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anyone driven through france on own (with dc, but no other adults)?

(26 Posts)
bicep Tue 05-Feb-13 21:18:13

I'm planning to drive through France to near Bergerac with my two children (4 and 8) this summer. Does anyone have any tips for making the journey as 'easy' as possible and did they feel safe? I am quite looking forward to this but I want to make sure I'm well prepared and that I keep us safe, arriving in one piece and not put off doing it again. I have vague plans to get early Channel/eurostar tickets, then maybe stop somewhere south of Paris overnight, but I'm open to suggestions on what might be a sensible plan. Hope someone can help smile

steppemum Tue 05-Feb-13 21:28:18

I drive in Europe quite often with kids and without dh. It is fine with a bit of planning.

we use a dvd in the car, only time that they have unlimited access!!

I plan the journey in stages, 2 hours in car then snack break, then 2 hours, then lunch break etc. I take the snacks with me in a cool box, things I know they like and eat, plenty of time to try new foods when I don't need to concentrate on other things.

I take a frisbee/footbal and make them run around during breaks, we sometimes do 'run and touch 10 trees' sort of games. French motorways have rest stops which have grass and trees (loos can be rubbish though)

I find roads to be emptier and easier to drive than uk motorways, only round big towns where you need to navigate can get tricky.

Mutley77 Tue 05-Feb-13 21:33:06

I drove to st malo on my own when kids were 9 months and 4. I did ferry to cherbourg then its a 3hr drive or so. Was absolutely fine although in france there seems to be less regular services etc as it is less densely populated so need to be a bit more planned about toilet stops and petrol. Also i drove late evening which felt particularly deserted and i wouldnt really recommend that but you can stop late afternoon and stay in a hotel i guess so could avoid evening driving.

steppemum Tue 05-Feb-13 21:47:37

we always go on the ferry, because it is 3 hours from home to Dover, and then the ferry is stretch legs and meal.

There are lots of cheap motels in France, like Formula One, you book in advance and credit card check in.

Mine will actually do door to door without an overnight break 5am - 11pm!!! But they are used to it! (and I don't do that journey on my own) I wouldn't do more than 3 x 2hours (well, 3 x 2-3 hours) on my own, as driving gets pretty tiring

bicep Tue 05-Feb-13 21:49:45

Hello & thanks for the tips. To be honest, I know I sound a bit soft, but I'm just reassured that others do it, as my DM and DMIL have been mentioning it each time I talk to them and starting to make me think that I was mad for considering doing it.

Do you use sat navs? I've not got one, but guess I could get a similar navigation thingy on my phone, which perhaps 'talks' you through the journey.

FrankWippery Tue 05-Feb-13 21:51:09

Loads. And drove from Southern Spain back through Spain and France to the UK with DD3 when she was 2. DVD player got plenty of use and I stopped every 400 miles or so, with the odd wee stop; and two overnights.

Rainbowinthesky Tue 05-Feb-13 21:53:44

I did it last summer with just me and dd and met with a lot of negativity from people. I downloaded a film for dd and gave her my ipad to keep her amused. I carefully planned journey and had large road map and bought a sat nav as well. I hated overtaking on motorways though for some reason and was terrified of the huge bridges as don't like heights but couldn't turn back or swap with another adult.

FrankWippery Tue 05-Feb-13 21:54:45

I have a sat nav, but rarely used it tbh, unless I was navigating round the bigger cities. I went by the European M'way signs, so I only had about 4 road numbers to look for. The first bit to Madrid and the last bit from Paris are roads I knew well, but I generally just made sure I was heading Northish and the city signs helped me along.

Sat nav generally makes me want to smash the screen mostly, if I dare to veer slightly off route for whatever reason.

bicep Tue 05-Feb-13 22:02:21

Frank - I know what you mean about wanting to smash in sat navs (funny, there, the predictive typing wrote sat nags, grin ) and I wonder if I won't find it helpful if I don't normally use one. I think as long as I plan the route in advance, and am familiar with the route I plan to take, then I should be OK without one.

DVD player sounds like a good idea, although little pricey.

Are there recommendations for the types of places to stay overnight? (ie motels - any particular chains?)

steppemum Tue 05-Feb-13 22:04:01

I find French roads signs pretty good, especially in motorways, and I would rather have list of towns I am heading for, than a satnav.

Done it up through france, Belgium and Holland too, and motorways are very straight forward

bicep Tue 05-Feb-13 22:12:03

I am reassured and encouraged, thanks for the tips. Just checked out prices of DVD players, and they're not toooo pricey, so maybe a worthy investment.

steppemum Tue 05-Feb-13 22:18:29

we got a twin screen one with straps to attch to back of the seats in front. Bought it on-line, not too bad. Mine take tuen choosing dvds.

Only problem is that I have nothing to listen to other than the sound track of the dvd over my shoulder

bicep Tue 05-Feb-13 22:20:35

true, but I guess that's better than listening to possible squabbles or complaints of boredom. I could always get earphones too I guess.

FrankWippery Tue 05-Feb-13 22:28:33

or just take your laptop and they can watch them on that. Or iPad if you have one. Or both!

As long as you've looked at your route and got a pretty good idea of the general direction, you'll be fine. I used to do a huge amount of continental driving when my three teen DC we small, and found that writing down the main motorways and towns/cities I would be heading towards in the right order helped massively as I could always have a quick squizz at it on a wee stop. It's really not as daunting as you think it will be.

DelGirl Tue 05-Feb-13 22:31:54

I've driven several times from UK to Italy and had no problems at all. Nothing more to suggest though but i'm sure you'll be fine. Would recommend ETAP hotels, wouldn't recommend Premiere Classe though and I can't vouch for formula one as I just have to have my own bathroom and those have shared.

Narked Tue 05-Feb-13 22:35:46

Yes to gadgets, sat nav and whatever excessive new requirements the French authorities have come up with to fine holiday makers for not having in the car! Isn't it breathalysers now? As well as high vis vests!

steppemum Tue 05-Feb-13 22:36:47

French motorway signs are very logical, so they list the towns coming up in order, and the same ones are always listed, so once you know you are looking for xx it will be on every sign until you pass it.

bicep Tue 05-Feb-13 22:36:54

DelGirl - I'm with you on that, I'd not like a shared bathroom.

I do feel better about it though, thanks all, and I can reassure my DM & DMIL that it's no big deal smile. I'm looking forward to the adventure!

LittleChimneyDroppings Tue 05-Feb-13 22:38:33

Sat nav was a complete must for me. It meant I could concentrate on the driving rather than signposts. I got a little transparent sticker to put on the windscreen. It's got a picture of a roundabout on it, what lane you should be in on roundabout, and what side of the road you should end up on when you leave roundabout. It was a godsend for me having never driven in France before, ( I was a bit worried about the other side of the road thing).

LittleChimneyDroppings Tue 05-Feb-13 22:40:14

You need 2 breathalysers. You should always have one, but if you get pulled up and need to use it, then you will have none, and be breaking the law. So get 2.

bicep Tue 05-Feb-13 22:55:34

It sounds like I need to read up on all the french laws. I'm not too worried about the 'being on the wrong side of the road' thing, but want to make sure I don't get fined for inadvertently breaking the law.

SizzleSazz Tue 05-Feb-13 22:57:51

The toll booths being on the wrong side of the car can be a PITA. Easiest if you can head for manned booths but you will need to be prepared with cash/card and unplug seatbelt to lean across.

Rainbowinthesky Wed 06-Feb-13 07:35:35

I got a tag to keep on windscreen so never had to lean over or queue at tolls was a godsend.

DelGirl Wed 06-Feb-13 08:41:00

The tolls are a bit of a pain, but it's a way to keep stretching your legs a bit!

SizzleSazz Wed 06-Feb-13 09:25:58

Yes, a tag is a good idea although I think there is a registration fee?

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