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Driving vs. Flying to Europe

Is your next holiday or break to Europe? Are you considering driving? This may seems like a great idea initially, with no weight restrictions to adhere to, no security to go through, and no queues to wait in. Some believe it’s just a case of throwing your over packed bags in the boot and off you go directly there, with a short Ferry or Tunnel break over to France?

It may seem simpler & more convenient initially, however there are many matters that driving European travellers don’t take into consideration. Here we list the advantages and drawbacks of driving, to help you choose which way is more appropriate for you as a traveller.

Things & Documents to remember

–          Passport

–          Both parts of licence

–          Insurance documents

–          Car owners papers

–          International Driving Permit (If needed)

Work out the cost

Many think driving will be a cheaper alternative to flying, but with so many budget airlines out there now, along with extremely affordable airport parking / public transport links, driving can actually work out to be more expensive. For those in the North & Scotland especially, it is crucial to work out how much the drive to your destination will be in petrol, as well as taking into consideration the toll roads, which France & Spain have many of. Google is a good tool to use, as it gives average fuel costs when giving directions on Google Maps.


It is important to check with your insurance company if you and your vehicle are covered in Europe as many do exclude this, and you have to pay extra. You will also have to take your insurance docs along to prove it. The last thing you want is to break down in the middle of the wilderness in Italy somewhere and not be covered – believe me!

Is it more or less hassle?

This all depends on what type of traveller you are, or who is in your travelling party. For instance, a single business traveller would most probably find it easier to jump in his car to the airport, use our Meet & Greet service so he doesn’t have to mess around with parking, jump on his flight where he can read his notes / paper with a Jack Daniels and relax until he arrives. However, a group of friends heading to Paris for a festival may want a fun road trip, with their own car, music, friends to share the cost of the ferry & petrol costs.

Driving on the other side of the road

In nearly all countries in the World, including those in Europe, they drive on the right hand side of the road. There is only a few such as the UK, Ireland, NZ and AUS that drive on the left. It is quite difficult to get used to, if taking your own UK car; you are positioned differently on the outside of the road in your driver’s seat, so overtaking is extremely difficult. If you renting a left hand drive foreign vehicle, be aware that the gear stick is on the right instead of the left like you are used to, and mind those knuckles against the door as you automatically try and change gears on the left!

Quicker than flying?

It all depends on where you are positioned in the UK. If you live near a port like Dover, and you are travelling to Northern France, you’re probably going to get there quicker than the plane as the Eurostar can take as little as 35 mins. However if you live in the North or far from a port, and you are driving to say Spain, it’s going to take you considerably longer to drive. A flight can take as little as 2 hours from Airports all around the UK. It may be best to check times on a journey planner, but remember to take into consideration toilet stops, breaks and tolls with driving, and security checks, queues, and check in with flying.

European Driving Rules

There are many different rules and regulations that you must adhere to in different countries such as speed limits and documentation needs. It is imperative that you double check theses on somewhere like the AA’s website, as you don’t want to have driven all the way there, thinking kilometres on your speed gauge are miles, or you haven’t got say an IDP when you arrive so can’t enter.

European Sat Navs

Have you thought how you are going to direct yourself to your destination? Were you thinking of using your trusty Sat Nav? Most are only loaded with UK maps, and need extra software / uploads for European road maps. Double check, and either download / buy the software, borrow a friends that is Europe map enabled, and don’t forget to take a reliable road map with you too. Most rental cars will come with a Sat Nav with Europe maps included, but again do check.

We may be biased, but based on our experience, driving to Europe is more trouble than it is actually worth. Unless it’s very short haul to Northern France from at most, London. We don’t like to take time off our holidays to drive, or add the extra stress and money. We’d suggest driving to Gatwick Airport, letting Ace Parking meet & greet you, and park your car for you, then simply waltz into departures, and off you go. We’ll be right there in arrivals when you come back, with your pre-warmed car ready for you to drive home.

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Drive straight to the airport terminal, drop off your car, and head straight to check-in. Simple!