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
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
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
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