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Driving alone from UK to Provence, alone with DC, advice needed

(66 Posts)
lavenderhoney Fri 19-Jun-15 08:09:53

I plan to drive to Provence with the DC ( 8 and 6) and have never attempted such an epic journey. I dont know where to start. I'm going to cheek my car insurance to make sure I'm covered and my breakdown cover. I've driven in France before but always flown. This time, I thought it would be fun to drive.

I don't know whether to get a ferry or tunnel. I plan to stop overnight on the way down, somewhere in France. I saw on another thread about getting an automated thing for the tolls which would be great.

I'm a complete novice and I haven't even thought about how to amuse the DC. im worried about making it down there without too much stress and I am hoping posters who are seasoned drivers across France will have some advice for a rookiesmile

BewitchedBotheredandBewildered Fri 19-Jun-15 08:57:03

My parents used to take me and my brother on that trip at about the same ages. There wasn't as much motorway as now so it took 3 days of driving!

Make sure you speak to your phone provider to get the best deal.

I've got the info about the automatic toll pass somewhere, I'll try to find it.

Not much help, just bumping for you really smile

Good luck, it'll be worth it when you get there.

Bramshott Fri 19-Jun-15 09:01:56

Do the kids have DVD players in the car? Is there a book you could get a CD of that you all like to listen to? Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince got us all the way to the Outer Hebrides at Easter.

As its just you, make sure the kids can reach stuff from their seats - snacks, wipes, water, sick bags(!). Stop as much as you like/need to (the aires make it much easier to stop on French motorways than English ones - almost all have toilets and picnic tables). We find that taking picnic food makes it easier as then you can stop where you like.

Are you doing just 1 overnight? I might be tempted to take it really slow and do 2 if it was just me driving.

juneau Fri 19-Jun-15 09:05:17

Yes you can get an automated thing for the tolls That's a lot of driving though - about 12 hours probably (and that's if you live in the southern third of the country).

For the sea crossing I prefer the Le Shuttle train - its just so much quicker (35 mins vs. 90 mins on the ferry), and it doesn't stink like the ferry does. But if you love ferries then you may disagree! The ferry crossing is certainly more 'romantic' and you get a nice view, but I'd save time if it was me and particularly if I was alone with my DC - there's more scope for them running off and getting separated from you on the ferry.

You could also take the train, if you decide that the driving is too much. Eurostar to Lille and then TGV onwards to your destination (Avignon, Marseille, etc). The Rail Europe website is good.

juneau Fri 19-Jun-15 09:09:31

P.S. The main thing I would be worried about with regard to this trip is the tiredness you will feel with hours upon hours of motorway driving and no one to relieve you. Actually getting over to France and driving there is easy and French roads tend to be much less crowded than British ones, but are you used to long-distance drives? I get really tired after 2-3 hours, particularly when I'm concentrating hard, like you have to on motorways at high speeds. How do you think you will cope with this?

lavenderhoney Fri 19-Jun-15 09:10:58

I was thinking le shuttle as well- I'm definetly going to drive though.
These tips are great. The kids can have their tablets and can treat it like a long haul flight, which they are used tosmile

Theas18 Fri 19-Jun-15 09:14:50

Tunnel always. Ferries are stressful in comparison alk that getting kids out of cars when you can't open the door etc!

We used cd audio books before they all had devices with headphones. My kids have odd tastes but we've got all the Ronald dahls ( Geoffrey Palmer reading iirc lovely ) harry potters from the library and a huge collection of classics ( my 11yr old had heard Frankenstein which gave her kudos at school - it isn't actually scary at all).

gallicgirl Fri 19-Jun-15 09:15:53

The service areas on French motorways are great. They alternate between full services with petrol station and restaurants and mere toilet stops with a picnic area and space to run around. They are quite frequent too as I recall.

sophie150 Fri 19-Jun-15 10:56:06

Yes yes definitely get the toll thing. Saves you having to get out the car each time. There's always more tolls than you think!

Blowninonabreeze Fri 19-Jun-15 12:36:29

I was surprise to find that our (fully comp) car insurance isn't valid in Europe.
It drops down to third party coverage.

Only found out when I casually mentioned a trip when on the phone to the insurance company about something else.

I had to pay a (small) extra premium to cover us. £40 IIRC

Blowninonabreeze Fri 19-Jun-15 12:37:44

Would also recommend the shuttle. Quick and easy.
But don't forget to pay the dartford crossing charge if you use it. No toll booths any more, you have to pay on line

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 19-Jun-15 13:50:11

Do read the AAs website:-

You will also need to carry a self test breathalyser to drive in France.

Theas18 Fri 19-Jun-15 17:00:26

Watch the service statins and dont rely on them. When we've travelled the ones with services on have been very crowded - you'd be lucky yo get food and the queues for the loos were huge.

Taking a picnic to the other sort was much less stressful.

iwantgin Fri 19-Jun-15 17:19:16

I would say Tunnel too. It's so much faster - and you don't have to turn up as far in advance as you do to check on for a ferry. Plus if you are slightly early, and there is space, they will let you on the next train.

Automated toll tags are great - look on APRR website. This is the one I have used for the past 3 summers in France. It is one with the lower prices for usage and deposit.

Your regular breakdown cover will probably not cover Europe. ( i was pleasantly surprised to find that DH's new BMW does though! ? ) . I buy a policy from RAC specifially for European travel - a comprehensive policy for our car and famiy size has cost umm.. I think £72 for 15 nights. Worth every penny if something does happen.

Insurance - mine does actually have full comprehensive cover for Europe. I have checked and double checked with the insurance company.

I would perhaps factor in two overnight stops. The roads may be clearer,and faster, but it is awfully tiring driving so far. Really not worth exhausting yourself. Look at Ibis Budget and B & B chains. Generally quite good, and just slightly out of the main towns, so parking is easy and free.

Pack a cool bag with water/juices (pre frozen, to act as iceblocks!) and sandwiches, crisps, cereal bars, fruit etc. And a pack of wipes in there for clearing up afterwards.

Agree with above to check out AA, with tips for driving abroad - the items you MUST have in the car - and rules of the road.

Plan carefully, and you will all have a blast.


iwantgin Fri 19-Jun-15 17:21:02

When are you going, OP?

Don't be surprised at the cost of the Tunnel. It is quite high nowadays- particularly booking late. I have paid more than I wanted to (much more than the Dover-Calais ferry)- but it is worth it for the convenience.

iwantgin Fri 19-Jun-15 17:22:02

Another tip:

If you do decide to take two nights overnight stop - then it can work in your favour as you can cross on a Thursday (assuming that your holiday accommodation is Sat-Sat) which can be cheaper, and quieter of course.

NonDom Fri 19-Jun-15 17:47:09

When we have driven to SoF, we have always done two overnights stops, eg just South of Paris and Avignon.

Leaflitter Fri 19-Jun-15 17:51:23

Euro train (putting your car on the train all the way to Avignon) overnight is great fun and saves you all that driving.

DH has driven all the way in one day w children in tow! Nutty though, I wouldn't.

2 days will be ample, I'd say.

Leaflitter Fri 19-Jun-15 17:52:19

(Depends where you're coming from in UK too -- we're in the south.)

Leaflitter Fri 19-Jun-15 17:53:22

Last suggestion! If you're feeling really nervous, why not get the train then hire a car? (I don't know how pricey this option is though.)

lavenderhoney Fri 19-Jun-15 19:02:58

I'm not nervous of driving, I'm just really keen for everything to run smoothly and not mess up!

Thanks for the tip re putting my car on a train, it's quite big though and I'm not sure it comes under their guidelines. I think we'll suit le shuttle and aires all the way down. I'm going to sort it all out this weekend.

i need to sort out a credit card to use there as well, I don't like carrying lots of cash.

Bramshott Fri 19-Jun-15 20:52:43

Halifax Clarity is by far the lowest cost card for using abroad.

morningsarepants Fri 19-Jun-15 20:55:07

We do it every year. DVD players are your friend. And food, lots of it grin

Gfplux Sat 20-Jun-15 20:33:43

With two little ones I would recommend the ferry. It is much more fun for children and will give you a break. The tunnel is very, very boring. You just drive into a tube and sit in your car for the journey. Or for more fun stand at the side of your car!
If you are driving to Dover from London the kids and you will enjoy the ferry break getting you in good shape for the slog south.
Dependent when and what days you are travelling on the French motorways be aware that the French have a clock in their tummy and will be definitely stopping to eat between 12 and 14.00. This means the service stations get very crowded. If you can avoid those time you will miss the huge lines.
If you get a toll pass remember that normally the pass works on the outside (left) 2 or 3 booths. As you approach keep to the outside lane. When very busy the lines of cars for the normal booths block you of for a little while.
Enjoy and have fun

BewitchedBotheredandBewildered Sat 20-Jun-15 21:10:50

Aw, lots of lovely tips here, glad someone else found the toll info, I couldn't.

Gf has a good point about the ferry being a good break for you from driving, and all of you from the car.

The tunnel is quick but incredibly boring. The ferry is fun and fresh air for kids and not that much longer.

It's a lovely thing for you to be doing lavender, I remember some of your earlier threads.

It sounds like you have really moved on, well done sweetheart flowers

Have a fantastic time in Provence, and on your way there.

And back grin

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