Driving to France?(19 Posts)
We are going on holiday near L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France and trying to figure out travel options. We have booked accommodation for 24 - 31 August. We could travel down earlier and stay somewhere else but have to come back on Sat 31 Aug/ Sun 1 Sept because DH is a teacher. We are 2 adults, plus 2 DCs (4yo and 2yo). Flying is too expensive now. Train is expensive too but not as bad. Driving seems really inexpensive... around £160 according to ViaMichelin and GoogleMaps. Does this seem correct?
I like the idea of driving but terrified at the thought it with 2 DCs! Has anyone does this? How do you manage it? I have thought about breaking the journey at least once, maybe twice on the way down, and maybe driving overnight on the way back. Are we crazy?
Stick a DVD on in the car, and/or consider doing a lot if the driving late at night when they are likely to fall asleep.
There are good cheap hotels near all motorway exits throughout France - Formule 1 and Etap are two chains we've used a lot.
Looks like it is near Avignon?
A lot depends on where you are starting from in the UK.
Once you arrive in France, you need to be looking at stopping for the night a decent distance south of Paris.
The autoroutes are very family friendly. They have the usual big service areas that we have, but in addition, they have little Aires every 5km or so. These rest areas have toilets (of varying qualities), vending machines and, most importantly, play equipment.
When we have had long drives, we've had two strategies - the miserable get it over an done with as soon as possible, versus the try to make the journey enjoyable without making it take forever.
When our kids were little, we would favour stopping for the night around 6pm so that we could have supper and then go for a stroll.
If you are travelling during a busy time, it is worth anticipating your stop-off points and making a reservation. Ibis or Campanile provides a nice standard of family friendly accomodation.
Thanks Anthracite, we live in London, and yes, it is near Avignon. I was thinking of trying to make it an enjoyable time down there (maybe 2 overnight stops somewhere pleasant?) and then possibly driving overnight on the Saturday night?
We can still get train tickets for around £700... I am really torn... I am really quite apprehensive about driving... envisaging screaming children for 12 hours...
Will you want a car when you are there?
We go from London to France every year, now with 3 DSs, in the car. Have been to near Nimes (similar distance) but furthest was near Perpignan, practically in Spain.
If possible we go Friday and stop somewhere like Beaune when going to the midi. This year we're going South West and I'm working the day we go so it'll be the Shuttle Fri night and stay in Ibis Tunnel Sous La Manche then drive down Saturday.
Don't really mind it, but then DSs are quite good as they know it's just the one day (10,8&3).
we do it every year, it is 10 hours from calais to near toulouse. (incluing stops)
We use dvds and rely on post lunch naps and evening nap.
We are mad and do it in one go, leaving uk at 5 am!!
Do plan run around at each stop.
there are lots of good motels on the way, biggest problem is finding 4 in a room, we have 3 dcs and have done one adult plus dc in each room
If you're crazy we must be bonkers then, we drive from Glasgow to France every year, stopping at Folkestone for the night, stay over night and get an early Eurotunnel and then drive to wherever we are going in France in a day, sometimes further than others, one year we drove from Calais to right down near Carcassone in the Languedoc in a day, another the Alps. Last year it was the Vendee so not so bad. But even though its a long day we treat it as part of the holiday, stop for lunch, my boys are fine in the car with DVDs on loop, I sleep at times to because DH does all the driving!
Anthracite we probably don't need one but it could be helpful. Especially if the weather is bad. We are going with in laws so might be helpful to be able to escape!
Thanks everyone. I'm thinking of treating it as part of our holiday. Can anyone recommend any good places to stop on the way to Avignon? (And also places not to stop!) B&Bs or nice villages?
Depends on budget and age if children.
Babies / toddlers - we've always stayed in Novotel / Mercure / Ibis with a restaurant so you are near the room if you need it. Can look up on the Accor hotels website and use map to plan where to stay then search hotels.
Now DS3 is older we're going to stay in a town / village as we can go out.
We've stopped at Beaune on the route you're doing - Novotel is almost next to the motorway so easy to find, but it's a gorgeous town if you want to stay somewhere with character. My parents usually go further on the first day's drive, to Dijon at least but they don't have to worry about children.
My best fact is that you can use tesco vouchers to pay for the eurotunnel - my dps, who travel to france a LOT prefer this because it's quick to get on and off, you can (apparently) pretty much get the next train after you arrive and check in and you are much further into the uk/have to drive less far on the way out than if you get a ferry, which cuts travelling time quite a bit as you miss out some of the motorway to dover.
We always drive to France and I know L'Isle sur la Sorgue. My suggestions:
1) If you take the train you'll be able to do the journey in one day, but you'll need to hire a car when you arrive.
2) Driving your English car on the French side of the road is a lot less scary than you're thinking - the first time I did it I was amazed at how easy it is. French roads are generally much better than English ones too.
3) If you drive it's a 12-hour drive from southern England (not sure where you live, but if you're up north it will be longer). With small DC I would break the journey and find a hotel en route. Novotel are great for families and do family rooms. They are inexpensive, generally. In terms of picking a town to stay in I'd use mapping software to figure out the midway point in your journey and aim for that.
4) French motorways are excellent. They're toll roads, so you have to pay a fee to drive on them, but they have plenty of rest stops - some are full-service ones with petrol stations and restaurants, others are generally quieter and just have picnic areas and toilets. L'Arche have small children's play areas indoors and sometimes outdoor areas too.
4) Your DC will be fine as long as you stop regularly for them to get out and run around.
we actually deliberately don't use the tunnel. Our reason is that we do 3+ hours form home to dover, then the ferry is 1.5 hours leg stretch, breakfast, coffee etc, then when we arrive it is straight in the car for first 3 hour leg.
First time we did it, dcs were 18 months, 4 and 6, and we bought a dvd player especially for the trip
But if I was planning to stop, maybe I would tunnel and get further into France before stopping.
You can get a leg stretch on the tunnel (or in the car park at the tunnel of you arrive early without the hassle of going up from the boat deck. )
The only time we've gone by boat with children was awful - long delays on arrival at port both ways, added to the longer crossing, and no fun at all lugging your stuff / dragging children up the staircases.
I actually quite miss it, and we'll do it again when they are older I think, but for now the tunnel is so easy on the way there. I prefer not to think about arriving back at Calais and watching people wheel huge boxes of Fosters etc. through the hideous concourse there, but on the way back I'd probably be grumpy whatever it was like.
Thanks maillotjaune. I have had a look at the Novotel in Beaune and it looks nice. That is a good place to stop on the way down as we only have another 3.5 hours to get from Beaune to L'Isle. (BTW: DCs are 4yo and 2yo)
Do you stop somewhere different on your way back so that you have done more of the journey before you stop overnight?
Also what is the best way of avoiding loads of traffic on Saturdays??!
Beaune is lovely. And I generally always use Novotels. Though We drive every year from Brussels and last time we went to the Languedoc we stayed here just off the motoway at Macon, so a little bit further south. It was lovely. Beautiful rooms, free wine tasting, drinks and breakfast in the lovely garden. I would also recommend getting a toll doodah here. Saves lots of queueing.
Way back I'd go further, maybe Reims if you can?
As for Saturday traffic - leave as early as you can, don't leave it too late to stop for toilets in case you get into a queue, definitely get a toll thing like Portofino suggests (have got our first one this year). We haven't ever got stuck for too long but it can happen.
Are you going to use satnav? We haven't ever had it before this year so I am used to navigating - but although I print a route from the AA or ViaMichelin website I use the map as well as we have been diverted and if you suddenly need to check if you're on the right route it is less of a panic.
Can't wait for the start of August now!
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