It seemed a good idea at the time; a road trip to Disneyland Paris, and why not offer to take the 12-year-old nephew with me? A boys’ road trip, what could be more fun!
I booked everything in good time – hotel just a 10-minute monorail from the park, ferry tickets from Dover to Calais and a sat-nav that would (apparently) take me all the way to Disneyland.
Easy? Well not quite!
Researching the requirements of driving in France found that the authorities insist on much more equipment to be carried in the car then we do. For a start you must have a red warning triangle, first-aid kit, spare bulb kit and an NF approved breathalyser kit to be carried in the car at all times. And of course a GB sticker on your car’s rump.
Having collected all the various things I thought I needed from a well-known motoring spares store, the very knowledgeable sales assistant said I should put them all back, as they have a ready-made kit for European driving that is cheaper than the individual items! But the spare bulbs and the breathalyser kit (the kit must contain two breathalysers) needed to be bought separately. Also in the kit was a reflective yellow tabard and headlight deflectors … and don't forget you need a tabard for each occupant of the vehicle, and the tabard needs to be easily reached by all those occupants.
It makes you wonder why in the UK we are not required to carry such items? Very often UK motorists do not carry any items of emergency equipment, nor does the law make us do so. A first-aid kit should be a no-brainer, a reflective tabard too if you happen to break down after dark or in poor weather.
So far so good. But with the confusion around Brexit what did I need around driving permits and the like? With the situation and the way it’s reported changing by the day, and my trip starting mid-April I decided I would obtain everything I could get my hands on, even if it turned out I didn’t actually need it in the end.
My car insurer wrote to me twice to say in the event of a no-deal Brexit I would need a Green Card – which they would provide free of charge. But don’t leave obtaining one until the last minute, as it takes 3-5 working days to arrive, and my insurer asked for 14 days’ notice.
There may also be the requirement to obtain an International Driving Permit – and there are different types depending on where you are going. This can be obtained from your local Post Office for £5.50; don’t forget to take one passport-size photo and a photo ID too.
You should also take your car insurance documents with you, as well as your car’s V5 form (commonly known as the logbook).
If all of this sounds confusing, well it is. With the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU yet to be finalised, the official government website itself says: “Some of these requirements may change depending on the terms that the UK leaves the EU” and travellers need to keep checking for the latest information.
The best place to look is here: www.gov.uk
Other useful tips I found is that using a headset device for any reason whilst driving is now illegal, as is the use of a sat-nav system that detects speed cameras. If your sat-nav has such a system, you would be advised to switch off the ‘points of interest’ feature so you don’t fall foul of the rules.
And if you wear glasses, you must keep a spare pair in the glovebox.
So the best advice is to keep checking all well-known travel websites as well as the government one, and don’t leave anything to the last minute.
Now all I need to know is how to manage a moody/hyper (delete as applicable!) 12-year-old in the car on the way to Disneyland … not sure if there is a set of tips for that one!
By Rodney Kumar, IAM RoadSmart senior communications executive