Driving to Spain or fly - with two 13 year olds, 11 year old and 8 year old?

(19 Posts)
willitbe Sat 18-Jul-15 14:41:18

Hi
We have to return our Spanish exchange student back to their family August 2016, and we decided to make it a family holiday. (our first ever family trip abroad!)

We now feel over-whelmed at having so many choices and wondering what people think about these various options:

1) normal travel agent: flight and hotel 'cheap' package deal
2) book flights and separately book holiday villa in Spain
3) road trip through France up to Spain, and back again.

We are tempted with a bit of adventure, but will it cost so much more to do road trip and more hassle, or would it be worth it?

Flights and hotels for 6 of us could add up quite expensive, but wear and tear on car and diesel, would be too.

Any advice from seasoned travelers very welcome!!!

answersonapostcardplease Sat 18-Jul-15 14:44:02

I cant really advise as we've just booked our first driving holiday. Eight hours to France. Ekk

answersonapostcardplease Sat 18-Jul-15 14:44:27

Oh and I have 4 between 13 and 2!!

SwedishEdith Sat 18-Jul-15 14:52:51

Depends where you are in the UK and where in Spain you have to get to? I'd go for option 2 but would consider option 3 as well depending on amount of driving time.

Siennasun Sat 18-Jul-15 15:13:16

You can get a ferry to Northern Spain. We did it when I was a teenager. It was a really fun holiday. smile
You'd have to pay for 5 people so I don't think a package would be much cheaper but, as Edith says it depends where you are going in Spain.

willitbe Sat 18-Jul-15 19:37:58

Thank you for your replies, we are going to Valencia to drop off Spanish exchange student, but we can holiday else-where if there was a better option.

We will actually be travelling from Ireland to UK to go!

If we could I think I would choose travelling up through France, go to Valencia stay in a villa for a few days , then up to Northern Spain and get ferry back to UK, but it is a six hour drive from Valencia to Northern Spain, and then long ferry, then the drive home too. But it would make it a holiday to remember for the children.

I think we would be exhausted with the trip without being able to take plenty of overnight stays on route. But the cost (cost being extra due to more than 2 adults and 2 children, meaning extra rooms required) of extra overnight stays might mean that financially it is more sensible to fly?

leemur Sat 18-Jul-15 19:40:37

I think there are direct ferries from Ireland to France which would cut the driving

sunseeker66 Sat 18-Jul-15 20:46:13

We are driving to Valencia next week, we drive to Spain every year. Normally Dover to Calais and a nice slow drive through France over a few days.

My girls are 13 and 8 and we have been doing it since they were toddlers.

We are in the Midlands though so not far to get to Dover.

willitbe Sat 18-Jul-15 21:52:32

Thank you

Sunseeker66, how many stops do you take in France, how many days do you allow for going thought and have you any good recommendations for route? We don't have a time restriction so much as cost limit, so if we can make it work going across France and keep the cost reasonable, then I am sure we will do this.

I have been reading around a little on mn threads, and a couple of the old threads warn about travelling North through France at certain times, one of those being the last weekend in August, which is when we would plan to be driving back, so do you have any advice regarding this too? It is great to know that it is certainly do-able and clearly since you have done it regularly, it must be ok! Thank you again for any further help.

Leemur - I have found a ferry Rosslare to Roscoff in France, which would work hopefully.

Artandco Sat 18-Jul-15 21:55:21

From Ireland I would def just fly from Ireland to Spain. Much cheaper and less problems as the amount of strikes with tunnels to get across English Channel mean you could be delayed. Tolls on roads in France add up also

iwantgin Sun 19-Jul-15 13:55:06

If you have a lot of time, then i would drive.

Your student may want to take a lot of gifts back home. That would be a lot easier if you were in your own car.

I haven't driven quite so far, but have gone as far as the south of France from Yorkshire and back. We took it slowly, and enjoyed the overnight stops in different towns each way.

If you book your ferries early enough you will get some good prices too.

Zorion Sun 19-Jul-15 14:10:10

There is an economy ferry now - Portsmouth to Bilbao, once a week, it just doesn't have any entertainment but is about £150, then no tolls between Bilbao and Valencia, or one toll. That's the cheapest option. Very inflexible in terms of dates.

The main ferry is about £300-400 each way, depending on what type of cabin you choose. They are s holiday in themselves though, with a pool, cinema, soft play, shows, and you often spot whales and dolphins! They sail twice a week. Brittany ferries now, no longer p&o

Driving through France - lots to see and do, but from Bilbao to France costs £200 in petrol and tolls in my car, plus the Dover/Calais crossing and the extra petrol to Valencia. I live my Bilbao, family in England and holiday home in Valencia so we've done most options and have a good list of nice places to stop in Spain and France. I think it's a lovely way of showing children things and teaching them. You could stop in Paris for Versailles and near Limoges at Oradour which is worth a visit, ghost town destroyed by the nazis and left as a memorial. France also has te very cheap motel places. In Spain depending whether you come in through Andorra or the west coast lots to see.

Flying is ok but I'm scared of flying so much more stressful for me! And with a lot of children more expensive.

Mintyy Sun 19-Jul-15 14:16:18

I'd always fly! Valencia is in Southern Spain isn't it? That's a hell of a lot of driving.

Zorion Sun 19-Jul-15 19:09:59

The Valencians would say they're north east! But east. Only 2.5 hours from
Barcelona

willitbe Sun 19-Jul-15 22:12:26

I have looked at prices of flights and ferries, it is slightly cheaper with ferries. I think that for the adventure and chance to show my children another European country, it would be worth the drive.

Zorion - thank you, I would love your recommendations of places to stop in Spain and in France.

At the moment I am thinking of getting the ferry to Cherbourg in France arriving 4pm and driving up through skirting around Andorra possibly and going through Barcelona. I would love it to be a good chance to show our children France and some history. Some good stopping locations would be needed.

On the way back I was hoping that we could avoid driving through France, as I have heard that the last weekend in August is the worst weekend to drive North through France. But it works out cheaper for us to drive back through France again. So thinking of coming back via the West of France to give different scenery!

So any suggestions of stops or places to visit would be great, also how do I find out what the tolls cost etc please.

Thank you for your help.

Mintyy Sun 19-Jul-15 22:55:24

Gosh, is Valencia only 2.5 hours from Barcelona? I would never have guessed that.

Zorion Mon 20-Jul-15 07:25:46

I can only really help you with the west coast of France, as I haven´t driven to Valencia via the East coast since I was a pre-teen. I do remember stopping in Andorra which was fun bit little else.

On the West coast, you have two options, to stick to the coast completely, or to go inland a bit.

Drive from Valencia to Bilbao, stopping in Belchite, this place is incredible, it is a hidden gem, you have to arrive at 12.00 as they only open the gates once a day. It is a village destroyed in the spanish civil war and abandoned. Have you seen Pan´s Labyrinth? It was filmed there, it has bombed out cathedrals, one with the bomb still embedded in the tower! Also, I never learned a thing about the Spanish ivil war at school, but it is such important recent history and explains a lot how incredible a country it is to go transition so quickly to democracy etc etc. Incidentally, Valencia was the only place never to fall to Franco's forces which is why it is so modern, it was heavily bombarded by land and sea. Or if history isn't your thing, Zaragoza (half way point, about 4 hours) where you could go to the big shopping mall (Puerto Venezia - I go to Ikea for lunch here!!) or into the city itself. OR, instead, if you carry on another hour, hour and a half, visit the vineyards of La Rioja, the buildings have been designed by famous architects so they are often fun for children as well as adults.
disfrutavitoria.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/rioja-03.jpg here is one, sorry i Can't do licky links on my spanish keyboard!

Then towards Bilbao, up via San Sebastian (both these towns have good things to see, Bilbao has the famous Guggenheim museum which you could do in a couple of hours and San Sebastian has the incredible old town and the famous pintxos (tapas). But I would cross the border into France to do your first overnight because of the cheaper accomodation. Biarritz would be a nice plae to stay, it might be too far to get up to Bordeaux. From there, you can stick to the cost, or go inland a bit. I usually go inland because I stop at Oradour sur-glane, I mentioned it before, really moving and worth a visit if your children are old enough/have studied nazi germany at school. It is horrific at the same time. I then overnight in Paris (or the outskirts!) THen calais.

THe other way has Mont St-Michel, I´d really like to visit there one day, and you can get a ferry from Le Havre or maybe even direct to Ireland from there.

I'm sorry I can't help much with the way down. Maybe you could stop in Provence? Avignon for the papal palace? I'm really excited for your holiday now, you're going to have an amazing time!

iwantgin Mon 20-Jul-15 07:37:29

If you go right down the middle of France you will go over the Millau Viaduct.That is quite impressive.

We generally visit theSW coast of France - so tend to veer over to that direction - but one year we drove up from Llanguedoc Roussillon area to Paris. This route took us up mid France.

willitbe Mon 20-Jul-15 16:22:57

Zorion - thank you you are a gem. My husband and daughter are big history fans, I and my boys are more for good scenery, so we will aim to do a bit of both. Guggenheim museum would be good I think. We will definitely visit Oreadour sur-glane, my children had the amazing opportunity recently to hear an Auschwitz survivor tell his story. You have given me great inspiration for that return journey. I will look up places to stop over in Biarritz.

Iwantgin - going over a viaduct would be novel for the children, I will look at the mid-france route too.

Is there any website that lists where / how much the tolls are on the main routes?

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