So how do you turn the annual stressful, tedious journey down to your winter ski holiday into something remotely bearable? After all, you dread it every year and it never gets any easier. Read on for some tried and trusted stress-busting ideas.
Plan your journey in France
Google maps is my go to resource for journey planning. It’s such an incredibly powerful tool and I find the Street View function invaluable when I am travelling.
Being able to get a visual on that important autoroute exit or the location of that vital refuelling stop en route helps to avoid navigation errors that will cost time and stress.
Mappy is also excellent and will calculate the cost of your journey including tolls and a rough idea of the fuel you are likely to use.
For live traffic information, I can’t recommend the Bison Futé website highly enough.
You can also find out how meteorological conditions may affect your journey.
Yes, it’s in English too!
The website also gives information on peak travel days which you should try and avoid if you want to enjoy a hassle free drive to your ski resort.
Plan your journey breaks in advance
The French autoroutes website is a goldmine of information, a great resource for your journey through France en route to your ski holiday. It includes autoroute webcams, live traffic information and details on the numerous service areas that are scattered across the autoroute network.
When planning your journey break, you should understand the difference between an Aire de Service and an Aire de Repos. It can make a difference to your stress levels, believe me!
You’ll find the full service stations every 25kms or so. They are always indicated well in advance.
The signs for the full service areas include pictograms of the facilities that you will find there such as fuel, food and cashpoint.
If you are desperate for fuel or didn’t think to bring food on your journey then aim to stop at an Aire de service.
However, if all you need is a pee stop and somewhere to eat your packed lunch/picnic, look out for the Aires de Repos.
These very pleasant, clean and practical Aires typically just have toilet facilities and picnic tables. That’s pretty much all you need for a relaxed short pit stop, after all.
They’re usually set well back from the autoroute and have plenty of space for stretching your legs.
Some include play areas for children too.
Look out for the signs on the autoroute which simply include a pictogram of a picnic table and maybe also a WC sign.
Plan your refuelling stops
The price of fuel at motorway services is ridiculous. But get smart and you won’t have to pay such crazy prices.
You can save as much as 0,30€/ltr by filling up at one of the major hypermarket service stations just off the autoroute, literally just off the autoroute!
They are all available 24h/24h and all take the major credit cards.
Find the best fuel stations along your planned route and even work out just how much that full tank will save you by filling up off the autoroute.
The Intermarché Carburant app, for example, is available for both iPhone and Android.
Plan an overnight stopover
Get your holiday off to the right start by arriving at your ski resort relaxed, bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to hit those slopes.
It’s doable in one hit but why drive all that way in one go when you can make a stopover part of your holiday.
France is a big country and it’s so easy to underestimate distances.
As a rough guide, it’s 3 hours straight down the autoroute from Calais to Reims in the Champagne region.
If your plan is to get a few more miles under your belt before stopping for the night, head on down to Burgundy.
Count on 5 to 6 hours from Calais to Dijon which will leave you with a 3 to 4 hour journey next day if you are heading for Chamonix
But carry on down the autoroute for another hour towards Macon in southern Burgundy and you can enjoy the most sublime stopover experience.
This stunning B&B is set on a vineyard estate and is perfectly placed just 4kms from exit 29 of the A6 autoroute.
The beautifully restored guest rooms and family suites have all the comforts you could need for a great nights sleep.
The B&B gets bonus points for the amazing evening meals and the opportunity for you to sample and buy some of the estates delicious Pouilly Fuissé wine.
As far as ski stopovers go, this really is the ultimate experience for the wine lover who is travelling with their dog and kids!
With a bit of planning and the right tools, a stress free drive down to your annual winter holiday in the Alps is possible. The resources and information is out there if you know where to look and the right people to ask.