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Tips on Driving to La Plagne

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We are a family of 4 (with 2 boys aged 8 and 11) living in London. We are planning our first Ski holiday to La Plagne during the Feb half term in 2019. Would like to drive (in our Discovery Sport) and wanted suggestions and guidance things to be mindful of. We recently drove through France (approx 1600 miles) during the summer and quite enjoyed the drive, but driving in winter and through the snow is am sure quite a different proposition (have never driven through snow)

- Given its our first time we would like to break journey with a night stay enroute both from and to Calais. Any suggestions on cities and hotels to stay overnight during the onward and return trip?
- Do we need snow tires or enough to have snow chains as back up (Discovery sport does have snow terrain mode)
- Any other must do items given the winter driving (given our recent driving holiday we have all the essentials for driving through France i.e. reflective vest, spare lights, triangle, inclduing a LIBER T tag.)

Prem
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@prem jacob, You need nothing really special to drive to La Plagne in the winter except snow chains (and know how to fit them). Unless it is an exceptional snow storm the French will keep the roads clear.

My only reccomendations are:
Take a couple audio books with you to listen to on the drive. TBH once you are over the channel the journey eases considerably.
When we boke down we were very glad we had breakdown insurance. Start rescue were very good and I can reccommend them.
Fill the screen wash with minimum temp fluid.

We have a couple of flasks of coffee in the car as well to minimise the need to stop on the way.

I have only stopped once overnight when we suffered a breakdown so have no reccomendations for an overnight stop. When our son was young we found it much easier to drive overnight so he slept all the way.

I have done the journey dozens of times and never used winter tyres, however we used the chains twice. Every other time the road to Les Arcs has been clear or nearly clear. We have had heavy snow on the Burgandy Plateau and decided to pull over for a couple hours to let it ease (it is illegal to overtake the snow plough).

My big concern is not snow but fog.
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@prem jacob, Welcome to snowHeads
AS you can imagine over the years your question has been asked many many times.
Use the search facility top left on every page - Driving La Plagne will bring back a good couple of days reading Very Happy
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@prem jacob, You'll find loads of info and tips on here ref the drive down.

As for a stopover I would recommend Beaune in Burgundy. Lovely place. It depends if you want a scenic place to wander around for a few hours or somewhere to simply eat, refuel and kip ready for an early morning depart.
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@prem jacob, driving the way to go and you've got the car for it! As above, as long as you have chains you will be fine as roads are generally clear. If you can, but not essential, a set of All Season tyres will be beneficial, give you better traction in slush etc than standard tyres. We have them fitted to Disco and they are great in snow.

Macon we have found to be a good stop on way down, on way back look at Val Moret near Troyes, nice restaurant and a pool as well.

Second suggestion of Audio books, Harry Potter served us well over countless trips. Have water, snacks, wet wipes, loo roll and bin bag to hand in car. Everyone stops at 12ish for lunch, we try and stop early or late and drive when everyone else has stopped. Our personal preference is to stop and buy bread, cold meats etc at big service station and then drive on to next little one for a picnic.

If you stop for fuel, everyone goes to loo!

Beauty of driving, if self catering, can stop in Albertville and stock up.
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If you can try to leave London as soon as the boys finish school if you can.

Even if you overnight in Calais it’ll put you 3/4 hours ahead the next day, but you could get to France and start the drive it’s quite easy to book last minute.com when you see how you’re doing and Reims is 2hours, Troyes 4 or even Dijon 5 and that would really break the back of the drive meaning you could get to resort mid afternoon and hopefully ahead of the masses.
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In addition to audio books, I suggest comedy programs (personal choice is “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue”.
Avoid music because the repetitive beat is soporific.

The first time I drove, I wanted to stop overnight, and assumed I could just roll up to a Formula1 and get in. Big mistake. I tried 3 in the Troyes area and failed. I ended up sleeping in the car park to the sound of a repeated car alarm.

In the 10+ years of driving since, I will catch 30mins sleep in a motorway services as and when needed and then crack on.
I aim to get to Moutiers around 8am, and then get up to the resort for around 9-10 and have breakfast in resort. Any later and I find myself crawling along with the other transfer day traffic.

Strong black coffee and oranges are enough to keep me awake and alert throughout the night drive, although I always pull over and catnap the moment I feel fatigue. My wife and daughter(Now late teens) take a hay fever tablet at the Tunnel, and since neither has hay fever they then sleep through the journey!!!
Last year I bought a telepeage doofer. It was really useful, but not essential (the blast of cloud air as you sprint around the car to pay the tolls can be quite refreshing).
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I have never seen the point of driving through the night, I simply stick on French radio (FM not DAB) to get me in the holiday mode & go with the flow, if someone needs the loo, don't try & hold off just pull in at next place.
I try to get into the mindset that the drive is part of the holiday to see the country, its not a race to get there first.
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If you have never driven in snow, I would suggest watching the weather, and if there's any snow in GB before your trip, take that Rangey to where it is and familiarize yourself with how it drives, stopping distances, braking etc. Best advice is to drive like you have an egg under the gas and brake pedals. Or, even better, find a R-R owners' club winter driving school.

I'm totally serious here. It's not easy even with experience, and you don't want to be THAT GUY who puts an 80,000 pound vehicle into a ditch.
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@prem jacob, just a thought - book now for overnight hotels - they will be filling up.

Second the suggestion above - 4*4s are not invincible and if you lose traction it just means you have a heavier car to slide in!
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@prem jacob, If you haven't booked your channel crossings don't delay. The most popular slots are selling out and as@Boris, says book your hotels now.

We've done the trip many times since our boys were 6 & 4, now 17 & 15. In car DVDs as well as stories work well as diversions. At half term use the basic Aires not the ones with fuel/shops as parking, toilet queues etc are a nightmare.

Fill up before you leave the UK and you should be able to get close to the Alps before refuelling, or top up at your overnight stop - fuel is as cheap in the UK as it is in France.

Get as far south as you can if you are stopping overnight. Minimum is Troyes IMO - about 3 1/2 hours from Calais. The A4 -A26 interchange south or Reims can be a bottleneck on half term Saturday mornings.

Beware of Belgium drivers. They lose all sense of space & speed when tearing to and from the Alps and they often seem to be holidaying at the same time as UK half terms.
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Hi Jacob,

Nothing major required for La Plagne. I did a season there and did not have to use the snow chains once on the van we had. Winter tyres advised though. I'd suggest taking the toll roads as this will save you a few hours on a Saturday.

Joe
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Jonny996 wrote:
I have never seen the point of driving through the night

There are actually quite a few reasons and they've been discussed on here numerous times. Doesn't work for everybody of course.

Jonny996 wrote:
I simply stick on French radio (FM not DAB) to get me in the holiday mode & go with the flow

Makes me want to slit my throat but again each to their own.

Jonny996 wrote:
I try to get into the mindset that the drive is part of the holiday to see the country, its not a race to get there first.

It can be, we've visited places on the way back - Reims, Paris, Beaune - either because it's an bank holiday weekend or the snow is carp and not worth skiing on the second Saturday. But going out it most certainly is a bit of a race. I don't want to be sight seeing when I can be on the slopes of a Saturday morning/afternoon.
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Download Waze.

Never speed.

The French are cracking down. No messin'.
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We’ve done staying in Dijon/Chalon sur Saone/Chambery. The easiest by far was staying in Chambery. If you’re holidaying at the same time as the French/Belgians/half term (and plus one for the Belgians being nuts on the autoroutes!) I’d definitely recommend getting past Lyon if you bear it. We’ve taken seven and nine hours respectively getting to LP from Lyon the previous two years Confused This year was much easier!

If you need to stop on the way back, we’ve found Laon a good spot and only a couple of hours from Calais.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Thanks everyone for your suggestions..... very helpful...... though the thought of possibly being THAT GUY who puts the 4x4 into a ditch (as i have never driven in snow) was a sobering thought!! will definately take snow chains but given snow driving is not somthing i will be doing often and we dont get much snow in london not planning to getting winter tyres... hope this will be fine?

On the overnight stops.......Based on suggestions given here i was thinking of stopping at Dijon on the way down... our reservations at la plagne is from sunday onwards... so thinking of staying overnight on saturday night at dijon. is that far south enough?. also we might reach dijon late afternoon or early evening....is there anything to do in dijon itself? any suggestions of kids friendly hotels etc places in dijon? any alternates to dijon we should consider?

On the way back was planning to head out from LP late afternoon or early evening on sautrday (our booking is till sunday but want to avoid driving in one go on sunday and kids have school the next day). would like to do a relatively short drive on saturday before i stop overnight and do majority of the drive to calais on sunday to catch the eurotunnel train at around 3 pm on sunday. any suggestions on where we could stay overnight on the way back? what is the minimum distance we should cover on saturday itself to avoid any issues on sunday?
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Be aware that Saturday road traffic in the Tarentaise (especially in half-term) is heavy, to put it mildly.
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Traffic predictions.
https://www.bison-fute.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/17237_Calendrier_2018_Bison_Fute_A3_DEF_Web.pdf
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@prem jacob, you could consider fitting all-season tyres before you go if your current summer tyres are approaching replacement. Benefits of these in winter extend beyond just driving on snow and are great in the cold and wet conditions in London. Michelin make a crossclimate that should fit a Discovery and are reported to work well in summer.
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prem jacob wrote:
Thanks everyone for your suggestions..... very helpful...... though the thought of possibly being THAT GUY who puts the 4x4 into a ditch (as i have never driven in snow) was a sobering thought!! will definately take snow chains but given snow driving is not somthing i will be doing often and we dont get much snow in london not planning to getting winter tyres... hope this will be fine?

On the overnight stops.......Based on suggestions given here i was thinking of stopping at Dijon on the way down... our reservations at la plagne is from sunday onwards... so thinking of staying overnight on saturday night at dijon. is that far south enough?. also we might reach dijon late afternoon or early evening....is there anything to do in dijon itself? any suggestions of kids friendly hotels etc places in dijon? any alternates to dijon we should consider?

On the way back was planning to head out from LP late afternoon or early evening on sautrday (our booking is till sunday but want to avoid driving in one go on sunday and kids have school the next day). would like to do a relatively short drive on saturday before i stop overnight and do majority of the drive to calais on sunday to catch the eurotunnel train at around 3 pm on sunday. any suggestions on where we could stay overnight on the way back? what is the minimum distance we should cover on saturday itself to avoid any issues on sunday?


Snow chains are useful in very limited cases! Snow tyres are useful in most conditions! If you look for assurances that you will be OK on summer tyres in a heavy vehicle in winter in mountains - nobody can give you this assurance. Getting traction when you want to get moving is one thing, slipping onto ongoing traffic when applying brakes is a completely different story. Laws of physics apply to all vehicles. If you value the health and life of you family - winter tyres are a must. It is stupid to pretend that you will be OK on summer tyres! You might if the weather is exceptionally warm and it does not snow - can you be sure of that in February?
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prem jacob, you live in London, intend to drive to La Plagne Feb half term with wife and 2 boys (8 and 11), overnight stop each way, with booking from Sunday, and plan to start journey back the following Saturday.

I've never driven down at half term, but done the journey many times at Easter with 2 kids (similar age gap to yours, but boy and girl): we did overnight Friday ferry to Caen/Le Havre and then trip down all in one go.
But now we are older, ditched the kids, cross by Eurotunnel, and usually do an overnight stop: Holiday Inn Express Arras if leaving late afternoon/evening, Holiday Inn Express Dijon if leaving midday.

As you are sacrificing some of you last Saturday, i would suggest you max out on your first Sunday.
So, get going early on the Saturday - the later you go the worse it will get - and aim to get as close to La Plagne as you can. Then roll up there for Breakfast: most accommodation will let you change somewhere, some will even give you breakfast. Then you can ski that first day - order passes online before you go.

Just chains should be enough - but as other have advised: practice beforehand, preferably on a cold windy day with some friends around to hassle you and spray you with cold water.

Going back, the main problem will be traffic on the N90 out to Albertville. It can get horrible. Others might know if it calms down come the evening. I would try and get up to Dijon - about 5 hours driving.

P.S. which bit of La Plagne?
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100%..agree....."We’ve done staying in Dijon/Chalon sur Saone/Chambery. The easiest by far was staying in Chambery. If you’re holidaying at the same time as the French/Belgians/half term (and plus one for the Belgians being nuts on the autoroutes!) I’d definitely recommend getting past Lyon if you bear it".

We stay in the Kyriad Chambery Centre....couple of little bars a minute walk and burger restaurant close by we used last year which was nice
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@prem jacob, Dijon should be fine, often used to stop there when kids were little. However, I'd also look an hour down the road around Macon - just that little bit closer Sunday.

While roads will be quieter on Sunday, I'd aim to be up at crack of dawn and on road by 7.

Coming back - again Macon is not a bad place to aim for - you're around Lyon and a good 3/4 hours out from resort. From there is a straightfoward drive to Calais. Again traffic will be lighter on Sunday, as most people do it in one hit (particularly the Dutch), but be prepared for delays at Eurotunnel. AN early start on Sunday should see a comfortable crossing of 4, or even 3, so with time difference back home around 7ish.

I check distances and timings on google maps and adjust times using an average of 50mph as worst case.
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We are planning our first drive trip as well but in Easter and to Tignes. I have planned an early Friday start and the aim is to stop overnight around Lyon. Leave early on the Saturday and be in resort around lunch time.

Now the return journey is where I am completely clueless as to the best thing to do. With just one driver, is an overnight stop advised when returning home?

Currently my plan was to leave at 8am and aim to hit the Eurotunnel for 8pm with a 9pm train time..... am I being far to optimistic and should we just plan an overnight stop on the return leg as well?


(I am in the process of reading through the many helpful threads on hear using the search function, but as this thread was active, I thought I would drop a question in Smile )
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@Sylas, I don't think you will have any problems with your proposed drive home. We usually leave Les Arcs about lunch time aiming for a crossing about 23:00. Driving down on Good Friday should be no problem either.
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@Sylas, Tough gig with one driver. Doable but as it's your first trip maybe worth doing a stopover and playing it safe.
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@Sylas, Perfectly possible with 1-driver and timings are fine - FWIW we leave at 7am and generally get 5pm train. However I have a reserve driver if needed!

As it's your first trip, I would agree with post above and play it safe this time.

We always work on basis that we'll stop if we have to - weather, traffic, illness etc
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@Sylas, welcome snowHead to snowHeads.

You don't say where in the UK you're from and this clearly affects the overall length of the drive. When I lived on the south coast I used to do it in one leg but now I live in the Midlands, I always split it. I don't think my driving was always too safe when doing it in one leg. My increasing age is probably relevant as well!
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Good point. We are Milton Keynes based roughly so 2.5hours to the tunnel.

My thinking is that if I can get to the train in good shape then getting home once in the UK wont be to much extra hassle, having done the Gatwick to home trip a few times after horrible flights and travel delays, also my wife is capable of taking over if required, but would prefer not to drive in France.


My back up plan for the way home was to get a hotel in Folkestone if required. Basically trying to sound out if I am being to risky by booking the train home for the Saturday evening.
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Quote:

my wife is capable of taking over if required,

Well there's the solution. She's required. My wife and I try to avoid the English legs.
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@Sylas, a guy I know, after a particularly busy time with work and family, didn't even make it round the M25 of a Friday evening on the way out, before falling asleep at the wheel and turning over his car.* So I wouldn't take the trip back from Folkestone to MK for granted.

Why doesn't your wife want to drive in France? Most of it is well maintained motorway and she can take her time. It really is the easiest driving there is.

* The happy ending to the story is that everyone in the car was OK, they hired another car and continued with their joyrney/holiday
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Quote:

Why doesn't your wife want to drive in France? Most of it is well maintained motorway and she can take her time. It really is the easiest driving there is.

This. Two drivers does make it all more manageable. Anyone who can't drive on French motorways shouldn't be allowed on the road at all. wink
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She suffers travel sickness quite badly as a passenger so has to take travel sickness tablets just to get by which make her quite drowsy. If she is driving she is absolutely fine.

As for not wanting to drive in france, she has hardly ever driven on motorways and would rather not combine motorway driving + other side of the road at the same time.

Sorry to hear about your mates situation Layne, I have never come close to falling asleep at the wheel, and am very aware of my levels of awakeness and will always stop if/when the need arises so I definitely don't take the UK return leg for granted. Just trying to gain some perspective on how realistic at least Tignes to Calais is in 12-13 hours as a solo driver Smile
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Sylas wrote:
I have never come close to falling asleep at the wheel, and am very aware of my levels of awakeness and will always stop if/when the need arises so I definitely don't take the UK return leg for granted. Just trying to gain some perspective on how realistic at least Tignes to Calais is in 12-13 hours as a solo driver Smile

Well, if you are happy you can stay awake, it should be a breeze as it's about 10 hours with no stops, sticking to the speed limits. So 12-13 hours leaves you time for a couple of decent stops. If you leave resort at 8am and it being Easter traffic shouldn't be an issue.
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Sylas...I do all the driving when we got to Ste Foy, so practically Tignes.......the drive down we stop at Chambery but the return is always in one hit.

Its perfectly doable just a bit tiring
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Beaune is a beautiful town for a stop - and there are some great places nearby to stop too - like Meursault where you can get a room and a decent bistro meal. Did have one particularly unfortunate Friday night stop in Beaune where it was market day the next morning. They started setting up right outside my window at 0430. I don't recall being particularly happy about that.
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