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First half term drive down (with kids!)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Bit last minute but we've just booked half term in La Clusaz. And now to plan the drive and have been reading the myriad of threads with lists and various hints and tips on but trying to work out timings. I suspect we're doing it the worst possible way but plan is to pick kids up from school and be on road straight away so leaving South London suburbs at 3:30pm (Friday 15th), we are 20 mins from junction 8 of M25. Booked a flexiplus so hopefully be on shuttle at 7pm. With a 7 & 9 year old, there's no way we are going through the night and can't get in accom before 4pm on the Saturday so we'll stop on way down. It would be good to stop before 9/10pm. Would Laon be achievable? Or should we be cautious and just book St Quentin? I know this means we would be hitting Paris traffic but we'd aim to set off 6am / 7am. Is the traffic really that bad or is it just like a normal UK busy motorway stuck at 60??
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@always29, Think you would get to folkestone and onto a shuttle well before 7pm with a flex ticket. Then its 2.5 to 3 hours to Reims which would put you into the 9/10pm timeframe. Lots of choices for hotels in Reims wink
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Unless you're VERY unlucky with traffic (always possible Fri half term leaving London area!) you should be on a shuttle no later than 6pm (assuming Eurotunnel aren't up to their usual tricks of course!), which gets you to France just after 7.30 their time. Laon is a couple of hours tops unless you again have bad traffic, Reims is easily acheivable unless you're looking for an early night.

We did it a few years ago leaving Essex at around 6.00pm & taking the ferry which takes about an hour longer (but actually runs on time!) & stayed in Lens overnight as we just wanted to get into France & get the hour lost on the night rather than next morning - we were driving to Les Arcs a lot further than La Clusaz & IIRC still managed to get a couple of hours skiing in the first afternoon.

Make an early start from Laon & you could get an afternoons skiing in, tho' of course that may not suit if you're hiring equipment etc.

You'll rarely be stuck at 60 on a French autoroute, normal cruise is around 80 except around the major cities - the problem is the tolls at half term particularly as you near the ski resorts & worse the later in the day you get, if you can make La Clusaz before 3pm I doubt you'll have significant hold ups.

The ESSENTIAL is to have the accommodation booked for the overnight stop, at half term the hotels near the motorway get absolutely rammed - I certainly wouldn't risk turning up at an Ibis/Campanile/Kyriad/F1 etc. at say 9pm on Fri evening & asking for a family room, they would probs be fully booked - I would get on booking.com & find something cheap & cheerful easy to get to from the autoroute & book b4 you go, also check with them re late check in etc. in case of hold ups
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Drive through the night, you'll be glad you did.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@BergenBergen, is right, you can get to Reims, so many options there compared to Laon (which is a way off the motorway). If they are just 7&9 have you thought about collecting them at lunchtime and getting a head start? We used to do that while they were in junior school, they won't be doing a whole lot after lunch. Or find out what time the afternoon register is taken - they are then marked as present - and collect them after that?
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akeina at rheims...... my favourite stop with kids.... just off motorway, family rooms, secure parking, cheap and best breakfast i have seen in france
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We are about the same driving time as you from the Eurotunnel and when we have left after school for skiing with a flexi plus ticket (at Easter - never done half term) we have comfortably made it to Reims for the overnight stop and I'd recommend Novotel Reims Tinqueux if it still has rooms for four available. It is right by the motorway junction and you can fill up with petrol at the Carrefour opposite. NB. There are currently roadworks and 50mph speed limits on the M20 so the journey time to the tunnel is slightly longer. Maybe you could take the kids out of school at lunch time to get to Reims a bit earlier?

I would try and get at least that far as the traffic will be busy on the Saturday and if it is raining the speed limits are lower. you will need to stop a couple of times at services and then maybe do your valley supermarket shop at the end. We always leave one adult in the car at either services or the supermarket. Have a Euro to hand for the supermarket trolley. We have often found our accommodation has been ready a bit earlier than the official time.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I can recommend the B&B run by Beatris and Christophe Janson at 30 Rue Principale, 51400 Les Grandes-Loges, France . 31km South of Reims and currently 1 room left on Booking.com.

https://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/beatris-et-christophe-janson.en-gb.html?aid=397645;label=bin859jc-index-XX-XX-XX-unspec-be-com-L%3Aen-O%3AwindowsS7-B%3AinternetSexplorer-N%3Ayes-S%3Abo-U%3Asalo-H%3As;sid=414b246a19c30a343f8722161be266fb;age=7;age=9;atlas_src=sr_iw_title;checkin=2019-02-15;checkout=2019-02-16;dist=0;group_adults=2;group_children=2;no_rooms=1;room1=A%2CA%2C7%2C9;sb_price_type=total;type=total;ucfs=1&
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@snowymum, 's advice is spot on.

I would not drive through the night. You'll feel horrible, kids won't sleep, and Saturday everyone will be grumpy. Better to stop, sleep in a real bed and eat a solid breakfast. If you can get out of Reims no later than 7-8 a.m. you should be fine. If traffic is horrible it's going to be horrible, check out the bison fuite site, but an early start can help. Plan to stop every few hours with kids, and enforce bathroom breaks...stock up on snacks/water and extra washer fluid...

as for how bad traffic can get...if the weather is lousy, i.e. rain/sleet/snow, the motorway (A40, or aptly named autoroute blanche) into the Alps can be closed. Happened in 2015, I believe...was pure hell, and luckily I was able to duck off just before the closure and take secondary roads, but a 5 hour drive turned into...10?, 12?. Normally backups on the A6 have to be expected, especially at certain upslopes and merges. By backups...that means full top.
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Either stop somewhere quickly like St Quentin, and have a relaxed evening, or try to get to the south side of Reims before you stop (those péage gates get very busy at half term). Once onto a train (and Eurotunnel can be awful) the greatest risk of major problems is at the end of the journey and aiming to arrive in resort about 4 - 5 pm you'll be in the thick of it. It will be much easier to get into La Clusaz either a lot earlier or several hours later. Leave your hotel later after a decent night's sleep, take it easy with plenty of stops for the kids, have dinner on the way and arrive about 7pm.

The suggestion to drive through the night is not a bad one - if the kids will sleep and you have two drivers. Swap every two hours, or even a bit less in the wee small hours when there is the most danger of falling asleep. But it all depends - some people cope OK with driving through the night if they're not sleep deprived to start with (I do, and have done that drive alone, though not at half term) but others really suffer if they try - my sister can drive through the night but my brother in law, who routinely drives long distances, can't, and is a mess for days.

Getting to La Clusaz doesn't require any heroic mountain driving but you will, of course, need to have chains and be able to get them on without too much faff.
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we drive through the night - that way the kids sleep and the autoroutes are quiet.
there are 2 of us though, and we have a rule that if the driver is too tired to drive then we stop and either switch, or if we are both too tired we rest for 30 minutes nap or so.
the passenger has a pillow and eyemask and blanket so they get proper sleep.
we stop at a services for breakfast and beat the inevitable jams around Lyon (to some extent Little Angel )
works very well for us.
also i would recommend a practice run of putting on snow chains in this country where you are not freezing cold and in the dark (it's more compicated than you think and it helps to watch a youtube video too)
we also have a kit for chain changing that includes: plastic sheet to kneel on, pair of disposable gloves to keep hands a little bit warmer and a torch.
as for the kids - ours watch films or sleep. you need travel meds and sick bags and pillows for them too (or they try and pinch the adult's)
Keep big shopping bags easily accessible for when you stop off at a supermarket to get your week's supplies.
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Quote:

With a 7 & 9 year old, there's no way we are going through the night

When my son was that age there was no way we drive through the day. During the night he would sleep almost all the way from the end of our street to Albertville.
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I think general rule is the further you can get Friday the better. We're in a similar position to you (similar age kids), leaving from school pick up (in our case 10 mins form m25 jnc10) @ 3.30, also flexiplus. Our overnight is booked for just past Troyes. Hope to be there by midnight (which will be 11pm on our bodyclock time).
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
BB Hotel at St Quentin served us well when we had kids and overnight stops
https://www.hotel-bb.com/en/hotels/saint-quentin.htm
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I'll be doing the same as you but on the 1800 ferry so we get some dinner. We always stop in the Reims/Troyes area and lost of good places suggested above (I'd add hotel BB as well as an option). The kids are now 11 and 8 but we've been doing it for 4 years. Getting away prompt on Saturday morning is key (although always a battle). I'd avoid driving through the night if at all possible as the kids won't thank you; we did that once out of necessity due to weather and it was grim, it belongs to younger days pre-kids when you could ski or climb after an 8 hour drive without a second thought. An small but additional bonus of Reims or Troyes is that you can refuel at a supermarket.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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I think @Cheesie168, is spot on about springing the boys from school early on Friday. Depending on your relationship with the school is how honest you want to be about it, but speaking as a primary school governor married to a primary teacher your kids will miss nothing of importance on that Friday afternoon.

By all means time it so that they make Friday registration if you are well-disposed to the school, so that there is no hit to the attendance figure.

The earlier you can hit the road the better, is my maxim for traveling on Friday.
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Thank you everyone, you lovely lovely people Very Happy Very Happy that's all really helpful and good to know that Reims is feasible. I will start hunting hotels later - not too bothered about family rooms as that may reduce availability so we'll divide and conquer if we need to.

I hadn't thought about taking them out of school earlier and for all sorts of reasons I don't think we will - the plan is to fill the car and leave straight from the school gates so we'll definitely be on the road for 3:30pm, plus I am limited on annual leave and work school hours anyway on Fridays.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Best of luck. Be interested to hear how it goes.
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@always29, we have a 4 and 7 year old and leaving after school from SW London. Done it a few times with them - we normally do it in one go when leaving in the morning but we will break the journey as leaving later. I find stopping at Reims too soon over the other side and prefer to stop between Troyes and Dijon. The motorway is very cruisey at that time of the night and the kilometres go fast. We feed them during the crossing and may do a brief toilet / petrol stop if required. Benefit of getting as far south is getting a head start on the Saturday morning. Suggest you get a motorway toll doofer in order to keep moving.
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Golden rule of the trip: If you stop for a toilet stop everyone goes and top the car up. If the car needs to stop for fuel everyone goes to the loo!
Toofy Grin Each 10 minute stop means you are 10 minutes further back in the journey
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We did exactly the same with our two a few years back. La CLusaz is great for half term. Be careful on the drive from the motorway to resort as it's one of those that isnt back to back hairpins so you have to take it steady but it is windy and often has meltwater that has refrozen on bends etc.
Your kids will be fine, as long as you have some sort of device that they like staring at for 7 hours - there are plenty about in today's world.
The drive from Geneva to resort is the busier/ trickier bit and is best tackled after you've had a sleep. If you drive maybe down to Reims or further Friday night, get up ealry and get off again , you'll be there for check in time and wont be too tired.
A car is great for La Clusaz as there are lots of other nearby places to try out.
The indoor/outdoor pool is simply amazing for families. Great way to relax the muscles at the end of the day.
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Well it’s not Paris half term so you won’t have hordes heading out of Paris down the A5 or A6 to get in your way and that makes a lot of difference. Also it’s the middle weekend of the Northern French holidays do not their “grand depart”. Nor is it Belgian or Dutch holidays so that cuts down the numbers joining from the A1/A2. So it’s mostly your fellow Brits to worry about until you get well towards the Alps!

Don’t even consider stopping before Reims. Around Troyes would be my target (comfortable 4 hours drive, one change of driver).

Stop overnight, up early, no breakfast (that saves at least an hour) and on the road by 0700. An hour’s drive then stop somewhere for breakfast (Paul at Aire de Chateauvillain is our choice). You’ll then be on the road by 0900, ahead of the hordes with 4 hours to go (one change of driver) and in resort getting your hire boots and lift passes before 1400. I haven’t done it myself but the drive from the A40 to La Clusaz looks pretty painless as mountain village approaches go and you only just get over 1000m so every chance you won’t need chains.

Yes to “one needs the loo, all go”. I’m too mean to pay motorway fuel prices so always pull off to a supermarket (this helps https://www.prix-carburants.gouv.fr/ ) and you can plan that around your overnight stop and then some where close to resort. Plenty of snacks/drinks in the car and a double USB in the cigar lighter (do we still call it that?) so the two kids don’t argue about who gets to charge their device first.


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Tue 8-01-19 15:21; edited 1 time in total
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
one other thing we take is a battery starter pack - if the weather is cold and your battery runs flat over the week it is very handy to be able to restart your car yourself!
and if it hasn't already been said - get a peage tag (or doofah as it used to be called on here) so you can use the telepeage gates at the toll kiosks - saves loads of time at half term. Eurotunnel has a link to buying them. doesn't save money but does save queueing time.
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Because of my brilliant planning and awesome misbooking skills we're driving to Italy on the 1st of Feb, 2 weeks before half term with a GCSE aged teenager...

I'm sure traffic will be light rolling eyes
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@homers double, I'd call that a result - if your kid's school is anything like ours they'll be pretty much finished the syllabus and doing nothing but revision/exam tips
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@homers double, I reckon that means much more empty slopes than at half term. Ho does the GCSE aged teenager feel about it though?
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
grey wrote:
we drive through the night - that way the kids sleep and the autoroutes are quiet.
there are 2 of us though, and we have a rule that if the driver is too tired to drive then we stop and either switch, or if we are both too tired we rest for 30 minutes nap or so.
the passenger has a pillow and eyemask and blanket so they get proper sleep.
we stop at a services for breakfast and beat the inevitable jams around Lyon (to some extent Little Angel )
works very well for us.
also i would recommend a practice run of putting on snow chains in this country where you are not freezing cold and in the dark (it's more compicated than you think and it helps to watch a youtube video too)
we also have a kit for chain changing that includes: plastic sheet to kneel on, pair of disposable gloves to keep hands a little bit warmer and a torch.
as for the kids - ours watch films or sleep. you need travel meds and sick bags and pillows for them too (or they try and pinch the adult's)
Keep big shopping bags easily accessible for when you stop off at a supermarket to get your week's supplies.

^ all of this! - although we had a few trips when the children were younger when we did stop and had a family room at Reims Novotel to break the journey.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
For chains you ideally need a head torch. And some sort of little spade (kids beach spade OK) to clear snow from around the base of the wheels - especially behind the wheel. I do it with bare hands - you need to be fast, before they freeze, but it's less cumbersome. Practice is essential - and preferably have both drivers competent, so you only have to do one wheel each!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Think you need to be very aware of your own limits with regards to overnight drive - appreciate that it works for some but I know it wouldn't for me! On the times when I have had to stay awake between 1 and 3 have been a real struggle, if I was driving I would have to stop and sleep for that period.

As such we have always booked a hotel and made it part of the holiday - works for us.

Not knocking overnight by any means and if you can do it great
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DJL wrote:
Well it’s not Paris half term so you won’t have hordes heading out of Paris down the A5 or A6 to get in your way and that makes a lot of difference. Also it’s the middle weekend of the Northern French holidays do not their “grand depart”. Nor is it Belgian or Dutch holidays so that cuts down the numbers joining from the A1/A2. So it’s mostly your fellow Brits to worry about until you get well towards the Alps!

Don’t even consider stopping before Reims. Around Troyes would be my target (comfortable 4 hours drive, one change of driver).

Stop overnight, up early, no breakfast (that saves at least an hour) and on the road by 0700. An hour’s drive then stop somewhere for breakfast (Paul at Aire de Chateauvillain is our choice). You’ll then be on the road by 0900, ahead of the hordes with 4 hours to go (one change of driver) and in resort getting your hire boots and lift passes before 1400. I haven’t done it myself but the drive from the A40 to La Clusaz looks pretty painless as mountain village approaches go and you only just get over 1000m so every chance you won’t need chains.

Yes to “one needs the loo, all go”. I’m too mean to pay motorway fuel prices so always pull off to a supermarket (this helps https://www.prix-carburants.gouv.fr/ ) and you can plan that around your overnight stop and then some where close to resort. Plenty of snacks/drinks in the car and a double USB in the cigar lighter (do we still call it that?) so the two kids don’t argue about who gets to charge their device first.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Boris wrote:
@homers double, I'd call that a result - if your kid's school is anything like ours they'll be pretty much finished the syllabus and doing nothing but revision/exam tips


I'm not quite sure MrsHD called it a result, more like a ****ing monumentus ****ing *** up!

To be honest that is what I'm hoping for/holding my breath/praying/clutching at straws etc etc. He is taking revision material with him though and will be hopefully in school over half term to some revision clubs.


Cheesie168 wrote:
@homers double, I reckon that means much more empty slopes than at half term. Ho does the GCSE aged teenager feel about it though?


Given that he's got about as much interest in revising as he has in cleaning his room, not that bothered however I think after the half term he will realize that the proverbial will hit the fan if he doesn't buckle down.
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For the record, and I appreciate you have to work those hours anyway, but I find that schools don't actually care if you take them out early, so long as they've registered for the afternoon session! After all, it's all about the attendance figures and the Ofsted. Keep their record looking smart and only the most jobsworth teacher seems to actually object to going early on the last day.

We stopped both ways for Easter. I would not want to arrive in resort after driving all night, as you're messed up for not just the Saturday, but "jet-lagged" for a few days after. Coming home I'm tempted to do a very late nighter simply because the traffic is so much less and it's more pleasant. Wouldn't want to do it on my own though, this is with swapping drivers, and also stopping. Specifically I'm thinking of leaving resort after lunch, which means we'd likely get home 2-3am with stops. And it means the UK side will be much quicker, particularly with the M25 involved, at that time of night.

Mind you, we're slightly biased by the huge hassle of accommodation for two adults and four children - we pay double after all, as no hotels have rooms that big. And we're then in separate rooms often nowhere near each other, the shared toiletries are in one bag, the wrong bags end up in the wrong rooms, there's fighting over who will sleep with mummy or daddy.. you get the idea. We did stay in an "apartment" in a weird manor type house on the way back last time, but it was soooo sinister - silence at the communal breakfast table with the other guests, we all had to whisper to each other! Prefer separate hotel rooms over that Shocked Was an experience though!!
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Hi- we do that journey every half term ( to Le Grand Bornand- next to La Clusaz) - your timings are fine - as Paris isn't on 'half term' there only seems to be hold ups at Dole and just after Nantua- don't go down to Lyon. Although we're in a motorhome - we stop at St Quentin- we're away at 6:00am and have always been in the resort by 2/3pm even with Parisian holdups- we don't go faster than 100km as well! The final drive only starts really climbing at Thones about a few k from La Clusaz- it's not hairpin like and just goes up - never ever had to use chains on this bit- the aire for this is literally just outside La Clusaz anyway- you'll be fine- it's great to come off the A40 and leave everybody else queuing for the Portes du Soleil or Grand Massif- where all the other Brits will be flocking to!
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I had in my head from looking yonks ago we clashed with Paris half term so pleased my memory is wrong on that one! We've decided (with a lot of your help!) that getting as far as Reims makes sense to minimise Saturday pain - if we get there earlier than check in time then can sort kids hire stuff out and get some shopping done. And have a pression or two wink
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Quote:

Given that he's got about as much interest in revising as he has in cleaning his room

It's January - when are the exams? Isn't a bit soon to be expecting enthusiastic revision? And as for cleaning his room - that's irrelevant. Both my sons got good exam results (one through to Ph D level in computational neuroscience, the other to Masters in Microelectronics ) but neither ever showed the slightest interest in cleaning their rooms. Laughing
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@pam w, pehaps the correlation (or perhaps causation) is negative ie interest in cleaning room reduces interest in studying
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yes, could be. Nipping round with a feather duster and ensuring no fluff is left behind the radiator could just be an excuse for not getting down to the calculus. Parents seem to be inordinately involved in their kids' study patterns these days. I never had much idea what mine were up to - they made their own minds up about what to do and would not have taken kindly to too much direction from us, though they asked for help when they were desperate. I did help my daughter with last minute field work for an A level geography assignment - extraordinarily boring thing about street furniture and urban planning - we were cycling round the neighbourhood with clip boards. And made coffee and sandwiches for her and a friend when they burned the midnight oil to finally get the work in by the following day's deadline. I also spent a hairy 24 hours when son's degree dissertation needed printing and he casually rang from 50 miles away the day before to ask whether I had a working printer. We ended up dropping the finished article into Sussex Uni an hour before the deadline expired and he observed that he could have spent an extra 45 minutes in bed. Little sod. He did get a First but I got extra grey hairs - it was a highly technical dissertation about how a computer could learn to play Go - lots of coloured illustrations and we ran out of coloured inks. I hadn't the foggiest what it was about but managed to pick up a few editing nonsenses in the narrative bits, as I stretched my very limited word processing skills to fit it all together.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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children that age can sleep if you have a comfy car and the drivers can get through the night safely. A slightly different route, but at that age my daughters would fall asleep on the M25, through the tunnel and not wake up for 400 more miles. Or Novotel Reims is not bad at all if you wish to pre book and stop. 2.15 from Calais if you are fairly sporty.
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Kids do vary. Some sleep in cars much more readily than others - even as babies. The ones that don't sleep - especially those with Houdini like skills in wriggling out of their car seats (I have an 18 month old grand-daughter like that) are a nightmare.
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@Pierresel,
Quote:

it's great to come off the A40 and leave everybody else queuing for the Portes du Soleil or Grand Massif


Never had to queue for the Grand Massif yet (driving variously at half-term, Christmas and Easter)! ....Mind you, we tend towards a leisurely departure from Reims or thereabouts and don't usually arrive earlier than about 6pm - having stopped for supplies down the valley at Super U, Magland.

I'm getting a bit stoked now reading this thread. You can't beat that feeling when you get to the viaducts around Bellegarde and the mountains begin to rise up around you.
snow conditions     



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