I have to apologize in advance for my lengthy post. I've tried to cut it down but I don't want to leave out any helpful details.
I'll be in France & Italy this summer with DH, DS (9 YO) and DD (7 YO). We'll be travelling from Antibes to Gaiole in Chianti on Saturday, July 28th and I don't know the best way to do it.
Some background, we'll be arriving in Paris, staying in Paris for 6 nights, and then taking the TGV to Avignon, and picking up our rental car there. We'll be in the south of France for 3 weeks and will definitely keep the car the whole time. Our last stay in France is in Antibes. Gaiole is the next stop, for a week at an agriturismo, and we will want a car for this week. After that we go to Florence, and we will return the car when we arrive in Florence or on our way.
These are some of the options I've looked into:
- The Renault leasing/buy back program doesn't work for us because we wouldn't be able to drop off in Milan or Rome, the only options in Italy for returning the car.
- Flying doesn't seem to be an option - there are crazy connections, it would be long and expensive.
This leaves variations of cars and trains. (I know buses are an option but they really don't appeal to me. If I really should reconsider that, let me know.)
- We could drive the whole way, keeping the car for 4 weeks. I know this is absolutely not recommended because of the extra fees for dropping a car off in a different country, however I haven't found the costs to be higher than returning the car in France and renting a car after arriving in Italy! I haven't settled on the exact category of car I want, and am not always offered the same car options for different searches, so it's hard to make a good comparison, but the cheapest car that I thought could fit us and our luggage (hoping to bring 4 small rollies, so I looked for cars holding 2 bigger bags and 2 smaller bags) for the first 3 weeks was $899. The cheapest car I found for the one week in Italy was $600 for pickup in Florence and $723 for pickup in Genoa. So that's at least $1,499 for the 4 weeks, if we have 2 separate cars. A car that could work for us for the entire 4 weeks, picking up in Avignon and returning in Florence, was $1,263. Again, these prices are not always for the same car make and model, and not from the same agencies, but from my research those were the cheapest cars for each option that I felt we could fit in.
One negative with driving is, well, driving. Viamichelin lists the drive as 5 1/2 hours. I know that's a long time in a car with children, but it's the shortest way to get door to door. We often drive 3 hours for ski weekends, and that has occasionally turned into 6 hours with traffic. We all survived. I'm sure we would stop somewhere for lunch and let the kids run around a bit. Would traffic be a factor on a Saturday along this route? It is a changeover day for a lot of rentals, so there could be a lot of people out and about.
- Another option is train almost all the way. I thought we could train to Florence and pick up the rental car there, but now that I'm typing I'm thinking perhaps it would be better to go to Pisa? I found the fastest train was 7 hours 10 minutes from Nice to Florence, then another 1 hour and 15 minute drive to Gaiole. Train is obviously more pleasurable for many reasons. It would be fun and a novelty for the children and generally stress free except for perhaps tight connections. On the other hand it's a really long day. And in addition to the rental cars actually being more money this way, we'd also have the cost of the train tickets.
- Another option is train 1/2 way and car 1/2 way. I thought perhaps we could take the train to Genoa since it is only one connection and would help us avoid the supposed extra cost of returning a car in a different country. In this case, i found a train ride that was 3 1/2 hours to Genoa, and then according to viamichelin, it's a 3 1/2 hour drive. Since I found that picking up a car in Genoa was, in fact, expensive, I'm not sure this really gets us anything.
Is there something I haven't considered? Have I done my research all wrong? As of now, I'm leaning toward keeping the car for the entire 4 weeks. It seems more economical, we can be on our own schedule, and I'm not too scared off by the long drive. I'm just concerned that I have seen so many recommendations against this, I feel like I must be overlooking something.
Thanks in advance!!
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