Travel & adventure

How to plan a Euro road trip - Jobe Harriss

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29 Jul
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Animal pro surfer Jobe Harriss has been driving up and down the coast of Europe numerous times. Instead of doing the classic pro surfer routine of flying over, hiring a car and staying in hotels, Jobe’s always opted for the more down to earth (and cost effective) road trip option of driving across the channel in the van, and camping it out.

The classic Euro road trip is a rite of passage for any British surfer, so we thought we’d ask Jobe two things:

  • His top 5 tips on how to plan a road trip.
  • His top 5 road trip essentials.

Capbreton - March (1 of 1)

Jobe finding a stretchy little wall in Capbreton, France.

Top 5 tips on planning your Euro road trip

1. Don't plan

First and foremost, don’t plan, to an extent anyway. Obviously select certain areas or landmarks you’d like to visit, but don’t lock them in to any kind of strict timescale. The beauty of a road trip is that you have everything you need in the back of the van to stay anywhere you like. If you like somewhere, stay a few more days or if a particular place doesn’t live up to expectations, move on to the next spot.

2. Get lost

I get lost at least 3 or 4 times every time I head off on a trip in the van. Lost in the sense that I kind of know what direction I’m going in but have no idea where I actually am. You’ll maybe find yourself turning up in some random town or beach and stumbling on a little gem. 9 times out of 10 you don’t, but when you do it feels like a little pot of gold. You’ll end up turning down streets or roads, clueless of where they actually lead, which doesn’t happen when you aren’t in a slight state of confusion.

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Getting lost has its rewards. Here was Jobe's: an undiscovered left-hand point break.

3. Avoid peak season

This is kind of key, especially as you'll more than likely require access to campsites at some point during the trip. Peak season in the South of France and Northern Spain is hell. Most campsites are fully booked, all the "aire de campings" are packed to the seams and the Gendarmerie or Municipal Police are hot on the heels of anyone free camping. There’s nothing worse than frantically driving from campsite to campsite late at night and getting rejected at every stop. Plus all the beaches are busy, waves are crowded and the towns are packed. Save yourself the stress and just go when it’s quieter, you’ll have a far more enjoyable trip.

4. Pick only a few locations at a time

Don’t cram too many places in to one trip. My bet is you didn’t want to be rushing from place to place spending your whole trip driving. Not only will it batter the fuel which will cost you and the environment more, but it’ll also stress you out. You don’t want to be spending your whole trip sat on motorways getting from one place to another without experiencing the places you’re actually heading to. You can always visit the other locations on your hit list during a subsequent journey.

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The Basque Country was one of the locations Jobe picked to explore, it sure didn't disappoint.

5. Don't expect to free camp every night

One tip that applies to first timers in particular wanting to attempt a road trip is don’t go all out and expect to free camp every night. If you’re going for a 2 – 3 week stint, mix up free camping with campsite camping just until you find your feet. It’s easy to be underprepared and expect free camping to be a walk in the park. Once you get used to it it’s amazing, but initially you can struggle. Even simple things like finding a running tap to fill your water tanks can become a hassle, toilets and showers can also be troublesome for those seeking some creature comforts. So take it one step at a time and ease your way in to living outside the realms of a campsite.


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Jobe reaping the rewards of off-peak season traveling, aka an empty French line-up.

Top 5 packing essentials / vacation checklist

The best part of roadtrips are the zero restrictions on baggage weight. You can take as much as you like within reason to save money and make life easier on the road, just try not to go over board and clutter your vehicle so that you have to dig around to find everything. Nothing worse than when it’s pouring with rain and you have to scramble around with the doors of your weapon open, trying to dig out your knife and fork.

1. Food reserves

Make sure you stock up on some basics. A few cans of spaghetti hoops and tomato soup, just in case you find yourself without dinner on a Sunday when all the shops are closed. At least then you can get a bit of food to sustain you until the following morning.

2. Warm blanket

Especially outside of the summer season during Spring and Autumn. Quite often the forecast can be 20-25°c during the day and you think it’ll be warm 24/7, when in reality it’s barely pushing above freezing during the night. Keeping warm is key to regaining your energy after a long day of waves.

3. A good knife

Whether it be a pocket knife or multi-tool penknife, they always come in handy somewhere along the line.

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Capbreton - March

Jobe and his girlfriend Ella don't mess about when it comes to packing the van. Everything is thought through and made accessible.

4. Books, magazines, laptop or anything that can pass the time

I often find myself with an hour plus to spare before the waves get onto the right sandbank. It’s important to have something that keeps you occupied whilst you wait. Boredom breads a bad head space, which in turn makes for a miserable trip.

5. Camera

What’s the point in going to all these incredible places without being able to look back in the future and recall those forgotten memories? One of my most important pieces of travel kit.

See below a few of the photos shot on Jobe's latest trip. All shot by Jobe and his girlfriend Ella Henwood.

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Carve Zarautz

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