3 Ideas for a Cross Country Road Trip

When planning your next holiday why not consider a road trip around Europe. This can be a fantastic way to see the best sights across Europe without breaking the bank account. However, there are many things to consider when planning a road trip around Europe.

Plan in Advance

When planning a European road trip it is always a good idea to plan your destinations and stops well in advance of the travel date. If you have a specific city that is your priority to visit over all others then that can be a good starting point to plan your trip around. As most European countries are relatively close to each other you can create a route revolving around your desired location that also takes you through a number of major European cities both on the way out (Southern?) and the way back (Northern?). Make sure you have an up to date map. If you have SatNav, ensure you have the postcodes of where you want to visit.

Hire a Car

When travelling in a group from the UK into Europe for a road trip it can be a good idea to hire a car for the journey. The advantages to this are that you take away some of the fear of causing damage and wear and tear to your own vehicle. Also, petrol prices on the continent can be very expensive. So if your own vehicle has a large, gas-guzzling engine, it’s smart to hire something more economic to run. Therefore, hiring a car gives you the opportunity to search around various car hire companies to find the most economical vehicle available for your journey. Also, if you’re going off the beaten track, small cars are easier to negotiate around narrow village streets.

When travelling in a group or as a family (3 to 5) people, prices for other forms of travel i.e. plane travel, train travel etc can be very expensive. Hiring a car can bring down those costs dramatically when shared between the whole group.

Hiring a car also gives greater flexibility to change your itinerary as and when you like without cost a fortune to change travel tickets and arrangement. For example, you may meet someone who advises you to visit a certain sight that wasn’t in your initial itinerary. With a vehicle already at your disposal you can easily change your route to include this sight without having the problem of changing tickets.

Documents / Emergencies

Before leaving to travel Europe you must ensure that you have all of your personal documents (passport, driving licence etc.) up to date and correct. You need to make that your insurance company and breakdown cover are valid for travel on the continent. Ensure you contact your insurance and breakdown cover companies and confirm this in order to avoid potential problems when out there.

There may be certain legal requirements that you must comply to. On the continent it is compulsory to display a GB sticker at all times. However, a lot of cars since 2001 have Euro number plates that include the GB euro-symbol. Cars with this symbol are no longer required to display a conventional sticker within the EU.

On the continent they drive on the right hand side of the road. Because of this there is a legal requirement for all UK vehicles to adjust the headlights beam pattern so that you don’t dazzle oncoming drivers. To do this you will need to buy a headlamp beam convertor kit. Alternatively, you can hire a left-hand drive vehicle.

In a nutshell, hiring takes the stress out of road trips. So you can enjoy the experience all that much more. Happy car hiring.

Ultimate European Road Trip Series – Part Nine – Lago Di Garda, Italy

We began this adventure by purchasing a Porsche Macan S and picking the car up at the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen Germany… the road trip is now “official”.

This segment of the series is dedicated to our adventures while touring the Lago di Garda area in the Lake Country of Northern Italy.

The Drive from Bolzano to Lago di Garda

We departed Bolzano for a two and a half hour straight-shot drive to Lago di Garda. About an hour out we approached a major decision point and road juncture.

The autostrada turned into a spaghetti bowl kind of interchange that provided routing to Milan, Verona, Trento, Bologna and Venice as well as dozens of other smaller cities.

As we approached this juncture our primary GPS just goes up and dies so we pull off to the side of the roadway and go to Plan B… our backup GPS which was provided by Porsche.

OK… who knows how to even turn it on or, better yet, how to program it?

Let’s go to Plan C… the backup map pages we used to originally prep for the trip months ago at home. What do you mean the page we need is missing?

Let’s go to Plan D… Google Maps on the cell phone. What? No cell connectivity?

We both looked at each other and quoted a famous movie line… something like… “What should we do now? PANIC”.

After a good laugh, we continued to head south. And, as we were driving along, the primary GPS miraculously came back to life and we were actually on the right road! Our travel angels had enough amusement so they cut us a break.

Lago di Garda

Lago di Garda is the largest lake in Italy and is about 31 miles long and 12 miles wide. The 99 mile shoreline surrounds a lake that has a surface area of about 143 square miles… huge is an understatement.

Special Moments in a Tunnel

As we navigated the narrow roads through tunnel after tunnel along the shoreline of Lago di Garda we noticed how little room we had causing some stress. This stress was coming to a head as a big truck with a square roof was heading toward us in a tunnel with a round ceiling. Hey… he is now straddling the center stripe and driving on our side of the road!

This is going to be close… how do you fold in the mirrors to gain a little space? What button do you push? Where is the owner’s manual? We moved as far right as possible and braced for the possible impact… bye-bye nice new car! Maybe just a mirror?

We took a deep breath and grit our teeth… once again the invisible force field that surrounds this car, and our travel angels came through as the truck passed inches, seriously, just inches away.

Benito Mussolini and Lago di Garda

One of Garda’s most famous resident was the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini who lived near the town of Gargnano. Mussolini’s personal residence and headquarters were established in the confiscated Villa Feltrinelli which is situated directly on the lake shore with an expansive view of the lake and mountains.

The villa was returned to the Feltrinelli family after WW II and eventually changed hands and in the 1990’s it became the Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli. You, too, can stay there for the starting price of $1,500 per night.

The Hotel Dimora Bolsone

We opted for a wonderful Bed & Breakfast on the hillside overlooking the town of Gardone Riviera. This 15th century guest house is situated in a 20 acre park with stunning views of the lake. We even had covered parking next to a vintage Morgan.

The Hotel Dimora Bolsone is owned and managed by a charming gentlemen by the name of Raffael. He was assisted by the very attentive and friendly Jessica and the delightful Sabrina. They represent the true essence of Italian hospitality and provided us with a wealth of local knowledge.

We really lucked out… when we made our reservation we did not realize that the B&B was an “agriturismo” property.

As such they are required to produce at least 40% of everything they serve their guests from their land… we enjoyed their vegetables, herbs, eggs, wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chickens, rabbits, pigs… adding a real meaning to the words “farm fresh”.

Exceptional Dining with Chef Marko

All of the meals were perfectly prepared and the presentation was excellent. And you could split any of the entrees allowing us the opportunity to taste new delicacies and not overdo it.

Gardone Riviera and Gabriele D’Annunzio

When we planned this trip we had no idea who Gabriele D’Annunzio was or his connection to Gardone Riviera. But all that changed after our visit to his residence- turned-museum that he named the “Vittoriale degli Italiani (The Shrine of Italian Victories)”.

This hillside estate was the home of the famous Italian politician, war hero, and charismatic leader. As a true “Renaissance Man” he was an artist, poet, journalist, playwright and one of Italy’s most popular, as well as controversial, writers of the 20th Century.

Another part of his lore was resultant from his numerous and legendary affairs with high profile women. It may have been attributed to his outlandish lifestyle or the possibility that his famous erotic literature got their attention.

As a warrior he became a legend due to his daring and bold actions. When he returned from the war he was an international hero and had been awarded a gold medal, five silver, a bronze, and the officer’s cross of the Savoy Military Order. He even got the Military Cross from Britain. All are on display in the museum and the tour was fantastic.

In Summary

We are now in full relaxed mode and travel induced stress has faded away… or is it the wine?

We want to introduce a series format change to focus on special side trips at a destination.

Please follow us in the next article…

Exit Ahead — Exploring the Roman Ruins of Lago di Garda.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

Trips to European Islands

Some of the best islands in the world are not in the Pacific, but are actually part of Europe. Europe offers a variety of islands, and not all of them are in the Mediterranean region.

Iceland is often overlooked as a European island, but it has a lot to offer. Don’t let the name fool you, because Iceland is one of the most geologically diverse places on Earth, with moderate temperatures year round. Reykjavik, the capital, is a convenient place to visit and Iceland is an easy country to drive through in the summer with a highway that goes all the way around the island.

In the winter, there are about 18 hours of nighttime hours, while in the summer there are about 18 hours of daylight. The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular tourist destination, and serves as a geothermal spa. The water temperatures here average at about 99 degrees Fahrenheit, and the geothermal seawater springs renew themselves about every 40 hours. Conveniently, the Blue Lagoon natural spa accepts several international currencies, including US dollars and the Japanese Yen. With dining, shops, and accommodations, you can take a day trip to the Blue Lagoon or stay for a few days.

On the other side of Europe in the Mediterranean, Crete is the largest island of Greece. From its warm beaches, to its ancient history, Crete has something to offer every kind of visitor. Crete was historically the home of the Minoans, who left behind ruins and art 2,000 years ago when they inhabited the island. The story of the demise of the Minoans is mostly unknown, as is much of Minoan history. This makes for an interesting journey through the ancient ruins left behind on Crete and allows you to come to your own conclusions about the Minoan civilization.

If you prefer exploring nature, Crete offers the large Samaria National Park, which is home to Samaria Gorge. The Gorge is a hike of about 18 kilometers, so be sure to start your day early in order to complete the hike.

Also in the Mediterranean, one of Europe’s smallest islands is Malta, which is located south of Sicily. It may be small, but it is part of the European Union and densely populated relative to its size, which makes Malta an expensive island to visit. But the little island is packed with history. It is home to the Megalithic Temples, which are the oldest free standing structures on the planet and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built about 5,000 years ago, the temples are still very well preserved and are located at several sites.

Malta Island is one of the best islands in Europe because it is a combination of old and new. The president of Malta and the Parliament are housed in the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, which is also a cultural site. This Palace was one of the first buildings built in Valletta, and it is a large and impressive building with several courtyards and views of the city.

Plan a Trip Across Europe

When you hear the word vacation, the various pictures of your earlier travels flash across your mind. They include both pleasant as well as unpleasant experiences as well.

Traveling abroad can be quite tiresome and irritating. First of all the flights are of long duration, you have to be sitting or reclining all the time. Besides the amount of noise in the airports and screaming, crying children wears one down.

Why not plan a   trip  across Europe by  euro  rail? They have the most amazing network of trains all across Europe and you can travel very cheap with euro rail passes. Some of the legs of journey like London to Paris is as cheap as $50. People are able to travel during weekends and also save money on accommodation.

It is a real pleasure to visit the recently done up St. Pancras Station at London and take the train to Paris and Brussels with Euro star services and enjoy unlimited speed.

If you think worry that you have to travel across many countries in Europe and that you will have to keep buying train tickets, there is no need to worry. You can buy euro rail cards for a certain amount and validity which allows you to travel through all of the trains on their particular line across several countries.

Very ideally you can land in London and take a super fast train to Paris and thereafter continue exploring routes that run between Munich to Madrid etc.

Look for passes that give you options of including ferry travel service from ports like Copenhagen. With euro rail passes there is so much more you can do by having to mix and match destinations in your it nary.

Many people prefer to take short journeys during daytime and take the long journey night trains, which offer sleeper births. One gets to share cabins with another fellow passenger and can spend the night peacefully without having to spend money on hotel stay. One can sleep peacefully without any disturbance.

On arrival at the new station, check out the next night train leaving for another country and then start with sight seeing without losing time and catch up with the day.