Should we drive our 9 month old from Gothenburg Sweden to Amsterdam?
July 23, 2014 1:03 PM   Subscribe

How's the drive (for non-europeans) between Gothenburg Sweden and Amsterdam (via Copenhagen and Hamburg)? Should we drive this with our 9 month old daughter?

So in a month or so my wife and I are doing Volvo's Overseas Delivery where you get your car from the factory in Gothenberg, get a month of insurance and can drop it off at a bunch of ports in Europe. Now we're not big into driving in Europe (we're Americans) so initially we were just going to fly into Gothenberg, get the car and leave it there and then proceed to Amsterdam and London. Today when looking at flights from Gothenberg to Amsterdam we started thinking about just driving that route and dropping the car in Amsterdam. From a quick Google Mapping of the directions it looks like this would be a kind of cool trip through Copenhagen and with a somewhat natural overnight break in Hamburg Germany.

This raises a few questions and requests for comment.

1. We're doing this with a 9 month old little girl, who's happy as heck and pretty comfortable in her car seat. But still would this be too much driving for her? Its 2 days of 5-6 hours driving. Your opinion is welcome.

2. Hows this trip for folks who've only driven once in Europe and don't speak (or read) German.

3. Any really cool things to do on that route (or right off the route) that make you go "You must do/see this it would make the whole trip worthwhile".

4. Any other comments or insights appreciated. Thanks!
posted by bitdamaged to Travel & Transportation around Gothenburg, Sweden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Seriously driving in Northern Europe is dead easy. This could be an awesome trip. Don't squander the opportunity. Your lack of German (or Danish or Dutch or Swedish) is going to be a complete non-issue.

If you do something more involved the one thing I would say you should do is check out what the inner-cities are like and if they look old find a place to park connected to transit outside of town.

If you do that come back and post with a list of specific towns and I'm sure we can hook you up with advice.

Only you can know if your kid can handle it. My kid can handle road trips of 6 hours a day no problem. Just time it so that nap time is in the car.
posted by JPD at 1:29 PM on July 23, 2014

My daughter has 6 mo old twins. They are good for about 2 hr's in the car (sleeping), then they need playtime and food. I suggest some practice travel to see what your little one likes.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: Me and SO have driven about the same distance in Sweden, and the only danger was boredom from looking at trees. I have been right across Denmark with 3 cars full of students and me and SO have done a fair amount of driving around Germany. Never been a problem that we don't speak any Swedish or Danish and can scavenge up only basic restaurant ordering German. The only thing I would warn about is cities, that can be a bit more stressful than back roads or motorways due to the local rules being different than you are used to, think about staying on the edges for easy car access if you are not confident about city driving, many cities will have good public transport anyway, e.g. very much Copenhagen.

Enjoyment wise, don't flog yourself with a long hard run to Amsterdam in two shifts.

Definitely spend some time in Malmo/Copenhagen, watch The Bridge before you go.
posted by biffa at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

IMHO Europe is not so great for roadtrips. I don't know any Europeans who would willingly do that, much less with a baby. Restaurants and anenities by the roadside are crap. Sights are usually way off the big roads, driving is much less relaxed than in the US (thinking of Germany, specifically) and traffic around/in cities is kind of unpredictable. YMMV. The language thing is not a problem, though.
posted by The Toad at 2:31 PM on July 23, 2014

That sounds like an amazing drive to me. I'd do it in a heartbeat. My kids are great travelers, though, even at 9 months.
posted by u2604ab at 2:55 PM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: This is Northern Europe, and the drive is definitely doable. The most nerve-wracking part will likely be to get your car negotiated in Göteborg (because of a general messy layout of the highways, and because the on and off ramps are so short, requiring lane changes at the last second if you don't know the city).

Planning the trip:
Driving to Malmö and over the bridge, your only inevitable stop on the first day will be on the Rødby-Puttgarden ferry, which is a bit late into the trip.
If you want to save time and have a well-timed break earlier, drive through Helsingborg and take the (30minutes) ferry to Helsingør, instead of driving all the way to Malmö and over the bridge. You buy tickets for all bridge crossings and/or ferries at the first checkpoint. The diff in price between these options is nil (the Malmö bridge is expensive).

Prices for the combined ferries etc. are anyway steep and here's your cool-for-the-baby alternative: take the overnight Stena ferry from Gothenburg to Kiel. It leaves at 6:30 P.M. or 7:00 (they sometimes change, dunno what it's now). You'll start driving in Kiel around 9:30 (after breakfast on board), and you'd likely be able to make it all the way to A'dam in one run. Plan stops to suit everyone's tastes.

Driving is easy most of the way (right now, a large stretch of the Danish highway is a huge construction site, some time lag there…), but you might want to look into European roadsigns and rules before; also, in Germany, you MUST look a lot into the rear mirror, especially when in the left lane: some stretches have no speed limit, and people do drive their fast cars scary fast.
posted by Namlit at 3:05 PM on July 23, 2014

I have driven from Denmark to France and (although I can't speak for Sweden) can say with some certainty that a road trip through the countries of northern Europe is a piece of cake. I did it with my wife and (at the time) 5 year daughter and it was painless (only you can judge what your daughter would be like, but it sounds like she would be pretty happy). My only advice would be, could you break it up over more days so that you get to see more of the places you are passing through?

IIRC, we started from near Esbjerg (having got the ferry across from the UK) and then, over the course of several days, drove to Hamburg (about 3 hours); then Utrecht (about 4 hours; I would recommend that anybody who goes to Holland should spend at least a day or two in Utrecht; it's about 45 minutes from Amsterdam). We then went onwards to Bruges (about 3 hours), then down to Le Havre (about 4 hours) for the ferry back to the UK.

With regard to not speaking the local languages, pretty much everyone you meet as a tourist will (somewhat embarrassingly) speak English to some degree. For the few that don't (generally in smaller shops), just brush up on your niceties ("hello", "please", "thank you", "excuse me") and you'll get along fine.

On a side note, I don't quite follow the comment made above regarding Europe not being great for road trips. I would guess that comment was made in comparison with the States, in which case I can only assume a "good" road trip is viewed as a long, laser-straight road through largely unchanging, unpopulated scenery that gets you from A to B in the least time possible. Personally I prefer my roads to bend, and to encounter a wide range of cultures and scenery on the way, which admittedly means that, yes, the roads are busier and, yes, some people (I'm looking at you Germany) can drive more aggressively than is strictly necessary (top tip: don't sit in the fast lane on the motorway) but it does mean that you get a lot more "bang for your buck" in terms of road-trip.
posted by oclipa at 9:47 PM on July 23, 2014

Best answer: Sounds great! On our family trip to Sweden years ago we flew into Copenhagen and took the ferry (no bridge yet), then drove our rented car all over Sweden and Norway coming back the way you're going. It is going to seem very, very much like driving somewhere in the Upper Midwest with the terrain and pine trees, but the rural areas are going to be much better kept up than you'll see in the States (not that there aren't exceptions, but...)

The one caveat that threw me was passing. In Sweden (at least), when being overtaken, you are expected to move right and take part of the shoulder, so the overtaker can sort of straddle the middle line. Important. Oncoming traffic will also move over. So essentially you will need to watch for passing in both your rear and front and react accordingly -- drivers will be able to deal but they will flash their lights at you furiously until you learn how to gracefully slide out of the way. Oh, and keep your lights on in daytime, too. [another site] Oh, as well, watch for moose. You do not want to hit a moose. Rare, but still.

I guess the one thing I'm sure I would try to visit if I go again, along this route, is the art park Nimis, on the coast near Helsingborg. [mefi] There are some grand houses in the area as well, one of which was the setting for the film Melancholia.
posted by dhartung at 10:53 PM on July 23, 2014

In Sweden (at least), when being overtaken, you are expected to move right and take part of the shoulder, so the overtaker can sort of straddle the middle line. Important. Oncoming traffic will also move over.

Practical comments in general, but irrelevant for the Swedish part (and the rest) of this particular route, which is a two-lane highway with top speeds of 110 and 120 km/h (68-75 mph) all the way.

More similar comments: on the highways, the right lane is the slow lane and you're expected to make way for faster traffic by leaving the left lane. Always signal when changing lanes. Passing on the right isn't allowed.
posted by Namlit at 11:07 PM on July 23, 2014

Just did a similar trip with a nine month old, just shifted a bit north. How active is your baby? We can't stay in the car for long outside of nap times, so planned in stops to frolic on lawns and eat along the way. This is trickier when it's raining. If you follow Namlit's advice to take the short ferry from Helsingborg you could do what we enjoyed, checking out the fabulous Louisiana modern art museum and sculpture park.
posted by meijusa at 3:48 AM on July 24, 2014

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