Whether you’re planning on hopping on a ferry to France or traveling further afield, the flexibility offered by taking your own transport will more than make up for all the preparation time. If you’re traveling around Europe, you’ll be covered by your GB driving license within the EU, the European Economic Area and Switzerland.
Other than that, you’ll probably need an International Driving Permit, which is valid for one year and comes in at just over a fiver. Outside of Europe, rules do vary country to country, so do your research first (there’s a handy guide on the AA web site). Obviously, you’ll need to have passed your driving test and hold a valid GB license, as well, which you must take away with you. Allow a good three months before you leave to apply for your IDP.
It should go without saying that it’s worth checking on any idiosyncrasies a particular country may have in their rules of the road. For example, in the United Arab Emirates, if you make a rude gesture at an annoying driver you could end-up in prison. In Spain it’s illegal to honk your horn in an urban area. In the US, seat-belt wearing is pretty lax, but you could be in trouble in some states if you don’t have your headlights on at all times. In Canada wearing a seat-belt is mandatory for the driver and all passengers. Needless to say, in most Middle-Eastern countries, drink driving is a very definite ‘no-no’- while many of their drivers display a complete disregard for the rule book or road safety and that is when they’re stone-cold sober!
Other things to be aware of are the likes of low-emission zones. Some cities only allow alternate day driving; as in odd-numbered license plates one day and even-numbered license plates another. Check that you’ll be able to buy your required fuel at your chosen destination. In most of Northern Europe, leaded petrol is virtually unavailable. Also, check whether you’ll need a hi-viz jacket. Local hire companies can’t, always, be relied upon to provide you with everything you need to fulfill legal requirements.
But, once you’ve sorted all that out; happy driving!