We decided on a very last minute holiday to France. We booked up on the Wednesday and started our journey on the Sunday. The kids were super excited! In fact, at the beginning of the school holiday, James asked the kids to make a list of the stuff they wanted to do during their summer break. One of Mabel’s top 5 things to do was to go to France so she was very impressed that she got her wish! We spent the next couple of days frantically washing and organising everything we needed to take with us. I did an Aldi shop so that we could take along the food basics so that we didn’t have to spent out too much on the boring stuff like tea bags and cereal.
As I explained on a previous post, we’ve had 2 previous trips to France which were pretty unsuccessful! If you’re unfamiliar with the story so far then take a look at my last post ✖️Previous Disasterous French Holidays✖️ , this will get you up to speed. So We’ve had some practice in honning in on the things that were helpful when driving for long jouneys with 3 young children. I shall share with you some top tips from our experiences which may help you maintain your sanity and family serenity before the holiday even kicks off. Well, maybe that was a bit of a claim too far? If you’re anything like our family any car journey is usually punctuated by either kids smacking each other in the head, shouting and screaming or them just getting annoyed by the mere fact that one of their siblings has dared to breathe in their vicinity. Which then results in one other or both of the grown ups shouting ‘just keep your hands to yourself and don’t talk to each other if you don’t have anything nice to say’ whilst muttering an expletive under our breathe. I’m sure that’s not just us?!
The first part of a our journey took us from home on Gloucestershire to the Euro Tunnel in Folkestone. I hate ferries, this is mainly due to the fact that I spent a fair amount of my childhood travelling back and forth to Germany where we lived at the time. My Mum tells a story of a particularly choppy crossing where my sister and I had been playing on the floor of the ferry only to emerge looking very green around the gills! We had taken a picnic lunch with us to eat during our Euro Tunnel crossing. This meant that we didn’t have to stop for a while once we got into France and the kids were adequately fed, watered and tolieted before the next stage of our journey.
The first time we went to France we naively thought that we could manage big chunks of time in the car. We learnt from that mistake! Our eventual destination was to be the Lot-De-Garrone region in South-West France. If we’d gone straight from Calais, it would have been a 12 hour journey and so we had booked a small Airbnb cottage about half way down. The cottage was lovely, small but just what we needed to get our heads down and the kids to have a run around for our next part of our car journey. The kids loved the fact that there was loads of outside space and that the owners had some animals to visit whilst we were there. We had dinner, the kids had a play and then we all had a well earned rest. We all emerged the next day refreshed and ready to take on the next stint in the van.
As we ventured further and further south into France the temperature got warmer and warmer. We have a VW Transporter Kombi van that DOESN’T have airconditoning which made for an either noisy (with the windows down) or toasty (with the windows up) journey. The kids moaned about being too hot or it being too windy. We of course recounted the fact that no cars had air-con ‘back in our day’ and they responded with looks that basically said ‘whatevs’! We stopped about 4 times on the way down to our next (and main) Airbnb accommodation. The kids were very well behaved considering we were trying to push on though our journey so that we could arrive in time to meet the owner of the house. Their behaviour was in part aided by the fact that we had of course taken their Kindles with the them which James had loaded with their favourite TV shows and films before we left home. We had also very cleverly (yes I will congratulate ourselves on this) bought them headphones so that we didn’t have to listen to their 3 varrying and annoying programs.
Part of my Aldi shop also included various snacks to chuck at the kids whenever they threatened to rip each other’s arms off or just generally got fed up with being cooped up in a tight space with each other. We had also learnt on previous trips that food could be the vital factor between the mother of all meltdowns and harmony, even if it was only between annoyances. I had also had the forethought to not include anything that would melt in the growing heat! So our snacks included; cereal bars, breadsticks, rice cakes, raisins, sweets (so that we could bring out the big guns when the going got tough!), biscuits and crisps.
We came off the motorway about an hour away from our Airbnb. This was a very welcome break as the scenery was amazing and offered a chance to distract the kids from time to time. We arrived at our Airbnb at about 5pm and it was beautiful! I’d thoroughly recommend where we stayed. There was lovely shadded areas where you could chill and read and eat but also areas you could enjoy the warmth of the sun with a good book. We were greeted by the lovely owner who showed us around and told us all the important info and then we beded in. The kids went off to explore and James and I made oursleves at home.
We had almost a week in the Lot-Et-Garrone and it was stunning. We spent our mornings chilling and lazing around whilst the kids explored and played their games or spent time on the piano at the house. We’d then have some lunch and venture out to explore the amazing places the area had to offer. One of our trips was to a Castle called Chateaux De Bonaguil. As we approached the castle we all gasped! It stood on a hill, all golden and regal. Oscar absolutely loved it, he couldn’t wait to see was around the next corner and read the information about each room we entered. Mabel and Albie enjoyed it too until we reached the dungeons which featured a massive fake bat and Albie declared that he was ‘freaked out’! Both Mabel and Albie began to enjoy it once again when we reached the gift shop! Another day the kids and James had a swim in a natural pool. I had planned to paddle around the edge but when we got there, we were told that you could only be on the pool side if you had swimming gear on as the pool needed to be kept clean by everyone having a shower before they entered the pool area. James and thekids reported back that the pool was indeed the best pool that they had swum if, if a little chilly! On our last full day we visited the Bastide town of Tournon D’ Agenais. James and I loved it here, it was very typically French and had some fantastic views from the walls of the town. The kids weren’t so impressed and Oscar informed James that it was somewhere that only grown ups like to come!
Once we’d managed to get the kids to bed mine and James’ evenings were spent reading books which we never do at home which in part due to the fact that we have a TV and also that we just zone out after busy days at work when were caught up in the daily grind of ‘normal life’. We also obviously enjoyed a cheeky wine or gin (or two) whilst enjoying the evening’s warmth. We loved the fact that we could truly relax away from the boring interuptions of the washing pile and the kids’ messy rooms.
My ‘Top Tips for long car journeys with children’
- Electronic devices will be your saviour – yes well all know that children spend too much time in front of screens but for the sake of familial harmony and your relationship remaining in tact, DO IT!
- Snacks – Make sure that they are easily transported and are snacks that won’t make a dogs dinner of your rear seats. Oh and another top tip with regards to jouney snacks is to take some small bowls, again….less mess! Keep your big guns when you’re in dire need, you know when you just can’t possibly hear ‘are we nearly there yet’ without wanting to rip your own ears off
- Break up the journey – I know this seems obvious but I have a tendancy to want to push on through the journey so that we can arrive at our final destination sooner but take it from me, the kids needed to run around at frequent interval to allow them to have more that 20cms space between each other. I’m sure it prevented many a sibling induced injury
- Add to your adventure with a stop over – I think this point was good for all of our mental health. It was good to have some space. It also added to the excitement of the trip with more places to investigate and explore
- Purchase headphones – if like my kids, your kids like to watch some god awful program/film you’ll thank me for this. James and I could also actually listen to the radio and talk to each other without having to compete against 3 devices
We had an absolutely amazing holiday and I came away with dreams of buying a holiday in the South of France! It was lovely to get away and have some real family time with some real relaxation without any preocupation with ‘real life’. So the Kingers have managed to have a magical holiday to France and it is no longer a place of disaster for our family!
Thanks for reading