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France, 1st two weeks in Aug - traffic?

33 replies

ExpletiveDelighted · 23/02/2020 09:31

We haven't been to France for years and used to go at May half term or in June (pre-school age). For various reasons this year we are restricted to the first two weeks in Aug, we are thinking of channel tunnel and drive to the Loire Valley but have heard that those weeks are the main French holiday weeks and traffic can be horrendous - any thoughts or experiences?

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notimagain · 23/02/2020 12:15

Not sure what advice can be offered. basically yes, late July/early August is a very busy time of the year on French roads...if you stick to the autoroutes you can run into major major delays at the peage plazas but people do cope and in my experience it can be no better/no worse than being on the M4/M5 on a bank holiday Friday night or parts of the M6 north of Brum....

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Iliketonamechangealot9876542 · 23/02/2020 12:20

Hi Op the weekend you want to avoid is the first weekend in August for travelling in France.this is a notorious weekend where the roads are “ black “. It’s the change over weekend for school holidays so basically everyone is travelling.
So avoid travelling 31st July / 1st / 2nd August.
We drive every year in the summer holidays beginning of July / August with no problems in France we just always avoid this weekend

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Branleuse · 23/02/2020 12:22

Yes they can be relatively busy when going through cities at peak times, but its rarely gridlocked compared to UK roads.

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lovelyupnorth · 23/02/2020 12:26

Having driven 1000s of miles across France over the years only time ever had traffic problems was round Paris.

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ExpletiveDelighted · 23/02/2020 12:31

Thanks all, we are stuck this year because of needing to stay home till the end of July for something then being back for gcse results day, I am thinking midweek to midweek might be the way to do it if we can book accommodation but it usually means more annual leave than weekend to weekend bookings.

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notimagain · 23/02/2020 12:40

Having driven 1000s of miles across France over the years only time ever had traffic problems was round Paris.

Pretty much the same experience here....any top tips for the OP with regard to negotiating or even avoiding Paris...I’ve seen some exotic “avoid Paris at all costs” routes suggested over the years but have generally just gritted my teeth and stuck with the Peripherique.

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Iliketonamechangealot9876542 · 23/02/2020 12:53

Our worst was getting stuck in a traffic jam in the tunnels under Lyon... in the blistering heat...

An hour we were in there for and it was horrible. We now go around Lyon even though the traffic is far worse- at least you are outside!

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hairygodmother · 23/02/2020 13:05

We avoid Paris altogether and just go across to Rouen and down that way. The roads will be v busy and the service stations packed, but it's manageable. Make sure you get an electronic péage bipper before you go so you don't have to queue up at every péage, it's totally worth the extra expense.

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Branleuse · 23/02/2020 13:12

Tbh even driving through paris is not as bad as people say, as long as you avoid rush hour. We always used to avoid it, and then gave it a go and it was fine. No worse than Rouen or Troyes or any other city you might choose instead, and tbh, far better than most english roads at rushhour

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bookgirl1982 · 23/02/2020 14:32

Weekdays will be better than weekends. We try and avoid Paris by going via Rouen southbound. Peace gates will be busy so try and use the card payment ones which are quicker. Service areas a bit of a nightmare around lunchtimes so stop early or late or just leave the motorway for a town/hyper market instead. The Loire is lovely and worth the hassle of getting there!

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Branleuse · 23/02/2020 15:09

You say that but lorrys are not allowed on sundays, so that actually cuts down motorway traffic quite a bit

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Panicmode1 · 23/02/2020 15:12

We've done it every year for the past 5 years or so. Never had a problem. La Rentree - last weekend of August is bad, but we've been to and from the Dordogne happily for years in August.

I'd recommend getting a bip and go' tag for the motorways.. Saves a huge amount of time at the peages

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Panicmode1 · 23/02/2020 15:14

And agree re the peripherique. We used to always avoid it, but tried it this year as Waze said it was quicker. We flew through (far better then Rouen which can be slow)!

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ExpletiveDelighted · 23/02/2020 15:15

It's about 20 years since we've been any further than Normandy/Brittany so we haven't had to use peages, thanks for the tip. I need to update myself on rules and regs, dig out the high viz vests etc.

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Panicmode1 · 23/02/2020 15:21

Everyone in the car must have a high viz jacket. If stopped by the police and asked to get out of the car, put your high viz on before getting out of the car, or they can/will fine you for not wearing it. You legally need to have a first aid kit and a spare set of bulbs. You are also supposed to carry 2 breathalysers. Even though it isn't being enforced, I think you still have to have them. Speed limits have recently changed on smaller roads and there are a lot more speed cameras, so be careful. And have fun!

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notimagain · 23/02/2020 15:26

AFAIK the breathalysers rule has come and gone, it was never enforced..

As for Hi VIz jackets...at least one must be displayed on the dashboard at all times and most especially when approaching roundabouts......(only joking about the jackets the locals will know what I am on about).

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tinytemper66 · 23/02/2020 15:29

Use the tag system. Less queuing on toll/peage roads.

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drivingtofrance · 23/02/2020 16:59

Try and do as much of your driving mid week is my tip. We would generally get the ferry/euro tunnel on a Wednesday or Thursday and have a night or two en route. Breaks up the drive and means that any Saturday driving can be kept short.

Only once did we mess up and have to do it on a Saturday and tbh it wasn't that bad (but we did not need to go around Paris).

Enjoy

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Frenchfancy · 24/02/2020 07:31

Use the channel crossings to caen or St Malo and drive down towards the Vendee. Rarely any major traffic problems. Even better if you can get the Friday off and take a Thursday night ferry.

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Iamagree · 24/02/2020 07:35

This site "the Crafty Bison" (!) tells you which dates are busiest on different routes
www.bison-fute.gouv.fr/autre-date,10738,langen.html

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ExpletiveDelighted · 24/02/2020 07:37

Yes, we always used to do the St Malo crossing pre DCs, we live nearer Portsmouth than Folkestone. Pricey though.

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DippyAvocado · 24/02/2020 07:41

If it's not a Saturday you should be fine so long as PP have suggested you avoid the périphérique during rush hour.

What sort of accommodation are you planning? If you book ferry and accommodation with Brittany Ferries (who operate the St Malo and Caen routes) it works out more reasonable price-wise and they often have special offers.

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ExpletiveDelighted · 24/02/2020 07:58

We have been looking at the Les Castels sites, with some sort of lodge / static accommodation (have camped with them in the past but tend only to camp for UK weekends now rather than main holidays). I have looked at the Brittany Ferries accommodation but not so many choices.

Thanks for the link Iamagree, that's useful.

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ChateauMargaux · 24/02/2020 08:09

While Saturdays are bad, Sundays are not.... we made the mistake of driving part way on a Friday so we had only a short distance to drive on Saturday, but lounges around the pool drinking coffee and eating croissants while the roads were clear then joined the traffic mid afternoon.. IDIOTS!! We did notice that Sunday was totally fine though.. and going North will also be fine for your return journey. There are plenty of lovely places to stop over and even though you have paid for 7 nights in a campsite, it can often be worth forgoing Saturday night and arriving on Sunday instead. (We camp so its a relatively small amount compared to a hotel!)

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uggmum · 24/02/2020 08:14

We've driven in France at that time over the last 10 years and it's not been too bad. Stick to the toll roads. It gets busy at the peage and you queue for a bit but it's like wacky races once you're through. You make good headway at lunchtime as the French like to stop for a meal and the roads are a bit quieter.

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