I would like to take my family to a Eurocamp/similar holiday in France this year.
Total virgin, I have never driven that far especially with two kids 4,14
Am I mad or a woos. Would it be easier to fly ??
I would welcome any advise from people who have taken on this dareing feat and survived. Also advise on good camps to go to and tips and hints.
sorry its not something exiting like backpacking to somewhere exotic, but hey we all have to start somewhere
Sorry I can't give you any specific advice as to where to go, but I can tell you that it shouldn't be any problem with such a trip. I live in Denmark and know MANY people who year after year have been on holidays like the one you describe, with kids from the age of 2. So I wouldn't be worried at all. It depends on how far you plan to drive a day I guess, and what you have planned for occupying the kids as well.
Those I know have driven from Denmark to France, south of France even, to Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe. Sometimes by car and a few times by bus - I'd prefer a car any time, if I had one
I think there are many advantages of driving yourself, you can go wherever you like, stop off anytime. Of course you could fly and then rent a car, that would save you some mileage at least, depends on where in England you live. From the south of England to France it's a very short drive, and you also have the advantage of just throwing your stuff into the car without having to be careful what you pack if you're flying. It's also more convenient when you're going home, BUT, I only speak from what I've heard from friends and family and from what I'd like to do myself Have been wanting to go on a 3-week tour around Europe for years, renting a car and then just drive on, wherever we want to go, no schedules, no real plans..... OK, sorry, got carried away there!!!
There's always a first time!!
Seriously, i don't think you should worry about it. We went on Eurocamp holidays every year when i was kid (from about 8 years old) and thoroughly enjoyed them. A couple of things:
1. If you are prepared to, i'd suggest you drive. Whilst you can probably fly, depending on where you go most of the sites aren't always that close to airports, and in order to both get from the airport to the camp site and then explore the area around it, you will need a car anyway. You then at least have the benefit of being in a familiar car, and you can chuck all the stuff in the car that fits instead of being restricted by one case etc. on a plane.
2. Don't be overly ambitious in where you go. Driving to a Eurocamp or similar in the south of Spain is probably too far for you (first time doing the distance) and especially your 4 year old! In addition, many of these companies have certain camp sites where you are allowed to stay for one night as a stopover, which i'd highly recommend doing for a break in the journey (if you plan it right, you get somewhere mid afternnon and then have time to explore around there as well).
3. If you pick somewhere in, for example, Brittany or the Vendee, consider using an overnight ferry journey. As well as being an exciting adventure for the kids in their own right, you can get some rest. However, if you are somebody that really needs to sleep properly to be alert, get a cabin! The first time we did that, my notoriously bad sleeping parents (and sea seak mother) thought they would be fine just getting reclining chairs to sleep in. Within 10minutes of driving off the ferry the next morning, my mother and brother were both deep asleep again, and my dad was so tired he was struggling to stay awake, let alone drive on the 'wrong side of the road' for the first time. I could at least navigate for him and try talk to him to keep him awake, but after 2 or 3 hours, we had to stop in a layby/service place where they promply slept for several hours whilst i got thoroughly bored (and then wandered off to explore, casuing trouble when they finally awoke as they assumed i'd been kidnapped ) and my now awake and hyper brother running around annoying everything and everyone he could find....
Good luck, and if you've got anymore questions about these sorts of trips, feel free to ask.
I saw your query on this discussion forum. I have just started a new website aimed exactly at people asking this sort of question. Actually it is full of useful information for anyone wanting to holiday in France, but especially for people with families.
Please feel free to have a look at www.france4families.com.
You may find the odd error or two as we are still testing it. But I thought you may be interested in a sneak preview!
I'd be very interested in any feedback!
My wife and I went with our 13, 10 and 4 year olds to the Vendee last year for the first time and had a wonderful fortnight. We had previously been to the Normandy area in winter time and wanted to travel a little further for warmer weather in the Summer holidays.
A few points from our experiences:
1) The distance from Calais to the Vendee is about the same as travelling from London to Edinburgh c.410miles - So I would agree with gelli that if you can afford it, it is worth getting a ferry that arrives in St Malo, Cherbourg or Caen for example therefore cutting down the drive time. However, these routes can be significantly more expensive than the shorter ferry crossing options and with 3 kids cost is everything, so we opted for the Dover Calais route!
2) If you are comfortable driving on UK motorways, don't argue too much with the navigator over map reading mistakes, and have a reliable car, then driving to the Vendee should be a doddle. The northern autoroutes which take you down to Caen and then on towards Brittany and the Vendee are usually very quiet and easy to navigate with a good atlas. If you have any qualms then the AA have a good route planning service on their website and I think that Eurocamp etc also provide directions. Whilst mentioning the AA, I would also recommend taking their European breakdown cover for peace of mind. Tolls are also easy to handle - we paid for them all by credit card. I guess the cost one way would be about £20 including the Pont de Normandie.
3) Because of the distance, and to stop the kids from arguing too much, we opted to break our journey both ways. On the way down we went via Paris to visit Mickey and stayed at a campsite nearby (Les 4 Vents). On the way back we stopped at Honfleur in a hotel. There are plenty of hotels just off the autoroute and a beautiful town and harbour to visit.
4) Campsites. We stayed at Les Ecureuils a 4 star campsite Near St Hilaire de Riez in the Vendee. This is a Eurocamp site (although we stayed independently). The benefit if you have kids of 4 and 14 is that the site has a good swimming pool complex which seems to keep all ages entertained. When you tire of being round the pool you can then wander across the road and the dunes to a beautiful sandy beach. There is also lots to see and do in the area for the whole family. If you want some more ideas on campsites I would recommend visiting www.campsitereviews.com which provides independent viewpoints from campers who have visited various sites. Alternatively the 'Alan Rogers' guides give some good background on selected sites.
We are returning this year to Brittany so it can't have been too bad!!