DRIVING TO THE ALPS FOR THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS? READ OUR TOP TIPS ON BEATING THE TRAFFIC
If you’ve travelled to a French ski resort during the school holidays, you’ve probably experienced some heavy traffic. Bottlenecks can form at motorway toll stations and when 2 lanes turn into the 1-lane mountain roads, causing huge tailbacks. If it’s snowing, things can get really messy as vehicles pull over to put chains on or, even worse, lose control and cause an accident.
It can be a stressful start or end to your holiday. We’ve created some top tips to help you avoid spending half a day stuck in a traffic jam. Or read our suggestions on how to kill time at the airport.
WHAT ARE THE WORST DATES TO TRAVEL?
The French take holidaying as seriously as they take striking. And they’re good at it. They get 2 weeks off for Christmas and then another 2 weeks for February half term. In February they split the country up into 3 zones, each one taking a different 2 week period. This spreads the load evenly, but it means there are a total of 8 Saturdays in the winter season when the traffic can be pretty nasty.
Here’s a list of dates when you should expect a lot of cars on the road. You should plan your journey more carefully on these dates and take some precautions to make sure you don’t get caught out.
HEADING UP THE MOUNTAIN
23rd & 30th December 2023 – You may find the days either side of these will be busier than usual too.
10th, 17th, 24th February & the 2nd March 2023 – The 17th & 24th February will be particularly bad.
HEADING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN
30th December & 6th January – If it is snowing on these dates, the traffic will be quite horrendous!
17th & 24th February and 2nd & 9th March – The 24th February & 2nd March will be the worst dates.
The Annecy Carnival the 24th February and the Geneva Motor Show is the 2nd March. You should avoid these areas after 8am if you can.
BE PREPARED – BRING PLENTY OF FOOD AND WATER
However you are getting to and from the resort, whether it be on a shared ski transfer with Ben’s Bus, a private transfer or driving in your own car, make sure you have enough food and water, especially if you are diabetic. Keep any medicines in your hand luggage and make use of the toilets before you get into your vehicle.
It’s not unusual for an airport transfer from Geneva to Tignes to take 5 or even 6 hours instead of the usual 3 & 1/2 hours. So bring a book, some games for the kids and lots of pre-downloaded videos to view on your device.
AVOID THE MOUNTAIN ROADS BETWEEN 8AM – 2PM
Plan your journey in advance. If you’re heading up to the resort, try to get to Grenoble or Albertville by 9am. Between 11am and 3pm the roads climbing the mountain can be moving at a snail’s pace. When leaving the resort, try to do it before 07:30 or after 14:00. The worst areas are between Bourg St Maurice – Moutiers (transfers from Val Thorens & Les Menuires don’t take that road), the ring road around Grenoble and the Lyon and Chambery motorway peages.
If you’re on a Ben’s Bus leaving Grenoble, Geneva or Lyon Airports between 10am – 4pm, you will probably hit some heavy traffic. Your Ben’s Bus eTicket will mention if we have allowed extra time for your journey. If you are heading to La Plagne, Les Arcs, Val d’Isere or Tignes, our drivers may have to take a legal break en-route. This is to comply with EU legislation and is designed to protect all road users. Use the facilities at the airport or in the resort before you leave as not all of our vehicles have toilets. If you need to go en-route, just ask the driver to pull over at the next convenient place.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE IS GOLD!
Book your ski transfer with a reputable and established company. Ben’s Bus has been working in the mountains for 15 years and works with local coach companies. Our drivers know the cheeky short cuts and how to avoid the bottlenecks. Our coordinators consult traffic websites and traffic cameras and our drivers and reps report where the roads are congested.
Top Tip: Don’t rely completely on Sat-Nav as it might try to take you across mountain passes that are closed in the winter!
CHOOSE YOUR DATES WISELY
The easiest way to avoid the rush and the crowds is to take your ski holiday in January or March. You’ll also get cheaper deals on accommodation and the queues for the ski lifts will be much smaller. Plus, you’ll get that table at your favourite restaurant! This website is a good source of information about school holidays in France https://about-france.com/school-holidays.htm Of course if you have kids in school, then that’s not possible.
Updated 6th August 2023
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