Over Easter, my kids and I had an awesome ski holiday in Serre Chevalier in the Southern French Alps. In this article I look at the journey we took to the ski area, in this fly vs drive to the Alps comparison. I discuss the eco and financial benefits of driving and include a review of the Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD that I drove across France.
First up we had to get from the UK to France. Now living in East Sussex the easiest route is to take the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry by DFDS. The drive from Dieppe is a little shorter than from Calais, so there is no point in driving two hours out of our way to Dover.
We decided to get the overnight ferry which leaves most nights between eleven and midnight and takes about five hours. This is so that we’d arrive in France very early in the morning and could drive the eight to nine hours to arrive mid afternoon. I figured my kids, who are 11 and 9, would sleep a lot of the way.
We arrived at the ferry terminal the designated hour before departure and joined a small queue. Before long there was a big line of cars behind us. The news was reporting 14 hour delays at Dover, mainly due to post Brexit passport processing in France. The Newhaven route was running fine except for delays due to bad weather.
In the end we didn’t set sail until about two of three in the morning. I am not sure what time, as I was fast asleep by then! We had boarded the ferry at about one in the morning, having all been dozing in the car since eleven. Set up in the comfy reclining seats we’d all gone straight to sleep.
With strong winds it was a rough crossing. One of my boys suffers from travel sickness and normally he would have been terrible on a crossing this bad. However, I had given him Kwells Kids – travel tablets recommended by Boots – which did the job. Although he was sick once, but compared to the six times on a far calmer journey a year earlier it was an improvement!
Overall the ferry crossing was good. The seats are comfortable enough to sleep in, the toilets clean and the breakfast fairly good. When we arrived in France there was a long queue to get through customs which took more than an hour. Pre-Brexit this used to be a lot faster. But soon we were on the road.
After the late arrival the drive was no where near as bad as I expected. And this is despite it raining most of the way which made driving tough. As the only adult in the car I let me kids take it in turns to sit up front. This was mainly so they could operate the toll booths which is tricky in a right hand drive vehicle without a passenger!
I’d packed sugary snacks, had a Spotify playlist on standby, a selection of books plus a PSP and Nintendo DS for the kids. However, it was Magician by Raymond Feist which I downloaded on audio book that kept the kids, and me, entertained for the majority of the time. In fact it was only when they napped that I got to enjoy some music.
The actual driving in France is much easier than the UK. The only slightly tricky part is around Paris where it became busy and satnav and I had a bit of a falling out due to poor directions on the ring road. The French motorways are much quieter than, for example, the M1 or M6 let alone the M25 in the UK.
The end of the drive to Serre Chevalier was up into the mountains via La Grave on the D1091. The road reaches 2,000m so the rain that had plagued us all day turned to snow at around 1,500m. Meaning we got to test the AWD of the Kia Sportage driving in fresh snow– more about that below!
For our fly vs drive to the Alps journey we were loaned a Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD. With plenty of space it is a great choice for a family road trip. It’s a self-charging hybrid which helps with fuel economy and is full of useful tech to make long drives easier.
Advance warning… I am not a motor journalist, I don’t know much about cars or get excited about fast or pretty ones. But during this review of Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD I have to say I loved it. I mean almost anything is better than my 20 year old Astra! However, I often drive hire cars so I can tell if a car is any good, but don’t expect me to go all Top Gear on you!
The Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD has a hybrid engine. It combines a 1.6 TGDi petrol engine with an electric motor and a 1.49kWh self charging battery, providing a combined output of 226bhp. It comes with a very smooth six-speed automatic gearbox, although you can also change gears using the paddles on the steering wheel.
The AWD drive on the top-spec GT-Line S was great in the snowy mountains. It even has a snow setting! With around 10cm of snow on the road my Astra would have been skidding all over the place. A couple of times it felt like the Kia might skid but the AWD quickly corrected and I never felt the need to put on snow chains as some other vehicles were doing.
In terms of speed the Sportage is nippy and cruises lovely at 110 to 130 kph (70-80 mph). It is happy at higher speeds running quietly and efficiently with enough nip to overtake. I read that the hybrid cuts two seconds off the petrol engine’s 0-60 sprint time. So it reduces cabin noise and petrol use – which is good for the environment, comfort and your wallet.
While the overall fuel economy could be better, the hybrid model does offer a significant improvement over petrol alone. This makes the long journey more efficient and less interrupted by fuel stops. For example, leaving the UK with a full tank I only filled up once on the journey and that tied in with our lunch stop.
The Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD has a spacious interior, this was crucial as we were travelling with ski and snowboarding gear. There is a generous amount of space for front and rear passengers, reducing discomfort during on the long drive from the UK to the Alps.
The large boot space is a significant advantage. There was ample room for luggage, although my snowboard didn’t quite fit in, so I had to put one seat down. If I did not have the snowboard, boots and bindings there would have been enough room for four peoples ski luggage in the boot.
The drivers seat is hyper-adjustable so you can get the perfect position. There is also driver lumbar support which helps to avoid any back problems on a long journey.
During this review of Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD I loved the tech! The dashboard is equipped with a 12.3-inch infotainment screen. There is a built-in sat-nav and entertainment, however you can link to your smartphone to use your apps.
This meant I could play music on Spotify, use google maps with live traffic, link up my calls and messages and use audible. The large touch screen splits to show the map/directions, battery use and what is being played through the speakers. It can all be voice controlled too.
I loved the adaptive cruise control and lane assist as the car almost drives itself. It certainly makes the long drive more comfortable and less tiring, as it maintains a set speed and distance from the vehicle ahead without the driver’s input. And if you drift out of your lane it will correct it for you.
There are USB sockets halfway up the back of the front seats and more in the dashboard. They are easily accessible for both front and rear passengers to charge their devices during the journey.
I also really like the keyless entry and start.
The Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD is a well-rounded family SUV that offers a comfortable and engaging drive. The spacious interior, advanced tech, hybrid engine and range of safety features makes it great for long distance journeys.
Driving from the UK to the Alps for a winter ski holiday or summer activity break offers a range of financial and environmental benefits. Of course, it is important to consider the efficiency of your vehicle, number of passengers and driving habits.
But here are some potential benefits:
It is a shame but travel always has an environmental impact. As does skiing and snowboarding. So it’s up to us to try to reduce that impact as much as possible.
The carbon emissions of driving versus flying depend on many factors. On average, medium-sized petrol car emits around 0.24 kg of CO2 per mile, whereas a flight emits around 0.254 kg of CO2 per mile per passenger. The Hybrid Kia Sportage emits around 0.186 kg of hydrocarbons per mile, so it is even better for the environment.
For a 1,000-mile trip, driving could save around 14 kg of CO2 for a single passenger. But driving comes into its own as each additional passenger saves around 250 kg of CO2 per 1,000 miles. So a family of four will save more than one and a half tonnes of CO2 compared to flying to the Alps and back.
If you drive an electric vehicle, you can greatly reduce or even eliminate your CO2 emissions, depending on the source of your electricity. However, with a range of around 300 miles you will need to stop at least three times if you drive to the Alps from the UK.
By choosing not to fly, you also reduce the amount of emissions high in the atmosphere. At high altitudes, emissions such as CO2 and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have a more potent warming effect known as “radiative forcing”. Furthermore, contrail formation of water vapour creates clouds that reflect heat back towards the earth.
By choosing not to fly, you can contribute to the reduction of the demand for flights, and in turn, increase the pressure on the aviation industry to be more environmentally friendly. This is hard to quantify but every small effort counts.
Cars create less noise pollution than planes, contributing to a quieter environment. It’s challenging to put a number on noise pollution reduction, but it’s another aspect of environmental impact to consider.
The flight isn’t the only environmental impact of flying. You still need to get to the airport and from the airport at the other end. There is also the impact of the airport itself, services such as food, drink and duty free etc all have an impact. Plus the staff at airports need to get there.
Lets face it finances are tight for a lot of people right now. So we are going to look into the financial benefits of driving to the Alps rather than flying.
The distance from London to the Alps is approximately 700 miles one way. In a vehicle that gets around 40 miles per gallon, you’ll need about 17.5 gallons of fuel. Current petrol prices are around £1.50 per litre, so £6.81 per gallon. This means the fuel cost one way could be around £120, and return would be £240.
Most countries in Europe have tolls. On our journey from Dieppe to Serre Chevalier these came to around €67 or £60 each way. The return DFDS ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe cost £120 return. This gives a total of £480 to get myself and two children to Serre Chevalier and back by car.
Now outside of school holidays return flights from London to Geneva costs £75 if you don’t mind awkward flight times to £200 per person at more popular times. However, travelling during school holidays it’s more like £300-400 per person if you book far in advance. When I checked a month before this trip to Serre Chevalier, flight prices to Grenoble were more than £1,400 for the three of us without luggage!
These days nearly all airlines charge extra for checked baggage, some also charge for carry on luggage that does not fit under the seat in front. Fees varying by airline and bag size/weight, and skis and snowboards are charged even more.
You need a fair amount of luggage for skiing, so a family of four can easily spend £120 (2x hold luggage) to £240 (4x hold luggage) for a round trip. You can add another £100 per ski/board bag if taking your own gear.
Alternatively in a car you can pack as much as you can fit. You can of course use roof racks or a box, but remember they will affect the efficiency of the drive. But anyone with a larger car will have room for far more than you’ll ever be able to fly with.
You need to get to the airport at this end, which means parking your car for a week or paying for taxis or public transport. Either way it is additional costs to consider that can easily end up being more than £100 for all the family.
Transfers from airports to ski resorts can be very expensive, although are usually included in package holidays. Even resorts not far from airports charge from £40 to £200 per person depending on the distance and popularity of that route. Private transfers cost even more.
Renting a car at your destination airport is an option. But it would cost between £40-£100 per day. For a week-long trip, this could add up to £320-£800 plus fuel and tolls.
By driving, a family of four could save between £200 and £1,000 on getting to and from the airport at each end.
Having your own car in the Alps is also convenient. Although local transport is usually free, it does give you flexibility to go further afield to visit different ski areas. Possibly the biggest benefit of having a car in resort is being able to drive to a proper supermarket, not only are there more options but prices are much cheaper.
We drove to the local Lidl, which was about 15 minutes away in Briancon. Prices there were around the same as the UK, which compared to the in-resort supermarket was very cheap. We shopped in resort on the first night and prices were more than twice as much as at the Lidl.
The above figures are roughly what we spent, plus some estimates. The actual numbers will depend on the specifics of your situation. But as you can see huge savings can be made.
Flying for a family of 4
Driving for a family of 4
So even travelling outside the school holidays on the cheapest flights, least luggage and to a resort with the cheapest transfers you’ll still save £600 by driving to the Alps. During the school holidays and with more luggage etc you’ll save more than £2,000 by driving to the Alps.
It may be daunting to consider driving vs flying to the Alps for a ski or snowboard holiday. However it is not as difficult to drive as you think and it will save you a fortune. There are also many environment benefits, particularly if you drive with two or more people.
I was lucky to drive a wonderful Kia Sportage hybrid for this trip. However, I would not hesitate to do the journey in any car as it is not a difficult drive. Even with the DFDS ferry being delayed by more than three hours I was still in resort twenty hours after leaving home, and that includes around five hours sleeping on the ferry.
So for your next family ski or snowboarding holiday cut the costs and hydrocarbons and drive. You might even find you and the kids bond over an audiobook like we have!
We hope you found this fly vs drive to the Alps article useful and the review of Kia Sportage GT-Line S HEV AWD helps you choose your next car. Check out these France skiing holidays to get next seasons trip booked and visit the France Montages website to find out more about the ski resorts.