Travelling Europe by car may seem ridiculous when there are so many low-cost flights available.

But the car is often even cheaper than flying, particularly in high season when air fares go through the roof, and it can be much more convenient when travelling with kids or a lot of luggage.

There’s still commission to be earned from selling self-drive holidays, too. Think ferry or rail crossings, accommodation, insurance, and tickets to attractions such as Disneyland Resort Paris and Parc Asterix in France.



It’s easier to strap your skis to your car than lug them onto an aircraft. Now the budget airlines charge £15 each way for carrying equipment, it can be much cheaper as well.

Having your own car also means you can drive to different resorts each day, which is a big plus point for experienced skiers who want a bit of variety.

France is the most popular option for a self-drive ski holiday – most resorts in the Alps are less than 10 hours from Calais, and the closest Italian resorts about nine hours. Resorts in Austria and Andorra are 10 to 12 hours away.

Sample product: A seven-night self-catering holiday in Chamonix, France costs from £174 per person based on four sharing an apartment, plus £99 for a Dover-Calais ferry crossing for a car and up to nine passengers, with Neilson next January.


Family holidays

Airports and kids can be a stressful combination – especially as you’ll probably be carrying a lot of excess baggage. On a self-drive holiday, you can put the youngsters and all your bags into the car.

Northern France – Brittany, Normandy and the west coast – is as far as most families are prepared to drive with kids, though the Motorail service from Calais brings the south of France within reach.

Cantabria, in northern Spain, can be reached via Santander with crossings from Plymouth or from Bilbao with crossings from Portsmouth. Holland and Denmark are good options for families and can be easily reached from Harwich.

Sample product:Keycamp has six nights in a two-bed mobile home on a campsite near Wassenaar, Holland for £924 for a family of four in August, including the ferry to Calais.


Booze cruise

The whole point of the booze cruise is to bring back as much discounted alcohol as you can, so it makes sense to go by car.

You can bring back up to 110 litres of beer, 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine, 20 litres of fortified wine, 3,200 cigarettes and as much smelly cheese as you dare.

Most booze cruisers head to Calais, the discount shopping capital of Europe, where you’ll find lots of booze outlets around the autoroute.

There’s also good shopping in Boulogne, while Dieppe, which is easily accessible from Newhaven, has several out-of-town discount outlets. Cherbourg is a good option for those travelling from Portsmouth and Poole.

Sample product:P&O Ferries has a Dover-Calais Car Park Shopper package for £10 for a car and two passengers who don’t get off the ferry – they can buy goods on board for up to 50% less than in the UK. Day trips to Calais cost from £30, and fares for up to five days away start at £50.


Remote destinations

There are some places you just can’t fly to. Taking a car on the train or ferry can be more convenient than flying to the nearest airport.

Scandinavia is great for exploring on four wheels, especially north of the Arctic Circle, where it is less well served by public transport. The same goes for the Scottish islands, both the Shetlands and the Orkneys.

Sample product:DFDS has an 11-night self-drive tour covering western Norway and the fjords from £583 per person in September, including a ferry crossing with a cabin from Newcastle and nine nights’ bed-and-breakfast accommodation in three to four-star hotels en route.