are back down in the valley. For the same reason as before. An empty child is less likely to feel ill. Your accommodation may be able to provide a take-away breakfast. If you are self-catering tap into some local knowledge – the resort’s transfer drivers – they will know where the best stops are en route.
Great tunes are essential. Sing-a-long music and snoozing music – for the kids, not the driver. And how about a good audio book, something the whole family can enjoy.
Entertainment for the car – don’t rely on electronics as the batteries can and will run out. It’s worth investing in chargers you can use in the car. As a back up play I-spy games and have books, loom bands, and memory games such as “Granny went to market and she bought…” These can all help to pass the hours away.
Security & Passport control – If you are travelling in more than one car, make sure you always have the right passports with the right people in the right car – especially if you are crossing through border controls.
Bon voyage! Buon viaggio! Sichere Reise!
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