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AIBU?

Abroad holiday without flying

133 replies

newyrgrl · 05/01/2024 08:37

Really want to go abroad this year but ideally would like to avoid flying.

I had thought of a family cruise but the choices from Southampton seem a bit limited. Another option would be a ferry to France (southern) but not sure of logistics and never been to France so unsure of the best areas.

We have tween children and a toddler. Any tips or recommendations very much appreciated.

OP posts:
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FancyBiscuitsLevel · 05/01/2024 12:51

Do the long ferry crossing to north Spain, taking your own car, within about an hour from the other end there are lots of eurocamp resorts, many on the coast if that’s what you want.

I know what you mean re the cruises, I looked for going with my parents last summer and many sailing from the uk were over 18s only or didn’t have space for kids in the rooms. (Some had proper sofa beds, others it was literally camp beds squished in for what was a very expensive holiday)

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Ginmonkeyagain · 05/01/2024 12:54

Also with non fly holidays you have to treat the journey as part of the holiday.

We have got the train to Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands. All doable and good fun.

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MissyB1 · 05/01/2024 12:57

At one time you could get the Eurostar all the way to Marseille (we did it), shame they stopped going there. But as pps have said you could get TGV down to the south.

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GnomeDePlume · 05/01/2024 13:00

We've been doing eurotunnel/drive holidays since our DCs were tiny (they are now grown & flown). Been to many places in France, even driven down to Costa Blanca in Spain. In the main we have stayed in Eurocamp mobile homes.

Driving in France is a lot easier than driving in the UK. The roads tend to be emptier. Motorway stops are more frequent and more family orientated (play grounds, picnic areas etc).

French campsites (especially the ones used by the big operators like Eurocamp or Canvas) are very family friendly. You will find pool, playgrounds, takeaway, shop & cafe/bar restaurant. If you go inland away from the coast the pitches tend to be larger than the ones on campsites on the coast.

Mobile homes will have bedrooms, bathroom, seating area. Normally you will be able to park your car right next to your mobile home. A lot of mobile homes have a decking area which is great for eating outside.

We are going at the end of June to the Dordogne and will have aircon and dishwasher as well.

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Ginmonkeyagain · 05/01/2024 13:01

The loss of the direct Marseille train is one I feel keenly. The Avignon stop was great for accessing Southern French destinations.

A brexit casualty apparently.

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StillWantingADog · 05/01/2024 13:05

We’re going to the French alps via eurotunnel.

last year went to Netherlands via ferry which was excellent, including the beaches. Weather was fab but that’s not guaranteed

with smaller kids I’d look at getting the overnight Portsmouth/Saint Malo ferry and driving 3 hours or so to the Vendee region of France.

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StillWantingADog · 05/01/2024 13:06

Don’t quite understand, are you not wanting to drive on the French side?

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Frosty1000 · 05/01/2024 13:07

You don't have to go south of France for heat - highly recommend the Vendée on the West coast of France - sandy beaches, really hot, beautiful area, loads of kids stuff to do. We did eurocamp, stayed a couple of nights nr Nantes to do planet sauvage which is an excellent safari park then down to st jean de monts.

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jay55 · 05/01/2024 13:12

There are coach companies that do European holidays, which would get you all the way there via coach and ferry.

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Willyoujustbequiet · 05/01/2024 13:24

No fly cruise to New York opens up the whole of America.

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Dutch1e · 05/01/2024 13:32

I don't have a car and choose not to fly whenever possible so I'm really pleased to see that Austrian Railways has inspired many countries to open up their sleeper-train options after years of shutting them down.

There is a sleeper train from Paris (take the Eurostar as a walk-on passenger from London to Paris) to a very southern French station that connects with a day hop over the Pyrenees to Barcelona. Sadly the night train from Barcelona to Granada no longer runs but there are plenty of high-speed and local options to get you further south.

That's just one route off the top of my head but there are plenty of others, including coaches that include a ferry crossing as part of your ticket.

Edit: I always prefer night trains when travelling as a family because the cost of the fare is offset by the savings on a hotel room

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GnomeDePlume · 05/01/2024 13:32

Carnac in Brittany is also good. We've stayed a couple of times. Standing stones are really amazing. There is/was a short walk which takes you into woods where you can actually get right up to standing stones. It had a magical quality about it.

French markets are amazing. Arrive early, have breakfast and watch the market set up. This way you will get somewhere to park. Parking will be limited as the market is inevitably in the main carpark! Buy a chicken from the rotisserie stand along with its potatoes and green beans. Take it back to your mobile home and enjoy!

There are lots of castles to visit plus quite a few walled towns. My DCs do love a good castle even now they are grown ups. Anything less than 600 years old is viewed as a bit modern.

Our deal with DCs was we would do an outing in the morning but then back to the campsite for lunch, pool and playground in the afternoon.

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newtb · 05/01/2024 13:38

Le bien assise is a eurocamp site at Guînes Bear Calais with a Logis de France hôtel on site. So you have a restaurant as well as the site snack bar. Azincourt museum.is near as well as Nausicaa. We took dd there as a toddler and she watched thé fish with a little dutch girl. Despote them having no common language they had a fatastic time together and managed to communicate .

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ConsistentlyElectrifiedElves · 05/01/2024 13:41

"I just really want a nice hot beach holiday and for it to be as simple as possible to get there."

You really have literally described a cruise there! Easiest holiday - turn up at Southampton, hand your cases over, check in and on board in 20 mins then you're on holiday! You get to see lots of different places without having to pack and unpack.

Many ports are close to, or are a bus ride away from, a nice beach, or there are cities to explore.

With children of your ages I'd suggest Royal Caribbean, P&O (Arvia or Iona) or MSC. MSC is an unusual cruise line as it's a very European cruise with lots of different nationalities on board. P&O will all be Brits and RCI will be a mix of Brits and Americans normally. They all have kids clubs and other things to keep kids entertained.

If you're having to travel in the school holidays though, they can be very, very expensive. Keep an eye out for deals. My DB has been on a couple of relatively last minute cruises in the last couple of years and got balcony cabins on RCI and Celebrity (not so child friendly) for a 13 night cruise round the Med for £3,000 in the summer holidays.

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ShinyAppleDreamingOfTheSea · 05/01/2024 13:43

Not environmental, just personal reasons. Ideally I'd like to be able to hop in the car, drive some where, get on a boat then be where we need to be but I realise it's probably not that simple. A lot of the French ports seem to be quite far away from the south so we'd need to either hire a car or do rail travel. I just really want a nice hot beach holiday and for it to be as simple as possible to get there.


Sounds like getting the ferry to northern Spain would work out best for you then, as suggested by pp above. It wouldn't be as warm as the Mediterranean but should be nicer than the UK - and perhaps better avoiding some of the really hot temperatures anyway .

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Motherofacertainage · 05/01/2024 13:44

Another vote for the train. We had a brilliant holiday last summer with our two teens and got as far as Lake Garda by train - with several stops along the way. It's not the fastest way to go but if you use overnight services for longer stretches and enjoy the adventure and scenery of the daytime journeys it's a relaxing way to travel and European trains so much easier and more comfortable to navigate than our crappy system. Other bonuses: you can have a drink and not worry about parking or driving on the wrong side of the road!

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Motherofacertainage · 05/01/2024 13:45

PS just remembered, depending on the ages of your kids they may be free if you get a interrail pass.

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ShinyAppleDreamingOfTheSea · 05/01/2024 13:46

jay55 · 05/01/2024 13:12

There are coach companies that do European holidays, which would get you all the way there via coach and ferry.

We did lots of those before having DC - but I don't think I would want to do it with children . I suppose it may be OK if you do an overnight one and the children sleep.

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idontlikealdi · 05/01/2024 13:51

I'm a bit confused, do you have a car and can drive it to France? Depending where you are based tunnel or ferry and drive to where you want to be. IME if you want hot you need to go at least as far down as La Rochelle. Normandy / Brittany tend to have the same weather as the South East.

We have a mobile home between La Rochelle and Bordeaux. It's 12 hours door to door for us.

The ferry to Bilbao is long, and all ferries are exoensive now.

Portsmouth to Caen is around 6 hours and doesn't shave much off driving time.

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Switcher · 05/01/2024 13:56

Get the eurotunnel and drive to the Black Forest in Germany instead. Beautiful, and much friendlier people. In the larger towns you will have no problems speaking English only. If you really want to do France, be prepared for quite unbelievable behaviour from some drivers when they see a UK reg. Brittany is lovely, so is central France, Dordogne (admittedly v crowded) or further up into the Auvergne, or the alps. No desire to join the huge crowds in Nice though!

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Blueberrycreampie · 05/01/2024 14:01

We've taken the Eurostar to Avignon before and hired a car at the station - or you could base yourselves at Avignon and take local trains and buses. Alternatively go further afield. Our train went straight through to Avignon in 6 hours but that was from Ashford.

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FawnFrenchieMum · 05/01/2024 14:12

newyrgrl · 05/01/2024 08:59

Is that a family cruise? Sorry I've never done one of those either.

I thought about the Eurostar but wasn't sure how easy it would be to get somewhere on the coast from there.

Yes, MSC is very family friendly as is P&O. They have kids clubs for all ages, swimming pools, slides, high ropes, kids sports etc.

MSC is very casual, no need to dress up on an evening if you don’t want. You can either eat in the dining room or the buffet.

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UnctuousUnicorns · 05/01/2024 14:23

ShinyAppleDreamingOfTheSea · 05/01/2024 13:43

Not environmental, just personal reasons. Ideally I'd like to be able to hop in the car, drive some where, get on a boat then be where we need to be but I realise it's probably not that simple. A lot of the French ports seem to be quite far away from the south so we'd need to either hire a car or do rail travel. I just really want a nice hot beach holiday and for it to be as simple as possible to get there.


Sounds like getting the ferry to northern Spain would work out best for you then, as suggested by pp above. It wouldn't be as warm as the Mediterranean but should be nicer than the UK - and perhaps better avoiding some of the really hot temperatures anyway .

We took the Portsmouth to Santander ferry and stayed in Comillas in 2018 - the year that South England had a heatwave and parts of France, a Canicule. By contrast temperatures where we were stayed reached no higher than early to mid twenties, except when we ventured to Los Picos, where Potes hit around 25 degrees. Overnight was obviously cooler and there were frequently overnight showers which kept everything fresh and green. I was reading of overnight indoor temperatures in England not dipping below 29, and was so thankful that we happened to be holidaying somewhere warm but comfortable.

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geckulf · 05/01/2024 14:36

We've been on a few holidays by Eurostar - Paris, Brittany, Efteling, Amsterdam, Belgium Lille. We live a 20 min bus ride from St Pancras so it's really easy. But you could do it from anywhere with train connections to London. We don't like driving and we've never had to hire a car. Train services in Europe are excellent. Our dcs are under 6 and we'd like to do some longer journeys from Paris when they are older.

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IbizaToTheNorfolkBroads · 05/01/2024 14:39

Ferry from the east coast to the Netherlands and Germany
? From Plymouth to Spain? Plenty of European destinations apart from France. Put your car on the ferry and drive anywhere! Our neighbours got the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and drove to Slovenia last year.

Or Orkney, Hebrides, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland?

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