For those of you who follow us on Instagram, you'll have seen that we (Chief Bundler Lucy and family) have spent the last two Summers camping in France and we LOVE it! From the traditional fresh pastries for breakfast, to the amazing landscapes and activities, it's really hard to top.
When we post about these trips, we always get asked about how we plan them, so I thought that it was about time that I shared my top tips for planning a camping trip in France...
1. How will you get across to France?
If you're travelling from the UK, have a look at the different options for ferries or Eurotunnel, and see which departure point would be best for you. The Dover - Calais/Dunkirk routes are often cheaper and faster, the Eurotunnel is quicker, but the Brittany Ferry options from Plymouth, Portsmouth & Poole work really well for reducing driving hours if you're travelling from the South West.
2. How far do you want to drive once you've arrived in France?
If you've had hours of travel just getting over to France, you might want to just crash somewhere for the night, and set off the following morning. If so, the Accor Group Hotels have a huge range of options, with the F1 hotels offering a budget friendly option.
3. Where do you want to go?
The next step is to decide where you want to go. From experience, having a maximum drive of 4-6 hours between each location works well. If you are pitching a tent, then keeping it closer to 4 hours allows for time either side to pack down and pitch up. However, you might find it easier to look at pre-pitched options, which means there is far less to pack down and set up and therefore a longer drive is ok.
Use Google Maps to have a look at options that are 4-6 hours drive, and click on the locations to see images of the area and find out a bit more.
4. Which campsites should we stay at?
We've found that having 3-4 nights per campsite allows you to really settle in and have the time to explore. If you only have a week, then perhaps just picking two campsites would work well, but if you can stretch to a fortnight then 4 campsites are definitely doable.
Our absolutely go to company for booking sites in France is Huttopia. They are BRILLIANT, and have something for everyone - from basic pitches, to well stocked chalets, and everything in between. Most of their sites have a swimming pool and park area, and you can order bread and pastries for collection each morning, meaning that breakfast is always a simple and delicious affair!
We use the destinations map on their homepage to look at feasible options for travel and then take a look at a few different options to choose our favourites. We're planning to write a blog of our favourite sites so far soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Another great site for booking campite is Hipcamp (previously Cool Camping) and they have a section for campsites in France specifically.
5. Other things to consider...
Take your own tent or opt for a pre-pitched option?
I guess it depends on your budget & personal preference...
Last Summer, we went on a four week camping trip around France and used our own tent, aside from a 2 night stay to break up the journey. We LOVE our bell tent and really do find it such a fun experience having your own kit, however the set up and pack down on travel days did make things slightly more tiring.
This year, we have done a combination of using our own tent (at the last destination) and opting for pre-pitched tents and accommodation. Arriving to the campsite and having everything set up and ready to go (aside from bedding) does make things very simple, but obviously that comes with a cost. With Huttopia sites, you have to clean your own accommodation on departure (or can opt to pay for cleaners for an extra £70-75), but again you can leave pretty swiftly without too make pack down required.
What to take?
If you are opting for your own tent, then take a look at our camping kit suggestions for what to take. We really did find it a game changer being able to shove the Bundle Beds stacked in the footwell of the back car seats, as it allowed us a lot more boot space, and made setting up the beds super simple.
In regards to clothing, we definitely took WAY too much with us last year. All of the campsites have washing machines, and so you can get away with just a few items. We always have a fleece, tracksuit bottoms (or onesies for the kids), a waterproof and cosy socks for each member of the family. The evenings can get chilly, so these are something that you can put on as the sun sets to keep cosy. Then we pretty much live in shorts & a t-shirt or a simple throw on dress, and swimmers during the day!
We take two towels each - one microfibre one for swimming and then a quick-dry towelling one for showers in the evening. We have a bar of soap and shampoo & conditioner bar that we have for the family, and then use parla toothpaste tabs and a bamboo toothbrush as the main wash kit. We keep it in a bag with handles so that it's easy to hang up in the showers. I take a very basic bag of first aid bits; bite cream, calpol (always essential with kids), painkillers, antihistamines, plasters etc, but there are usually well stocked pharmacies nearby for any additional bits that we need.
We LOVE camping in France. With so many places to explore, warmer weather and delicious food, it really does make for an excellent holiday. Plus, you can have the most amazing holiday for a really low budget if you're happy to camp.
If you're off on an adventure with kids, we've put together some top tips for ensuring a great nights sleep. And for those long journeys, take a look at some fun games to play in the car.
Please let us know if you've found some hidden gems in France, or have any other top tips for us, we love to hear all about them!