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Advice Needed: Planning Our 18-Day Trip to France

Our family of four, including our 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, is excited to embark on an 18-day adventure in France this June. With non-refundable tickets in hand, we've planned our itinerary to make the most of our time in this beautiful country. However, we're facing some decisions about our route after exploring Normandy.

Here's what we have planned for the first three days:

Day 1: Arrive in Paris around noon, pick up rental car, drive past Giverny, and spend the night in Honfleur (approximately 2 hours and 51 minutes driving).

Day 2: Enjoy a relaxing morning in Honfleur and potentially visit Bayeux, then drive to explore the D-Day sites.

Day 3: Spend the morning visiting D-Day sites, followed by an afternoon trip to Mont St-Michel.

Given our desire to dedicate the last three or four days to Paris and the flexibility needed to enjoy Provence and the French Riviera, we're pondering the following questions:

Question 1: Should we skip Loire and Dordogne, or allocate just one day to each? We're aware that both regions require more time to fully appreciate, but we're unsure about our kids' level of interest in the castles.

Question 2: If we return the car in the south and opt for a flight or train back to Paris, how should we spend our time in Provence and the French Riviera? We anticipate having at least seven days in these regions.

Question 3: Would you recommend taking the train or a flight to and from the south, considering our itinerary?

We greatly appreciate any advice you can offer to help us make the most of our time in France. Thank you!

Posted by
2364 posts

When are you going in June as 80th anniversary of D Day is on 6/6 and you don't want to be in Normandy then. Also it is not advisable right after an over night flight due to jet lag. Just my two cents.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you! We wanted to go on 6/6 for the celebration but kids’ school won’t end until 6/7. We will arrive on 6/10 which will be my son’s 11 birthday lol. I mentioned the same concern to my husband but he said he would be fine to drive. Maybe I should ask him to think twice. Regarding going to the south, and any suggestions?

Posted by
136 posts

On a trip with 12 and 14 year old kids, we skipped Loire and Dordogne. We had a couple of one night stays in our trip but found it difficult to arrive somewhere and get everyone enthused about going out again and then pack up again the next day to make sure nothing is left behind. And if you skip them, you might have time for an extra day in Normandy or to stay overnight or at least late at Mont St Michel.

We like the train; the stations are less hassle than airports. The time on the train is downtime to relax. And we don't ride trains at home so it is a bit of adventure. But if you can find a reasonable flight from Normandy (or Rennes after Mont St Michel) to Nice, that might be easier than train to Paris, switch stations in Paris (each station handles a different region), and 5 or 6 hour train to Nice. Or driving the whole way. But then I'd suggest take the train from Nice (or Antibes if you want a sandy beach) to your Provence location (we liked Arles for the Roman ruins) and then train from Provence to Paris.

Posted by
627 posts

MZ, I would seriously review your plans and check the drive times between places. And driving to Honfleur the day you arrive from an international flight is not a good idea. Renting in Paris and driving from there is not easy. And don't underestimate jet lag.

You can spend all afternoon in the town of Bayeux seeing the cathedral, tapestry, museum. Save the D Day drive for the next day. Of course, this is provided you can even find places to stay in Honfleur or all of Normandy. The 80th anniversary of DDay in June has already filled up most lodging options.

Your timing is optimistic regarding getting to Mont St. Michel as well. Go to viamichelin website and use them to get an idea of drive times. And add on another 10% to allow for gassing up and bathroom stops, and traffic. At the Mont you will park the car in the lot, then take the tram to the causeway, then walk across to the Mont. Perhaps you should stay in Pontorson or on the Mont that night, and leave from there instead of returninb to Honfleur or Bayeux.

You should skip the Dordogne. It is a large region and there isn't just "one place" to stop. The Loire needs a full day. Are you factoruing in the time it takes to drive there from Normandy, and the drive time from the Loire to wherever you go in the south of France? You would need to stay the night in the Loire.

Fly or take the train to the south of France. It will be faster than driving. And giving your limited time all your driving needs to be on the autoroutes, not usually scenic. Choose Provence OR the Cote d'Azure (Nice, etc.) You don't have time for both.

Sorry to sound like a Debbie Downer, but you would be covering a lot of miles in a short amount of time and spending very little time at your destinations. Check out your distances. (And remember that there are speed cameras all over. Your ticket, should you get one, may arrive 6 months after you get home.)

I love France, but you will need to pare down your plans to fit your time frame, if you want to enjoy your visit.

Best of luck! Bon voyage!

Posted by
318 posts

Wow. So much to ponder, especially as we don't know much about your interests and those of your kids.

If you're into museums and history, spend lots of time in Paris. If you're foodies, take in Lyon for sure. For beaches, Cannes and the Riviera are the place to be. For wine tastings and learning about viticulture and viniculture, no place better than Bordeaux. You're already planning to be in Normandy, and you have identified some great sites, though make sure to also visit the American cemetery there.

Other than these, it's hard to give recommendations until we know more about your interests.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you so much Judy! We are thinking it over now. Have not booked anything except the flight to Paris yet so we still have time. Please feel free to share if you have any advice. Really appreciate!