This year our skiing adventure will be as a family of 4 although Arthur won’t be participating in any snow sports just yet! As a family we decided that we wanted our last holiday as a family of 3 to be a special one and decided on a New Year trip to Val Thorens. Lucie was a newbie to skiing so we took her to Tamworth Skiing centre prior to our holiday for 6 hours of lessons to teach her the basics. I was planning on spending my time relaxing!
I was advised by my doctor that flying probably wasn’t a good idea due to my SPD and looming due date so we made the decision to drive! I hope some of my readers find this blog post informative and I’ll try to include as many prices, hints and tips as I can to help those who may decide to drive to Val Thorens in the future.
I have decided to write this blog post in three parts, part one will be the preparation Part two the travel and arrival at Val Thorens and part three will be about the actual holiday.
Winter Adventure In Val Thorens – Preperation
We started our holiday preparation quite late in the year, 30th August 2012 to be exact. The first stage of the preparation was to find accommodation and we started with a website called Home Away. After looking at various apartments in the area we decided to go for a 1 bedroom apartment which slept 4 people at a cost of £550 for a week. We chose this particular apartment because it had a decent sized kitchen for me to cook in, would have enough space for our personal needs and was very close to the slopes.
After the initial accommodation booking we didn’t do any further preparation until the beginning of December. We spent some time looking at various websites to find out if there was anything in particular we would need to take with us on a driving holiday to France I have included a list below of recommended items according to the RAC website.
If you’re driving in France your checklist requirements are:
- A valid, full UK driving licence – both the photo card and paper counterpart
- A GB sticker clearly displayed on the back of your car – unless your car has ‘Euro-plates’ (number-plates that show a circle of 12 stars on a blue background) – I did notice that a massive number of GB drivers did not have these but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Your motor insurance certificate
- Headlamp converters (stickers you put on your headlights when you’re driving on the right, so your lights don’t dazzle motorists coming the other way) – These can be very confusing so I suggest you find out how to fit them before travelling.
- As of 1st July 2012 it became illegal to drive in France without a NF-approved (Norme Française) breathalyser in your car. Drivers who fail to comply with the law risk having to pay on the spot fines of 11 euros (£9).
- A warning triangle and reflective jacket for use if you break down or have to pull over to change a wheel or deal with any other problems. The reflective jacket must be kept inside the vehicle (not in the boot) so you can reach it without exiting the vehicle. If you don’t have these, you could be fined around €90. – You will need a reflective jacket for each passenger.
It’s a good idea to have:
- Spare bulbs for your car’s external lights
- A fire extinguisher
- A first aid kit
Other things you should know:
- When driving through France, you’ll have to pay motorway tolls – often these are automated barriers, so take plenty of change
- It’s illegal to carry any radar detection equipment, whether or not it’s switched on
- Petrol, diesel and LPG are readily available at most filling stations. You can also find lead replacement petrol (LRP) – it’s called ‘supercarburant’
- Children under 10 can’t travel in the front seat
- The speed limit is 50kph in towns, 80-100kph on open roads and 110-130kph on motorways
- If you’re caught speeding, you could be given a hefty on-the-spot fine and your car and licence could be confiscated there and then
- The drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – lower than the UK limit of 80mg per 100ml
- You should only use your horn in an emergency
- If you want the car in front to give way, flash your headlights
- In built-up areas, if there’s no yellow diamond sign, you must give way to any cars coming out of a side turning on the right
- The last car in a queue of slow-moving traffic must use their hazard lights as a warning
After reading numerous websites regarding the need for snow chains we decided that it was probably better to have them with us, snow chains can be very expensive but we managed to find some in a Lidl supermarket for £20 so it’s definitely worth checking to see if your local store stocks them. David did a trial run of attaching the snow chains to the wheels which was a tedious experiment and he hoped that we wouldn’t need to use them during our trip!
We purchased our breath strips, spare blubs, GB sticker and Light reflectors from Halfords but I would recommend that you shop around as we paid more than we needed to for our items.
We decided to take out European car breakdown cover to protect us during our journey, we already have cover through the AA who were going to charge us £82 for our holiday, after ringing around we decided to go with Green Flag who charged us £62.73 so it’s definitely worth getting a few quotes before purchasing your cover.
Before you travel you will need Travel Insurance, our insurance is included through our bank and covers winter sports, if you already have travel insurance it is worth checking that you are covered for winter sports as some providers charge extra for this cover.
An EHIC card is a must for travel in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, this card is free from the NHS, there are a number of websites who are charging for this card, please only use the official EHIC website. Your EHIC lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. The card will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return. It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth.
We booked our ferry via My Ferry Link we did leave this until the last minute and purchased on the 21st December, I am unsure if booking early will save you any money.
Our outward ferry from Dover to Calais departed Saturday 29/12/2012 at 07:00am and our return ferry from Calais to Dover departed Saturday 05/01/2013 at 18:50 at a cost of £120. The outward ferry was extremely quiet and I recommend travelling at this time. The return ferry was very busy and a number of passengers were sitting in the lobby due to lack of seats.
Our journey to Dover from Leamington Spa took 2 hours 56 mins, we left the house at 03:00am and arrived at the ferry terminal in good time.
We found ourselves a nice little seat close to the window although we couldn’t actually see anything as it was pitch black outside. David made use of my handbag and the floor to catch a bit of sleep before the long journey ahead.