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Those just back from France ...

(64 Posts)
LIZS Sun 24-Aug-08 12:21:17

can you pass on any tips please re. keeping costs down, driving and what to take/leave at home (self catering)

SqueakyPop Sun 24-Aug-08 12:30:33

If your car is diesel, fill up over there.

Take your own reusable shopping bags for the hypermarket.

Take your own tea.

Debit cards are very easy to use, so you won't need a lot of Euros. If you have Euro coins, take them, because you will need them in the coffee machines on the motorway stops.

If you are Satnavving, beware the TomTom maps can send you down farm tracks, so make sure you have a map as well.

Make sure your car is equipped with safety requirements.

LIZS Sun 24-Aug-08 12:35:31

thanks , car is petrol, no Satnav, have triangle and reflective vests

so carrier bags, tea ....

HeadFairy Sun 24-Aug-08 12:40:24

generally I'd advice against taking loads of stuff with you but as there's such a rubbish exchange rate with the pound at the moment and you're driving it's probably worth taking stuff from home rather than buying it there, things like sun tan lotion and toiletries. I can't normally be bothered to lug them about but they're probably cheaper over here now.

When your driving, make sure your tires are properly inflated, it can really make a difference to your fuel consumption, as can driving at a fairly moderate speed, no tanking down the A1 at a 100mph as my dh insists on doing, grrrr! My dad was so tight about fuel consumption when we were kids that he wouldn't even let us open the car windows as it creates drag! Oh and don't think you can do the same and use the air con, it eats fuel like its going out of fashion!

DrGeorge Sun 24-Aug-08 12:47:48

Ditto the carriers and teabags - if you're ferrying (Dover-Calais) make sure you've plenty of petrol and avoid filling up on the motorway out of Calais - there were massive queues going both ways at the petrol stations (30-40 mins). Also try to ensure you have petrol for Sundays - many petrol stations close on Sundays, they may say they are 24h but this is for the automated pumps which don't take British cards!

You can get more or less everything else in French Supermarkets apart from Curry sauce, so if you're partial to curry take some of that!

ChippyMinton Sun 24-Aug-08 15:31:45

Leave space in the car for bringing home the stuff acquired on holiday: in our case 3 bodyboards, boules and a swimming pool cover (hypermarket bargain )

Take favourite sharp knife.
Have coins for using the automated tollbooths, or use credit card, to avoid longest queues.
Shop around for petrol, prices vary wildly.

AnotherFineMess Sun 24-Aug-08 15:34:36

Check out this regarding what cards to avoid spending on when abroad.

SqueakyPop Sun 24-Aug-08 15:41:13

We could have done with a sharp knife in our place in France. The one they supplied was rubbish!

In the hypermarket, you will probably have to weigh your own fruit and veg and put a sticker on it before appearing at the checkout.

BecauseImWorthIt Sun 24-Aug-08 16:04:56

You will also need a spare set of bulbs for your car - a French requirement.

Things we have found difficult to buy in France include:

risotto rice
fresh Parmesan (although that has been better/more available in recent years)
Cheddar cheese - yes, I know, French cheese is wonderful, but there are some recipes that require a cheese sauce, and the nearest you will get to it is Emmenthal, which not all children like!
cornflour - can't remember why we needed it, but we couldn't find it!
indian spices

So worth taking these if this is the kind of cooking you're likely to do.

SqueakyPop Sun 24-Aug-08 16:13:38

You also need headlight deflectors, even if you don't plan to drive at night.

I just went to Halfords and bought everything in the France column. We actually did use our reflective vests.

BecauseImWorthIt Sun 24-Aug-08 16:14:38

What for SP? - I've always wondered about those!

SqueakyPop Sun 24-Aug-08 16:17:00

Not a breakdown on the motorway, thankfully.

We had to remove our roofbox in order to park in an underground car park in Paris. When it came to putting it back on, we were on the side of quite a fast road (next to the Arc de Triomphe, but Parisien drivers do not slow down even in the centre of the city). It was a very grey day - we just felt safer being more visible.

I plan to use it if I take my bike out at night.

Sorry hijack thread, but Squeakypop we've done the "quick removal of a roof box in the middle of a busy road in Paris in order to enter an underground car park" too grin Also known friends to do so as well. Think it's more popular than you think!

So tip - if taking a roofbox, remove it and leave at your accomadation all holiday if you can wink

Aero Sun 24-Aug-08 23:26:05

Take about half the clothes you think you'll need if there is a washing machine where you're staying. Take your own small pack washing tablets and some clothes pegs.

Definitely take your own sharp knife (you can buy a corkscrew if necessary).

Food is expensive in France, so I was glad I'd taken cupboard items from home (tuna, sauces etc). We also brought some frozen meat which was well packed with ice packs and stayed frozen until we arrived. Meat seemed very expensive there. Take your own bags to pack shopping in.

Picnic lots - that keeps costs down. We also BBQ'd quite a bit. Creperies/pizzeria/brasseries were reasonable - about the same as home, so we also ate out a few times. Restaurants are happy to serve you a pichet d'eau (tap water) which saves buying endless drinks.

Best petrol price we could get (we got home yesterday) was E1.36/lr. If you fill up at Calais (E1.46/lr) or at home (£1.10/lr), it will be cheaper than the motorway (E1.56/lr).

I took Euros (and a few travellers cheques in case we ran out) rather than using my card as it costs min £1.75 each time the card is used. Also, with the cash, it was easier to budget how much we could afford to spend each day without getting a bank statement shock on our return!

There seem to be lots of local fete/festivals going on at the moment and they're a cheap and entertaining day out. The one we went to had loads of free things going on the children could get involved in and have a go at.

The other thing we found is that the tourist info places are keen to tell you about the expensive things to do, but not always volunteering info about things the locals do cheaply or free (forest walks with decent play areas etc). Outdoor pools are usually cheap too if there's one near you.

I hope you get better weather than we did! Enjoy........we did (despite the unpredictable weather).

Marina Sun 24-Aug-08 23:40:25

Definitely take own sharp knives and tin opener. Tea, too. All French tea is dreadful (apart from the tisanes of course).
If you can read French LIZS you will be reassured by the similar angst in the press over credit crunch and personal belt-tightening across the channel. They have been similarly taxed with high food prices, so much so that the supermarkets are now reducing fresh produce prices to try and lure customers back in - there has been a big slump in spending on fruit and veg apparently. And they are all picnicing on holiday, not lunching out - so you will be in good company with your sandwiches.
Shop seasonally - buy whatever is in the markets. Bagged salad is very costly. A frisee the size of a cushion is much better value...if you can get the kids to eat it. Green beans and the first of the French crop of apples were cheap. There was a glut of cauliflowers hmm. Look out for the bogof promos in supermarkets for things like pasta and brioche and take your own breakfast cereal if you want, because it will cost a lot more over there. If you all like fruit juice, take longlife from GB because fresh is still pricier there.
Own label in Carrefour and its smaller outlet change Champion is reliably good, so don't feel the need to stick to brand names.
Chicken, especially free-range or organic, is INCREDIBLY expensive. We ate less meat than usual this time.
I would not worry too much about traffic delays. According to the press in Normandy at any rate, the season for embouteillages is over. In our second week there (just back) virtually all of the families on the beach during the week, were English - a disconcerting experience. The French all tipped up again at the weekend.
Agree that there are lots of low price things to do in France, but we found TICs quite willing to tell us about them. We did some great waymarked walks and a set of leaflets cost us 4 euros in total. OK, so the kids maintained their best day out was the massively more expensive Cite de la Mer in Cherbourg (which was excellent and so it should be at 65 euros for four of us shock), but we had quite an economical fortnight overall.

DontNeedAnything Sun 24-Aug-08 23:40:47

Plan youur route on Via michellin before you go even if you are using SatNav. It tells you when and how much hte Tolls are so that you can have roughly the right cash ready before you hand over the ticket. Saves you fumbling through your purse while the car behind is waiting.

Make sure your Hi Vis vest is in the body of the car. It is not allowed to be in hte boot. Hi Vis vest was actually cheaper on the Ferry than in Halfords (£6 I think) as were headlight deflectors.

Buy a spare set of headlight deflectors on teh ferry as one had fallen off by the time we had reached the destination (although in heavy rain). We couldn't find any to buy so just crossed our fingers that we didn't get pulled (and it worked wink)

Make sure your V5 is in the car at all times (legal requirement).

You can't buy baked beans anywhere in France, so if you want any to go with a BBQ or anything take some from home. we also struggled to get "squash" - and what we did get was vile. DTDs are very specific about their requirements and we ended up drinking loads of fizzy drinks to avoid them dehydrating.

Marina Sun 24-Aug-08 23:44:11

Oh, and, apparently, you need a vest for every person in the car
They are waiting for us on the A26...

DontNeedAnything Sun 24-Aug-08 23:47:57

Yes we were unsure about that Marina. I told DP we needed 1 each and he laughed in my face and refused to get more than 1. We didn't get pulled though to find out.

Marina Sun 24-Aug-08 23:50:00

We were warned by friends who were pulled and got a nice fine so went prepared.
They are devils, those French traffic police - I am sure that the law comes into force in October but they have been applying it since July

DontNeedAnything Sun 24-Aug-08 23:54:06

Everywhere I have read said 1 July.

The only place that I have seen Oct quoted is here on MN where someone said that they saw in a newspaper that it was being delayed to Oct.

DontNeedAnything Sun 24-Aug-08 23:55:45

Oh and in many swimming pools boys/men have to have "trunks" rather than swim shorts.

aznerak Mon 25-Aug-08 09:32:32

So much controversy over this hi vi jacket thing.
As far as we know, it has been delayed until October 1st. We were recently in France and chatted to a local policeman about it. He also said only the driver needed a vest. They may introduce amendment to law stating one per person but for now, the law only comes into force on October 1st and that is for 1 jacket.

oi Mon 25-Aug-08 09:41:07

I got them for everyone. You can buy family pack high vis jackets and we also used them for cycling back in the uk afterwards.

Actually, I think they are quite a sensible thing to have in cars and they should probably make it a rule over here too, especially as we have a lot of dual carriageways/motorways with narrow hard shoulders.

Last time we went, we had to wear swim hats in the pool too (was an indoor pool)!

Marina Mon 25-Aug-08 10:25:32

I must admit that we thought we'd use them for other things too oi. Lots of confusion about the law it seems.
Yes to trunk style swimming costumes for boys and men - some swimming pools have a hardline no Bermudas/cutoffs type trunks for men and even little boys

geekgirl Mon 25-Aug-08 10:32:47

just to add to all the great suggestions here - don't eat at motorway services, have a picnic at a rest stop without a petrol station or a cafe instead. They have lots of greenery, nice playgrounds, picnic tables and toilets.

Also, the 'Eco' (i.e., cheap!) range in Leclerc is really nice and lots cheaper than the branded items.

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