If you’re a keen traveller to France, then it can hardly have escaped your notice that the pound’s value in relation to the euro is not at it’s best.
It’s not quite the car crash of the near-parity experience we had a few years back, but it’s not great.
Even if the money exchange is not your thing, the constant talk of ‘Brexit’ and the instability of everything concerning this will certainly have brought the question of ‘how many euros / dollars can I get for my pound’ into regular conversation.
The question is, what impact will the exchange rate have on holiday-makers making their decision on where to go for 2017? If you want to take the family to France, how much is it going to cost you?
Will 2017 again be the year of the ‘staycation’ where most of the country descends on the somewhat cramped conditions of Cornwall or are you determined that your family holiday abroad is to be saved at all cost?
There are certainly ways and means of making your money go further so that your family break doesn’t require a second mortgage (although at the current interest rates that’s not such a bad thing).
So here is France for Families guide to making the most of your money for family holidays to France.
1) Buy in £s
It may seem obvious but the biggest spend is going to be the holiday accommodation. We are lucky in the UK that there are many big holiday companies who sell holidays to France in pound sterling. By purchasing in pounds you don’t have to worry about the exchange rate and whether you would get a better deal one day or the next.
2) Buy smart – last minute deals
Here’s a top tip from someone who works in the travel industry (erm, me). The bigger holiday companies always price check against each other, on either a daily, weekly or monthly basis. New discounts tend to come out at the beginning of the month when they have assessed how the previous month has done.
The bigger French holiday companies, such as Eurocamp, Siblu Holidays or Pierre & Vacances will have a lot of ‘availability’ (holiday homes) to sell and would much rather it sold that lying empty, so watch out for those last minute bigger discounts.
BENODET BREAKS, BRITTANY
There is still a lot to be said for hanging on to the last-minute if you want a great deal and you aren’t particularly fussy where you go. The only thing you need to be careful of is your ferry crossing. The short sea crossings from Dover to Calais generally have good availability right to the last minute. However the longer western channel crossings from Brittany Ferries tend to get more limited and more expensive the closer it gets to the departure date.
Unfortunately, Brittany Ferries is a French-run company (and I mean that in the nicest way) and the French don’t tend to like discounting. One, they don’t need to because they are the only ferry provider on some routes so it’s their way or the no-way, and secondly because their availability gets booked up quickly.
This is something to bear in mind if you want to book a last-minute holiday to western Brittany, you could have a long drive from the Calais or Dunkirk.
3) Buy smart – French Gites
So, there are the big companies that are highly competitive on holiday accommodation and there are small privately owned companies who run their own campsites or gites.
If you are after a gite holiday to France, the tricky thing here is that they are sold on an individual basis. So if you like the look of a particular holiday home, you need to consider booking fast and in advance otherwise you will be disappointed.
So, how do you buy smartly for a French gite holiday?
LUXURY VENDEE VILLA, VENDEE
Firstly, many French gites are owned and operated by Brits, you’ll find many of them listed on franceforfamilies.com. This goes back to point 1 – find out if you can pay for the accommodation in pounds as oppose to euros. You may find that they have UK bank accounts that you can transfer money into, thus saving you money on UK to France bank transfer fees as well as potentially losing on the exchange rate.
Secondly any French gite worth it’s ‘sel’ (salt!) will have a listing on that well-known review site. Yes, TripAdvisor, that’s the one. Check it out. Read the reviews. Balance the negatives against the positives. If they have a nice four-star rating based on a good number of reviews you’re going to get value for money.
If the gite you’re interested in has good reviews then you probably need to get in quick and here is where booking in advance can do you a favour. If you book a year in advance it the owners will probably sell at the current years price. They will be keen to secure an early booking and so be inclined to give you an early booking discount. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, but do remember that most gite owners are independents and certainly with owners on our website, they are there for the love of France and to share that love with you. Don’t be too mean!
Top tip for your cross-channel ferry– many gite owners have a discount arrangement with Brittany Ferries and may pass on this discount to you – always check when booking.
4) Pools & stuff
So you’ve found the type of holiday that you want, whether a traditional French gite or an all singing and dancing holiday park and you have decided on the accommodation you like.
Next thing to think about is the family. And by family I mean the children. Yes, the old adage “if the kids are happy then I’m happy” certainly comes into play for a holiday.
What is it that the kids need on holiday that will stop them hounding you day and night with their declarations of boredom? And most importantly, is it included in the price?
Holiday parks operated by Siblu offer ‘fun passes’ with their holidays, which give you access to their pool complexes, bars and restaurants. Their holiday parks or campsites in France tend to be quite full on with daytime and evening entertainment. Great for kids of all ages, but in particular older children and teenagers who love to get involved in clubs and activities such as football. You can basically kick them out of the mobile home in the morning and just welcome them back at mealtimes.
SIBLU LES CHARMETTES
Great for you to sit on the sunlounger and finish War and Peace. Or Fifty Shades. Or whatever the latest blockbuster is.
If you prefer something a little less ‘sociable’ and more private, then look for gites with private pools, or at least shared with just a few other people. These can very much suit the family just looking to get away from it all and relax in peace.
Some gites also offer games rooms, outdoor play areas with equipment such as trampolines etc, so check that out when booking. Although bouncing on a trampoline in thirty-degree heat may not appeal to you, it’s amazing what a ten year old still enjoy
5) Book with friends and families
There are lots of holiday homes and gites in France that cater for large groups, with places having up to twelve bedrooms for example or sleeping up to twenty-five!
Holidays are a great time for families to come together in a ‘neutral zone’, i.e. you’re not invading anyone’s home space. The biggest advice I can ever offer (with plenty of experience) is that you always seem to get on better with your in-laws in a home that isn’t your own. Or their own. And on holiday.
CHATEAUX LE SEGUIN, CHARENTE
And of course the great thing is you can share costs.
You can search on franceforfamilies.com by number of bedrooms and number of ‘sleepers’. (Just saying).
6) The dreaded tolls
If you’re heading from Calais in a direction due south, there’s no avoiding the toll roads. Well there is, but we wouldn’t really recommend it, your journey will become twice as long. If you want to know more about toll costs, read our handy gude here.
A handy tip for tolls is to pay on a credit card that you can use abroad free of charge. I have used a Nationwide credit card and a pre-paid credit card from the Post Office. Believe me, there is nothing worse that using a credit card which charges you an extra £3 each time you swipe it at a toll booth.
So find a good no-charge card and use that. It’s quicker than fumbling around for French change and you’ll get through the toll booths quicker.
Alternatively, here’s something to think about. There are very few toll roads in the west of France. Virtually none in Brittany and very few down through the Vendee and Charente. If you catch a cross-channel ferry from Portsmouth to Le Harve, Cherbourg or St Malo for example, you can travel around Brittany toll free.
7) Holiday shopping
Sorry I don’t mean the interesting stuff like bikini’s and new beach shoes. These are the essentials that you buy when you are on holiday, like beer and wine. And food.
I don’t know about you, but I was always a bit snobby when it came to Lidl and Aldi. (Did you know that both these companies are owned by brothers who had an argument and went their separate ways in the food supermarket industry?). However, Lidl in France was a bit of a revelation. When you can tear yourself away from the wonder of a new DIY cement mixer or three blankets for three euros in this local supermarket, you will discover some very nice food at extremely good prices.
The meat section is especially good, with some good BBQ items, perfect for that French gite al fresco experience and a range of nice cheap beers and surprisingly drinkable wine.
For the kids, you can do no better than to buy twenty-four ice-creams that are very similar to Magnums for a princely sum of about three euros. (I may have exaggerated slightly for dramatic purposes, but they are still great value).
8) Eating out
Eating out in France hasn’t been a cheap option for some time. But a holiday to France isn’t a real holiday without trying to work out what on earth steak tartare is, so here’s some handy tips:
- Look for a ‘formule’ deal, which is a French set menu. You may see a 10 / 12 / 15 ‘formule’ that offers a starter, main and desert. This will a more limited choice, but often good food.
- The restaurant will probably make up for lost profits with expensive soft drinks so if you can avoid the Fanta and Coke and see if you can make do with either water (free) or a ‘syrup’ – a cordial juice with water.
- House wine in France is much more palatable than house wine in the UK, so don’t be afraid to order a ‘carafe’ of the local tipple. It’s cheaper and tastes fine.
- The very touristy places on the sea front or by a harbour have a tendency not to be very good in my experience. Overpriced and poor food quality. So head inland slightly and you’ll find restaurants that work that little bit harder for your custom.
So here are some handy euro-busting tips from France for Families. Hope they prove useful for your next family holiday to France!