Hi! Another color cue: Yellow, scarlet, green, and white, from WPlus9 and my to-Germany/Euro driving tips for those wishing to drive with children and/or as a single adult/mom.
Tip 1: If you are planning a trip around this part of the world do book early. You do get the best price if you book early. For example our ferry ticket was £12.50 one way three weeks ago but if you purchase it a few days before the trip, it can go up to £25! This is the same with train tickets. Every other day (at least it seemed like it) the train ticket between Cambridge and Metz (the closest station to hubby if we went this route) went up. Another thing is that, rooms with queen size kind of bed are not easy to come by, especially on weekends and at more touristy locations. So book early, buy yourself travel insurance (most hotels/B&B can easily be canceled without penalty if done a few days before check-in), and rest in peace until the travel date — unless you don’t mind spending extra or have a good reason to wait until the last minute.
Tip 2: When driving long distance do print out a Google/ViaMichelin/Mappy map. This way if something happens you’ll have back-up. Trust me on this, came in handy when the GPS died right before Brussels. Now, I do have a phone that has a navigational system in it but the paper map still was the way to go because even though my phone was suppose to work outside the UK I couldn’t get a connection until I got to Germany. Yup, no Internet OR phone service. My friend kept trying to call me. My phone rang but the call never went through.
Tip 3: Although I highly recommend the drive do know your child(ren) before you make the decision. I knew that my girls are good travelers. I also knew that they would sleep throughout the morning if we left at 4 a.m. I had an inkling that all the moving around on the boat will tire Jovie out which will then give me at least 1.5 hrs of drive time after we got to France. I was off on the last. Jovie slept for 2.5 hrs after we got off the boat!!
Tip 4: Don’t listen to what others say if you feel confident in your ability to drive, tend to the kids and (somewhat) communicate in a few foreign countries. Just do it! It’s a great experience!! We stopped for lunch and to gas up after Jovie woke up. With no GPS we found a restaurant with an own who did not speak English. With my broken but usable French we got lunch and used the toilet. I also figured out how to get to the highway. Unlike the US, where the exit and entrance to the highway are usually using the cloverleaf interchange system, a highway can exit in one town and the entrance be in another. It’s not always but it happens here. Coincidentally it was the case for me. I had to go a few miles to get back to the highway.
Tip 5: Do some research on your route and post a question if you’re not sure in a travel forum. I used TripAdvisor and I ALWAYS get great information. From one of my post I learned a bit about the languages used in Belgium. Without this info I might have gotten a tad bit lost after the GPS died. I always thought that everybody in Belgium speaks French but it’s not the case. There are Dutch/Finnish speaking folks too. Somewhere through Brussels there’s an imaginary line (this is only my observation). To the north of this line people speaks Dutch/Finnish and below it people speaks French. From the forum I learned that Luik and Liège are the same and when on the Dutch side I should follow the Luik sign and on the French speaking side I need to follow Liège. If I didn’t know this bit I would have been confused because the signed changed with no warning. One minute I was going towards Luik and another minute I was on the Liège route.
Tip 6: Do find out what the driving laws are for each country. We had to purchase a kit for our car. Without what’s in the kit we would have gotten a nice fine if pulled over. For US folks you are not required to have an International Driver’s License which you can purchase from AAA but it’s not a bad thing to have. I got one on our last trip to Germany but never used it. I didn’t get one this time around.
Tip 7: Have a great time and don’t rush. Give yourself enough time in case for a few more potty breaks or a longer lunch.
That’s it!! Very glad that we drove and we got to our destination as predicted by ViaMichelin before I left — with maybe a 10 min. delay because Brussels was busy.