Road to the Alps
After two years of delays due to the pandemic, we were finally off on our planned skiing holiday to La Clusaz in the French Alps. This was the first time we'd taken our VW T5.1 Transporter overseas but with a UK sticker, 4Motion and winter tyres we were prepared for all terrain and confindent that we can go from tunnel to slopes in no time.
- Trip: Folkestone to La Clusaz, France
- Via: Eurotunnel
- Driving Time: 8.5 hours (one-way)
- Distance: 874km (one-way)
It being the Easter school holidays we were expecting the Eurotunnel to be busy, but we flew through check-in and were the second vehicle onto our booked 8:20am train, then 35 minutes later we were in France!
The first thing we noticed about driving in France was how easy it is. We'd decided to motorway all the way to the alps, skirting around Geneva, and Google Maps told us that the travel time would be 8.5 hours. Most of the motorways are toll roads and depending on how long you stay on them you can expect to pay between 5 euros and 45 euros each. However, the roads are largely clear, straight and with no roundabouts or traffic lights to slow you down.
We drove through all types of weather on our trip, from sunshine in Calais, through a snow and hail storm as we passed around Geneva, up to clear roads in the Alps and then finally deep, thick snow in our ski resort La Clusaz.
We decided to only stop twice on our 8.5 hour journey at the motorway services to use the toilet and grab a drink. The motorway services are mainly two types; the larger services with a petrol station or those that are designated picnic spots.
We definitely found the larger service stations to be more appealing as the toilets were clean, had loo roll, and a cafe serving decent coffee! Tip: Don't ask for tea - they gave me Earl Grey without milk, and when I requested 'lait' they filled up my cup with hot, foamy milk for cappuccino - yuk!
The picnic style services are very pleasant with green grass, picnic tables and some even have playgrounds, however, the toilets leave a lot to be desired, as although they are fairly new, all the ones we used were blocked, flushed all over the floor, and there was never any loo roll!
As for fuel consumption; we filled our tank with diesel before we left the UK and managed to complete the entire drive without filling up on the way down into France. We did notice that the cost of diesel was actually no more expensive than the UK when we travelled (even at the French services).
Tips for travelling with Kids:
- Download an audio-book for the long journey for everyone to enjoy. We listened to 10 hours of 'Eragon' by Christopher Paolini which was great for us and our 7-year old and stopped her watching the iPad.
- Use a neck pillow. A travel neck-pillow stopped stiff necks on the long drive and was great for naps.
- Add a footstool. Our 7-year old sits upfront with us on the bench seat and in her car seat her legs dangle, which on long drives can be uncomfortable. We made her a footstool to rest her feet on which helps on long journeys.
- Take lots of snacks. Whether its just boredom or actual hunger, it seems that we all wanted to eat more on the long drive. We packed sandwiches, sweets and some healthy snacks as well as lots of water to drink. The service stations didn't really sell anything healthy to eat and it was expensive to buy food and snacks.
- Download films on an iPad. With even the best will in the world, a 8.5 hour drive will eventually drive you mad as you try to entertain a child, so a strategically deployed film on an iPad for an hour or so will keep everyone happy!
The return journey:
After a fantastic week away skiing we set off for home. We gave ourselves 11 hours to do the 8.5 hour journey as we decided to stop for a decent break on the return leg. We'd had a recommendation from a friend to stop at Troyes which was just over halfway to Calais and it didn't disappoint!
Troyes is a lovely, medieval town with three huge catherdrals and a main square filled with bistros and beautiful kids carousel. We spent a lovely couple of hours walking the streets and grabbed a baguette for lunch - highly recommended!
Overall I'd say that a long journey through France was nowhere near as bad as we'd feared. The driving was easy on long main roads and the small stops we had at the services were enough to stretch our legs ready to go again. Same again next year, or maybe even for the summer?!
We have been travelling in campervans for over 15 years, taking in the best that the UK and Europe has to offer. By sharing our adventures, insights, recommendations and reviews we hope to inspire you to explore more!
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