Sightseeing from the waterways is one of the best ways to bond with the family while exploring the breathtaking landscapes of the French countryside. France is home to scenic and winding rivers flanked by magnificent chateaux, tranquil vineyards, and picturesque villages. So, if you’re here for a family holiday, river cruising should be on top of your itinerary. Here are the best rivers for family cruising holidays in France.
EEC and ETIAS – changes to entry formalities into France and other EU countries from 2023
After a break of nearly three years Team FFF made their first tour to France this September… Since our last proper tour Brexit has happened, and the Pandemic has come and nearly gone. What changes did we notice?
Firstly we noticed France is still France…. the beautiful countryside, villages and towns of character, weekly markets – almost all the ingredients that the francophile looks for are still there.
Maybe the traditional double kiss greetings are either less restrained or absent, but most English always found this a bit forward anyway! The attitude to masks is much the same as in the UK – the numbers using them in public now dwindled to a very small proportion.
Airports and public transport appear to have returned to the previous free-for-all with signage requesting separation and respect largely ignored, and no vaccination paperwork required or requested.
The Brexit requirements on passports meant that one of our team, with a passport issued in April 2013 but not expiring until August 2023 aroused a quick additional check – remember, EU are accepting passports valid 10 years FROM ISSUE DATE with 6 months validity at least remaining…… NOT 6 months validity remaining as previously. Check well in advance of your departure date.
Travelling without animals meant that we didn’t have to go through the more formal and more costly measures now required to take your pet abroad: Kennels may well now be a more economic option for many.
Likewise, we didn’t need to test our new GHIC Health cards – we welcome any feedback from our readers who have had to use their cards.
We guess the pandemic has been responsible for the increase in fast and takeaway foods: Many restaurants now offering ‘plats à emporter’ beside their eat in options, and quite an increase in the un-French pizza and burger takeaways. Similarly in the Supermarkets, ready meal offerings have expanded – but the delightful range of fresh foods sits steadfastly alongside and we hope that this will never change. It was a delight to visit a large Leclerc outlet on the outskirts of Toulouse to find giant cep mushrooms available straight from the wood – moss and dirt still attached. Ooooooh so tasty!!!!
And talking of supermarkets, it was a surprise to find that a good percentage of the supermarkets in small towns – particularly Intermarché – are now open right through lunchtime, instead of closing from 12 – 2 which had often been an annoyance if we were looking for a quick bite on the hoof! First Sunday morning opening…. and now lunchtimes too… the fingers of New World commercialism continue to gradually invade the unique French charm and character.
This in turn only serves to increase the average age of those shopping at the markets, and our crystal ball is seeing a finite future for the marchés as we know them. Hopefully something will happen to reverse this trend.
Our favourite photographers were kept at bay, despite the reduced speed limits on major roads. and although the situation is currently rather different, we enjoyed the cheaper and readily available fuel, thanks to French Government subsidies.
Why does France celebrate on 14 July? Be ready to join in the festivities of fireworks and fun!
We have been so concentrated on the Pandemic for the last couple of years that the changes agreed during the Brexit Negotiations have slipped into force almost un-noticed . This is a summary of the changes that travellers need to be aware of.
Brexit is now – finally – becoming established and understood. One important area for British citizens travelling to the EU is access to Healthcare, especially in emergency situations.
As we learn to live with Covid the travel restrictions that have made European and World travel very difficult for the last two years are being relaxed, and families are once again looking to venture abroad.
With interest in gite and villa holidays in France rising rapidly, availability is reducing daily, especially in the late July and August peak weeks, but there are still some great family properties available.
There’s no doubt that the crowded beaches across the UK and the high cost of accommodation this year will be pushing families to consider holidays abroad for 2022.
But with COVID-19 still casting a lot of uncertainty about international travel to France and the rest of the world, both now and in the immediate future, where will we feel the safest in booking?
Europe is getting a strong handle on the Covid jabs, with availability high across all the European countries, including France, and take up increasing. For the rest of eastern Europe and across the rest of the world, the picture isn’t yet so clear.
Holidays to France a top pick
Family holidays to France look likely to do well. After two summers of staycations, all the Francofiles who love the continent and all that it has to offer, will be biting at the bit to soak up the ambiance of relaxed holidays in France.
With easy travel by car options, French gites and cottages which offer plenty of private space and French holiday parks which offer self-contained accommodation and of course the almost certain guarantee of warm, sunny weather, it looks likely that demand to the continent, and France in particular, will be strong.
Surge of interest
France for Families is seeing a surge of interest for 2022 holidays to France, with enquiries coming in for a range of accommodation, including Villas, Gites and Cottages. Villas with private pools are especially popular, followed by large properties which can cater for large numbers, ideal for families or friends holidaying together.
France offers space and the weather
France is renowned for offering wide expanses of space – a welcome reprieve after those holidaying on UK beaches this year – together with high amounts of sunshine hours, especially in the southern areas of France.
France for Families offers guides to all the best beaches in each of our regional sections, so check out some of our regional information pages.
Will Covid passports be necessary for 2022?
With the Delta variant still causing issues across the world, it looks likely that Covid vaccination passports / passes could become the new norm for travel over the next couple of years. If you are looking to holiday to France in 2022, then we think that having your jab will become a necessity for travel. Watch this space…
Contact our Owners for 2022 availability now
With an expected surge in demand, we recommend contacting our property Owners now if you are considering a family holiday to France for 2022. Demand will increase and the main summer holiday period will sell out fast.
Here at France for Families, we think there are some safe assumptions to be made about holidays following the year we’ve had with the Covid-19 pandemic.
- We are desperate to get away from our own four walls.
- We will be prepared to spend more on holidays in 2021 to France and elsewhere to ensure we have a holiday.
- We want to reconnect with our extended family and so are looking for potentially bigger holiday properties that will cater to larger numbers.
- We still want an element of privacy with ongoing nervousness about Covid-19. Despite the growing confidence due to the roll out of the vaccine in the UK and across Europe, there will be a higher demand for private properties over hotels and holiday resorts with shared facilities with large groups of people.
- We’ve all had a stressful year in one way or another, so we are especially interested in luxury holidays in France, that make us feel safe and extra special.
Holidays to France in 2021
The big question on everyones lips is will we be allowed to travel abroad? In the Government 4-step guide to easing our way out of Covid-19 lockdown, international travel is previewed to allowed from 17 May, 2021. This, of course, is dependent to the UK meeting all of the lockdown targets and the French Gov allowing incoming tourist traffic to their country. (Read our blogs on current Covid-19 status for more info on travelling to France in 2021).
France does not currently have the mass lockdown restrictions that the UK is experiencing at time of writing (March 2021), however their vaccine plan is running slightly behind the UK. Rest assured however that given the success of the UK’s vaccine plan, it looks likely that France and other European countries will look favourably on tourism from the UK as we would be bringing in a much needed boost to tourism income with relatively little risk.
So – is it a safe bet to plan a holiday to France in 2021? The odds are on a yes, certainly for high season and into the Autumn.
Big Family Reunions
As mentioned, 2021 will be the year of the big reunion after months of family lockdown restrictions. Whether you planning a short break or a longer holiday, there is demand for larger holiday accommodation in France, where various different members of the family or groups of friends can enjoy meeting up and spending quality time together.
With larger groups of travellers holidaying together, you can then potentially afford to pool resources to book something that caters for all and offers those luxury facilities, such as villas with a private pool or spacious outside dining areas with BBQs and extended gardens.
Luxury Villa holidays
Offering both space and seclusion, villas have rocketed in popularity this year, as travellers eschew the company of others in favour of a place they can call their own. As mentioned, multigenerational families or groups of friends look for somewhere to reconnect with loved ones they haven’t seen for far too long.
As well as featuring facilities such as private pools, large gardens, lots of luxury villas in France have staff on hand to help you get the most out of your holiday.
One of our France for Families Owners, Tracey at Acabanes Luxury Villa in the Dordogne area of France, offers a whole range of extras to make the holiday extra special. “We believe we are different to other villa owners as we are continually investing in both the villa and the grounds to ensure our guests receive their best possible holiday experience,” she says. “If there is something that you would like for your holiday that we do not have, please just ask and we will endeavour to purchase it.”
Special luxury services at Acabanes include Special Occasion Holidays -with catering and the decorations, a “Wine Welcome Package” – choose good local wines from a choice of our hand picked packages from secret vineyards, a “Tastes of the Dordogne Wine, Bread and Cheese Arrival Package”, a Grocery Shopping Services – including a shop for your arrival so that you can begin your holiday in a very relaxed manner! Plus for those extra special touches, you can enjoy Chef Services, Beauty Treatments, Baby-sitting and Yoga in the garden!
Another travel trend the experts predict is increased demand for all-inclusive holidays, especially ones that cater to the family.
Imagine Roussillon is a luxury child friendly resort in the south of France which offers a fabulous package of services and facilities. This quiet and tranquil resort surrounded by the beautiful Roussillon countryside in the south of France features 6 luxury apartments and one luxury villa. These are high quality baby and child friendly apartments and villas with air conditioning, plus kids club, babysitting and Pilates classes each day in a purpose-built studio. There is also a heated pool, jacuzzi and professional gym on site. Meals include breakfast and two evening meals per week, leaving you the brilliant flexibility of eating out or enjoying your own BBQ on the other evenings.
The two main draws of Imagine Roussillon though are its exclusivity – just 4 families per week – and its unparalleled location; 8 minutes’ drive from the Mediterranean, 15 minutes from exotic Perpignan and just 35 minutes from Spain and the Costa Brava. You can find out more and enquire about 2021 holiday availability for Imagine Roussillon here.
In summary, 2021 and probably 2022 is going to be like no other for larger family reunion holidays or groups of friends getting together, with a touch of luxury added to their break and we can think of no where better than a luxury family friendly holiday to France!
Summary – UK
The UK is currently in a national lockdown due to COVID-19, with essential travel only being allowed. You must not leave your home unless necessary (for exercise / shopping / medical requirements etc).
You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.
If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.
UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.
Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.
If you are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination.
Travel to France
Travel to France is subject to entry restrictions
- France announced they would be restricting travel to and from France from non-EU countries from 31 January 2021. Travel will only be permitted for essential reasons.
- There have been restrictions in place for travel from the UK since 20 December 2020. Travel restrictions apply to all air, car, ferry and train passengers. If you are due to travel to France please contact your travel operator. Only the following categories of people are authorised to travel to France from the UK:
- French nationals and nationals of the European Area and their spouses and children
- British and/or third country nationals who are either habitually resident in France, the European Union or the European Area, or who must travel for certain essential reasons (set out in the criteria for exemptions listed on the exempted international travel certificate). For further details, please see the French Embassy London’s website
- All travellers from the UK, including children aged 11 and above, will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR only), carried out less than 72 hours before departure. Arrivals will also be required to self-isolate for 7 days upon arrival, before taking another PCR test.
- Arrivals from the UK will need to complete both a ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur) form self-certifying they are not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight, and a signed ‘travel certificate’ (attestation), confirming their reason for travel. These can be found on the French government’s website.
- You should check the COVID-19 advice on things to consider, and be prepared to stay overseas longer than planned.
See Entry requirements for more information before you plan to travel. Further updates will be published when they are available.
Preparing for your return journey to the UK
If you’re returning to the UK from overseas, you will need to:
- provide your journey and contact details before you travel
Domestic travel in France
What about those already in France who want to visit friends or family in another part of the country or just enjoy a change of scenery?
At present there are no limits on travel within France so you can travel to another part of the country.
Ski lifts will remain closed throughout February, which will rule out skiing for most people (unless you are a cross-country skiing enthusiast) but travel to ski resorts is allowed to do some hiking or just drinking in the mountain scenery.
The train network is running a normal service and all train tickets are fully refundable up to a couple of hours before travel.
Travel to France’s overseas territories such as Guadeloupe and Martinique is not allowed for tourism or family visits.
Visits to family/friends
France is not on lockdown so visiting family and friends is allowed. There is no formal limit on gatherings within a private home but people are advised to keep gatherings to a maximum of six people, plus children.
Gatherings of more than 10 people in public places are not allowed and public events such as festivals or concerts are not going ahead. Markets are allowed to operate.
Advice – while there are not many rules around visits, there is a lot of government advice, with government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday generally asking people to limit contacts as much as possible.
As mentioned above the ‘rule of six’ limits gatherings in private homes to six, although this is a recommendation rather than a rule.
If you are travelling, particularly if you intend to meet anyone in a high-risk group such as the elderly, the advice is to self-isolate for eight days before travel if possible and get a Covid test.
Brexit myths – heard about the one where Brittany Ferries has cancelled 10,000 crossings and planes will not be able to fly into EU country airports?
There’s a lot of articles in the news about how holidays to France will be affected following the impending Brexit date of March 29th, 2019. So here are the facts as we know them.
- What is the no-deal Brexit ferry initiative?
This is an initiative from the Department of Transport to help ensure critical goods are still able to be transported safely and swiftly in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Brittany Ferries (as well as other ferry companies) were approached by the Department for Transport to assist with this initiative.
The contract guarantees space on some of Brittany Ferries ships and Channel routes for the delivery of critical goods post-Brexit, like medicines. It has been described as a kind of insurance, or safety net, to help ensure the smooth transit of these critical goods in the event of a no-deal Brexit after the 29th March.
In order to create this extra capacity, Brittany Ferries will use their ships in their existing fleet more intensively. The routes and ships earmarked are:
Le Havre/Portsmouth – Étretat
Cherbourg/Poole – Barfleur
Roscoff/Plymouth – Armorique
Consequently Brittany Ferries have amended their 2019 schedules for these routes and are communicating the changes to anyone who has already booked a crossing. Brittany Ferries are at pains to stress that the changes are minor ones and that no one should lose their holiday booking
- Will I need a new passports?
Check the date your passport expires. When travelling to the EU after 29 March 2019, the UK government recommends that you have six months left on your passport on the date of your arrival to an EU country. You will not have to apply for a new passport for travel to France if you still have a current EU passport.
- Will I need travel insurance ?
In the event of a deal, EHIC cards will be valid during the 18 month transition period. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK registered EHICs are unlikely to be valid. Don’t forget that an EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. It is always best to be covered when travelling abroad and ABTA recommends you take out a comprehensive travel policy before making any trip. It is also worth checking the detail of the policy around travel disruption including delays or cancellations as policies do vary.
- Will I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Europe?
In addition to your UK driving licence, the government is advising that from 29 March 2019, in the event of no-deal, you may need an International Driving Permit to drive in certain EU countries.
There are different type of permits for different countries, and each costs around £5.50. So you need to make sure you have the right permit for France and/or for Spain for example. For more information please visit the government’s webpage on International driving permits for UK drivers from 28 March 2019.
- Will I still be able to take my pet abroad?
Yes. After 29 March 2019, you will still be able to travel with your pet to Europe whether a deal is reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the terms of exit, or not. However, in a no-deal scenario, you will need to take some additional steps.
Importantly, you may need to visit a vet some months in advance of travel, for certification and relevant vaccines. Read more about taking your dog to France here.
- Will there be data roaming charges?
The government advises a few scenarios on data roaming depending on whether or not a deal is secured. But, fundamentally, the UK government has committed to capping data roaming charges in a worse-case (no deal) scenario.
- Will flights still operate?
UK citizens can be reassured that regardless of the Brexit outcome planes will still fly between the UK and the EU: if a deal is agreed then we will be in a transition period, meaning everything will stay the same until the end of December 2020 and flights will continue as normal. Even if we are in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said that UK airlines will still be able to operate flights between the UK and the EU. The UK government has offered similar assurances for EU airlines.
- What happens if I book to travel after 29 March 2019 and my holiday cannot go ahead due to Brexit?
There is nothing to suggest that you will not be able to continue with your holiday plans after 29 March. Even in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said flights to and from the UK will still be able to operate.
If you book a package holiday, your holiday will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations, meaning you have a right to a full refund if your holiday can no longer be provided.
The UK Government has confirmed that the Package Travel Regulations will remain in the UK law when the UK leaves the EU.
Thinking of taking your dog to France on holiday with you? Read our essential guide here…
CHRISTMAS is a time for traditions – but expatriates in France will have noticed several differences between the French way of doing things and what they have been used to.
Here are just a few ways Christmas in France may be just a little different…
Although Christmas cards are available in shops, French people are generally not in the habit of sending greetings cards at Christmas, except perhaps to distant family members.
Instead, they send cards after New Year and often late into January, wishing family and friends “Meilleurs voeux”.
The Christmas tree, or sapin de Noël, first appeared in Sélestat, Alsace, in the early 16th century, when it became the first town in France to authorise the felling of evergreen trees for Christmas.
As well as bringing seasonal cheer to many homes, Christmas trees also decorate town centres and shop exteriors. Many houses, churches and schools will have a crib scene.
One “Advent” tradition peculiar to Provence dictates that moist wheat from the previous harvest is placed in three cups to germinate in celebration of Saint Barbara’s day on December 4. The green shoots are decorated for Christmas table. Many boulangeries in the south sell sachets of seeds in dishes for charity.
The main feast in France is le Réveillon, on Christmas Eve, when families sit down together for several hours. Unlike the UK, where turkey and Brussels sprouts are traditional, there is no fixed Christmas menu – but delicacies such as oysters and foie gras often make an appearance.
The bûche de Noël cake was first created in France in the 1800s by a pâtissier – from Lyon, Paris or Monaco depending on the story – and pays homage to the tradition of burning a yule log during the festive period.
The bûche was known as the suche in Bourgogne, Etéau-nedelecq in Brittany, tronche in Franche-Comté, tréfeu or tréfouet in Normandy, choque in Picardy and tison de Noël in Poitou-Charentes.
At the end of the meal, a candle may be left burning for the Virgin Mary. In Provence, the meal concluded with treize desserts – 13 little dishes, the number representing Christ and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper.
The galette des rois – a regular sight in shops at this time of year – is eaten at Epiphany (January 6). This pastry cake is baked with a hidden “bean” or inside. Whoever finds it in their slice becomes king for the day.
Unlike the UK, where children traditionally hang stockings at the end of their bed for Santa on Christmas Eve, in France children have historically left their shoes by the fireplace for Père Noël to fill with gifts such as sweets, fruits, nuts and small toys.
Père Noël also visits schools and Christmas markets in towns and communes, telling stories and bringing gifts for the children. – See more at: http://www.connexionfrance.com/france-christmas-traditions-cards-pere-noel-food-tree-16469-news-article.html#sthash.KBpRTMax.dpuf
New – look out for our new special offer emails featuring deals across a range of family-friendly gites in France.
As well as our top posts on all things France (from driving licence rules to taking pets abroad) you’ll also benefit from our latest deals as we have them.
Escape to Charente, Saint-Front, Charente
3-bed luxury gite with pool, BBQ, free bikes and ponies.
Extra 5% discount, can be used with other offers we have, July / August £1200 per week without discount.
Emerald coast gites, Cotes d’Armor
7 high quality 1-4 bed gites & glaming lodges with pool, bar & play areas
25% discount on all June holidays when quoting France for Families.
Imagine Roussillon, Canet-en-Roussillon
High quality baby & child-friendly apartments with pool, Jacuzzi & gym
20% reduction for 4-18 June. when quoting France for Families.
La Bigorre Holiday Cottages, Saint Germain du Seudre
4 holiday cottages 30 minutes from Royan beaches, with pool, free bikes & games area.
June and September – 10% off all bookings when quoting France for Families.
Deux-Sevres , L’Absie, Deux-Sevres
3 child-friendly gites wit pool, games, private patios with BBQ.
15% off June breaks when quoting France for Families.
Tournesol Gite, Pampelonne, Tarn
3 gites with private patio & BBQ, pool overlooking valley, games, fine dining options.
Offer – Sat July 23rd to Sat July 30th – price £800 instead of £895 when quoting France for Families.
From luxury villas to practical apartments and authentic gites in France to camping and mobile home holidays, we feature a variety of family-friendly accommodation here at France for Families.
Which holiday in France would suit you? Take a look at our suggestions below and see which one would be your favourite.
A touch of luxury…
Check out the Luxury Vendee Villa for a high-end spacious child-friendly holiday.
This high quality accommodation in western France offers luxurious living in a private paradise within easy reach of a good selection of activities. There’s a welcoming village with shops and restaurant in walking distance plus family-friendly sandy beaches within a convenient drive through the French countryside.
The Villa sleeps 14 plus young children in 7 bedrooms with 6 bathrooms. There’s free Wi-fi and French / UK sky Television plus a games room with pool table & games.
Perhaps best of all is a private heated salt-water swimming pool and peaceful private gardens with south facing veranda.
And right now, Luxury Vendee Villa has a special offer on summer holidays:
Saturday 15th July – Saturday 22nd July was £4450 NOW £3750 (£38 per person per night based on 14 people)
Saturday 26th August – Saturday 2nd September was £5450 NOW £4750 (£48 per person per night based on 14 people)
Find out more about Luxury Vendee Villa here >>>
Budget mobile home and camping
Holidaying on a budget? We’ve just taken on a new partner, One France, who has three private mobile homes for rent on the campsite Les Amiaux, a 4 star site located in St Jean de Monts, in the Vendee region of France.
This campsite is one of the best in the area with many facilities and is safe for children. Les Amiaux facilities include individual private mobile home plots with parking, 3 swimming pools (1 indoor with child pool, 1 outdoor with kiddies splash pool & 1 water chute pool 4 slides). Plus there are tennis courts, table tennis, games room, shop (with U.K. newspapers), a laundry, bar, restaurant, take-away, cycle hire, crazy golf, play areas, sand pits, boules court, basketball and a five-a-side football pitch and more.
The mobiles homes for hire all offer patio tables, chairs, parasol, sun-loungers, reclining chairs and a gas or charcoal BBQ’s. Each plot receives plenty of sunshine and shade during the day. Internally all are fully equipped with full gas cookers, water heaters, microwave ovens, fridge/freezer, electric kettle, duvets, pillows, and bathrooms with W.C. wash basin and shower unit.
The 3 bedroom vans have a double bedroom, and 2 x twin rooms. The two bedroom vans has a double bedroom, and one twin bedroom and double/single make up bed in the living area to accommodate up to 6 persons.
Each has a DVD player and television set on which you can play and watch recorded DVD’s and play CD’s.
John from One France is offering these caravans at great prices, starting from just £125 per week per caravan in low season (September) and from just £495 in the main school summer holidays.
Find out more here or you can email John direct on email@example.com for more info and to book.
Stylish apartments and resorts
If you like the idea of a family-friendly resort in France with plenty of facilities on site, but prefer an apartment or house to stay in then check out Pierre & Vacances.
They tend to offer a large choice of fully equipped accommodation such as apartments with balcony or terrace, house with garden or Provencal-style cottage.
On their resorts they feature swimming pool complexes with wave pools, slides, diving pools etc – plenty to keep the kids entertained! Plus there are a variety of children’s clubs on offer to suit various age ranges. These tend to be quite French orientated, perfect if you want to immerse yourself into the French way of life and avoid many of the ‘Brits abroad’ campsites and holiday parks.
One family-friendly holiday resort we like the look of is Holiday Village Normandy Garden in Branville
Two hours from Paris, and less than 15 km from the beaches of Deauville, Cabourg and Villers-sur-Mer, the Normandy Garden holiday village is located in the heart of the Pays d’Auge, a stud farming region. Built in a beautiful, rolling 12-hectare resort, it features houses and apartments in a traditional Normandy style.
The 12-hectare resort is made up of 4 pedestrianised areas with houses and apartments:
– The Garden Club area has ground-level, Superior-range houses with terraces and spreads out from the center of the village where the reception, bar, restaurant, mini-market and water parks are located.
– The Pommeraie area is located near the entrance to the Holiday Village. It comprises the “Superior” range duplex houses with lovely façades and wooden terraces.
– The Hameau area has been recently renovated and offers apartments with a balcony or loggia and open views of the Normandy woodland.
– The Le Bocage area has semi-detached houses with large balconies.
On site you can relax in the swimming pool complex, including an indoor and outdoor pool, plus you’ll also find a mini-market and specialty restaurant on site.
Pierre & Vacances is currently offering savings of up to £400. Find out more about Holiday Village Normandy Garden here >>>
Family-friendly gite in the Charente
Prefer a more mid-price range private option?
Head to Le Petit Chêne, a fully modernised three bedroom cottage in the southern Charente.
Situated in a secluded valley close to Aubeterre, arguably one of the prettiest villages in France, this light and comfortable south facing gite has a heated swimming pool plus – height of all modern luxury – a hot tub!
The large solar heated swimming pool measures 11m x 6m with roman steps and a custom built hot tub. Sensor lights automatically illuminate the pool terrace in the evenings as dusk falls and two large roman style pots pour water into the pool.
The cottage is part of an old farm complex it is separate from the main farmhouse and converted barn and has it’s own private garden to the front and side. Fully renovated and all on one level the kitchen/sitting room opens on to the south facing terrace for the sun lovers while at the side of the property is a covered terrace where you can relax in the shade.
The market town of Chalais is a two minute drive away or a twenty minute walk, plus bike hire is available.
Fancy discovering your artistic side? Painting tuition can also be provided during your stay.
Prices start from just £600 per week, you can find out more about Le Petit Chêne here >>>
Auberge & Chalets sur la Montagne offers a hand-picked selection of both luxury and more affordable accommodation at family-friendly Sainte Foy Tarentaise in the heart of the French Alps.
Close to Val d’Isère, Tignes, Les Arcs and La Rosière all our accommodation is equally well-placed for winter skiing or snowboarding holidays and summer walking or cycling holidays.
Easter Ski Holidays – 25% off, free night & free kids lift passes
It’s not too late to book for the Easter holidays! Auberge & Chalets have reduced their prices by 25%, plus giving away free nights.
Pay for a 7-night stay from Saturday April 8th or Sunday April 9th and stay until Easter Monday, or even Tuesday 18th to make the most of the Easter weekend and the last days of the season, and the extra nights are on us!
What’s more for every 6-day adult lift pass bought for Sainte Foy for use between March 25th and April 17th, you can get a free pass for kids aged up to 13!
With these savings, you might want to treat yourselves to our catered service and let our professional staff take care of the cooking and cleaning, leaving you free to relax and enjoy your holiday.
For more information on all our properties or to book, contact our reservations team at
Auberge sur la Montagne
The Auberge sur la Montagne is our owner-run, boutique, catered chalet featuring contemporary design in a rustic setting. It is located in the peaceful alpine village of La Thuile, just 3kms from the resort. There are 5 comfortable bedrooms in the main chalet sleeping up to 15 guests, with additional accommodation for 6 in the adjoining Garden Wing apartment. There is a spacious lounge with well-stocked bar and roaring log fire and a separate Kid’s Den. In the stylish dining room, you’ll be treated to a fine-dining experience with delicious meals freshly-prepared by our highly talented professional chef, Will Manley.
Frontline sur la Montagne
Frontline sur la Montagne is our selection of luxury apartments in the prestigious Balcons de Sainte Foy development. They’re in an enviable ski in – ski out location at the foot of the nursery and sledging slope, right next to the ski school meeting point, and a stone’s throw from the shops. With 1- 4 bedrooms they’re the perfect base for your winter or summer mountain holiday.
Chalets sur la Montagne
Chalets sur la Montagne are a hand-picked selection of more affordable catered and self-catered chalets and apartments in the heart of Sainte Foy resort and Sainte Foy village.
Ranging from bijou Marquise sleeping 4, to the spacious Great Escape sleeping 14, you’re sure to find your perfect holiday accommodation.
Wherever you choose to stay you’ll benefit from our personal service, attention to detail, and the experience that comes with over 20 years of ensuring that our guests enjoy their holidays to the full.
The team at Auberge & Chalets sur la Montagne can help take the strain out of organising your holiday by pre-booking the following for you: transfers, instruction or guiding, equipment rental, lift passes, childcare. They can help you make the most of your holiday by making things easier during your stay too. They can advise on local restaurants and make bookings for you; book après-ski activities, a soothing massage or spa treatment; order a birthday cake or have fresh flowers delivered for that special occasion.
Whatever your request, the resort team will be happy to help. Find out more about Auberge & Chalets sur la Montagne >>>
France do theme parks differently. Way differently. Here we’ve described the biggest and most popular across France.
Description Mix the London Science Museum with Thorpe Park and you’ve got Futuroscope.
Who’s it for? All the family, possibly older children over 8 will enjoy it more.
Rides This futuristic theme park celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2017. It has themed rides that appeal to the thrill seekers, such as the new Jules Verne inspired ride. The only flight motion platform in Europe, Futuroscope has created a ‘technology-leading attraction system that combines a 90° tilting platform and a 6K film showing a mix of real and computer-generated 3D images on a 6,450- ft2 surround screen to bring visitors the ultimate immersive experience of flying like a bird around the world.’
What’s so special? What the French do well is the evening show at most theme parks and every evening show is included in the price of admission.. For example the aquatic fairytale evening show from Cirque du Soleil is a big-bang blend of visual, aquatic and pyrotechnical effects. The constellation of fairytale scenes tells the story of a young real girl who meets a virtual giant with his feet on the ground and his head in the stars.
Does it cater for the UK guest? We can recommend this French attraction even if you don’t speak French. Some attractions are translated via headsets which you can borrow free of charge, just bring your own headphones or you can hire headphones, and other attractions don’t require translations.
Where is it? Futuroscope is located near the Atlantic coast, in the Poitou-Charentes region (newly renamed Nouvelle Aquitaine), between the Loire Valley and the Vendée. You’ll pass it when driving down the main roads in western France, heading down to the Vendee, Charente and Bordeaux etc.
Cost: Tickets start form 40 euros for adults and 36 euros for children. You can book in advance on line.
Name: Disneyland Paris
Description All singing, all dancing theme park featuring very well known Disney characters, rides, shows and shops. Lots of shops.
Who’s it for? Disney is probably aimed at the under 10’s, but I know couples who go, plus teenage children to mature couples. Disney is all encompassing! It has a great mix of everything – the rids are exciting for the teens, but toddlers and younger kids will love the gentle rides and meeting the characters in Fantasyland. But it’s not just the rides – it’s the whole experience, the sights and sounds, parades and light shows that create the place ‘where dreams come true’, as the publicity blurb says.
There are two theme parks – Disney Studios and Disney Park as well as the Disney Village that is accessible free of charge.
Rides: Disneyland Paris has 58 attractions (or rides), built to suit tots to teenagers. The top ride as voted for by their visitors are
1. It’s a Small World (Fantasyland)
2. Space Mountain (Discoveryland)
3. Big Thunder Mountain (Frontierland)
4. Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland)
5. Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast (Discoveryland)
If you have younger children they will be desperate to meet the characters. You’ll be able to come into close contact at Fantasyland where characters wander round and there is an extremely popular meet and greet a Disney princess. Head to Mickey’s Café in Disney Village and Buffalo Bill’s live Wild West show in Disney Village to see them perform and all the hotels in Disney Village have a daily slot for meeting the characters. Buffalo Bill’s show is highly recommended – a lively action show on horseback!
What’s so special? The couple of times I’ve visited I found the welcome and the customer service to be top-notch. Even from driving into the immaculate car park, to the hotel welcome to entering the park, the welcomes are warm and the organisation is outstanding.
Don’t get me wrong, the merchandise shops on every corner will drive you insane after a couple of days, but set the expectations of your children early and you’ll be ok! Plus the food on offer in the park is pretty dire – all expensive fast food. Eat a hearty breakfast and take snacks if you don’t want to be dependent on pizza and chips.
The whole Disney experience is sensory overload and towards the end of the day the park starts to resound with the whining of over-tired children, so pace yourself. On a day trip you can only see the highlights; in three or four days you could see pretty much everything and do your favourite rides more than once. Consider hiring a buggy even if your child is used to walking.
Does it cater for the UK guest? Very well, the best of all the theme parks. Being an American attraction in France, all customer service staff is bi-lingual to a very high standard.
Where is it? Located near Marne-la-Vallée to the east of Paris and reached from central Paris via the RER suburban train (line A).
Cost: Tickets start from £36 per adult and £30 for children in low season (2017 prices). . You can book in advance on line.
Name: Puy du Fou
Description A theme park like no other, Puy du Fou is made up of a series of spectacular live action shows which are steeped in the History of Man. Thousands of actors and animals recreate high drama, from Roman gladiators to King Arthur, with mind-blowing special effects.
Who’s it for? It will amaze and entertain all age groups.
Rides? Rides? Where you’re going you won’t need rides…
What’s so special? The title ‘theme park’ is misleading if you want rides and adrenaline rushes.
However, if you want to explore historic villages, towns, and cities with craftspeople working in recreated situations, be entertained by breathtaking shows and aerial bird shows then this is the place for you.
This fabuous park has been voted best theme park in the World! Most Brits have never heard of it, but it is France’s second most popular theme park after Disneyland Paris and it’s had phenominal success.
If you’re visiting then you must book the Cinéscenie, a spectacular performance by more than 1000 actors, which takes place on selected Friday and Sunday nights.
The key difference is the lack of commercialism compared to other parks. There aren’t shops on every corner trying to sell you tat. There are no stressful or boring ride queues. The woodland and gardens that make up the setting allow the luxury of a relaxing and fun day.
Mind you, the queues leaving at the end of the night may take a while to negotiate.
Does it cater for the UK guest? Because all the attractions are so visual, it becomes an easy attraction to enjoy and understand. The website is a bit limited in English and staff on park seem to speak enough to get by. Don’t let this put you off though – it’s a must-see attraction!
Where is it? In western France, the Vendee, address 85590 LES EPESSES
Cost: Grand Parc tickets start from 23 euros, Grand Parc and Cinescenie tickets start from 54 euros. . You can book in advance on line.
Name: Park Asterix
Description: Great French theme park with fun Asterix themed rides and a good alternative to Disneyland Paris.
Who’s it for? It feels more mature than Disney so suits teens and adults. INpsired by the Asterix comic books, the theme park has sparks of humour that appeal to adults, while managing to be thoroughly entertaining for young children too.
Rides: Expect water splashes everywhere! There’s plenty of Asterix themed rides from carousel where you get to sit in Obelix’s bottom, plus the dizzying Druidic cauldron and the Menhir Express, a flume ride in which you sit in a mock prehistoric standing stone (Obelix, of course, is a menhir delivery man). Other attractions have a Roman theme. Le Défi de César is wacky – and great fun.
What’s so special? Parc Asterix feels nicely quirky in a lovely French way. Meeting the roly-poly Obelix and the diminutive Asterix is a highlight – they hang out and pose for photos amid the thatched huts of their Gaulish village, alongside other splendidly costumed, life-size characters, such as Unhygienix the bellicose fishmonger and Vitalstatistix the obese chief. Decorative touches in the village include flowerpots made from Roman helmets.
Does it cater for the UK guest? In contrast with Disneyland Paris, it makes little or no linguistic concessions in its attractions and shows to non-French speakers. However the hosts are very friendly and they give good support.
Where is it? It is located an hour or so from Paris. 60128 Plailly, France
Cost Tickets start from 41 euros for an adult and 38 euros for a child (2017 pricing) . You can book in advance on line.
Discover our top gites in the Charente – a fabulous family-friendly area of France and personally recommended by France for Families
We’ve recently welcomed some new properties onto France for Families, so check out some highlights in the beautiful region of the Dordogne, in the Aquitaine region of France.
These gites in France all have a unique character, whilst sharing this gorgeous location. Suitable for families or couples or even a group of friends enjoying a holiday together in France, this range of gites and holiday homes also offers something for all budgets.
The Dordogne is one of the most popular inland destinations for the Brits, due to the stunning medieval castles, historical villages and towns, and the famous prehistoric caves of the UNESCO listed Vezere Valley. Highlights include Sarlat, popularly known as the ‘medieval capital of the Dordogne’, the ancient stone houses along the river at La Roque-Gageac and Chateau de Montfort, a fairytale castle on a hill a few kilometres from Sarlat.Why choose the Dordogne for your holiday to France? Check out more about the Dordogne region here.
Maine de la Garde
Saint Martin de Riberac
4 bedroom, sleeps 6
£500 – £900 per week
There’s great emphasis on the outdoors, with a 12m x 5m heated pool, and two and a half acres of garden and hilltop meadow, surrounded by fields and woods – so lots of space for children to run around.
It’s a remarkably peaceful location, yet close to Ribérac with its famous market and all the amenities you need. Great for painting, walking, cycling, canoeing, or just relaxing and enjoying the many and varied delights of the region.
Find out more about Maine de la Garde here >>>
Les Chardonnerets Luxury Gites
2 bedroom, sleeps 6
£325 – £875
This beautiful selection of gites in the Dordogne offer you everything you need for a relaxing holiday.
These 5 individually designed gites are each furnished and equipped to the same high standard but with their own unique charm.
Features that you will enjoy as standard in all of the accommodation include:
• Fully equipped kitchens including dishwasher, microwave, washing machine, coffee maker and toaster
• Comfortable living areas with lounge furniture and log fires.
• English TV and radio as well as a DVD and CD player.
• Private patio & garden area with garden furniture and BBQ provided.
• Toilet facilities upstairs and down.
• Central heating for year-round comfort.
Plus the all important internet access!
Find out more about Les Chardonnerets gites here >>>
La Roche Chabrelle – Papillon
Bedroom 4 Sleeps 6
From £345 ato £995 per week
Three of the gites are near to the heated 12 x 6 swimming pool, the other, Papillon, is more secluded with a private garden.
There are plenty of walks and cycle rides on the doorstep, canoeing on the nearby river Dronne and many cafes bars and restaurants just a short drive away. Brantome, the nearest town is known as the Venice of the Dordogne and has an excellent market.
Papillon is an exceptional Gîte with a very well equipped fitted kitchen including cooker, fridge, freezer , dishwasher and microwave. The beautiful large vaulted and beamed sitting room overlooks the garden. There are two twin bedrooms and one double bedroom. Bathroom with bath and shower. Washing machine. Separate WC. Private garden with terrace, garden furniture and BBQ. The kitchen/diner has a wood burning stove. Bed linen and a generous welcome pack are provided. Free Internet access is available as is UK & French TV, subject to availability.
This is a paradise for children who love having the freedom of five acres to play in. There are swings, a badminton net, a small football pitch and a cricket rebound net and a games cave with table tennis and table football. There is also have a troglodyte cave on site which was inhabited during medieval times.
Find out more about La Roche Chabrelle here >>>
3 bedrooms, sleeps 5
£350 to £695 per week
Les Charmettes is a beautifully restored French farmhouse within easy reach of Perigueux in the Dordogne.
Surrounded by meadows and trees, the house offers all creature comforts and privacy, where you can either chill or explore the nearby towns of Les Eyzies, Le Bugue, Sarlat, Lascaux, to name a few.
The gite itself caters for nature lovers with a wide range of animals and birds from hares to hawks and buzzards, and many varieties of wild flowers and butterflies.
The gite offers the following:
• Comfortably accommodating two couples or a family of four, the gite is light and airy.
• Well appointed kitchen with hob, oven, fridge, dishwasher.
• UK & French TV is available as is free WiFi connectivity.
• Off the kitchen is the master bedroom, which has its own ensuite bathroom.
• Off the main hallway is another double bedroom with its own loo/shower.
• The upstairs twin bedroom has a beautiful view over the meadow.
• The tiled floor has u/f heating for winter lets.
• Outside there is a rear patio for private sunbathing, and the terraced deck offers an excellent al fresco dining area for BBQ cooking or breakfast outside; overlooking the paddock.
• Pets are welcome.
Find out more about Les Charmettes gite here >>>
Le Magnolia Chambres d’Hotes (B&B)
3 bedrooms, sleeps 6
55 euro to 75 euro per night
This bed and breakfast gite is nestled in a quiet corner of the little village of Cubas, yet with very easy access to many towns, including Excideuil, Hautefort and Perigeux.
The beautiful Maison de Maitre has been fully renovated to provide a very high standard of accommodation whilst remaining cosy. The large garden offers somewhere to relax or run around, depending on your age! The gite is within easy walking distance of two fantastic restaurants, a bar, butcher, baker, doctor, pharmacy and post office and three minutes walk brings you to the river and canoeing facilities.
All three of the bedrooms are arranged around a guest landing which makes us particularly suitable to families. If you were to book all three rooms you would effectively be able to keep bedroom doors open which helps when you have little ones! A full continental breakfast is included in all prices which are per room, per night.
Find out more about Le Magnolia B&B here >>>
Dormouse, Pont de Fournil
Saint Laurent des Hommes
1 bedroom, sleeps 4
220 – 270 per week
In the heart of the Dordogne lies the picturesque Pont de Fournil, a beautifully tranquil campsite with holiday gites.
Nestling amongst the trees on an 8-acre site are six pitches with electric emplacements with hook-ups and choice of hard standing and tree shade, and three charming chalets. Both with a stunning views of the River Isle, which flows serenely past creating an enchanting setting for a perfectly relaxing holiday in the Dordogne.
You can be as laid back or energetic as you like, either lounging round the swimming pool or making full use of the tennis court. There is also a three acre fishing lake on site.
The Dormouse gite sleeps 2/3, this smaller gite is ideal for couples, or people who are looking for a longer stay (great savings to be made ….the longer you stay the less you pay) with lovely views over the River. The accommodation comprises of one double bedroom with ensuite toilet and shower, an open plan lounge and kitchenette with sofa bed plus an
outside terrace with patio set.
Find out more about Pont de Fournil here >>>
Razac de Saussignac
4 bedrooms, sleeps 10
£1000 – £3000 per week
La Grange Sud is a stunning farmhouse gite in the Western Dordogne, close to the pretty towns of Bergerac, Duras and Eymet.
The villa is easily accessible by car being six hours from Caen and St Malo ferry ports – (guests receive a 20% discount with Brittany Ferries).
This holiday property offers space for solitude as well as communal areas for socialising, and has many interests for the very young as well as older guests.
Facilities include a very affordable optional chef with a range of dining experiences, heated pool with retractable cover, complimentary WIFI, UK satellite TV with full sports package, air conditioning, safes, supersize trampoline, plasma TV, hundreds of DVD’s, large selection of new bikes and helmets in 3 sizes, golf trolleys, clubs and bags, book library, board games, flat screen TV’s in bedrooms.
A heated pool is at the centre of the private pool area. A retractable cover and night lighting ensures the pool can be enjoyed continuously from Easter to the end of October, with a guaranteed minimum temperature of 24 degrees.
Guests can choose whether to relax by the pool, enjoy a range of beauty treatments without leaving the farmhouse, cycle through the large network of quiet lanes, taste the famous local wines of St Emilion and Monbazillac, visit the colourful Issigeac market, enjoy canoeing and go karting, sample the delights of L’Imparfait in Bergerac, one of the many wonderful restaurants, or enjoy a peaceful round of golf at Chateau Vigiers, followed by a golfers massage at the house – La Grange Sud is a wonderful holiday venue with something for everyone at any time of the year!
Find out more about La Grange Sud here >>>
6 bedrooms, sleeps 16
£1200 to £4500 per week
Welcome to Acabanes – a large, luxury holiday home, in a beautiful area of the Western Dordogne, South West France; close to the pretty towns of Bergerac, Duras and Eymet. For golf enthusiasts, it is 4 miles from Chateau Vigiers.
With six bedrooms and four en suite bathrooms, the villa can accommodate ten adults and six small children. Ideal for family groups and extremely child friendly but also perfect for couples wanting a romantic break. Acabanes has been successfully dog friendly for 15 letting seasons, with an enclosed two acre garden and fantastic traffic free walks from the doorstep.
The villa offers room for solitude in addition to spacious communal areas for socialising, and accommodates the very young as well as older guests with limited mobility.
Extensive facilities are provided for all interests; fast speed WIFI, 50” plasma, full satellite TV, Air Con in all upstairs bedrooms, laptop safe, championship pool table, kids snooker table, table football, trampoline, table tennis, racket sports, vast selection of DVDs, gym, infra red sauna, large selection of bikes, Wendy House, sand pit, toddler plastic cutlery & crockery, high chairs, push chairs, cots, Four Poster bed, football goals, play area, hammocks, sun loungers, hairdryers, tea/coffee in bedrooms, book library, board games, gaming table, Viners cutlery, Denby crockery, Le Creuset, Weber BBQ’s.
The 11 x 5 m private, saltwater heated pool has a retractable cover and night lighting, and is enjoyed continuously from Easter to the end of October, with a minimum temperature of 24 degrees.
Find out more about Acabanes here >>>
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!
La Caillère-Saint-Hilaire, Vendée, Pays de la Loire
This beautiful French gite offers a modern interior with tasteful furnishings throughout, being newly built and set in two acres of peaceful private grounds, providing garden space for all the family.
It benefits from a south facing sun terrace and a gorgeous heated salt-water pool.
It sleeps 14 plus babies in 7 bedrooms with 6 bathrooms, including 2 master suites with ensuite & private balcony/terrace.
A welcoming village with shops and restaurant are within easy walking distance. Breathtaking sand stretched beaches within a convenient drive through the French countryside. Offering all year round accommodation, modern technology, highly insulated with underfloor heating throughout
Prices start from £3450 to £4950 per week. Find out more about Luxury Vendee Villa.
Razac-de-Saussignac, Dordogne, Aquitaine
The location is a golfers heaven as the villa overlooks the fairways of Vigiers, one of the best golf resorts in the South West of France.
With four en suite luxury bedrooms, the villa can accommodate up to eight adults, two children and two infants.
Facilities include a very affordable optional chef with a range of dining experiences, heated pool with retractable cover, complimentary WIFI, UK satellite TV with full sports package, air conditioning, safes, supersize trampoline, plasma TV, hundreds of DVD’s, large selection of new bikes and helmets in 3 sizes, golf trolleys, clubs and bags, book library, board games, flat screen TV’s in bedrooms.
A heated pool is at the centre of the private pool area. A retractable cover and night lighting ensures the pool can be enjoyed continuously from Easter to the end of October, with a guaranteed minimum temperature of 24 degrees.
Guests can choose whether to relax by the pool, enjoy a range of beauty treatments without leaving the farmhouse, cycle through the large network of quiet lanes, taste the famous local wines of St Emilion and Monbazillac, visit the colourful Issigeac market, enjoy Canoeing and go karting, sample the delights of L’Imparfait in Bergerac, one of the many wonderful restaurants, or enjoy a peaceful round of golf at Chateau Vigiers, followed by a golfers massage at the house – La Grange Sud is a wonderful holiday venue with something for everyone at any time of the year!
Holidays at La Grange Gite, Dordogne start from £1000 per week.
Vilallonga dels Monts, Pyrénées-Orientales, Languedoc-Roussillon
The character French Farmhouse sleeps 10 + cots. 5 bedrooms & 4 bathrooms. You have exclusive use swimming pool and private garden.
There are also smaller gites available in the same grounds, sleeping 2 to 32 +
Cots, ideal for large families, Anniversaries, Special Occasions, Group / Activity Holidays / Zumba-BootCamp (Health & Fitness).
Lignan-de-Bordeaux, Gironde, Aquitaine
Take over this superb castle of the eighteenth century fully renovated as holiday cottage.
Just 15 kms from the center of Bordeaux, its location in the heart of a vineyard of 170 hectares is simply perfect!
With 6 bedrooms, all equipped with a bathroom, and many rooms with high volume (veranda, lounge, games room and reading room, billiard room, large kitchen, dining room), the castle can accommodate up to 13 people.
You can also relax in the swimming pool and take your tackle down to the private fishing lake.
Holidays at Château de Sequin start from £417 per night.
Catus, Lot, Midi-Pyrénées
Pagan offers a cluster of 9 gites and lodges in the Lot, Midi-Phyrénées.
Perfect for family holidays with young children, you’ll find an abundance of baby/toddler and children’s toys and facilities including pools, playbarn, pirate ship, teepee, fort and all in the most beautiful garden setting.
Gardens and pools are fully enclosed so the kids can run free whilst parents have a truly relaxing break meeting like-minded families who are all about creating magical family moments.
In each child and baby friendly gite/self catering apartment we provide all possible practical items that a Mum or Dad could want in a home from home, so you can relax knowing that the bed guard, baby monitor or steriliser or indeed anything you ask for, is provided. The toy box and English books allow us to move away from placing televisions in the gites and holiday friends encourage interactive play. Child friendly holidays in France are rarely this practical and magical for kids and adults alike.
For adults we offer a ‘Chef for the Night’ service, a weekly BBQ, massages, manicures and pedicures, mid stay cleans, welcome baskets, wine, adult seating areas, shaded areas with sofas near the pool, English baby sitters and COOK food.
You can holiday in France at Pagel from £960 per week.
Belvès, Dordogne, Aquitaine
Peyrecraty offers nine beautiful cottages in the Dordogne.
These fully equipped detached houses, farmhouses and French Villas each have a garden, barbecue & alfresco dining areas.
They are surrounded by fields, meadows, orchards and woodland with wonderful views across the valley and countryside.
Facilities include a heated pool (28°) and paddling pool, an indoor toy barn, adventure playground, sand play area, toys, bikes, climbing frames, slides. For the grown ups you can have a go at tennis, badminton, table tennis, football, pétanque.
There is a bar on the grounds plus a weekly barbecue. Croissants are delivered fresh each day for breakfast plus you can head to the bar for freshly brewed coffee served in the mornings
There’s also free Wi-Fi and extra services such as massage and babysitting.
Domaine de Peyrecaty is surrounded by award winning villages (Belves, Beynac, Domme, La Roque Gageac, Castelnaud, Limeuil, Monpazier & St Leon sur Vezere)
Domaine de Peyrecaty from £1125 to £2925 per week
Quistinic, Morbihan, Brittany
LE HELLEGUY is a peaceful hamlet of detached, thatched Breton cottages, nestling in the heart of the beautiful Blavet Valley, in Southern Brittany.
Surrounded by scenic countryside, meadow fields, woodland & quiet country lanes, the hamlet has a lot to offer, including its accommodation in two spacious luxury cottages, LA CHAUMIERE and LA GRANGE
Renting the cottages together under the hamlet name ‘LE HELLEGUY’ provides in total 7 bedrooms (3 king-sized, two of which have en-suite facilities & 4 twins, each with two twin divan beds). One of the master king-sized bedrooms with en-suite facilities is on the ground floor in La Chaumiere – ideal if managing stairs is a problem or if ground floor accommodation is required.
Everything you need is provided including modern facilities such as WIFI internet access, IPod Docking Station, large LCD flat screen TV, HiFi & DVD/Video players.
The undercover heated swimming pool has a security fence enclosing its patio area, sun lounges, cushions & parasols. Outdoor games, swings, slides, table tennis etc. are provided
SPA treatments are also available.
The coast is an easy 30 minute drive to the nearest recommended family beaches
Le Helleguy from £1225 to £3700 per week
Mouzeuil-Saint-Martin, Vendée, Pays de la Loire
With 12 bedrooms and sleeping up to 24, Les Chardonnerets was created from a farmhouse and adjacent barn, joined to form a single property, and provides an ideal holiday venue for large family parties and groups of friends.
Located in the village of Mouzeuil St Martin in the South Vendée, Les Chardonnerets is holiday rental property that is equally appealing to multi-generational and all-adult groups. T
he social heart of Les Chardonnerets is the large kitchen / dining area.
The kitchen is arranged to make catering for large groups easy, with two hobs, two large ovens, two dishwashers, ample fridge space and, of course, plenty of pans & crockery plus tables seating 24 in comfort. Outside, but next to the kitchen is a large covered dining area with a view of the pool.
This also has tables seating 24 (or more!) with a gas BBQ and outdoor “kitchen” including a fridge for al fresco dining. A further charcoal BBQ is available. Off from the kitchen is the smaller of the two sitting rooms. Seating 10, this has TV/DVD (including English language channels) and Hifi equipment plus bookcase and sideboard full of games & toys.
An attractive oak staircase leads from here to five of the 12 bedrooms.
In total the property has seven bath / shower rooms, three of which are en-suite. Les Chardonnerets is a very child-friendly property. Stair gates are fitted top & bottom of staircases. We provide several high chairs, sterilisers, a bottle warmer, change tables and plenty of children’s crockery for your use.
Outside, the large swimming pool (12 by 6m plus a paddling pool to the side for younger children) is heated for comfort and fenced for security. There is a play area with swings, slides, playhouse, trampoline, etc, and plenty of space for games. The rear of the property is enclosed. There is also an enclosed front garden. Car parking is available front and rear for up to ten cars.
Les Chardonnerets from 7200€ to 7200€ per week
An interesting question was posed to me earlier this year… is it possible to take a no-fly family holiday in the south of France?
Answering the question became this year’s summer family holiday.
The children and I discussed the question over supper late one evening in May; whether we jump in the car, or sit back and let the boat or train take the proverbial strain. And at this stage, I’ll be honest with you, I have taken many road trips through France and love exploring the country by road, but the thought of driving 9 hours to the south of France this summer – even with an overnight stop – didn’t thrill me.
So here was the challenge, could we catch the train? How long would it take? Where would we arrive? How much would it cost?
Some research later, our journey was laid out in front of us, London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, taxi transfer to Paris Gare de Lyon and 3 and a half hours later, we’d arrive in Aix-en-Provence.
With both rail journeys booked with Voyages-sncf.com, return via Lille instead of Paris, we set out to plan the rest of our holiday.
Passengers for the 09.30am Eurostar were being called to proceed to check-in when we arrived at St Pancras, spending 10 minutes through security and passport control, left us with enough time to grab a coffee and croissants before boarding. For those of you who have yet to experience the Eurostar, boarding is by a set of escalators that take you up and on to the platform, tickets are always sold with seat reservations so it’s just a case of finding your coach and seats.
My only suggestion to Eurostar would be to find a way to inform passengers on how and where to store their luggage when boarding. I found too many people trying to wedge their cases within the racks at the entrance to the coach, including us, only to find there is more luggage space within the carriage.
My two; my 12 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son, had come prepared with magazines, iPad, phones and headphones and were quite happily passing the time on the train. I had my own passé-temps and quite happy to read. So far so good.
Feeling hungry as we arrived at a busy Paris Nord station at lunchtime, we decided to get a taxi to Gare de Lyon and eat there. Tip: Always ensure you pick up an official taxi from the taxi rank outside the station (turn right as you hit the main concourse from the platform) and ignore the often heard ‘taxi?’. The trip across the city via taxi to the Gare de Lyon is around 20 minutes and costs around 13€. With time to spare we had lunch.
Our TGV from platform thirteen left at 14.19h, a majestic double-decker train with a final destination of Marseille. A smooth ride that left us in Aix-en-Provence at 17.45h – we had arrived in Provence – and just in time to pick up our rental car.
We stayed the night in Aix, a historically important city dating back to Roman times, famous for its natural hot springs and home town of Paul Cézanne and Émile Zola.
We dined that evening in the centre, amongst the Aixois dancing in the streets, sipping pastis or a local rosé before heading off to one of the many restaurants that adorn the Cours Mirabeau.
Our base for our 9-day holiday was the area around the picturesque hilltop village of Fayence, just north of Fréjus. We had booked ourselves a two-storey holiday home within the Domaine de Fayence holiday village run by Lagrange Holidays.
First impressions were of a clean, well-organised, pretty village with multi-coloured houses typical of the area. First stop… the pool, just before they closed for the evening at 8pm. A large pool, perfect for adults and children, swimmers and non-swimmers and lined with palm trees.
Our home slept 6, in 2 bedrooms and a sofa bed in the main lounge. A small kitchen and dining area enabled self-catering and a well-sized terrace allowed us to dine alfresco. With cars parked outside the main village centre, it was quiet and we had no problem sleeping after our day of exploring.
The French Riviera stretches from the border with Italy near Monaco to St Tropez/Hyeres in the west, and it was this area that I wanted my two children to explore and get to know.
During our stay we had lunch in St Tropez, a former 1960-70s ‘jet set’ destination, picked fruit and vegetables to bring home with us from the market in Fréjus; took an evening stroll amongst the lights of St Raphael and discovered Monte-Carlo – the luxurious district of Monaco.
We ventured further into the mountains on a few occasions, taking a dip in the warm aqua blue waters of the Gorges du Verdon and discovered the magnificent medieval village of Chateaudouble. On the one day it rained, we drove to Grasse, famed for its creation of perfumes and visited the workshop of its oldest creator, Fragonard. The workshop is free to enter and a guide explains the process they take to extract oils from plants from the region and around the world to create their famous scents. Did you know there are only 50 ‘noses’ in the world?
Our last full day was saved for Cannes, a personal favourite of mine and it didn’t disappoint. Boulevard de la Croisette looking as beautiful as I remember and the beaches and sea inviting us in – every wave that came in almost apologising for spoiling the tranquility. Driving in, parking and out again does take time, so prepare this time into your day, but it is well worth it.
We had an early start to our departure home, leaving our home in Domaine de Fayence at 7.30am, and catching the TGV from Aix at 9.30 bound for Brussels. This leg of our journey home, from Aix-en-Provence to Lille, was 5 hours in duration and gave me an opportunity to speak to some of our fellow passengers and particularly why they decided to take the train. Amongst many families, we met a Belgian family who live in Los Angeles and who had spent their holidays in the south of France. They were returning to Belgium before flying back to LA. They decided to take the train as a relaxing way for them all to see more of France. We also met a lady on her way home from a yoga retreat who had decided to make the trip by train to extend her relaxation break. A theme was beginning to take hold.
Accommodation: Domaine de Fayence from Lagrange Holidays or call their reservations team on 020 7371 6111. For guidance, prices started from £289/house/week, based on accommodation-only this summer (August 2016).
Book your train journey with Voyages-sncf.com The golden rule with booking rail travel is that the earlier you book, the lower priced the tickets will be. London to Aix en Provence starts from £121 return for adults and from £108 for children under 12 years of age. 12-24 year olds are classed as youths and their lead fare is from £118 return.
Fragonard Workshops: https://www.fragonard.com/en/factories
Taking your dog on holiday to France is really straightforward, provided you follow a few golden rules of the Pet Travel Scheme and prepare in advance.
We find that there are no restrictions and only brief microchip checks when leaving the UK to travel to France; however officials are super-switched on when it comes to checking animals back into the UK.
When you return to the UK staff from the travel company will scan your pet’s microchip and check your documents.
If you don’t have the correct documents or your pet hasn’t been properly prepared it will be put into quarantine or sent back to the country it travelled from and you will have to pay the costs for this.
On one return trip we were held up by officials in France because our dog’s date of birth hadn’t been completed by the vet in his passport. We explained that he was a rescue dog and we didn’t know his birth date, and were only let through because all our other documents were in order. For future trips, we decided it was easier to make up a date of birth rather than run the risk of being turned back.
So when returning to the UK from France your pet needs:
- a microchip (given by a UK vet)
- a rabies vaccination (make sure your pet is micro chipped first or the vaccination won’t count)
- a pet passport (completed by your UK vet and costing between £150 to £250, depending on the size of your dog)
- tapeworm treatment from a vet (for dogs only)
In 2011 the UK government changed the Pet Passport scheme to make it easier for pet owners by allowing dogs to travel just 21 days after having a rabies vaccination rather than wait for six months, and removing the need for a blood test which cost around £100.
After the first vaccination and waiting period, you can enter the UK whenever you like as long as booster rabies vaccinations are given on time.
Visit the French vet before you return home
Once the rabies injection is out the way, and you’ve purchased your pet passport, then you’re on your way. However, there is one vital function you must remember before you return to the UK. You must have your dog treated for tapeworm by a vet, and have this recorded in the pet passport.
The treatment must be given between 1 and 5 days (24 to 120 hours) before you’re scheduled to arrive in the UK. Your vet must record the following details in your dog’s pet passport or certificate:
- the name and manufacturer of the product used to treat your dog
- the date and time they treated your dog
- their stamp and signature
We’ve had this done twice now before coming back to the UK, and it’s all been very easy and straightforward – the vets that we have used know exactly what needs to be done, and how it needs to be recorded. The cost for this is around 35 – 40 Euros and we recommend that you get your appointment booked at the start of your holiday so you have no last minute panics trying to find an available vet!
Best operator experience
We’ve used Eurotunnel to travel with our dog, and have been impressed with their service. There are enclosed dog exercise areas on both the UK and French sides so your mutt can stretch his legs before travel, and during the journey he simply stays in the car with you, so no need to leave him on his own at any time.
P&O and Brittany Ferries also offer dog ferrying services, which we’ve also used on several occasions.
Depending on the crossing you can book your dog into an onboard kennel where you have some time at the start of the journey to walk your pet around the deck. The alternative is to leave your pooch in your car, which was fine for our dog but might not work so well if you have pets with a nervous disposition.
For more information: