European road trip

When I was young, my parents would take us to other countries for holidays in our car. We did some 2 or 3 day trips to Italy and Switzerland. Later we started taking an organised tour with a local tour guide, the first of which were on a bus with 30 odd more people.

Those trips were tedious but amazing! We could actually see the changing of the landscape. It was only then that I realised of the planes, hills and mountains that help us distinguish cities, regions and countries.

Recently we did a longer road trip, all the way from Portugal to Lithuania. It was 4 days on the road each way, with a few hours to stop and visit some places along the way. We visited Bilbao (Basque country, Spain), Montpellier (France), Stuttgart (Germany), Berlin (Germany) and Wroclaw (Poland). In some of these places we slept at a hotel or hostel, in other’s we stayed at family and friend’s places.

All in all it was more than 7000 km inside our car, but totally worth it!

We prepared for the trip well in advance and brought a lot of gadgets to help us along the way.

As we didn’t want to stop for a meal everyday, we decided to have lunch and meal breaks along the way and brought some food and drinks with us.

Our gadgets were mainly:

  • An electric cooler from “Lidl”;
  • An electric portable water heater;
  • A hand pump coffee maker, the mini espresso (takes ground coffee) from “Wacaco”;
  • A double usb car-lighter charger;
  • An old iPod filled with songs;
  • A retractable cable with double 3,5 mm headphone jacks;
  • An old GPS from “TomTom”;

All in all this trip was amazing and certainly an important way to understand the differences throughout Europe. And to find out about “Autobahnkirchen”!

Electric cooler – a must!

The electric cooler came really handy. Our perishables didn’t go sour and we managed to keep them throughout the whole trip.

Do look for one that has 12V (car) and 220V (house) plugs so that you can keep your food refrigerated both on the go and at night on your hotel room.

An electric cooler became very handy.
The electric cooler came in very handy.

Coffee maker

For those who take a lot of espressos, like Lina, this is also a must. The hand pump coffee maker needs hot water to begin with, so the water heater is a must.

The “Minipresso” does a mean coffee and can be used on a day hike with water from a thermos. “Handpresso”, from another brand, came out with car solutions that boil the water as well. We never tried it but are happy with our combo, which also allows you to make tea on the go.

Espresso on the way for coffee addicts.
Espresso on the way for coffee addicts.

Double USB charger

On a road trip, you will depend on versatility, so a double USB charger allowed us to charge both our phones, or one of our phones and our old “TomTom”, or…

We had a low cut double USB charger which allows it to be always in place and flush enough for me to close the lid of the lighter/ashtray compartment.

The cooler was connected to another 12V socket.

There are now options that allow you to connect two plugs into one socket, or with a double USB charger and a second socket, so the options are out there.

Our tip here is: look at what you will need to charge, look at your car for 12V sockets and find a solution that responds to all your needs.


We actually ended up using 3 devices.

Our BMW touring has a built in navigation system that was up to date and receives traffic announcements over radio waves. That was very handy in Germany and France! The rest of the European countries we went through don’t seem to have that system in place.

The old “TomTom” we took had up-to-date maps, but no traffic information whatsoever. It was great as a back up to our car GPS, and vice versa, when they failed to load or in the countries where my car maps didn’t have enough detail.

Then we used Lina’s iPhone. It did consume some of her data plan, but, with European roaming fees, it wasn’t that much and it allowed us to get more traffic reports everywhere and was easier when rerouting.

All in all, we could have gone with just two of the systems, but you need your phone and, as long as the maps are up to date and you get traffic updates, I guess one GPS system is enough.

I can’t stress enough on the importance of traffic announcements: blocked roads are common in Germany when, for example, a truck tips over and blocks a 4 lane highway. We had that several times and, luckily, managed to avoid them all due to traffic announcements. On one of them, we managed to exit the highway right when it started to clog with cars.

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