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Why we'll never fly to France again

When my husband suggested driving out to the French Alps for our desperately needed

Christmas break, I laughed out loud. We have a six-year-old and a two-year-old. The journey

is 14 hours door-to-door on a non-stop run. My youngest son gets car sick. My answer was a

resounding NO.

So, we booked flights and began the all-too-familiar anxious countdown, hoping Covid

wouldn’t cancel yet another holiday. But we didn’t bank on Omicron. Four days before we

were due to fly, President Macron announced that Brits were no longer allowed into France.

We had 48 hours to get there before the ban came into force.

We sprang into a panic-fuelled, adrenalin-filled, intensely stressful mission to make it to the

mountains. Luckily, we were headed to our family-owned apartment, so changing an

accommodation booking was not an issue. We just had to sort out how we were going to

get there in time.

British Airways were unable to move our flights, so my husband’s original plan A came into

force. We had no choice but to drive. With little time to think about how the kids would

cope on the journey, we hurriedly booked a Eurotunnel, manically did all the pre-travel

Covid tests and paperwork, frantically packed our bags and hot-footed it to Folkestone.

By 8pm the same day, we were on French soil and by 5am the next day, after a heroic

overnight driving effort from my husband, we arrived in Vaujany. I wouldn’t say that the

drive was an enjoyable experience, but it was far from the nightmare I had always imagined

it would be. In fact, in future we’ll choose to drive over flying. Hear me out!

First of all, in comparison to the getting through the airport with two young kids in tow, the

Eurotunnel procedure was an absolute dream. I would highly recommend booking the

Flexiplus option if you can. This gives you priority access to board any train you choose, with

no need to pre-book ahead.

There’s no trek from a car park, lugging your bags to the terminal. No standing around in the

check-in, trying to keep the kids in the queue. No faffing around at security, removing shoes

and unpacking nappy bags. No mad rush to the gate, followed by the predictably long wait

to board.

Ditto on arrival. No waiting to get off the plane, holding the children back like greyhounds in

a trap. No endless queue at passport control with them disappearing under barriers. No

tedious wait at baggage claim trying to stop them riding the conveyor belt. No schlep to the

car hire office to pick up a vehicle that’s inevitably too small for your family and luggage.

You simply drive up, check in electronically, go through passport checks through your car

window, board the train, sit tight for 35 minutes and drive off – all without having to leave

your vehicle. As pandemic travelling goes, it’s also the far safer option and you arrive at your

destination having had very little exposure to other people.

Then there is the price of travel. Flights for the four of us for the Christmas break had set us

back around £2,000, on top of which was the cost of a hire car in France. The Eurotunnel, at

very late notice and on the most expensive ticket option, cost just £500. Of course, you have

fuel costs to consider, but it still worked out cheaper overall.

Unlike airlines, the Eurotunnel operates a pricing structure that doesn’t fluctuate massively

with school holidays (although Flexiplus tickets are subject to peak day charges). The fee

also covers your car and up to nine passengers, so if you have a large family, driving can

really make you a huge saving.

My main apprehension about the journey was how the hell we would occupy two small

people with the combined attention span of a flea for 14 hours. Let’s face it, when my

husband insisted on doing all the driving, it wasn’t out of the goodness of his heart. He just

didn’t want a stint as chief entertainer/vomit-catcher!

As it turned out, both children were incredibly and miraculously well-behaved. Perhaps they

sensed that mummy and daddy were ON THE EDGE and thought better of creating a car-

based, whinge-fest. Perhaps it was the sense of adventure, going on a train under the sea in

a race to get to France. Whatever it was, I was grateful.

Most of the journey was overnight and they both slept, albeit on and off, for a good eight

hours. The remainder was filled with tablet time, books, toys and a steady stream of snacks.

If I’d had time to plan, I would’ve devised a full-blown entertainment schedule with military

precision, but in all honesty, they really didn’t need it. Neck pillows were a must though!

My youngest’s car sickness was a big factor in my reluctance to drive, but again it wasn’t as

bad as I’d anticipated. The long, straight stretches on the French autoroutes kept it at bay

until the very last part of the journey on the hairpin turns up the mountain. We arrived with

only one incident, which was a huge relief.

Our return journey was far less rushed. We broke up the miles with more regular pit stops

and let the boys run wild for half an hour. There’s no shortage of places to stop on the

autoroutes, whether it’s a large service station filled with every flavour of Lays you can

imagine or the smaller “Aires du Repos”, which have fewer facilities.

We left our apartment in France at 10am and were home in the UK, with the kids seamlessly

transferred to their beds, by 1am. Was it exhausting? Yes. Was it all fun and games? No.

Would we do it again? 100%! We’re officially converts to driving to France. We’re heading to

the Alps again for the Easter holidays and we’ve already booked the Eurotunnel.

As a self-confessed Francophile, it’s amazing it’s taken me this long to come around to the

idea of driving to the place we call our second home. I feel like it’s opened a whole new

world of opportunity for future trips, allowing us to further explore this beautiful country

that’s right on our doorstep. So, “merci” to Macron, who in a very roundabout way did us a

big favour!

You can also take a look at Beth's article 'How to make the most of a ski trip with kids' by clicking HERE.

and her tips for planning a family ski holiday HERE

Written by Beth Roberts

Beth works in PR and lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two sons, aged six and two

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