A few years back I flew off to France with the Tin Box girls. It was the first time I’ve gone abroad with them on my own as Mr Tin Box couldn’t get the time off work – boo hiss to the Royal Navy! However, the chance of a bit of sun, French wine and relaxing after moving house was too good an opportunity to refuse. Flying solo – quite literally – spurred me to be super organised ahead of this trip. I put together a French holiday checklist with help from M&S Bank* and stuck to it rigorously. If you’re planning a family break in France, or looking for a family holiday checklist, this might help you tick off those all important pre-trip tasks.
Our French holiday checklist
Contents - jump to what you'd like to know
Buying travel money
It’s always useful to have some local currency on you when you travel. So buying Euros was high on my holiday checklist, as was getting it from a place I trust. We’ve got three M&S Bank bureau de change within an hour’s drive of us in deepest South Devon. I decided to pop to the Plymouth branch so I could combine picking up Euros with shopping for other holiday essentials and some sightseeing. The whole process was simple and quick – just don’t forget your ID like someone did ahead of me in the queue. Another good thing about M&S Bank’s exchange rates are they’re set all day, so you can check online before you visit and know you’ll get the same deal in store.
Getting family travel cover
Next on my list was travel insurance. Our last annual policy has just expired. As we know we have no other plans to go abroad this year I opted for a single trip policy. Make sure you read all the options when you are applying for your insurance. It’s important you’re covered for the activities you plan to do and all the belongings you want to take. Last year we had to pay a little extra to cover our cruise and the possibility that Mr Tin Box’s job in the military might mean he was unable to travel. Top tip: if you get your currency from M&S Bank they have a 15% off travel insurance offer online for new policies.
What you need for driving in France
We hired a car so my hire company provided the necessary driving kit needed in France. If you are taking your own car to Europe then the AA have a handy download about what’s compulsory or recommended, such as high visability vests, warning triangles and breathalysers, all of which you will need in France.
Check what’s included with your accommodation
We stayed in an Al Fresco Holidays mobile home in the Vendee region, which means we were self-catering. I have a trusty self-catering packing list that I always refer to before this kind of trip but as we’re flying I’ll have to rationalise a bit.
Thankfully the Al Fresco website has an inventory of what’s included in its caravans too. This means I knew what extra creature comforts I needed to pack, like a hairdryer. Doing a bit of research and getting in touch with your holiday provider ahead of your trip will save packing any unnecessary items.
Double check your paperwork
I always sweat about passports and European Health Insurance Cards being in date. Check these as soon as you book your holiday. EHICs can be applied for and delivered within a few days but passports can take a lot longer. Once I have all our personal documents, insurance details and travel itinerary, I take digital photos of them as a backup.
First aid and sun protection
We travel with first aid kits of varying sizes depending on whether we’re in the caravan, car or holidaying out of a suitcase. It’s surprising the amount of medical basics you can fit into something the size of a small makeup bag.
On top of those basics, I like to pack a few other things I know will be useful when holidaying abroad. Sun cream and insect repellant are among these. Tin Box Baby has eczema prone skin so I packed Child’s Farm 50+ sun cream and Jungle Formula Kids. These are designed for children’s sensitive skin.
Learn some French!
Or, in my case, relearn it. I’ve never had an flare for languages but the French are a proud bunch (a bit like us Brits). I know having a stab at speaking the native tongue will make all the difference. I bought the girls, OK me, a Usborne First 100 words in French to remind myself of the basics. There was also a rather amusing conversation on my Facebook page about some the phrases I might need during our week. I think my favourite was: “Avez vous wifi?”.
What’s on your family holiday checklist? And what tips do you have for me for travelling to France?
Disclosure: this post was written in collaboration with M&S Bank.
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