A Blog Post by Jennifer Wilson
First Family camping holiday in France this year ?
Not sure which region to try ?
Which way to travel ?
Stay in a tent or mobile home ?
Or take your own tent or caravan ?
Here are some of our experiences of family camping holidays to give you some tips we discovered.
We started out by camping in Brittany. Apparently that is a typical first camping destination ! But it has suited us very well. It is an interesting and varied region, with good child friendly food (crepes !) being a favourite and sheltered, clean beaches.
The campsites are varied and offer lots for children. The sites where the big tour operators such as Keycamp and Eurocamp visit will often offer children's clubs and there are excellent playparks usually. One site we visited at Carantec even had a baby and toddler room with nursery style toys - a great idea especially if its raining ! (www.bestfrenchcampsites.com/carantec/carantec.html)
If you are looking for a cheaper option than travelling with a tour operator, it can often be cheaper to book directly with campsites. This might mean that if you are wanting to use the kids club then you will need to join in the Campsite's own kids club. Now this can be a good option and they usually cater for more than one language, but if you are a little wary about your own language skills you may well be happier just sticking to for example Eurocamp or Canvas Holidays for your first family trips abroad and making use of their kids clubs which will definitely cater for English speakers. If this is important to you though remember to check in advance as, for example, not all Europcamp campsites have a Eurocamp kids club.
With regards to accommodation, for a first trip abroad, especially if you have a baby, it might be better to have a mobile home if possible. Think about whether you really would like to have your own bathroom facilities rather than having to walk through a campsite in the night. If you have very young children as well we recommend the Potette travel potty idea - great even for car journeys ! But yes the mobile homes are great and if you have a toddler you can get decking with a stair gate which gives a safe area for the toddler and allows you to relax a little on holiday ! Camping and 2 or 3 year olds are not an easy option so plan carefully!
We have enjoyed travelling with Brittany Ferries. Their ships are well planned and for example if you are on a longer crossing you can often book a day cabin. The ferries often have good food options and sometimes a cinema or entertainment as well as shops to keep children occupied with trying to get their parents to buy them something!
Another thing to consider is that the weather in the north of France is very similar to that in the south of England. And the types of insects you encounter are similar too ! Whereas if you head to the SW or South of France you could be hitting potentially daytime temperatures well into the 30s, with hot humid nights and potentially encountering mosquitoes etc. (Certainly for pets there are worse ticks etc down in the South of France than in the north.) So, if you are heading south with a young family in the summer months, make sure you get air conditioning if you are in a mobile home, and remember that a tent will probably be too hot to be in during the afternoons. All things to consider. Tents can be fabulous for really feeling close to nature and for getting kids to really feel a part of the campsite and get out playing with friends, but there can be other things to consider as well.
If you want to find a holiday to suit a smaller budget then have a good look for 2 and 3 star campsites and read their reviews online. The 2 and 3 star rating can indicate that they might not have a swimming pool onsite or perhaps facilities like a shop and restaurant, but they can still be clean, friendly and could be in a great position for the beach etc. e.g. Camping des Abers in NW Brittany.
Another option is to look for municipal campsites which are run by towns and villages themselves, so can often be found in very convenient places for visiting tourist attractions, and can very often be of a good standard. The cheapest option is probably to take your own tent and book a plot.
If you are looking for the fastest method of crossing the channel (apart from flying !) then the Calais to Dover crossing is the quickest (can be around an hour to 1.5 hours) and Eurostar trains through the tunnel are also a very quick option - you can travel with your car as well on the Eurostar trains. Brittany Ferries do not travel Calais to Dover but they do have similar routes.
The fastest ferries on the other routes to France tend to be the 2.5 hour Fast Ferry crossing, sometimes run by Brittany Ferries in conjunction with Condor Ferries, which typically crosses between Portsmouth and Caen (but please check exact details with the ferry operators !) Although we have met families who take the long crossing to St Malo overnight and that works well. They drive down to the port one day, sleep on the boat and then arrive at their campsite the next day. So there are lots of possibilities !
If you decide to make this year your first family holiday in France then we hope you have a good one !