Family holiday in Europe: drive or fly?

Florence, Italy It’s that age-old holiday dilemma thousands of families face every year. Do you pack the children (and everything but the kitchen sink) into the car for a lengthy drive to your Continental destination, or opt to fly instead? We’ve taken two popular holiday locations, Florence in Tuscany, Italy, and Nice on the Cote d’Azur in France, and weighed up the pros and cons of flying and driving to each to help you decide the best option. We’ve chosen holiday dates of August 1-15 and assumed a family of four from Bristol is travelling.

Driving costs - Nice

Fuel: It’s a long 990 miles to Nice from Bristol. Based on an approximate fuel cost of £1.40 per litre and 40 mpg, you’ll be looking at fuel costs of £315 for your journey there and back Road toll costs: £77 each way (approx) Return Euro Tunnel ticket: £274 One night stopover at a Premiere Classe hotel: £64 for two rooms. Total journey cost: £808, or £202 per person.

Flying costs - Nice

Nice: Direct return flights from Bristol to Nice with EasyJet will cost you a hefty £1,237 for a family of four. Checked-in luggage: £38 per bag Total journey cost:  £1,389, or £347 per person.

Driving costs - Florence

Fuel: You’ll face a whopping 1,118 miles from Bristol. Based on the same approximate fuel cost of £1.40 per litre and 40 mpg, this will set you back £355 in fuel costs Road toll costs: of £60 each way add £120 to your bill Return Euro Tunnel ticket: £274 One night stopover at a Premiere Classe hotel: £64 for two rooms. Total journey cost : £813 or £203 per person.

Flying costs - Florence

There are no direct return flights to Florence from Bristol available on August 1. Direct flights from Gatwick cost a huge £2,937 in total, with bags. Total journey cost: £2,937, or £735 per person.

So much for cost, what about comfort?

When you’re driving, you can adjust your legroom and stop whenever and wherever you want. But if you’re the driver, you can’t sit back and relax as you’ll have to concentrate on the roads. It’s impossible to stretch out on a plane, and if you’re wedged in the window seat, it’s a battle to get out and go to the loo. But, on the plus side, you can have a snooze if you want to.

And length of journey time?

For Nice, you’re looking at a lengthy 14 hours and 33 minutes in the car if you’re planning on driving from Bristol to Nice – and that’s assuming you travel non-stop. Once you’ve factored in breaks, you’re probably looking at least 20 hours, and an overnight stop somewhere en route. The flight from Bristol to Nice is just two hours and five minutes – although you’ll need to check in two hours before you fly. Driving to Florence? Be prepared for a 17 and-a-half hours in the car if you want to drive to Florence, not including any stopping time. If you’re flying to Tuscany from Gatwick, the flight time is also two hours and five minutes, but you’ll have the 2-hour 40 minute drive to the airport, plus the two-hour check-in.

How about convenience?

When you drive, you can pack whatever you want in the car, and you can set off from home whenever you want. You don’t have to worry about hiring a car once you reach your destination – another costs debit on the flying side of the account, BUT you’ll waste valuable holiday time getting to your destination, and being in the car for hours on end isn’t much fun for anyone. When it comes to flying, you’ve got to think about getting to the airport, and finding transport when you arrive. On the plus side you know you’re going to get to your destination relatively quickly once you’re on the plane.

And the all-important hassle factor?

You can chuck everything in the car without having to worry about the weight or size of your bags. You can also take things like bikes so you don’t have to hire them once you get there. The downsides are the endless loo/ food stops, and the fact you’ll have to waste days of your valuable holiday on the roads. But while fitting everything you need for two weeks into your suitcases can be a real pain, you still get there much more quickly on a plane than in a car.

Flying probably edges it… Although…

Being in a car with the kids for hours on end is a challenge for even the most patient of parents, and you’ll maximise your time spent relaxing on holiday by flying. That said, if you’re on a tight budget as most families are, you could save a fortune by driving rather than flying, especially if you’ve left booking flights to the last minute.

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