Last year, I spent quite some time planning a small road trip around France. I found that it was quite easy to have a luxurious French holiday on a low budget. If you hope to visit France, these are my top tips for making the most of your money.
Tip 1: Shop around to find good deals
My Dad seems to pretty much always find the best rates for hotels when he makes his reservation directly with the hotel. Hotels often have deals available on their own websites. However, I usually find I can get better prices when I use different sites, so I always shop around.
For our trip to France, I used Booking.com to book all of our budget hotels. I found that their prices beat those offered everywhere else and they had added bonuses too, such as being able to cancel our reservation for free very close up until the day we were staying.
You can find some great value budget hotels that don’t feel like they’re a cheap hotel at all. Possibly because it was a little way out of Lille itself, the Mercure Lille Metropole Hotel was a great price and felt very modern and comfortable.
I found an amazing deal for a chateau in rural France by using Secret Escapes. Their price was a great deal cheaper than the price offered by the hotel themselves. We also had breakfast every day included, which would have been an extra cost if we booked through the hotel. In addition to this, we had free unlimited access to the chateau’s spa, which was a fantastic facility to enjoy whenever we liked. We also received a box of chocolates in our room on arrival, which was a simple but really nice extra.
I’ve seen other great value deals for luxury hotels in France on Secret Escapes many times, so it’s definitely worth checking on there to see what they are offering. They also sometimes provide deals that include Eurostar travel, so that’s worth bearing in mind if that is how you would like to travel.
Tip 2: Stay at both budget and luxury hotels
If you’re planning on visiting a few different places in France and you want to watch how much you spend but you also want to enjoy some luxury, mixing budget and luxury stays is a great idea. I employed this technique on our road trip, as did my Mum and Dad when we travelled to a few places in France years ago.
When we stayed in cities, or nearby, I booked cheap budget hotels. When you are visiting a busy area where there is lots to do and see, it’s often the case that you’re going to only be sleeping in the hotel, so it makes sense to book somewhere cheap. I then booked a luxury chateau stay for a few nights in rural France.
I found it was a really nice mix to stay in some cheap hotels to keep to a lower budget, with a luxury stay to look forward to later in the week. This way, you’re still indulging in some luxury but keeping your overall spend for the holiday down.
Tip 3: Travel for free on the Eurotunnel or ferry
We wanted to take our car to make it easy to travel around France, so we decided to take the Eurotunnel. If you have a Tesco Clubcard, you can save up your vouchers and use them to pay for Eurotunnel tickets, or for the ferry. Tesco vouchers are currently worth triple the value for these partners, so vouchers can go a long way. It’s an easy way to get free or very cheap travel to and from France.
We found the Eurotunnel to be a really easy and quick way to travel. There is a terminal to visit before you board UK-side with places to get food and a duty-free shop. When it’s time to board, you simply drive up and wait in your allocated lane, then drive onto the train when boarding opens. The journey only takes about half an hour and you drive straight off the train and onto the French roads. We couldn’t believe how much easier than flying it was!
Tip 4: Find the free attractions
There are so many free things to do in France. A good tip is to search on TripAdvisor for things to do in the area you are wishing to visit. By doing this, you can find good ideas of what attractions you can visit for free, plus helpful information from other visitors about the sights and activities. I found several free places to visit for our road trip, including parks and gardens, a cathedral and even a zoo!
Planning your visit to coincide with free admission dates provides another way to have free days out. Throughout France, there are many tourist attractions you can visit for free on the first Sunday of the month. An example of this is the Chateau de Fontainebleau, which is usually costs 11 Euros per person to visit.
Tip 5: Have a picnic
France is renowned for it’s plentiful fresh bread, delicious cheese and wonderful cakes. Instead of going out for lunch every day, having a picnic is a great way to save some money. In my opinion, it can be just as enjoyable as visiting a restaurant. So much of France is picturesque and green that it’s often easy to find scenic places to sit and have some lunch.
We saw several people doing just this in the grounds of the stunning Pierrefonds chateau. I mean, you can’t get a backdrop like that for a lunch date very often!
I hope these tips will be of some help if you plan to visit France at some point. Let me know if you’ve been to France before and if you have any tips!