Why go to Europe?
When we first arrived in the U.K. we decided that we would first travel through this country, before exploring the rest of Europe. This we did, and we have now been to most of England, Scotland and Wales. Ireland still remains and we will get there eventually. The one thing about travelling in the U.K. is that it often tends to be quite pricy, especially with a family! A trip to Europe seemed like a dream, as we would almost certainly never be able to afford it as it could only be taken when the schools are on holiday and the prices are sky high.
Upon investigation, however, I have found that it is cheaper to go to Europe than to holiday in the U.K. And the weather is almost certainly better. Go to Spain and you are virtually guaranteed sunshine (in the right season of course). A good tip when booking, is that most of the places seem to be the most expensive during the first four weeks of the holidays, for some reason the last two weeks tend to be less popular, and the prices reflect this. If you don't have school going children, then the best time seems to be the week that the children first return to school.
What about a visa?
There is, however, the question of a visa. Most of the countries in Europe will use a Schengen visa which you will have to obtain from the consulate of the respective country you are visiting. If you plan on visiting several countries then you will need to obtain your visa from the country where you intend staying at the longest, or the country which is you first port of entry. If you are the spouse of a British citizen, then this will cost you nothing, but if not, then you will have to pay the relevant fee. This website contains useful info about the application process http://www.lancs.ac.uk/users/student...0042005/3e.doc
although it is aimed primarily at students; it is as applicable to everyone.
What other costs might I incur?
Other additional costs to consider if you are driving is the cost of European AA cover (approx Â£70) and your travel insurance. Also remember to get your e111, or as it will become, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as per this website http://www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidan...avellers/fs/en
. There is also the possibilty of extra costs for toll roads when driving in Europe.
What about driving in Europe?
They do drive on the right hand side (or the wrong side
) in Europe, and this can be a bit disconcerting at first. When arriving at the ferry port, you will be 'fed' into the correct lane. The only other difficulties I have experienced, is when driving around a roundabout. The roads in Europe, however, are far superior to what we drive on in England. They are much faster and the flow of traffic is much smoother than we are used to. There are tolls to be paid, however, although there are alternative routes you can take. This site gives lots of advice about driving in Europe http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice...eas/index.html
Also use this site for travelling in the UK or Europe, it is much better than multimap or mapquest in my opinion http://www.theaa.com/travelwatch/pla...jsp?database=B
What holiday should I take?
The best two ways that we have found to holiday is either last minute via the package holiday, or to use one of the 'camping' holiday places. Now I can hear most people already saying 'I don't want to go on a camping holiday' but this is not camping as you know it. You have a choice of accommodation types, i.e. canvas or mobile homes. The canvas is the cheapest option, and I can tell you that it is really good accommodation.
My wife absolutely hates camping, but she agreed to try one of these holidays, as we hadn't been away for some time and it was so cheap (Â£140 for six people for 5 nights with a ferry crossing in France). Now she agrees to go every year as she has realised that it isn't anything like camping at all. These tents come already equipped with proper beds, a fridge/cooker/pots/cutlery/indoor table and chairs/outdoor table and chairs/two recliners and a relaxing time. All you bring with are your clothes and sleeping bags/duvets and move in. The campsites usually have pubs, restaurants, entertainment, swimming pools, sports facilities, laundrettes, etc. The main thing that you do need to be careful of is to check the surface of the campsite you are going to as the ones near the sea tend to be sandy. Also make sure of the ablution facilities, and your proximity to them.
Where do I look for these holidays?
To go on one of these holidays, there are a number of websites that can be used for your research. These are http://www.eurocamp.co.uk
which gives you the most information, www.keycamp.co.uk
and one we found about on this trip but haven't tried is http://www.rentatent.nl/
which is a Dutch company.
So far we have travelled with these companies to Brittany, Vendee, Paris, Costa Brava and Loire. The best campsite of them all was Camp Cypsela in the Costa Brava, and we are planning to go to Italy next year (if we don't return to the Costa Brava). As the price of the holiday includes the cost of a ferry crossing, we always drive to the campsite, usually including a stopover on the way there and back, which these companies will arrange for you. You could, however, book a low cost flight to a nearby airport and use either local transport or a taxi. The cost of hiring a car is also not exorbitant in Spain (cost us Â£18 for a day).
Then there is the last minute package holiday, which only works if you already have a visa or EU passport. We usually go on one of these as a couple, out of season. We book a week off, and then on the Wednesday before the holiday starts, we phone the various companies and ask for the best price 7 night holiday to somewhere where it is sunny. I specify that I do not mind where I go, as long as it is one of the Schengen countries and hot. I do specify that the accommodation must be 3 star or better. This is the website I usually use http://www.teletextholidays.co.uk/We...page/Home.aspx
. So far, we have been to Menorca and my daughter has been to one of the Greek Isles. When we went to Minorca, we did it on an allocate on arrival basis, which means you fly in to the airport, and are met by a rep who then tells you which resort you are going to. In my daughterÂ’s case, we booked a specific hotel and the transport was arranged for her to her accomodation. Both of the accomadations were very comfortable and right next to the beach
There are a number of other areas that I probably haven't covered, so please ask any questions and I will gladly answer them.