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France road trip itinerary for a summer of family camping fun

France road trip itinerary for a summer of family camping fun

This is our France road trip itinerary from 2019. This was pre-Bongo, and we took a tent.

This one month France road trip itinerary starts from Calais, and does a big loop down to the Spanish Pyrenees via the Auvergne and Perpignan, then back up again via Bayonne, Île d’Oléron, and the Loire Valley, returning to Calais. Accommodation is camping (either tent or camper) and geared toward families with young kids. A fantastic budget trip for the school summer holidays!

Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary camping from The Camping and Caravanning Club for this trip, with the last stop at Les Alicourts being hosted by Canvas Holidays. As always, these are all my own words and opinions. This post also contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase it is at no additional cost to you, but I receive a small commission.

Check out our video highlights from our summer in France (and a little bit of Spain):

A summer road trip around France and Spain

For those living in the UK, the summer holidays are an expensive time to travel. Flight and accommodation prices rocket and everywhere is seemingly overrun with tourists. Before the boys started school we always avoided travelling in the UK summer holidays like the plague. But now they’re in school, and with a full six weeks to fill, thinking caps were on for something cheap, not too touristy, and something easy.

France is an obvious choice for us as it’s easy to get to and we can take our car over on the Ferry. Plus we LOVE France – the wine, the climate, the landscapes, the croissants, the history. We just had to plan where to go and what to do to avoid the crowds as much as possible. And we decided to head to the Spanish Pyrenees!

So we booked a return ferry crossing with DFDS Ferries from Dover for a total of £138 to camp and road trip France from Calais and down to the Spanish Pyrenees with our Vango Air Tent.

READ: Top 10 tips for driving through France

Camping in France with kids

The French do family campsites very well and they are a fantastic budget choice for families. The camping holiday parks are well organised, clean, offer lots for the kids (swimming pool, playgrounds, sometimes a kids club), and have a restaurant and bakery on site (think fresh croissants in the morning!) I also always enjoy the mix of European nationalities that visit the parks, and how all the kids play together.

camp ground with blue sky
Camping Vaubarlet, Auvergne, France.

For our summer road trip in France we collaborated with The Camping & Caravanning Club who have a fantastic range of campsite locations across Europe, including France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and even Slovenia and Finland. The hard work has been done for you in finding holiday parks of an excellent standard, and you can use their interactive map to find their campsites and work out your route – which is exactly what we did! Whether you are travelling in a Mazda Bongo (we’ve just bought one in July 2020!), large motorhome, or a small tent, they have some fantastic pitches to choose from.

If you’re also planning on camping over the summer, check out or Camping with kids Checklist, which includes a FREE printable download to manually tick off those family camping items.

Tips for doing this France road trip itinerary

Book all camping accommodation in advance, especially if you are travelling in the summer holidays. I provide a link to our review for each campsite we stayed in below in the itinerary, which includes tips for selecting a good pitch.

Plan any day trips to arrive before 11am. We had a couple of days out where we had to turn around and return to the campsite because we didn’t follow this rule of visiting early in the day.

Go with the flow of campsite bedtimes. We find that when camping in Europe (especially Spain), you go with the flow and slip into ‘camp time’ with going to bed late and getting up late. There were many evenings the boys weren’t asleep until 10pm and and all kids are still playing in the playgrounds at 9pm. It’s near impossible trying to get our boys to sleep when all their pals are still outside playing. The payoff of letting them go to bed late was that they slept in the following morning, and us parents would have a lie in and managed to get stuff done before they woke up! This was very handy on the travel days when we had to pack up the tent.

Pack warm sleeping bags. Temperatures can drop at night, especially in the Pyrenees and we were surprised at how cold it got. Although day time temperatures often hit 35 degrees.

boy on microstooter
Scootering around Camping Gavín, Spain, on his microscooter.

Pack scooters. We packed our microscooters for all the family. This meant that we didn’t have to bother with bikes and bike racks as they fold up and fit in the foot-well of the car, and were a super fun way to get around the campsites, especially the bigger ones.

Check out our camping with kids checklist to find out what we packed in our car for this camping road trip.

Our France road trip itinerary

This turned out to be one of our best family adventures. We had the most amazing summer; swimming every day, trekking the Pyrenees, exploring medieval towns and villages, and playing on stunning beaches, all in fantastic weather and on a budget.

In fact, we often commented on the trip how we probably spent less money camping in France for the summer than we would have trying to entertain the kids back at home in the UK. The reason? Well we had days where we didn’t leave the campsites as there was so much free stuff to do. We also self-catered pretty much the entire trip.

All campsites in this France road trip itinerary have a swimming pool, toilet and shower blocks, and an electrical hook up at pitches. But each and every campsite was very different from the next, which is one of the many things we loved about this road trip.

Day 1: Ferry from Dover and overnight in Reims

Driving time from Calais: 2 hours 40 mins
Where we stayed: Hotel Première Classe Reims Nord, Bétheny

hotel room in Reims
Our 4-bed hotel room in Reims. There is another bed to the right of this photograph.

It’s always worthwhile checking ferry crossings to both Dunkirk and Calais when travelling from Dover to get the best deal; both with P&O Ferries and DFDS. The sail time to Dunkirk is only 30 minutes longer, and there’s not much difference in the drive time to Reims.

As our ferry arrived at 7pm French time (they’re one hour ahead) we booked a basic hotel outside Reims for £31 – Hotel Première Classe Reims Nord, Bétheny. Nothing special, but as it’s just for a night’s sleep with and another driving day tomorrow, it’s perfect. There is an ALDI supermarket opposite to pick up some fresh croissants for breakfast.

Day 2-7: Camping Vaubarlet, Auvergne

Driving time: 5 hours 40 mins
Read our review of Camping Vaubarlet

This is a great site for families who love nature as it’s set in a peaceful wooded valley in the south of the Auvergne. Very popular with Dutch families, it’s a small parc with a pool, kids club, and bouncy castle. But the highlight was playing in the stream that ran alongside the campsite. There are some cycling and hiking tracks around, but this is is the place to sit back at relax and let the kids have fun.

Day 8-11: Camping Le Haras, Western Mediterranean

Driving time: 5 hours
Read our review of Camping Le Haras

Camping le Haras swimming pool

This region of France does get busy during the summer, but this parc is a peaceful oasis from the hustle and bustle, with Catalan-style buildings surrounded by exotic trees. We absolutely loved the vibe of this campsite, and dinner at the onsite restaurant when a local band is playing is a must.

Close by is in the small town of Palau where you can watch glassmakers at work. We loved exploring the nearby beaches (Le Racou was our favourite) and nearby Collioure is just beautiful (get there early).  There is so much to do in the region and we really could have stayed longer.

Day 12-16: Camping Gavín, Spanish Pyrenees

Driving time: 5 hours
Read our review of Camping Gavín

swimming pool at Camping Gavin

The views and facilities of this campsite are very impressive. You are right in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees. However, pitches are very small and it’s gets very loud and busy in the summer holidays. We have since learnt that this is typical of many Spanish campsites.

Just a 15 minute drive away is the cable car from Panticosa where you’ll find some fantastic hiking trails. Kids will also love the high ropes in the nearby village, at Biescas Aventura.

If you want to explore more of Spain from this point, check out our Northern Spain road trip itinerary.

Day 17-20: Camping Lou P’tit Poun, Biarritz region

Driving time: 3 hours
Read our review of Camping Lou P’tit Poun

swimming pool

Kids stay for free at this spacious site in the Basque country. It’s just a stone’s throw away from the foothills of the Pryenees, incredible beaches, and lively Bayonne. What a great location! It’s also a peaceful site, even in August (we couldn’t believe how quiet it was!), and there’s a free local shuttle bus from the site entrance to the beach at Ondres-Plage, although there’s also a dedicated cycle path you can follow.

Biarritz is also just a 30 minute drive away, but arrive VERY early to secure a parking spot. Do be wary of the beaches in this region with little ones and the surf is big and the current strong.

Day 21-24: Domaine d’Oléron, Ile d’Oléron

Driving time: 4 hours
Read our review of Camping Domaine d’Oléron

Situated on the island of Oléron, accessible via a toll-free bridge from the mainland, this campsite has a great family atmosphere featuring a fantastic swimming pool and playground.

The island is much more understated than neighbouring and fashionable Île de Ré and boasts much better beaches. Having now visited both islands, we prefer Île d’Oléron. There are bike tracks criss-crossing the island, but it’s easy to drive around and find parking.

Day 25-29: Les Alicourts with Canvas Holidays, Loire Valley

Driving time: 4 hours 30
Read our review of  Les Alicourts

Although we love our tent, after 3.5 weeks of camping it was a treat to stay in a static mobile home, complete with hot showers, proper beds and an oven. This is the place if you want on tap entertainment for your kids and an easy holiday in the one place.  Stock up at the supermarket before you arrive as you may not wan to leave!

It’s brilliant fun for kids aged 4+, especially the waterpark, and the kids club is excellent.  The man made lake is a beautiful focal point and a you can hire pedaloes, canoes, and also bikes on site. If manage to tear the kids away there are some stunning family friendly chateaux in the region.

Day 30: Drive back to Calais

Driving time: 5 hours

30 days and over 3000km later, it’s time to return to Calais to catch the ferry back to England.

This road trip is tailor made for families with young kids, but if you’re looking for something different (perhaps visiting different locations, or if you have a different timescale), check out The Voyageurs Collection.

You may also like to read:
Best family campsites in France
Best Châteaux to visit in the Loire Valley with kids
Top 10 tips for driving through France