Should you drive or fly to the French Alps? The ultimate guide to plan your trip
For anyone looking to enjoy a skiing holiday in Europe, the French Alps reign supreme. Rugged trails, world-class resorts, and a buzzing apre ski scene make this part of the world a mecca for an alpine adventure. If you’re travelling from the UK, the Alps are also tantalizing close. It’s easy to get here in half a day, and the options for travel couldn’t be more convenient.
So what’s the best option for you? In the following guide, we’ll help you decide whether flying or driving to the French Alps from the UK is best — with specific advice related to Morzine and Le Grand Massif.
Pros of flying to the Alps
The idea of flying to the Alps often sounds the most attractive option. Instinctively, your mind conjures up images of jetting through crisp blue skies and soaring over snow-capped peaks. But does the reality live up to the expectation? First, let’s look at the pros of flying.
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest perks of catching a flight is speed. From the UK, you can reach Geneva Airport direct in around 70 minutes, and the airport transfer from Geneva to Morzine is just 80 minutes whereas the airport transfer from Geneva to Le Grand Massif is only 60 minutes. The main takeaway here? Catch a morning flight, and you can be gliding down an alpine trail later that afternoon. Big perk!
Flights are regular
Geneva is a major financial centre, which means you can take your pick from plenty of regular non-stop flights. In fact, there are currently 24 UK airports offering flights to Geneva, including every London terminal.
Easy to relax
Flying is arguably the most relaxing option. Once you get to the airport, you can kick back with a drink, grab a bite to eat, and let the holiday begin. Snooze on the flight and feel refreshed when the wheels hit the tarmac. Geneva Airport also has shower facility areas (accessible for a small fee) and these include convenient baby changing areas. If you have some time to kill at Geneva airport there are some nice places to grab a drink or some food – try the top floor bar and restaurant that has floor to ceiling windows with excellent views out onto the runway.
Cons of flying to the Alps
Flying to the Alps for a skiing holiday is a great option. But there are also a few cons to consider too.
If your trip involves a short weekend break, getting all your skiing gear onboard might not be an issue. But if you’re coming for an extended holiday, the limited space could be a major drawback. To give you an idea of fees, easyJet charge around £40 for small sports equipment (per item, per flight) when you book online.
Flights can be costly
Depending on when you travel, flying can make a big dent in your holiday budget. Prices fluctuate throughout the year, but during the peak months, prices rocket and can reach £200 each way.
While flying is the speedy alternative, there’s always the chance of getting caught in a delay. No biggie for longer trips, but a lengthy delay for a weekend jaunt might be more than a tad frustrating. French workers love a strike and air traffic control is no exception.
Flying to the French Alps: overview
Geneva is just a 70-minute flight from southern UK airports, with direct flights available from easyJet, Swiss Air, British Airways, and Jet2. The airport transfer from Geneva to Morzine is just 80 minutes, and from Geneva to Samoens and Morillon it is just 60 minutes. Tasty Ski chalets are located in ski resorts with some of the shortest airport transfer times in the Alps.
Need a ride? We can arrange return Geneva airport transfers for your group to take you directly to and from your catered ski chalet.
Top tips for flying
If you’re planning on flying to Geneva, here’s our guide to help you enjoy a smoother journey:
Book at least 3 weeks before you depart to secure a below-average price. However, to get the cheapest prices, Skyscanner recommends booking at least 10 weeks before your departure date.
Pack your gear carefully so it’s well-protected during your flight. Pack skis and poles in a duffel bag, and cover the tips of your ski poles with tip covers to prevent tearing the bag. You could also place rolled or folded clothes in your ski duffel bag for additional padding and also to save space and weight in your main hold luggage.
Don’t buy your currency at the airport, otherwise you could end up being charged extortionate rates. If you want to exchange your money before flying, moneysavingexpert.com will show you where to get the best rate within a few miles of where you live.
To save money, maximise your carry-on allotments. In particular, make sure you pack all of your ski outfit in your carry-on luggage. That way, even if your hold luggage somehow doesn’t make it, you’ll still have all the essential gear you need for the next day. Remember, skis, boots and poles can all be easily rented at the resort.
Pros of driving to the French Alps
Thinking of driving to the French Alps? Let’s start with the top reasons to consider travelling by car.
Cheaper when you travel together
After splitting the costs between your group, driving may be a cheaper option than flying. Obviously a lot depends on your journey time, but as a rough guide, the minimum you’ll spend on fuel is £100 each way, and tolls are around £60 each way. The Michelin website has a handy trip planner that can estimate the cost of your trip based on your vehicle type and travel distance.
Freedom and flexibility
If you’re travelling to Morzine or Samoens, you’ll find a buzzing resort town with lots of activities and amenities within walking distance. But if you want to explore further, having your own set of wheels is a major perk. While hiring is an option, bringing your own car means you won’t have the hassle of picking up and returning a rental vehicle. Unlike flying, driving also provides more flexibility for packing. With no restrictions or added fees to consider, you can bring along whatever your car can hold. But be sure to check if your chalet comes with a private driver service – lots of chalets do!
You get to soak up the scenery
Some of the alpine scenery en route to Morzine and Le Grand Massif is simply spectacular. Driving lets you see it all, with the option to stop for a selfie when a particularly epic vista yawns into view. If you’re planning to take some of the scenic back roads during winter, check the latest weather information to see if any roads have been closed.
The cons of driving to the French Alps
As you might expect, driving to the Alps also has its cons.
Cuts into your skiing time
This one really goes without saying. Travelling by car is not the fastest route to Morzine or Le Grand Massif. If you’re driving from the south of the UK, it can take a minimum of 11 and a half hours. And if you’re setting off from as far north as Edinburgh, the journey time to the French Alps is going to be at least 18 hours. That’s a long time on the road! And it’s a serious amount of “are we nearly there yets” if you’re travelling with kids.
Prepare to feel tired
After driving for nearly half a day, you’re going to feel pretty weary once you reach your destination. No matter how beautiful the scenery is, you might feel it doesn’t make up for all those long hours on the road.
Lack of comfort
There’s no denying that driving is the more uncomfortable option. Even with the limited leg room on budget airlines, it’s easy to get up and have a quick stretch. If you’re in a car (and especially if you’re driving), muscles can start to ache after a few hours and the only option is to pull over for a break.
Travelling to the French Alps by car: overview
Directions: Morzine and Le Grand Massif are about a 9-hour drive from Calais along the Toll Roads. From the A40 Motorway (the Geneva/Chamonix road), leave A40 at exit no.18 (signposted Scionzier/Taninges/Samoens), then follow signposts to Taninges. Turn left at the end of Taninges (signposted Les Gets / Morzine) to get to Morzine (25 minutes from here) or go straight on to get to Samoens and Morillon (10 minutes from here).
Car with a ferry crossing: A ferry crossing between Dover and Calais takes around 90 minutes and costs approximately £30 per car for a single journey. Just bear in mind that you’ll also need to wait for the ferry to load, (which can add another hour to the travel time) and rough seas can obviously cause a delay.
Car with a Eurotunnel crossing: Without the potential weather issues, travelling via the Eurotunnel is generally more reliable and quicker. The journey time is around 35 minutes. However, it’s the slightly more expensive option — fares for the Chunnel trains (operated by Eurotunnel) start at around £50 for a single trip by car.
Top tips for driving
If you’ve decided that driving to the French Alps is your best option, here are our top tips for an altogether smoother, more enjoyable journey.
Share the driving and take frequent breaks
The ability to share out the driving duties will make the journey a whole lot easier. While it might be tempting to power through on energy drinks and willpower, always let your group know if you feel tired during your driving stint. Regular breaks are essential. Aim to take a break, of at least 15 minutes in duration, every two hours.
Fuel up strategically
At the time of writing, the cost of diesel is around 6 cents cheaper in France than the UK. However, the cost of petrol is around 10 cents a litre cheaper in the UK. So depending on your car, fuel up in the country that makes it cheaper for you. In addition, ensure that your SAT NAV doesn’t take you through Paris! Head for Reims, then Dijon.
Prepare for snowy conditions
All the roads in the Alps are well-maintained and snow ploughs frequently help to clear up the snow. That said, it’s still important that your car is prepared for winter conditions. If you’re arriving during winter months, make sure you have snow chains and winter tyres. Even if you have a 4×4, that might not be enough during heavy snowfall. Also, make sure you practice fitting and removing your winter tyres and chains before you set off — trying this for the first time while stuck on an icy road is not advised!
Servicing and standard checks
At the very minimum, check your tyres, brakes, oil levels, and make sure your coolant is topped up with anti-freeze. Having windscreen washer fluid is also important to handle the colder temperatures in winter. For peace of mind (and especially for older vehicles), you might want to consider putting your car in for a full service.
Make the journey part of your holiday
Rather than driving hundreds of miles non-stop, turn your journey into a road trip. For instance, you could book overnight accommodation in advance at a countryside château. It’ll add a memorable experience to your trip, and you’ll feel a lot more refreshed when you reach your ski resort.
So…should you drive or fly?
The final choice really comes down to personal requirements and preference. If time is on your side and you’re looking to save money, then driving to Morzine might be the best option – particularly with kids. With a group of people travelling by car, it’s easy to split the cost (and time) behind the wheel.
Flying clearly has its perks. Not least of which, the sheer convenience of it all. Hop on a plane in the morning and you can hit the slopes on that very same day. Less helpful are the baggage restrictions — and the costs that come with bringing all your gear. Packing light isn’t easy on a skiing trip, so this is something you’ll need to consider.
We’re happy to help offer more advice on this topic, so feel free to get in touch! We also have dedicated pages on Travelling to Morzine and Travelling to Le Grand Massif which provide a detailed breakdown of the various costs and transport options. In the meantime, get yourself inspired and check out our range of luxury ski chalets.