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Getting around France in July with a large family

Getting around France in July with a large family

Old Feb 4th, 2023, 06:32 AM
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Getting around France in July with a large family

We are hoping to travel to France and Spain in early July 2023 with 15 people: 5 adults and 10 kids ranging in age from 5 to 17. The idea is to visit some of the Catholic sites, hence the stops in Lisieux and Alencon. Tentative itinerary

Days 1-3: Paris

Day 4: Lisieux

Day 5: Normandy Beaches

Day 6: Mont St. Michel and Alencon

Day 7: Chartres and Return to Paris

Day 8: Paris to Lourdes

Day 9: Lourdes

After this, we'd move on to Barcelona to visit family. My question is, what suggestions do you have for transporting 15 people on days 4-7? Is renting 2 vans and driving ourselves the most effective way? Are there any short-term tour companies you may know of in-country who can provide transportation and either English or Spanish-speaking tour guides at these sites (who also happen to be family-friendly and engaging for kids?)

Do these sites (Normandy, Mont St Michel, etc.) require an entire day? Can the St. Therese sites at Lisieux and Alencon maybe be combined into one day?

I appreciate any suggestions you have.

Last edited by panthercane; Feb 4th, 2023 at 06:35 AM.
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Old Feb 4th, 2023, 08:00 AM
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No short term tour company is going to do that, as that isn't really a tour but a custom itinerary and specialized guide, not only for the sites but fluent in Spanish and who can spend overnights on this. It will cost a lot. Of course you could combine Alencon and Lisieux, they are only about an hour's drive apart. As for Normandy, you haven't said what you want to do there or where you want to go so can't say how much time it will take you. I can't imagine how one would spend an entire day at Mont St Michel, but others probably feel differently. Normandy is an entire area and there is lots to see and do there, which is why it depends what you want to do, and where you want to go. I'm sure I spent at least a half day in Rouen alone, for example. Given your interest in Catholic saints, I would think you might be interested in its Joan of Arc history.

I really don't know what to suggest about days 4-7, maybe others have better ideas. You want to visit a lot of places and they are not straightforward by train. I presume there are several competent adults in this large group who are not very elderly and can drive a stick shift? I would NOT recommend two vans for 15 people, if you can even rent such a thing (they would be huge vans). Driving huge vans around can be problematic in some areas and towns/roads, not to mention parking them. Money doesn't sound like a problem, so I'd suggest maybe 3 cars probably. It isn't even easy to rent large vans in Paris, outside CDG, that I know of. Maybe Orly, I just know I've looked before for someone else and you couldn't rent one except at the airport and even there, only Sixt had them. You might not even save money over renting 3 cars.
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Old Feb 4th, 2023, 08:31 AM
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Pre-covid info but DH and I used a shuttle from the airport and I believe we got tours through the driver. Maybe check with the airport shuttle companies? Yes, very expensive!

Last edited by TDudette; Feb 4th, 2023 at 08:45 AM.
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Old Feb 4th, 2023, 08:44 AM
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Yikes, that seems to be a tough old holiday to me. It might be worth contacting your local priest of catholic tour group to see if they can organise groups to visit disparate places. For example there are these guys https://myfaithjourneys.com/catholic...raries/france/ I'm not religious but that might be a source of useful information, good luck
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Old Feb 4th, 2023, 03:59 PM
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Fifteen people at that pace sounds like a forced march. Sorry if that sounds harsh.

You can check with Autoeurope.com which shows a few different large capacity vehicles on their website, but you should ask a lot of questions... starting with whether a special driver's license would be required in France for the largest one, the exact dimensions of cargo space and the MPG (which will be shockingly low). And then hold your breath when they quote the rental cost(s).

Otherwise, a few comments:

Day 4: I'm not Catholic, so I don't know how much time you'd want/need for the Ste. Theresa sights, but I wouldn't stay in Lisieux. I'd push on in the afternoon to your base near the D-Day beaches. I would want a full day to explore the Normandy invasion area.

Day 6. I don't see it as an entire day at Mont Saint-Michel. I see it as 4 hours of driving between, say, Bayeux and Alencon with a detour to MSM. Repeat... 4 hours of driving. Ugh. If it was my trip, I'd skip MSM.

Day 7: "Only" 3.5 hours of driving...

Day 8: Paris to Lourdes by train is about 5 hours.

Day 10: Lourdes to Barcelona by train is about 7.5 hours with 3 changes.

FWIW, Chartres and Rouen are easy day trips by train from Paris.

Last edited by Jean; Feb 4th, 2023 at 04:05 PM.
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Old Feb 4th, 2023, 04:29 PM
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Your only real hope is to find a tour company or driver guide with a commercial bus license that will do a custom itinerary private tour. I know of several companies/individuals who will do this exact thing in the UK but have no suggestions for France. It will likely take a bit of searching to find one. The suggestion to ask priests in your local diocese for ideas is a good one. I know locally here in northern California many priests organize small group tours to various places like Ireland, Rome, Lourdes, etc. So they might have connections for driver/guides/companies that will do custom tours.

Otherwise -- the only option I can see is to drive yourselves but it would require renting 3 SUV-type vehicles (or 4 sedans). Two mini vans would not be big enough for 15 people + luggage, and larger vehicles require special licenses.
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Old Feb 4th, 2023, 05:57 PM
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OP, google Customized, Small Group Tours in France and many companies will come up. Of course, you would have to vet them, and some tour companies do not take children under a certain age, but something might work. If any of them offer tours even similar to your itinerary, it would be fantastic.

I have planned and booked a couple of nights for groups that large and just that was a stressful job. One van Company cancelled the day before we were leaving the US. One did not show up at the airport for pick up. I picked great places, but was happy to let professionals take over.

You have only five adults who might be able to drive. You will likely need car seats or booster seats for some of the younger ones. You will need frequent stops.

You not only have transportation to provide. You need hotels with family rooms and restaurants, which for any group meals, must be booked ahead.

Since I have not visited most of your destinations, I can’t help at all with logistics. Hope more of the experts on France will give advice.

I would absolutely not have any one night stays, or day trips with hours of drive times, unless the whole trip was organized with a private driver and bus that could take you directly to sights and to hotels, etc.

I can’t imagine that many children on the go every day. Places like Chartres will be of little interest to them. A few hours of that and they will need some down time or play time. There are wonderful parks in Paris with ponds where you can rent little boats for the kids to sail. I have traveled with kids and teens a good bit. We plan for one major sight a day and one segment of the day for the littles to run and play and for the teens to venture out on their own. Seems to work wonderfully for us. Keep the heat in mind. Good luck.

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Old Feb 4th, 2023, 09:37 PM
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I would venture that renting three cars would be the way to go, which would also relieve pressure if people have a different plan for a day, such as kids needing a day at the beach or the desire to see some other site that doesn't interest the entire group.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 11:57 AM
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Renting a van (rented a 9 passenger in 2019) is not difficult, requires no special license, but does require some caution if you're not used to driving a vehicle that length. Finding two such vans at the same station at the same time will require some serious pre-booking I'd suspect.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 04:51 PM
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kerouac makes a very good point for flexibility.
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Old Feb 7th, 2023, 07:46 AM
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If you really have to hit all those sites, 3 rental cars is probably the way to do it. We did a van with six people in southern France; it was fine on the days it was just transporting people, but really cramped when we also had to have our luggage.

You might want to consider taking the train from Paris to Rennes, picking up cars there, then driving to MSM to spend the night. From there, you could drive to Alencon and Liseux, ending the day in Bayeux, where you would drop the rental cars (although you might want to look into dropping them in Caen and taking the train from there to Bayeux, as Caen has bigger rental agencies and might give you better rates). In Bayeux, you'd take one of the organized tour excursions to see the D-Day beaches, then take the train back to Paris. You can do Chartres as a daytrip from Paris. I believe this would give you an extra day for Paris, and you would simply pass through on your way to Lourdes.
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Old Feb 7th, 2023, 05:40 PM
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I don't know if this of interest, but in 1995 we were 12 traveling from Dijon to where we were to pick up two boats to spend 8 days on the Burgundy Canal. As the French speaker, I was tasked with getting the train tickets, and because I purchased them at least 24 hours in advance, I got a significant group reduction price. This could apply to your travels from Normandy to paris, and from Paris to Lourdes, assuming that the agent who sold me the tickets was not just very kind.
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Old Feb 7th, 2023, 07:47 PM
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The SNCF definitely has group fares.
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