So you want to go on a road trip. I don’t blame you, they are one of the best kind of trips out there! They are by far the best way to see any country and it means you can stop whenever you want and wherever you want giving you ultimate freedom in your plans. Not only that but they can also be one of the cheapest ways to see a country too, especially if there are two or more of you because instead of over priced buses, all you need to do is split the fuel bill.
Before you even start planning your route though, there are several logistical factors you will need to look into first, especially if it is an international, multi country road trip.
If you are planning on taking a vehicle from say Canada to Mexico or the UK to Romania, is your standard insurance still going to cover you in the countries you plan on driving through? As I’m sure anyone who has ever tried to make an insurance claim will know, insurance companies don’t really give a shit about you. In fact, they will do absolutely anything to avoid paying you so much as a penny if they can. They hate paying you back so much they even pay people to try and screw you over. They even give them bonuses based on how much money they save the company by denying claims!! To make their jobs easier, in the Ts&Cs there's generally a clause saying your insurance is void if you partake in any illegal activities. Driving a vehicle without insurance is illegal in a lot of countries, so driving a car without being insured properly in a country is classed as illegal activity and therefore voids your insurance. So if you crashed your Canadian vehicle in Mexico and the border guards didn’t notice your insurance wasn’t valid in Mexico, that massive medical bill you just ran up will be coming out of your own pocket.
If you’re planning on flying somewhere and renting a car for a multi country road trip, you need to find out from the rental company where you can take it first. Sometimes it could be included but sometimes you might have to pay a premium to get the paperwork and insurance to say you can take it out of the country (as a general rule of thumb you need to be the registered owner of a vehicle to take it out of the country it’s registered in). When we flew to Croatia and rented a car at the airport we asked about going to Bosnia in it and they said it was fine if we paid a 20euro premium. It's also good tell the rental company if you are planning on taking their car over a border so they can put it in their records, that way if the border guards call them to confirm that you, a renter, have permission to take a car you don't own out of a country, otherwise it might seem like you're trying to smuggle to car out to steal it. Not a good look at a border. Don’t expect to be able to take a rental car too much further than a neighbouring country though, except in Europe which is now borderless.
Oh and ALWAYS take out fully comprehensive insurance on a rental, don't be tight on that!
Using your own vehicle is by far the most common way but if you plan on driving from say, London to Thailand you will need what is known as a Carnet de Passages en Douane, or simply known as a Carnet (car-nay) which is basically a passport for your vehicle. It's a complicated subject that I know very little about so I'll just leave it at that so I don't advise you incorrectly. What I will advise you though is to make sure you look into your destination countries and see if a Carnet is required.
Right, well that’s the boring bureaucracy bit done, now for the fun part; the route planning! Start by grabbing a map of the area you are planning on travelling, a highlighter and something you can search the Google with. Spend the next few days or weeks Googling the hell out of everywhere looking for everything that floats your boat; mountains, rivers, lakes, cultural events, rodeos, festivals, raves, art galleries or whatever it is you’re hoping to see and highlight their location on your map. I also tend to circle my highlighted locations to mark them as ‘Must See’.
As you highlight more and more you will probably notice a natural route starting to take shape, that’s the point where I tend to leave the planning. The rest of the route is always best decided day by day because you will meet people as you travel who will recommend sights and places you have never heard of. Also though, too much planning can take away the the freedom of the road trip, which is essentially what it's all about.
The final thing you will need to factor in is time. In an ideal world you won't need to be anywhere, anytime soon. Unfortunately we don't tend to live in an ideal world so we do tend to have time constraints usually due to visas, flights or work. We find 5 hours of drive time is usually a good amount to aim at. Much more than that and you start to get a sore ass. And fat. Try and tie in some hikes along the way too, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) isn't just something you get on airplanes!
Never has the 'it's not the destination, it's the journey' cliche ever been more true than when you're road tripping. With that in mind, avoid highways, drive slow and see as much as you can.