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For many, getting to the Alps usually starts with ‘how shall we get to the airport, were shall we park’ and so on. Then it’s the transfer from your car to the airport. Join the check-in queue (why is my desk always the farthest one away?). Fingers crossed that extra jumper won’t nudge the scales over the 20kg limit. Phew! Right, we’ve now got a couple of hours to kill, avoid buying more stuff, and maybe grab a bite at one of the chain restaurants. After a mad dash to the gate (no flight delays!), bags crammed into overhead lockers, we can settle in for the flight. If this rings bells, or tolls them, relax… there is an alternative: Drive there.
The advantages of driving to the Alps make quite a compelling argument for avoiding the stress, the discomfort and the potential delays of flying; ranging from luggage to flexibility, and freedom to cost. Here are our favourite reasons for ticking that ‘Self-travel’ button when we book our holidays.
There’s no need to be glued to the tour operator’s schedule. You know when you can get into your chalet, just reverse back from that and plan your trip to arrive then. For many, the holiday starts as soon as you shut your front door; treat the trip as part of the holiday!
We all know that alpine resorts have limited supermarkets. Yes, they have the essentials, but often at a cost. With a car you can stop off at the big supermarket in the valley, before climbing to the resort. Stock up with gorgeous wins, beers, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat at sensible prices, and from a great range.
On the drive down, you can jump off the motorway, find a sleepy village and enjoy a terrific, relaxing meal. In resort, maybe you want to spend the day beside that hidden lake, to see the sunrise from your special viewpoint, or need to get another bottle of that rather nice Champagne? With your own transport you aren’t limited to bus times, cycling or walking.
The relief of not having to weigh every bag, leave things at home, and lug the luggage is very real! Kids toys can be taken, iPads, DVDs, that extra jumper, snorkel & flippers… For serious mountain bikers, you can take your own full-suspension DH beast (and spares, helmet, body armour, tyres etc.) with no worries. And, you can stop off at a supermarket on the way home to bring back French cheese, wines, spirits, merguez. My mouth is watering!
Morzine is a glorious place to explore
If you have the time, plan a stop-over. Fontainbleu, just off the A6 and South East of Paris, is a favourite of our family. The driver is rested, you are not tied to motorway food, the kids are able to expend some energy, everyone is relaxed, and looking forward to the Alps.
Dover to Dunkirk (2 hrs) is often cheaper, and less busy than Dover Calais (1hr 30 mins). If you are driving from the outside the South East, the ferry can be a welcome break. The Tunnel is much quicker, at 35mins, although (usually) a little more expensive.
If you are travelling back on a Sunday, remember that supermarkets (and wine warehouses!) are usually shut. Buy anything you want to take home before Sunday.
Make sure you have the usual emergency equipment required by French law. (Spare headlight bulbs, warning triangle, hi-viz jackets for all occupants). Jackets MUST be within the passenger compartment, in the boot is not allowed. Make sure to pack your vehicle details (V5) and original insurance documents.
French speed limits have changed in the past few years, with not all signs being updated. In fact, some old ones have been removed and not replaced! Be aware of the current regulations, to avoid fines.
Via A5: 504miles, 9hrs €150.51 (Tolls €59.20, Fuel €91.31)Reims, Troyes, Dijon, Geneva
Via A6: 546miles, 9hrsParis, Fontainbleu, Auxerre, Macon, Chatillon-en-Michaille
Example car: Audi A4, 2l 136bhp Diesel 2016
Estimated fuel price (May, 2020) €1.477/litre