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Driving in France in August - Black Saturday?

(37 Posts)
snowgirl1 Mon 06-Mar-17 09:11:18

We're thinking of driving to the South of France (possibly spending a few days in The Jura on the way) for our summer holiday. We have to go in school holidays and were thinking of going for the first two weeks in August to try and avoid the travel chaos from the major work that will be going on at London Waterloo in August. We've never driven to the South of France before, but I can vaguely remember someone saying that there was a 'Black Saturday' in France when the traffic is horrendous as everyone in France takes their annual holiday and drives south. Anyone know what dates are likely to be worse for traffic/driving?

OP’s posts: |
magimedi Mon 06-Mar-17 09:17:42

You want to go to this site:,langen.html

You should be able to find out the worst predicted days for traffic.

elelfrance Mon 06-Mar-17 09:28:36

Generally speaking, black Saturday is the first Saturday of August ... but any Saturday in July and August is going to be very busy

Avoiding the holiday traffic is something of a game in France ... a lot of people who leave the Paris region and drive to the South will leave in the middle of the night, and drive all night shock

You'd want to avoid the Paris area main motorways (A6/A10 are the worst) from around 8am till mid-afternoon .... the other catchpoint is around Lyon if you're heading South-East later in the day, Bordeaux if you're heading South West

usernameblock Mon 06-Mar-17 10:02:38

The Saturday around the 15th August is the worst we've encountered (we go for 2 weeks every year, all over). The 15th is a public holiday & everyone goes home after that, so any route from a holiday destination towards a major city will be busy. We've travelled on that day in the other direction & had the road to ourselves, smirking as we zoomed past the massive queues on the other side! On the plus side, it means the last 2 weeks of August are usually much quieter.

dreamingofsun Mon 06-Mar-17 14:55:58

we travelled from st malo to the vendee in july - when the schools broke up here on a saturday and it was a nightmare. long queues at all the tolls. definately wouldnt do that again - added a lot of time to our journey

snowgirl1 Mon 06-Mar-17 14:56:40

Thank you all for your feedback.

Looking at the website magimedi linked to it looks like 'black Saturday' is 29th July, with the 5th Aug not being much better. And as usernameblock said, 12th August also looks really bad. Hmm, might have to re-think our plans and travel mid-week to mid-week.

OP’s posts: |
histinyhandsarefrozen Mon 06-Mar-17 14:58:30

I did it once. Never again. People were pissing outside the service stations because the queues for the loos were so long. And there was no baguettes left. shock

eddiemairswife Mon 06-Mar-17 15:08:49

We used to go to the South of France late July, and avoided travelling on the autoroutes as much as possible. The routes nationales were quick, easy, and so much more interesting to travel on.

BorisJohnsonsHair Mon 06-Mar-17 15:14:00

Avoid Paris and use the toll roads. We did it last year and it was OK. (Apart from the tunnel on the way back - quite a hold up but think it was something out of the ordinary)

snowgirl1 Mon 06-Mar-17 18:54:03

Running out of baguettes? Zut alors. You're making re-think our holiday plans! Sounds horrendous.

OP’s posts: |
oldwife Mon 06-Mar-17 21:52:42

I've always made sure that we do very little travel on Saturdays. Tend to get a ferry/tunnel for weds / Thurs and add a couple of days on to the holiday. Stop off en route do at least some of the driving has been completed prior to a Saturday villa check in.

CardinalSin Tue 07-Mar-17 09:52:08

You can always stop off for a night on the way and then continue your journey the following day (depending on the flexibility of your accommodation). Also, you can plan routes in advance for avoiding some of the worst blackspots - for instance instead of trying to drive through Lyon on the A6, you can choose an alternative route round the city via the Peripherique (D383), or coming off the A6 earlier and taking the A46/N346 (the Rocade).

Ancienchateau Wed 08-Mar-17 13:17:26

I think it's 29 July this year. You can pretty much expect to double your journey time by driving south at any time on that day. We once left at 4am (we live in The Centre) and it still took us 14 hours to get to Narbonne. Sunday will be pretty awful too. Travel mid week if possible. Also coming back to the Tunnel/Calais during the weekend in August you can expect it to be heaving (traffic not so bad).

MrsJW15 Wed 08-Mar-17 15:18:17

We did it once a couple of years ago and the return traffic on that middle of August Saturday was terrible. It's definitely better if you can split the journey up into stages and take a couple of days to do it. Alternatively (or additionally) driving during the week would be better.

Babbaganush Wed 08-Mar-17 16:02:05

If you are able to travel midweek that is a much better option than driving on Saturdays in August. We've only gone as far as the West Coast and found the traffic terrible - we used the toll rolls as much as possible, the congestion at the tolls and around the major intersections at towns and cities was really bad. The service areas were so full it was hard to park - cars everywhere, I've never seen anything like it!!!

surreynotsurrey Sun 12-Mar-17 08:04:51

Two years ago, we drove to the Vendee on the first Saturday of August and it wasn't bad at all, but we didn't go anywhere near Paris.

grendel Sat 18-Mar-17 17:40:04

Did this last year - middle Saturday of August. Knew it was not ideal but thought "well how bad can it be?" Answer: very bad indeed! Never again. We were heading north from down near Carcassone. Took us something like 10 hours to complete a 5.5 hour journey. And all the motorway services were absolutely mobbed. Shudder.

Chewbecca Sat 18-Mar-17 17:43:52

We did black Saturday once by accident, like others - never again! We drove from Bayonne into Northern Spain that day. Took about 2.5 times longer than it should've.

Worst thing for us was the queues for the service station & petrol stations backed all the way down the slip road to the service station and onto the motorway itself.

The queues for the border were also shocking and the whole day was nose to bumper, stressful driving conditions, it was exhausting.

5foot5 Sun 19-Mar-17 22:49:49

Yup. Another one here who did it once by accident and sure enough traffic was terrible.

One unexpected thing though was at the motorway tollbooth someone was giving out goody bags! I think ours had a reflective vest (so if we had known we didn't need to shell out for one at the ferry terminal), a can of Red Bull, a colouring book and crayons, some gaffe tape and a leaflet listing 101 things to do with gaffer tape.

Quite a thoughtful touch really.

Huldra Mon 20-Mar-17 08:51:08

I would definitely play around with the dates a little.

Make it down to the Jura on the Friday, weekend there and then set off to the South on the Monday could work. We've done that kind of thing a few times as it's nice to see a different area, 2 holidays for the price of one.

If you want to get to the Jura early you could head off to the port / tunnel on Thurs after work, then stay overnight on the UK or French side.

If there's somewhere you want to see on the way from the Jura to the South you could even leave the Jura late on Sunday, drive a couple of hours and stay in a motel. Then spend a couple of hours sightseeing en route the next day. Waterfall, cave, roman ruins, medieval town, museum etc You would still arrive in the South with plenty of time to get in a supermarket shop, check in and swim.

Zampa Mon 20-Mar-17 08:55:19

Oh God. I never knew all of this ...

Our Eurotunnel is at 1630 on 29/07 and we were planning on staying in Arras that evening and driving the rest of the way on 30/07. I think we'll be getting up at 0400 to do the 2nd leg based on the above!

lokisglowstickofdestiny1 Mon 20-Mar-17 09:01:06

Get yourself an electronic toll tag for the car from Sanef. You can then go through the automated tolls, saves a bit of time queuing for the manual ones. We got one about 5 years ago, cost about €20 at the time. They then take the tolls via direct debit.

Huldra Mon 20-Mar-17 09:11:29

It's not a bad idea to get up as early as possible, shove the kids in the car in their pj's and get going. Load up the car with bricohe and drinks so you can fuel everyone for a while. We are often on the road between 5 and 6am anyway because it's a nice time to drive and the kids nap through the first couple of hours.

Pick up bread and cheese from a service station earlier in the day, then you can use the picnic only Aires for a quick toilet break, rather than the service station ones. It's between 12 and 2 that the service stations get awful but they start to build up from 11.30.

In case you do get stuck in traffic I would make sure you have spare water, we often keep one of those 5 litre bottles in the boot.

Afew years ago we ended doing the second leg of our journey south on an August Saturday and we were fine but we did get up at the crack of dawn.

Huldra Mon 20-Mar-17 09:18:56

Lokiglow Oh yes, the electronic tags are fantastic.

There's special fast lanes usually to the right and left, they will have a 30 kmh sign over them. You just need to slow down, they beep and the barrier opens. Better than joining a queue of cars with people fiddling with cash and cards.

There's usually a link on the Euro tunnel website to one of the tag schemes.

Muskey Mon 20-Mar-17 09:32:50

We go to the south of France for the last two weeks in August. We try to catch the 01.00 am Chunnel. That way we miss out most of the hideous traffic we usually stop at about 9/10 in the morning have a nap then travel to niort where we stay the night and then travel to cognac. Coming back is not so bad. The 15th of August is a national holiday in France and often the shops close all day or sometimes just open in the mornings so it's worth remembering to stock up just in case.

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