Euro Tunnel or Ferry?

(12 Posts)
quarkandmarmite Mon 13-Jun-16 22:00:30

I could do with some opinions please.
We're (hoping!) to holiday in France next year. We're wanting to rent a cottage/gite for up to 6 people, 2 of which will be 5 and under in the Dordogne area during the six-week summer break. We have never driven on the continent before although my DH is a very confident driver. We'll be travelling from Yorkshire.
I am personally bricking it for the simple reason that my now 15 month old is a terrible traveller(who will be 2 years and 5 months when this happens and I am aware COULD be very different this year but since her behaviour has not much changed since birth, I doubt it!) She mortally hates her car seat, she hates being strapped in and not being able to move, she is a screamer and throws her dummy thus creating even more drama - blah, blah, blah (I am going to 'test-drive a piece of string tied to her shoulder straps and then tied TIGHTLY to her dummy when we travel across country in a few weeks).
The idea of 24 hours stuck in a car (we are planning a night stop at a hotel or similar) is filling me with dread and possibly night time sweats as we get nearer. My now 4 year old is fine! Always has been! Could travel to Mongolia via car and wouldn't be turned into a raving loon, unlike his sister!!!
So after all that, how do we get to France??
DH wants to use the Euro Tunnel, I don't. I want to use the ferry. I want to use it because I think it is a longer break, good to stretch the legs, do a bit of shopping (chocolate to steady my travel nerves) and I promise not to throw my second-born over the sides! I did think best to use Dover to Calais (will the migrant issue affect us??) and then thought will it be best to get a night sailing from Portsmouth to 'wherever' and then drive through, although I am aware that I may need to rob a bank to do this.

So there you are! What is best - Euro Tunnel or Ferry? No price difference between that and ferry at Dover and I know that I can get out of the car in the tunnel but it isn't much fun (is it?) and where will the bar be???
If ferry is better, what is the time difference in travel time between calais and wherever you get off from Portsmouth (Caen is it or somewhere else?)

I need help with this! Please!!!!

SaltySeaBird Mon 13-Jun-16 22:09:15

I did a night ferry, a day ferry and the euro tunnel with 3yo DD last year. The tunnel was by far our favourite.

The night sailing was okay as we got a cabin but there really wasn't time to sleep. The day one felt long and tedious.

The euro tunnel was so quick. We parked, cracked open some snacks and then we were off.

Heratnumber7 Mon 13-Jun-16 22:13:13

Ferry, then travel overnight. That's what we always do. Kids sleep all night in the car and DH and I take turns to nap and drive

Coughingchildren5 Mon 13-Jun-16 22:13:51

Tunnel. You know its just half an hour? In the scheme of things, that's at least one hour less of screaming angry dummy throwing toddler.
If you need to stretch your legs before hand, you can stop off at the terminal building.
I prefer to make the total journey as short as possible when there are small people on board. The quicker you can get to your hotel stop the better!

quarkandmarmite Mon 13-Jun-16 22:44:30

I had no idea there was a terminal building.

I totally get the 'half hour' and 'less time for dummy throwing' I may just join her

I feared that DH may be right. Do not get me wrong, I like the idea of the tunnel but thought (without realising about terminal building) that DD may need longer to expel some energy.

I have no desire to drive on the continent and certainly NOT DH's car. I would rather pull out my eyelashes. grin

Question: How many vehicles to a 'car' on the train and how much room to stretch the legs? I am under the impression that you can get out of your car. I am HOPING you can because half an hour of daughter strapped into her car seat in a 'non-moving', non-engine sounding' car will drive us insane!!!

Coughingchildren5 Mon 13-Jun-16 22:58:51

There is very very little space to release a toddler when you are on the train. There are approx 4 cars to a double decker carriage and paths run either side of the cars. You can trudge up and down the paths, and go upstairs, on a search for a toilet. Lots of families loiter on the paths or release children for short periods before locking them into their cars again. By the time we have done a leisurely toilet trip for each child it is time to get off the train.

Coughingchildren5 Mon 13-Jun-16 23:01:02

The terminal building is just like a motorway stop off. Costa, burger king, the AA etc. There are spaces for children to run about too. Can't remember which side it is but one side has a big picnic area too.

quarkandmarmite Mon 13-Jun-16 23:05:09

I hadn't realised they were double decker cars! I thought they were just an empty metal can to park your car inside!

Well, it has relieved my anxieties a bit.

Can you arrive a little earlier, for example 90 minutes or 2 hours before your departure time for a refreshing break and allow the 'hounds' to be released?

LyndaNotLinda Mon 13-Jun-16 23:12:42

You can spend as long as you like inside the terminal building but the one in Calais is pretty dull. You'd probably be better off driving the coast a bit to Wissant and having a run about on the beach.

When you're inside the train, you can't tell it's double decker

Pissant Tue 14-Jun-16 00:53:55

i have been to France many times inthe past few years - and used both the Eurotunnel and various ferry routes.

On reflection I think I prefer the tunnel. The drive is longer - we tend to holiday on the west coast of France -but the time saving on the actual crossing is worth it.

My advice is to allow more time than you think you will need to make the journey. It's a long drive from the tunnel near Calais to the Dordogne area. 8 or 9 hours.

Our DC are older teens now - so a very different type of travel to you - but we would set off v early in the morning (2 am) to catch a tunnel crossing at about 7.30-8.00am. We'd then be in France by 10.00am at the latest - and would then have an overnight stay somewhere no further away than a four/five hour drive (as we would be really tired).

Allow time for service station stop offs. They are often very well equipped and there will be space for the DC to stretch their legs, use the toilet, eat, drink etc.

I always took a large cool bag with lots of sandwiches, and nonmessy snacks - with lots of cold bottles of water. That way you can eat when you like. Nothing worse than someone whinging they are hungry/thirsty- when the next service stop might not a good way away.

I think the longer ferry crossings are good for some. My parents use the longer crossing - usually Portsmouth to Caen. But only DF drives- so he needs the rest in between driving sessions.

Me and DH share the driving, so to me the tunnel works fine.

DC may not settle on the ferry - it's not really conducive to a good night's sleep. I am famous for being able to sleep anywhere but I don't do well on a boat.

Lots of variables and possibilities - but research your options and plan carefully.

Enjoy your holiday.

quarkandmarmite Wed 15-Jun-16 20:38:05

Thanks so much everyone for your advice!

I think I may not even attempt the ferry/tunnel argument.

It is next year and we have the 'luxury' of being able to plan and ask for advice (like this).

We aim to leave home at about 8am(ish) with the hope we arrive at the tunnel at about 3pm. We are allowing 7 hours travel from Yorkshire to factor in delays and a stop (or two!). Actually, I have never travelled further than a 2 hour trip with the 'hounds'. How long should I expect them to be in the car and how long for a rest break? They will be 5 and 2!

We then hope to have a 3/4pm departure and then carry on travelling to a motel type place (travelodge style) near Rouen (trying to avoid as much of Paris as possible - a drive down to Spain when I was a child led us to Germaine in Paris -or somewhere with a similar name!).

Next day we hope to leave at 9am and hope to be in the Dordogne.

Is that 'do-able'?

Pissant Thu 16-Jun-16 08:10:01

That sounds like a good plan.

We are in Yorkshire too - and allow at least 5 hours to get down to the tunnel/south coast ferry ports. (and we don't have young DC to take into account)

But yes - your timings sound good.

Our first long trip down France with 3 DC our first stopover was in Rouen. We stayed in the Etap (now Ibis Budget) just on the outskirts. ( I will see if I can find it, as there are a few Ibis Budgets in Rouen) I chose it as it was just out of the city - so we could park the car and use our feet and the tram for a few hours. It was fine - just far enough to drive.

However looking into Ibis - there aren't really any rooms for 4. We were a party of 5 - and had two rooms. One adult in each room - a triple room, and a twin room. The B & B chain do rooms for 4 though -and they are good value.

Happy planning.

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