We fell in love with France last year and we did the thing we always said we would not do, we came back again this year. We even visited one of the same sites as last year. I have always felt it is a big world and we need to see as much of it as possible but France has made me change this way of thinking and I would happily go back again next year.
I am by far no expert but I wanted to try and share some tips on travelling to France and tips whilst you are there.
Travelling on a ferry with children
I could write pages on this but I will try and keep it to the minium. Firstly if you can afford it then consider booking a cabin. It will give you somewhere to rest and put your feet up in private. I am sure they make the seats uncomfortable to make you book a cabin but really having a place to rest especially if you have a long journey is invaluable.
Have bags ready, once you leave the car you can not go back and you have to leave the car pretty quickly. Make sure you have snacks and drinks as although the food is generally good it’s not cheap. If you don’t have a cabin consider the cinema. It kills a couple of hours and you can always have a nap!
Get out on deck, even if it’s wet, it will kill time on a long crossing. Especially at the beginning and end when you have more to see and talk about.
It will not hurt to throw a few travel sickness tablets in. If children have not travelled on a boat before you will not know how they can cope with the waves so have some ready just in case.
Driving in France
So you may have a caravan to tow or you may be off with just the car but either way you will probably have a few miles to travel. The longest we travelled for was roughly 5 hours and that’s about the most I feel we can manage at the moment with Matilda (2 years old). If we just had Dylan (8 years old) then I think we could push it out to 6 or even maybe 7 hours driving with breaks. Again make sure you are prepared. Have snacks and drinks ready to grab. iPads charged and set up so you are able to get a signal to watch something. Have some magazines and books for them. Pens and paper. Plenty of music for everyone to sing along to. At times it is hard and you may feel like jumping out at the next red traffic light but stick with it and it’s worth it when you get to the destination.
If you are driving be sure to keep your insurance documents and registration certificate in the car at all times – it’s a legal requirement. You are also expected to have hi-viz vests and a warning triangle in the boot. You need to carry a breathalyzer kit too. Children need car seats or booster seats if they are under the required heights and children under 10 years old are not allowed to ride in the front seat of the car.
Petrol stations are further apart than we’re used to in Britain so don’t get too low on fuel, the next chance to fill up could be 150km away! And don’t forget to carry plenty of change for the tolls on the Autoroute, credit cards don’t always work and you can cause an embarrassing jam if you are stuck in the gate!
Choosing your destination
A lot of this will come down to how much you want to travel. Last year we wanted to do Disney and Paris so we used that as an initial point and worked out the holiday around it. We have found the further South you go the better weather you get, so if you want sun head South but the downside to this is generally more driving time. Take plenty of time to work out a route, look at the attractions you want to visit, do you want beach or towns? are you bothered about the weather?, whilst considering all these things you should start to get a good idea of the best route to suit you.
We have always booked the Les Castels sites, we know they are pretty much guaranteed to be 5 star for all facilities but you would struggle to find a bad site in France.
Eating out or in
The supermarkets are some of the best I’ve ever been too. It’s not often I get excited about shopping but I do love a French supermarket. The fruit and vegetables, the cakes, the hams are all of the best quality. You really don’t need to bring any food with you just get it there. Eating out is always a pleasure. My two love mussels and for some reason when in France eat better and are more adventurous with the food than they ever are at home.
Lunch really is an important part of the culture in France and the main meal of the day. A lot of businesses close daily between midday and 2pm to allow everyone time to sit and enjoy a midday meal, a three course meal with a two or three options per course costs 10-12€ per head and with children in tow you may find it easier to eat out at lunchtime than in the evening (French restaurants do not start serving the evening meal until around 7.30pm at the earliest).
Most restaurants offer smaller portions of main menu dishes for children and there is generally failsafe spaghetti bolognaise, plain grilled chicken or pizza to be found for the fusspots. Service is usually prompt at lunch-time as people need to get back to work so there shouldn’t be too much waiting around.
In France it is traditional for children to have a sweet snack at around 4pm so you could treat your children to a crepe, pastry or ice-cream in a café if a full restaurant meal experience is unlikely to be relaxing for you but we always found the restaurants to be relaxed and not bothered even when the children started to get tired or restless.
We have fallen in love with France and will be back again very soon. It is a great place to go on holiday with children of all ages, has amazing food, and wonderful scenery and culture – all just a quick hop over the Channel.There may be stressful moments, but with kids there are stressful moments just staying at home! Embrace the opportunities your holiday offers to create family memories that will last a lifetime.
If I can offer any advise on travel or destinations in France then please just leave a comment and I will try to help.