What Do You Need for a Road Trip in France?


Going on a road trip can be a lot of fun. It can give you the opportunity to see things you haven’t seen before. The time alone (unless you’re going with someone else) can give you a chance to take time out from the usual day-to-day responsibilities you have and can allow you to recharge your batteries. However, if not properly thought out, a road trip can become a lot of stress and may not turn out how you envisioned originally.

Having just come back from a road trip to France, I’m in a good position to tell you what you need to think about before you go, what worked quite well (and what didn’t) and also how much it might cost you.

So, what do you need for a road trip to France? If you want to take your car on a road trip to France you need many things but as long as you plan your trip carefully, you’ll have a great time! Check out the details from my recent road trip and there might be something you can take away from it.

Planning the Road Trip

Without a doubt, the most important part of a road trip is the planning stage. What you don’t want to be doing when you’re away is worrying because you’ve forgotten something or stressing because you’ve taken a wrong turning, adding hours onto your route which can actually have a big knock-on effect within your trip.

Therefore, the below things should be considered weeks or months prior to leaving.

The Car

Most people, when undertaking a long drive want to do it in comfort. Of course, which car we choose to use on a road trip is most likely already fixed but your comfort during the potentially many miles on the road is linked, at least in some way, to the enjoyment you have.

Not all of us have nice comfy GT cars that afford us that comfort though. So, you need to be prepared for the discomfort you may feel after driving for a couple of hours and factor this into your planning. I had to do this myself and schedule several breaks during the trip (more detail on this below) but it can easily add a few hours onto your trip time.

Car Safety

Also, and not wanting to state the obvious, but of course I must, your car needs a few checks performed on it before you embark on your journey. Check the oil and top up if necessary. Consider taking some oil with you of the right type so you can top up if you burn more than you expect.

Check your tyre tread. It’s easy to do with a tool like this (opens in a new window) and costs you next to nothing. Check your spare tyre and if you don’t have one (like me) then ensure you have a method of performing a temporary fix so you can at least get to a garage – consider something like this which gets great reviews on Amazon.

Ensure there’s enough water in your windscreen reservoir and consider purchasing an enhanced roadside cover policy. Personally, I opted for RAC Euro Premium cover (note that all the costs for my trip are detailed below). This covered pretty much every eventuality and also gave me peace of mind.

The Destination and Route

Know exactly where you’re going before you depart. Understanding this information will enable you to understand how long it will take and you’ll be able to get a better idea of whether the route is too long each day, or not. Use Google Maps and/or Waze if possible and additionally, print out your route and take a good old-fashioned map with you. This way, if you have any technical ‘challenges’ you’ll be able to revert to this.

This seems like common sense and actually it is. But let me give you an example of why you might want to do this. Phone-based navigation apps are great for getting you from A->B the quickest or shortest possible route. However, what if you don’t want one of these options. I mapped a route using Google ‘My Maps’ through a particular set of roads which would take me through part of the French Alps. There was no way to take this route and import it into either Waze or Google Maps. So, we had to rely on the old method – maps that you actually have to hold! It was surprisingly good fun.

Duration of the road trip

You need to be realistic in how many miles you are prepared to drive every day. When I did my trip I tried to cram way too much into five days and it proved incredibly tiring. If I do it again, I’ll give myself at least an extra couple of days to actually enjoy the places I’m driving to. On paper, the miles are easy but when you’re actually doing them, day after day, it becomes tiring. Factor in some traffic and other delays and all of a sudden your schedule is under pressure.

The main thing to consider here is to make sure you don’t make it too hard for yourself! You may not even know how long is too long as yet. If this is the case for you, which was the case for me, then err on the side of caution and consider keeping the miles down a little. How many miles is too many? Well, I was averaging over 400 miles a day, and I was well and truly knackered at the end of each day. It also depends on the car and if you have one that is more comfortable than mine (wouldn’t be difficult) then maybe you can stretch it a little more.

Accommodation

I spent a long time planning the route and deciding where to stay. Money wasn’t limitless (unfortunately) so we had a budget to try and stick to. However, we had a simple set of requirements of where to stay:

  1. It should be in a nice area with things to do nearby (restaurants, etc.)
  2. Not too expensive
  3. At least two rooms. As much as I enjoy the company of the friend that accompanied me on the trip – we didn’t want to share a room at night! Spending that much time together is enough and you need your own time also.

So, with the above in mind, I first decided on what location I wanted to stay in. Then, I searched the area, first using Airbnb and then other sources, such as booking.com. These days, there are so many different sites you can use you are spoilt for choice but I predominantly used these. The details of how much I spent on accommodation is detailed below.

Fuel

Depending on your car and where you are driving, this will either be a large financial cost or a more manageable one. As we’re talking about France, the costs of fuel are high (more than the UK in most places, which was a surprise) so it was quite a big chunk. These high prices, combined with the fact that I’ve had as little as 8 miles per gallon from my car was a potential cause for concern. However, I knew on the long motorway journeys it would do a lot more and actually, I was pleasantly surprised that I achieved over 20 MPG on average. For most people, it will probably be double that!

Use a tool such as the RAC Mileage Calculator to give you an approximation for your costs. Don’t take it for granted that this will be that close to your actual costs though and do allow 20% either side. It also depends on how you are driving your car. My route was about 80% boring motorways and 20% twisty mountain passes.

Other Costs

There are other costs that you should factor into your budget.

Toll Roads

For France, there will be toll roads that you will want to use if you want to get to the most popular locations quickly. The best way to manage these is to use Emovis-Tag. They supply you with a fob that you stick on your windscreen. When you approach a toll, you stick to the lanes at the left and the barriers will open as you approach, as long as you’re going quite slowly. Apart from the first time we tried to use it in, this worked perfectly for us and saves time and hassle. There are some costs associated to them though and I’ll detail these below.

Food

Don’t forget that you’ll be stopping at service stations every couple of hours or so and also you’ll most likely be going to restaurants and generally spending more money than usual. Factor in what you think is reasonable – then double it 🙂

Mandatory Equipment to Take

In France, it is mandatory for you to have with you in your car a Motoring Kit – something like this from Amazon is what I purchased. This contains all the things that you need to take, which include:

  • Reflective Jacket
  • Driving License
  • Passport
  • Car Insurance Documentation
  • Warning Triangle
  • Headlamp Beam Deflectors
  • Spare Bulbs

…amongst other things. If you have a small amount of luggage space then you need to factor the space you need for the above in. You would rather take a couple less shirts than getting pulled over by the Gendarmerie and stung with a hefty fine!

Weather

Before I left, I pictured in my head bright sunshine wherever I drove. Which meant driving through torrential rain in Monaco was a bit of a disappointment. That was never meant to happen. So, we had to frantically find other things to do as being outside becoming quickly drenched isn’t that much fun when you only have a limited number of clothes!

Have a ‘disaster-recovery’ plan where you assume the weather will be rubbish – think of things you would do. We went to a museum and probably spent longer than we should have in McDonald’s! Next time, I’ll have a plan. Also, we had some heavy rain on the motorway in Northern France which really slowed us down.

Other Details

Other things to consider are:

  • left-hand drive cars vs right-hand drive. If you drive in France using a right-hand drive car, sooner or later things are going to get a bit stressful. The tolls are okay as they usually accommodate both sides and the problem is negated anyway if you use a toll fob. However, when you’re trying to park your car and the machine is on the other side, it’s a pain in the backside. Not a problem if you have a passenger obviously!
  • Talking of passengers, if you’re going to take one make sure you get along very well with them. You’ll be spending a lot of time in very close proximity so if you know of things that they do that might annoy you, it will annoy you 10 times more if you’re in a confined space for a long time with each other! I was lucky!
  • Consider creating a long music playlist before you leave using something like Spotify. Also, you may wish to consider an audiobook but I found that the constant talking just made me tired and I had to eventually stop it.

My Road Trip – the detail

So, here is all the information about the road trip I recently took from the South East of England to the South of France (and back). Hopefully, some of this information will help you if you are considering a trip yourself!

The Car I would Take

For this road trip, I drove my Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. It’s a 2013 model which had about 11,000 miles on the clock before I started. There were going to be some challenges with choosing this car for the long journey South:

Everything we needed had to fit in here!
  • Storage – there is some space in the front of the car (see pic above) for a couple of small sports bags but this area is compromised by the mandatory road-side equipment we needed to take to France. Therefore, we needed to travel light!
  • Cockpit Storage – in the Gallardo there is literally nowhere to put anything when you’re inside. Even the smallest bottle of water has no place to go or sit. The glovebox can barely hold a few cables, let alone a glove! So, we had to put everything we needed into a carrier bag which sat in the passenger foot-well.
  • Ride-quality – the Lambo is not known for the most comfortable of rides, it’s not a Grand Tourer and you’d expect nothing else but I knew it would mean we’d have to stop more often than a regular car.
  • Fuel Economy – I had no idea how much it would cost in fuel for the trip down and back. On some short runs, I was only doing 8 MPG so I budgeted for £1,000 ($1240) just to be on the safe side. As it happened, it cost less than £700 ($870).
  • Depreciation – unfortunately, you have to consider how you are affecting the value of the car when you put significant miles onto it. I knew that by adding the 1800 miles of this road-trip that it would either affect the value of the car or I would have to drive it a lot less when I got it back. I decided to ignore this as it seemed silly to worry about it but it is a factor when you’re using a car like this.
  • Stone chips – there was every chance that I would chip the paintwork or the windscreen during the trip as I knew some of the roads I was going to use may not be in the best condition. I had the front nose covered with PPF (Paint Protection Film) previously which means any chips are less likely to damage the paintwork.

My route to the South of France

Here is the information related to our final destination and how we got there (and back).

Destination

We wanted the destination for the trip to be somewhere quite close to Monaco and we chose Cagnes-sur-Mer. It wasn’t our first choice as we were originally looking for somewhere in Monaco itself but it proved to be impossible, primarily because of the cost but also because the cheaper accommodation did not have safe parking.

So, in the end, we opted for a place in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, which was both reasonably priced and had safe parking. It was situated between Cannes and Nice and about a 40-minute drive from Monaco.

Location of Cagnes-sur-Mer, France

Cagnes-Sur-Mer proved to be a great location as not only was there a great beach on our doorstep but also lots of nice restaurants to choose from.

Day 1 – Folkestone to Bourg-en-Bresse

We decided to spend the night near the Folkestone Euro crossing as it would have taken us at least 2 hours to get from my location in Hertfordshire and as we had a 0650 train (having to get there 45 minutes before it left) – it would have meant an early start. To save ourselves those two hours, we stayed in a Travelodge the night before.

The Eurotunnel experience was pretty smooth but if you have a supercar I would recommend when you book that you opt for the higher/wider car/caravan option as this gives you just a bit more width. You wouldn’t want to start off your road trip by curbing those wheels!

Actually getting down to the South of France was going to be part of the fun but there’s no getting around the fact that you just have to sit on motorways for a considerable amount of time. To break this up, I chose to visit Reims first. Reims-Gueux used to be the location for a Grand Prix circuit and some of it still remains today. There’s not a great deal to see but if you’re lucky and have it all to yourself (which wasn’t the case for us) then it’s a good opportunity for some nice pics.

Reims

After Reims, we stopped off at (what seemed like) several service stations before our final destination for Day 1, which was Bourg-en-Bresse.

Calais to Bourg-en-Bresse

Bourge-en-Bresse was nice but a bit quiet and it seems pretty much everything shuts down on a Sunday so we had trouble finding anywhere to eat. It was a relatively early night as it was another early start for the trip to the South via Route Napoleon.

Day 2 – Bourg-en-Bresse to Cagnes-Sur-Mer (via Route Napoleon)

I was looking forward to this day. This was the day when the fun would properly start and we were ready for it after the previous day’s slog through Northern France.

The route to the South of France

We headed down towards Grenoble and then Gap where we stopped for lunch. I liked Gap. In fact, I liked all the places where we stopped and found it a pity that we couldn’t stay longer. It was around this time that I first wondered whether we should have given ourselves more time to complete this trip.

After lunch, we headed towards Digne and then the N85, Route Napoleon where we spent the most marvelous few hours twisting and turning through the mountain passes. Again, in my head prior to leaving, it was just me on the road but of course, in reality, it wasn’t like that. Quite a lot of traffic obviously had the same idea and somewhat hindered timely progress and maximum enjoyment of the eager-to-please 5.2-liter V10 engine.

The Lambo on Route Napoleon

It was spectacular though are maybe the highlight of the journey. It was this scenery that I had endured hours of boredom in Northern France for.

We arrived in Cagnes-Sur-Mer late afternoon and was most impressed with the view from the balcony.

Cagnes-Sur-Mer, view towards Cannes

Lots of restaurants to choose from on the seafront and a nice atmosphere made for overall, a jolly good day.

Day 3 – Monaco

This was originally going to be the highlight of the whole road trip but it didn’t turn out that way. The rain started around 8 am and didn’t stop until about 7 pm – at times it was torrential.

Still, with no time to waste, we drove into Monaco undaunted. The traffic was horrendous and some of the streets were so tight and so twisty I had to perform 3-point turns just to get around them! It was pretty stressful to say the least and I guess the rain didn’t help. We parked up and I managed to curb one of my wheels. The carparks are so small and tight they proved very challenging with not the best visibility from the cockpit.

We visited the Monaco Top Cars museum, which is a collection owned by the Prince of Monaco himself but despite being impressive we were only in there because of the rain!

A moist Monaco Tunnel

It was still raining when we got out and decided to walk as much of the F1 circuit we could, before going back to the car and driving it. It was cool but if only the weather was nice enough for the roof to be off! It did not help that the forecast for the following few days was bright sunshine! Again, only if we could have stayed another day…

Still, an early start the next day as (already) we are heading back towards the UK.

Day 4 – Cagnes-Sur-Mer to Avallon

The plan was to go as direct as possible to Avallon so we had some time to look around the place, which looked great on the web.

Cagnes-Sur-Mer to Avallon

We headed off early and the journey, although long, was quite uneventful. The accommodation for the evening was impressive and the town equally so.

Avallon

In the evening we had a nice meal and attempted to have a (relatively) early night. However, the locals had other ideas and insisted on having a good time and making what seemed like as much noise as possible until about 2am. Lovely for them, not so lovely for us as we were up at 5am to head towards Calais!

Day 5 – Avallon to Hertfordshire, UK

An early start and we hit some lovely roads heading back through Northern France as the Sun rose.

Avallon to home, via the spectacular M25

Again, the journey was easy, if not a little boring as the landscape isn’t as exciting as the South, naturally.

We had paid extra for the FlexiPlus option on the Eurotunnel, which meant we could turn up whenever we like. This was a great purchase and literally 10 minutes after passing through passport control in Calais, we were tucked nicely into the train.

The Lambo in the Eurotunnel train

It was after this where things grew frustrating. During the whole 5 days, some 1800 miles, the only traffic problems we had were in England. The M25 was its usual, shocking self, despite arriving on it outside of lunch and the rush hours. This was hard work after spending about 7 hours on the road driving by this point.

After the M25, it was an easy journey back. Also, though – just a bit sad. Things happened so quickly I couldn’t quite believe it was all over. I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.

The next day I was shattered, big time. I think it was a little bit too much to fit into five days – lesson learned for next time!

The accommodation I Chose

Primarily I used Airbnb as I’ve heard good things about them but it’s always a bit of a gamble when you book anywhere up. As was the case with ours. The first place we stayed in didn’t have any soap/toiletries etc. Lesson learned for next time to bring these things! The next place didn’t have functioning WiFi, despite saying they did. That might not seem a big deal but if the data network isn’t great and you’re trying to find things to do in an area you don’t know, it comes in pretty handy.

The last place was great, except for the noise! You can’t have everything I know but next time I would make sure the location was relatively quiet. You can make do without a lot of things but without sleep, you’re going to struggle!

The Things I Took

I had a relatively long list of things that I had to remember to take on the road trip, they are summarised below to give you a feel for what you might need:

  • Passport
  • Driving License
  • V5 Vehicle Registration Document
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Toll Fob
  • Car immobiliser
  • Tyre Charger
  • Phone Cables and EU plug converters
  • Glasses / Sunglasses
  • Snacks/water for the journey
  • Debit / Credit Cards
  • Printout of everything you need (phone numbers of accommodation, maps, Roadside Assistance details etc.)
  • Camera (although ended up just using the camera on my phone which was a Galaxy S10+)
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Clothes and cash

I should have taken extra toiletries such as soap/shower gel and next time I won’t bother with the camera. What I will do though is have a dash-mounted camera to record some of the great roads we went through. My mate recorded some but there’s a lot of wind noise.

What worked well and what didn’t

The car worked exceptionally well and didn’t miss a beat throughout. I can’t say I wasn’t worried about driving a Lamborghini 1,800 miles in 5 days, which is why I opted for the RAC Premium Roadside cover but it performed just tremendously.

What was not particularly enjoyable was the slog to get down to the fun stuff in the South of France. I don’t know if I really want to do that again. I may consider getting my car transported to somewhere like Lyon and starting the adventure from there. It’s not cheap though so we’ll see next year when/if we start thinking about these things again.

As you may have gathered, the schedule was challenging. There were too many miles to cover in not enough time. With a couple more days it would have been a lot more relaxing. However, I have a family at home and I didn’t want to spend that much time away, at least this first time. Next time, I’m going to do a week though!

Costs

Here are the total costs for the whole road trip.

Accommodation

Day – LocationCost
Day 0 – Travelodge Folkestone£81.99
Day 1 – Bourg-en-Bresse£53.31
Day 2/3 – Cagnes-sur-Mer£327.77
Day 4 – Avallon£103
Total£566.7

I thought the above costs were quite reasonable. This is about $710 (as of September 2019). Prices were much more expensive on the South of France as you can see but bearing in mind everything was split two-ways, it wasn’t bad at all.

Eurotunnel

DirectionCost
Folkestone, UK to Calais, France£84
Calais, France to Folkestone, UK£219
Total£303

You can see how much more the return leg was – this was because we opted for FlexiPlus. This means you can just turn up any time you like. This was necessary as we just didn’t know what time we were going to arrive back at Calais on the return leg and was well worth it. This was around $380 equivalent.

Fuel

Total Miles1799
Total Litres377.41 litres
Average Price per litre£1.54 per litre
Total Cost£641
Miles Per Gallon21.67

So, just doing some conversions for our US friends – 377.41 litres is about 83 gallons and the cost equivalent is about $800. I was actually pleasantly surprised by my economy rate and had budgeted for about £1000 for the whole trip. That’s all because of those boring French motorways!

Other Costs

ItemCost
Tolls£193
Food£403
Euro Travel Kit£27
Total£623

This comes to about $780 – I can’t think of anything else to add!

Total Cost

Therefore, summarising the total costs:

ItemCost
Accommodation£567
Eurotunnel£303
Fuel£641
Other Costs£623
Total£2,134

So, there you go – £2,134 or $2,670 for five days of fun. Seems like quite a lot and it is – but bear in mind that if you’re taking someone else you might be able to half that. Also, adding a couple of extra days to it wouldn’t have added too much to that total.

There are other considerations though. Putting on 1,800 miles in a Lamborghini Gallardo reduces its value. I don’t know by how much but only being insured for 5,000 miles per year means it’s going to be in my garage for a few weeks now. Or maybe it won’t, if it’s sunny – it tends to come out!

Summary

I hope you got something useful out of this write-up. It was great to write and is actually for my benefit as much as yours as I can use this post to remind me of what I actually did (poor memory). If you’re thinking of doing something like, regardless of what car you have, stop thinking and start planning!

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