Due to the fact that for us this was going to be a mix of holiday and the opportunity to meet with some of our partners, we decided driving was going to be easiest option for us. This way we could bring everything we needed in the car, without having to worry about luggage allowance, suitcases going astray and easily move between resorts.
For this trip we decided to give the overnight ferry a go, this meant arriving at Portsmouth Ferry Terminal late evening and heading to our cabins at about 10.15pm. Cabins are small but functional, with a double set of bunks to serve 4 people. Of course our children raced to the top bunks, but our youngest who is only 5 was sadly disappointed to discover the top bunk wasn’t really suitable for him, as the only way to prevent falling out, was via a large elastic contraption, that was simply too tight for him (suspect a fault, but far too late to report at this stage in the evening), so he had to sleep on the bottom bunk, whilst his dad had the top.
We had an outside berth at the back of the ship and don’t know if it was our position that ensured a fitful night’s sleep was had by all, as it was VERY noisy and at times a bit scary even for the adults in the room. But after some tossing and turning we did get some sleep, to then be woken at 5.15am by the announcer advising there was 30 minutes to landing in Calais and t start to vacate our cabins.
Something we didn’t realise so Tip 1, if you want a cup of coffee in your cabin, bring your own travel kettle (we did), AND plug adaptor (we didn’t!), as on some ferries, there are only continental plug points.
After a hasty cleaning of teeth and getting dressed we were ready to head back down to our car, where the evening before’s treat of bacon sandwiches awaited us, in our electric cool box, which whilst had been turned off when we arrived on the ferry kept everything, including the bottles of squash lovely and cool. So tip 2 – invest in an electric cool box, if you plan to do any food storage, as the extended time the unit stays cool for, does give assurance regarding the life of the food it holds.
We then had a long journey ahead of us, heading down to Val D’Isere. One thing to appreciate and allow extra time for if travelling at busy time of the year ( like school holidays ), is to allow more time for travel due to the number of tolls along the route, which can experience long queues and therefore requires patience when queuing. Tip 3- ensure you have plenty of Euros with you to cover the tolls, as whilst most do accept credit/.debit cards, you bank will usually charge you for the privilege of spending your own money overseas. For a journey down to the Alps, depending on the route you take, could cost in the region of €100 each way, but the roads are on the whole relatively quiet (notwithstanding the time sometimes it can take to actually get through the tolls themselves).
If possible I would recommend having a DVD player to occupy small children, along with electronic devices, such as IPADs, DS’s etc., as this does help while what can be a very long and for children boring journey for children. Our children also love Top Trumps and spent a good number of hours completing with each other as to who had the biggest, brainiest, strongest etc., Moshi Monster and at £3.99 a good investment of money for hours of fun.
Also my Tip 4 would be to include small bottles of squash or similar in the side of the car door, so children have easy access to their own drinks and are not constantly nagging you because they are thirsty. They can also be used later in the holiday, when ski schools ask that children are provided with drinks, as ones such as Fruit Shoots fit in ski jacket pockets – genius!
I would also recommend putting a selection of sweets in the glove compartment for those times when you are trying to get to X point in the journey before stopping but need to keep the children from complaining about rumbling tummies. Lollypops seem to be a particular favourite with my children!
For those who have not travelled in France by car before, the service stations are plentiful and most are very well equipped. In my opinion much better equipped than UK service stations and most provide a microwave for example, so for those travelling with very small children and babies ( we are now passed that stage fortunately ), then you have the comfort of knowing that you can easily heat baby food and milk. When we first started travelling in France, it was hard to buy sandwiches, but this has changed over the years, so a quick bite to eat, or a more leisurely lunch is possible en-route.
Part Two of this blog will follow later in the week, and cover what we found useful whilst in the resort itself