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Driving to SW France with 4 and 2 year olds - daytime or overnight better?

(18 Posts)
Twistedit Fri 07-Feb-14 22:33:03

We're driving down to SW France in the summer, and DCs will be 4.5 and 2.5 years old. DH thinks we should leave late at night to get a chunk of the journey done while they're asleep.
But I think that they'll wake up as the sun does anyway, which will be early, and as neither of them are nappers it will be a very long day and we'll all have a grumpy start to the holiday.

Twistedit Fri 07-Feb-14 22:36:21

Whoops, somehow managed to post too soon...
Any thoughts/recommendations on timings? We're going across on the Eurotunnel, and it looks like the journey down from Calais is around 9 hours (excluding breaks).

TravellingToad Fri 07-Feb-14 22:40:51

I think they will nap in the car even if they don't normally because of the motion. I'm an napping days are long gone but I can nap in a car smile

wearingpurple Fri 07-Feb-14 22:53:33

We did this journey when the dc were 3 and 1. We caught an overnight ferry from Dover-Calais, arriving in France at about dawn (this was May) and drove down during the day.

We had thought the dc would sleep on the drive to Dover/ferry. Dd1 didn't.

We then thought she would sleep on the first leg of the car journey. She didn't.

We had a long stop for lunch in Clermont-Ferrand - just where it started to get hot. Dd1 slept from there, but dd2 woke up and was hot and furious all the way to Languedoc.

So we couldn't have won either way! I cried with relief when we got to the campsite.

In summary, I'd say take LOTS of breaks (overnight if at all possible) and don't expect an easy ride. But when you get there, it's wonderful smile.

suntodayplease Fri 07-Feb-14 22:54:57

We did a similar journey last year (partly because we couldn't face going back on the vomit comet)

I would say go over night if possible, that way you're more likely to get sleep/peaceful journey and you won't need to stop as much. DD is normally a good traveller and will normally drop off quickly in the car, but not on the continent it seems. Stayed awake for over 8 hrs in the car and eventually dropped off at passport control at the tunnel. Resulted in quite a stressful journey partly because FIL needed to stop every 30 mins so every stop at services turned into a coffee break etc. spent a fortune on tat bribing DD back into the car after each stop.

Twistedit Fri 07-Feb-14 22:58:55

There is possibly the faintest chance that my older child might nap at some point (which I predict will be 10 minutes from our destination), but DS2 has never ever slept in the car, even as a baby. He is powered by Duracell. My nightmare scenario is that he'll wake when we put him in the car late at night, and will not go back to sleep...
Hmm, this trip seemed like a good idea when I booked it!

suntodayplease Fri 07-Feb-14 23:04:12

It will all be worth it I'm sure. If they don't sleep a DVD should hopefully keep them entertained? A good friend of mine once described holidaying with young children as the same as being at home but with smaller wine glasses. Too true!

Twistedit Fri 07-Feb-14 23:06:20

Overnight sounds like it could be the better option, especially if I wear them out the day before.

I was about to say that I'm not sure how I'll manage without a night's sleep, but then remembered I've been practising for this for the last 2 years hmm <yes I'm looking at you, DS2>

Twistedit Fri 07-Feb-14 23:11:54

Ha, very true suntoday!
I keep telling myself that it has to be better than herding them through an airport, spending the flight restraining DS2's legs from kicking the back of the seat in front and telling DS1 to use his indoor voice...

PortofinoRevisited Sat 08-Feb-14 11:02:43

When are you travelling? July tends to be better on the road than August. Black Saturdays are to be avoided at all costs? I have done that trip many a year and we always stop over somewhere.

ShoeWhore Sat 08-Feb-14 11:04:05

Personally I'd take the hit in the daytime rather than sacrifice a night's sleep.

PortofinoRevisited Sat 08-Feb-14 11:05:31

And I would highly recommend getting a Toll doodah. It mean you go straight through the express lane at the tolls and your card gets charged later. Much less chance of disturbing sleeping kids than having to stop and fiddle with cash etc.

rubyflipper Sat 08-Feb-14 11:17:50

Did the overnight drive through France once - never again. DH and I were knackered driving through the night, kids didn't sleep at all: DH and I were shattered for the first few days of the holiday with no chance to catch up on lost sleep.

Daytime drive with lots of breaks and an overnight hotel stay if necessary works much better for us.

nickymanchester Sat 08-Feb-14 12:06:38

I don't know what your budget is or where exactly you're going in SW France, but here are a couple of alternatives:-

Take the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao so you can have a cabin to stay in overnight and make the journey a bit more of an adventure for the dc. Bilbao to Bordeaux is then about 180 miles

Either that or take a train and then hire a car when you get there. Eurostar do a direct service straight through from London to Avignon during the summer. Total journey time from London to Avignon is 5 1/2 hours.

But that's probably better if you're going to the south - Marseille or Montpelier for example.

TheGonnagle Sat 08-Feb-14 12:10:19

In the daytime. Definitely. THe night time one is hellish, the 2 year old will wake up and moan, you'll all be frazzled and knackered. We used to do the St.Malo crossing overnight which kicks you out onto the road at about 7am. Hit the ground running after a good breakfast, down to Nantes, La Rochelle etc. we used to be in Royan by mid afternoon and the roads will have improved since I last did it.

TheGonnagle Sat 08-Feb-14 12:11:12

Oh, just reread and caught the eurostar bit. That's a lot lot longer. I'd go daytime and break the journey half way overnight for sanitys sake.

ShoeWhore Sat 08-Feb-14 14:36:54

Are you sure you wouldn't rather fly though? We flew to Spain with a 1yo and 3yo (plus a newborn) and it was a doddle. Or least if it's a nightmare it's only for a couple of hours!

ShoeWhore Sat 08-Feb-14 14:37:50

(We did have an extra pair of hands but basically had a small child each to deal with)

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