“Drive on the left!”

Whenever we rent a car, it’s never so easy (or inexpensive) as JUST renting the car.  We need two car seats and a GPS as well.  (We own car seats for both boys, but dragging them around the world is impractical, and the navigation provided by our phones is only free in Austria.)  It adds up to a lot of expense — the cost of the GPS and car seats is usually as much as (or more than) renting the car itself.

It’s entirely worth it.  Although I do miss our wonderful car seats from home, they’re heavy and bulky and I’d worry about them being cargo when we fly.  And the GPS is essential — not so much to get us where we’re going (we could look up directions from anywhere we could get wi-fi) but because it enables to deviate from our planned route, always knowing we’ll find our way back.  Sometimes we do that out of need (stopping for a potty break or looking for lunch) but, even more often, we do it by choice.  We can take the “scenic route”, explore an interesting looking turn off of the main road, or just drive, always knowing we’ll be able to get back to wherever we were headed.  We do it all the time — it’s one of our favorite things to do when we travel (that’s how a 2.5 hour drive became an 8 hour one in Scotland, and how a 2 hour drive became an 8.5 hour one in Ireland).  It’s how we have some of our favorite experiences and get to see some amazing places.  So we feel the GPS is always worth it (though with what we’ve spent renting them, we probably should have just bought one at this point).

We had fun with ours on our most recent trip to the UK and Ireland, setting the English language accent as appropriate to where we were (English, Scottish or Irish).  And we also laughed each time we turned it on, because EVERY TIME we started it up, it gave off an alarm sound and reminded us to “Drive on the left!” (including the exclamation point).  That still didn’t stop me from ALSO reminding Dan myself that he should drive on the left, not only each time we started out, but also almost every time he made a turn from one road to the next.  Dan did an amazing job, though — he drove on the correct side the entire time!  (And I’m incredibly grateful to have gotten to experience far-flung parts of England, Ireland and Scotland without having to drive at all.  I would have been a stressed out mess on those tiny roads AND driving on the “wrong” side.)  It is amazing how ingrained the habit of driving on the right is — I kept wanting to get in the car on the wrong side, and crossing the street, I had to constantly remind myself to look both ways VERY thoroughly, because if I didn’t think about it, I would forget which direction the traffic was likely to be coming from.

It’s funny, though, because I don’t recall our GPS shouting and dinging at us to “Drive on the left!” the last time we were in the UK — and even though the two GPSes we rented during this trip were different models, they BOTH had the warning.  (I wonder when they added that feature — and I wonder if it makes UK drivers crazy, or if there’s an option somewhere to turn it off?)

(As a note, we had Tom Tom GPS units on both pieces of our trip, and in both cases we had good experiences.  Again.)

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