Self Drive Holidays
A comparatively cheaper and easier route to the Alps.
By James Hardiman,
Back in the 80’s when I started skiing with my parents, everyone seemed to drive to the Alps. Those early 80’s cars were far less reliable than cars of today, so there was a real sense of achievement when the snowy peaks of Mont Blanc finally hove into view. It was an adventure, and skiing was new. But it was what we all did.
It was only in the mid 90’s, with the coming of airlines like Easyjet, that we all got hooked on this concept of ‘low cost flying’ and so we changed our habits without so much as a passing thought for the environment. Skiing and snowboarding boomed and we all enjoyed, or endured, at least two decades of mass tourism to the Alps. Tour Ops were guilty of competing for market share and we can only look back disgustedly at the environmental impact of business models that factored in flying charter planes with less than 100% loads, (which is empty seats to you and me).
A road trip is fun, cost effective and a lot less stressful!
During the last decade or so, the budget-conscious skier has always favoured a cheap-flight-route to the Alps, however things are changing. And as I sit typing this, cheek by jowl in a crowded aeroplane surrounded by coughing passengers in the height of a British flu epidemic, (whilst sitting through a two hour delay on the runway), I find myself reminiscing about the old times: Driving to and from the Haute Savoie, story cassette playing, or best singing voice airing. We sait comfortably cocooned in our flu-free shuttle. Privately transiting between our home and the door of our chalet without coming into contact with a soul, bar a few loo, coffee and croissant stops en-route, enjoying the (comparatively) empty motorways and flat, rural scenery of mid-France.
And here I sit on December 22nd, 2022, comparing my experience so far: plane versus mid-size diesel saloon. When you look at the figures, it conveys a surprising result. After you factor in the rising cost of transfers between airport and resort, carpark charges (UK side) and spurious new airport fees (the latest is a £10 charge for 5 minute pick-ups and drop offs!) then it is perhaps unsurprising that flying no longer looks as attractive an option for the thrifty skier.
Yes, as I type this, I am perhaps marginally bias as I sit on a runway at Bristol enduring a two hour delay. Even if you take the delay out of the equation, the difference can only be a matter of 2-3 hours to drive, and a lot less cost if there are two or more of you.
Of course it does help to live within an hour and a half of Calais or Folkestone, and own a nice car with comfortable seats (even better with an EV). What driving also gives you is a useful commodity in resort, your own wheels and the freedom to take all the luggage you like!
Here’s a quick summary of the trip I took on November 30th (by car); and a later trip by plane on the Dec 22nd, 2022:
Self drive (2 people) - return
- Eurotunnel to Calais £167
- Tolls €147 rtn (£127)
- Fuel (3.25 fill ups) £293 - fuel cost in France €1.76/litre
- Fuel additive (for anti freezing) £11
Total cost: £598
Left home 08.00, arrived at Folkestone 09.25, Eurotunnel departed at 10.10. Finally arrived in Morzine at 19.45 local time - Total 10hrs, 45mins
Travel by air (2 people) - return
- ⅓ tank fuel to airport (rtn) £35
- Airport parking £156
- Flights £140pp (£280)
- Luggage (skis, 2 cabin & 1 hold bag) £146
- Transfers (rtn): £76pp £162 (Morzine)
Total cost £769
Left home 12.00 midday, arrived at the airport 14.00, flight departed 15.50 (delayed to 17.45), arrived Geneva 20.15 local time. Collected bags, passport control and met transfer - then finally into resort at 10.35pm, (21.35pm GMT) - Total 9.5 hours.
Ups and downs
Flying, for me, is a more intrusive and less private experience punctuated with little highs (like a coffee), and quite a few lows, like checking in luggage to find it overweight and costing another £28 on top of the £65 already paid. Then there’s the endless queuing, sharing space with coughing passengers, (sorry, but lots were!), being told to take off one’s shoes, belts, watches and a general feeling of second rate treatment by flustered airport staff and other various yellow-jerseyed-jobsworths. Right, rant over.
Flying is certainly not what it used to be. Passenger treatment has declined and the costs have risen. An airfare to Geneva in half term can often be in excess of £650 per person, pushing the cost of a ski holiday for a family of four up by more than £2000. If you must fly, then book early for peak dates. Very early! And yes this may seem like a hard thing to do as the modern trend of ‘last minute decision making’ prevails, but think of the savings... Or, just drive. Make a few stops on route, heck why not even try a night-time stopover in Dijon or Chambery and get to your resort refreshed for some arrival day skiing? An extra half day on the slopes. What’s not to like? And some resorts like La Plagne are offering the 7th day for free which is their way of justifying the rising cost of a week-long lift pass.
By James Hardiman
December 2022Back to Blog