Not only is driving to the Alps cost effective, it gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace, stopping off en route at some lovely places. There’s no need to worry about the weight of your luggage or how it’s packed– perfect if you’re planning to bring back lots of lovely wine and cheese as a souvenir. If you think this winter might be time to take to the road, here are our top tips for a successful self-drive holiday.
Crossing the Channel
Eurotunnel is by far the easiest and fastest way to reach the continent with the crossing taking just 35 minutes (you don’t even need to get out of your car). FlexiPlus tickets that we include as standard for all passengers gives you a dedicated priority lane and, if you miss your crossing time for any reason, you can get on the next available crossing at no extra cost. We also offer a range of ferry crossings – if you fancy a break from the driving, this could be for you as many ships have excellent on-board facilities including bars and restaurants.
Once you arrive in France, you’ll find the motorways are well maintained, generally quiet and great to drive on. All motorways in France are toll roads but it’s well worth the cost as it will shave hours off your journey. You can calculate expected costs using the Via Michelin website. If you’re stopping for fuel, consider coming off the motorway and heading to a nearby village to refuel – it can often be much more cost effective.
Take a break along the way
The majority of our French resorts are 8-11 hours’ drive from Calais. Some people do the journey in one go, keen to hit the pistes as quickly as possible. However, the drive takes you through some beautiful French regions, so you may fancy stopping off somewhere to break up the journey. The main route to the Alps is the A26 with the towns of Reims, Troyes and Dijon all around the halfway point. Close to the motorway you’ll find convenient hotels, like Novotel, with comfortable and reliable accommodation. If you’re feeling adventurous, these cities offer much to enjoy.
Reims is the capital of Champagne country and is a charming town with a striking cathedral, once the coronation place for French monarchs. All of the major Champagne houses have caves and tasting rooms in the town. The Hotel de la Paix has a great location in the city centre – near to the cathedral and surrounded by excellent restaurants.
This is one of France’s hidden gems. The medieval centre is picture perfect, with wooden framed houses and a compact, walkable centre with excellent restaurants and some really nice museums and galleries. The Best Western Premier Hotel de la Poste is ideally located to explore the city centre from.
The ancient city of Dijon is the capital of the Burgundy region, but there’s more than wine and mustard to this lovely city. Some of the oldest museums in France occupy the historic centre, with great architecture and a fantastic indoor food market where you can stock up on delicious local produce. The Grand Hotel La Cloche Dijon is next to the scenic Jardin Darcy where you can stretch your legs after a few hours in the car.
Planning is key
Driving in the continent is a very relaxing way to travel, especially if you take a few simple steps to ensure your journey runs as smoothly as possible.
Firstly, check your vehicle is equipped with everything you need. The AA website has useful information on everything you should take. Check the list carefully and make sure you have everything before you set off, including snow chains and a torch. Remember you’re going to be arriving somewhere which is likely to have lots of lovely snow! Why not have practice go at putting on your snow chains at home? That way you can show off your skills while everyone else struggles with broken nails, freezing hands, filthy jeans and tears on the side of the road in the dark. I speak from experience!
Sat-nav is a fantastic tool but a good old-fashioned map is an essential piece of kit once you come off the motorway. Your sat-nav might try and direct you along a mountain pass as the shortest route in terms of distance, but this can turn into a treacherous experience in the winter! Plan your route carefully and watch out for closed road signs.
And that’s it – you’ve planned your route, decided where to stop and checked your car is in good working order. All that’s left to do is get your playlist sorted!
If you are interested in a self-drive ski holiday to Europe this winter, we’ll be happy to put together a tailor-made itinerary for you. Please contact us on 0131 243 8097 or send us a message so we can start planning your perfect trip.