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Driving to Bella Italia, Lake Garda

(16 Posts)
sanatana Mon 08-Feb-16 13:56:24

Hi there!

This is my first post on Mumsnet, so please let me know if I'm doing anything wrong!

DH and I are toying with the idea of doing something radical (well, radical for us!) and driving to Eurocamps near Lake Garda this Easter. We have two kids - DD who's 4 and DS who will be turning 2 while we're away.

We're thinking of taking the ferry from Dover to Calais, maybe spending one or two nights in Paris, then driving to Riems (with an overnight stop there), then on to Basle in Switzerland, Geneva and then down to the Italian Lakes. We were looking for a safe and scenic route, but not sure if what we've chosen is!

I'm after the following info if anyone can help:

- Is this even doable with two kids in tow?
- Is this the best route to take, or are there any other alternatives that are nicer?
- What are the best places to stop and spend the night?
- Will the journey be okay in terms of safety, toilet stops for DD, places to eat along the way?
- Do we need any permits in advance? If so, where do we buy them from?
- Will we go through any tolls? if so, how much do we need to have handy?
- Do we need anything extra to keep in the car? (I've read about "hazard triangles", so wondered if there was anything else?
- Is there anyting else we need to know?

Many thanks!

Bunbaker Mon 08-Feb-16 20:56:07

We drove to Devon from South Yorkshire when DD was 2, and that was long enough. I, personally think your children are going to be bored and fractious on such a long drive.

Also, Easter is early this year and you might be driving through snow when you get to the Alps. It won't be very warm - average max in April is 18 degrees, at Lake Garda at that time of year so you would need to make sure your accommodation had heating.

Misty9 Wed 10-Feb-16 23:23:38

Our kids are the same ages as yours - and we're flying to verona at the end of April to stay in Lake garda grin
Personally, at those ages I think car seats are so restrictive that I wouldn't do such a long road trip, but you know your kids. I'm also concerned we're going to be there pretty early in the season and not much will be up and running even by the end of April, let alone at easter. Our kids don't like pools etc so it's not a huge issue, but I know most do.

ElenaSummer Thu 11-Feb-16 11:48:18

No advice but we have also been considering Bella Italia ( or Duinrell ) but I think flying would be the best option - our kids are all under 6 and I cannot imagine that long a journey with them all!

Misty is Verona the closest airport?

ZiggyFartdust Thu 11-Feb-16 11:57:04

Bella Italia is great, but we only drove from Milan and that was bad enough!
That is an awful lot of driving for very young children, not something I would ever want to do. Especially when the stops are not going to be particularly fun for them either. And the weather at Easter is not going to be great, its likely to still be pretty cold at the Lakes, let alone your other places. Easter is in March and the temperature will be hovering between 9 and 13 degrees at Garda.

Behooven Thu 11-Feb-16 12:00:32

There are tolls on the motorway on the way to Peschiera. Haven't stayed in Bella Italia myself but have been to that area several times, it's brilliant.

Misty9 Thu 11-Feb-16 21:14:20

elena yes I think verona is closest - we're relying on public transport so I hope so! It's half an hour on the train I think. We're staying in Bella Italia too.

FieryWill Fri 12-Feb-16 20:56:09

We drove exactly that route with DS aged 10 and DD aged 21 months a few years ago.

It was great! DD was plugged into Peppa Pig / In the Night Garden for most of it though.

The route through Switzerland was beautiful but we did it in August - I'm not sure how the weather could affect the journey at Easter.

There are plenty of rest stops on the motorways. We overnighted in Reims, and then drove through France and Switzerland straight to Como just over the Italian border. A long day but hotels in Switzerland were way dearer than in France or Italy.

We bought a motorway pass for Switzerland on the border, it was around £40, and there are tolls on the French roads, I can't remember how much they were.

I guess it depends on the temperaments of your DC as to how successful it would be for you, but we loved it!

FieryWill Fri 12-Feb-16 20:58:30

We stayed in Garda town which was fabulous and did a day trip to Venice too. On the way back we went through Germany and Luxembourg having a few days in each.

Bunbaker Sat 13-Feb-16 01:32:01

We stayed in Garda town the first time we went. We loved it.

bachsingingmum Wed 24-Feb-16 13:03:04

We drive on the continent several times each year and have driven to the Italian lakes. The drives are beautiful. Have a look on the AA website for exact requirements re triangles, yellow jackets, breathalisers etc for each country you'll be in. I know you need winter tyres in Germany in the winter months, but don't know about Switzerland and Italy. You might also need snow chains depending on the exact route.

There are motorway tolls in France. You can pay easily by credit card. If you're driving through Switzerland you need to buy a vignette at the border. Again easily done with a credit card. CHF40 last year. A couple of the alpine tunnels also have tolls - the Mont Blanc and the San Bernadino. The San Gottard was free I think.

France in particular has loads of aires on its motorways, with loos and picnic areas. The Swiss motorway service stations are nice but ridiculously expensive. Buy your lunch in France!

Branleuse Wed 24-Feb-16 13:09:33

id go a bit later, like may or june, before the schools break up for summer. Youll get much much better weather to make such a long drive worthwhile.

Id also avoid driving through paris if at all possible

lovefairylights Wed 24-Feb-16 13:34:49

We drive every winter to Italy to go to the mountains and it works really well for us.
Things we have learnt over last few years -
1) as DP tends to be the only driver we do Dover - Dunkirk - its often cheaper and gives him a longer rest as its a longer crossing and you save a few km/half an hour in France.
2) we take our time - switch the sat nav to avoid toll roads and use the money saved for hotel stops. Yes its slower but we like seeing the countryside, architecture in towns/villages and stopping for a snack/drink when we see somewhere that looks interesting
3) we tend to be quite happy with ibis/campanile type hotels. Premiere classe/ibis budget are even cheaper and clean but not quite as spacious and probably a tight squeeze for 4 but are fine for 3...
4) if you do want to use the motorways - in france they are called peage and you usually pay (cash or card) for the sections you're on, in switzerland you have to buy a vignette (sticker for the window) that entitles you to use any motorway, italy is like france with sections of pay motorway.
5) the mountain passes will probably still be closed across from switzerland to italy at that time of year. You probably will get away with not needing winter tyres but its a risk - depends on your exact route so I'd just double check this part.
6) our kids are used to journeys - we talk, sing, and they sleep sometimes so its less of a nightmare for us. we avoid books/screens because they can make them feel sick but a few handheld toys are usually thrown in
7) lots of snacks and drinks - think about mess. Drinks in bottles with easy close tops, crisp/breadstick snacks cause only crumbs that can be easily cleaned - avoid chocolate/yoghurts while on move - only eat those when you are actually stopped and out of the car.
8) finally - lots of time so you don't feel under pressure. we usually need to be at our destination accommodation by Saturday night. This year we left on Thursday and had two nights to get there, and this included lots of stops and breaks.

We love doing it - but most of our friends shake their heads and don't understand how the road trip part isn't a nightmare but its part of the whole experience for us...

Malermalergoni Wed 24-Feb-16 13:46:57

It's a beautiful but LONG drive, and tbh may not be worth it given that the weather can still be quite nippy. Bella Italia is great, but can be grim off season as lots on site isn't open, kids clubs are limited etc. We've been several times and drove from Germany (where we lived). Much better when it's hot.

namechangingagainagain Tue 01-Mar-16 10:49:07

I might be a bit late to this but we drove to Venice last year for may half term with a 1,5,8 and 11 yr old.
We LOVED it.... in fact we're going to do it again this year!

We got in to Calais and at midnight ish and then pegged it south as far as we could until children woke up. We went over the top of the Gottard pass at around lunchtime and spent some time in the snow at the top. We then piles back in getting to campsite near venice at about 7pm. We slept in shifts ( have a big people carrier so lots of leg room and comfy seats). Look at via Michelin website for details of tolls.... you literally put your bank card in and the toll gets paid. when you get to swiss border you get out of car ad buy a sticker for £40 ish which lasts 12 months- you don't need to buy in advance.

The only bit that was stressful was the last hour or so.... when one yr old was gettign a bit fed up. dvd player helped and we listened to audiobooks... and a "learn Italian cd" overnight smile ( I missed radio 4 so will download some podcasts for this year). I have honestly had more stressful journeys down to devon and cornwall during the day with traffic.

We had a few crappy days of weather even at the end of may, so I'd bare that in mind and Im not sure the mountain pass will be open then.

This year we're both managed to get 2 and a bit weeks off after schools break up for summer . We've decided we want to go back but would like to see more of northern Italy/ Austria / southern Germany so we've planned a 2 and a bit week camping road trip. This is our idea of heaven..... however I know for others it would be their idea of hell so it depends on your personality. smile

MyHovercraftIsFullOfEels Tue 01-Mar-16 11:45:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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