Driving to The Alps – is it cheaper than flying?

February 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

True cost of driving to The Alps

It’s essential to have snow chains or socks, probably a roof box too.


So you’ve left it late, so even Easyjet and Ryanair are asking a fortune for their flights, so the cheapest option is to drive, right, or is it really? In this post, we’ll look at the true cost of driving to The Alps, and see whether it is in fact any cheaper than flying.

Car Costs – equipping your car for snow

Even if you’re travelling at the beginning or very end of the ski season, there’s a chance you could encounter some snow en-route to The Alps, so your car has got to be ready to handle that.

The easiest and cheapest option is to get some snow socks, costing around £50 a pair, but considerably easier to put on than snow chains. Three disadvantages though – firstly, you really are only supposed to use them on snow, as they quickly become damaged as soon as they start to hit tarmac. Secondly, they have a very low speed limit at which they can be used. And thirdly, unless you get a very friendly French policeman, there’s a fair chance they won’t let you drive up to the ski resort with just socks, as in most cases snow chains are mandatory when in bad conditions.

So, we need to get a set of chains, again around £50 a pop, unless you’ve got a 4×4, in which case you really should get two sets, one for each axle. Chains will enable you to get to your resort, and once on, can be driven on all road surfaces, and at a slightly higher speed than socks. They are however, a right pain to install, so a good idea to practice doing so at home before you go – much easier than learning at the side of the road in a blizzard!

Alternatively, do as the locals do, and get yourself some snow tyres (tires for our US cousins!). Somewhat more expensive at maybe £150 apiece, but also useful in the snow at home, and when they’re on, you’re not wearing out your ‘normal’ tyres.

Costs of the journey

Once your car is equipped, you need to get across the Channel, hop on the motorway, plod along small roads at the very end, and you’re there!

Crossing the Channel by ferry has now become considerably cheaper than it used to be, so you can probably get a return crossing in winter for around £160. Taking LeShuttle is probably about twice that, but does take a third of the time, and isn’t as subject to weather conditions as the ferry is.

The French motorways are good, and make it easy to clock up miles pretty quickly, except when you’re travelling on a popular day with all the French, in which case huge traffic jams are not unknown. The cost of tolls is however not insignificant, at around £140 for the return journey to The Alps.

Then there’s the fuel – obviously dependent on the mpg of your car, but if you take a conservative estimate of 40mpg, the fuel cost of the 1200 of so miles return journey would come to around £200.

If you don’t have the luxury of a Company car, you also need to consider the depreciation on your car as a result of driving over a thousand miles in it. If your car is worth say £8000, depreciation would be about £200, but for a more expensive car of say £20,000, depreciation would be a whopping £480!

Finally, it is a long drive, so especially if you’re doing a family ski holiday, you probably need to factor in the cost of an overnight stay, again conservatively, around £100 / night.

In total then, the cheapest price a family of four (five at a pinch) could drive to The Alps for would be £600, with one overnight stop, and excluding car depreciation. Factor in though depreciation on a £20k car and do an overnight stop each way, and the total would come to £1,180!

The costs of flying

Flight prices will obviously vary considerably depending on how far ahead you book. For example, the cheapest Easyjet flight for February Half Term (just a week away) from a London airport is from Luton, costing £364 / person return. However, if you’d booked a couple of weeks ago for Easter, the same flights were available for £100 / person.

As well as the actual cost of flights, you also need to consider airport parking or a taxi to the airport, which if you shop around and go for off-airport parking, would cost around £40 for 7 nights.

Then car hire costs, typically in the region of £260 for a low-mid range car for 1 week.

And finally, some fuel and tolls at the far end, although maybe only talking £20 for tolls and £30 for fuel.

Using the same example as before then, for a family of four, the total cost at Half Term would be £1806, so much cheaper to drive! For Easter though, if you’d booked early, the total would have been £750, so while still more expensive than driving, maybe close enough for an easy life, especially since we’ve not included costs of snow chains etc, on the basis that their cost would need to be spread over several trips.

So, it is cheaper to drive then?

Well, that depends! Certainly if you’ve left it very late, then it’s certainly cheaper to drive, period. If however you’ve booked well in advance, then it can be almost as cheap to fly, particularly if you take into account depreciation on your car.

There are so many variables though, which is why we’re put together our #CostCalculator to enable you to work out your expected costs of driving to The Alps, together with a ‘target’ flight price, below which it would probably be cheaper to fly. Try it out – the results can be surprising!!

Self-Drive Cost Calculator

One for the MTB fans!

February 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Pass Portes du Soleil MTB
Now in its 11th year, the Pass’portes du Soleil MTB trek covers an amazing 80km circuit with 1000m vertical ascent and 6000m of vertical descent between France and Switzerland using chair lifts and cable cars. The event takes place on the 27th, 28th & 29th June 2014 – the only slight downside is that you need to complete the course in one day(!), so competitors can register to ride on either the Friday, Saturday or Sunday – let’s hope you’re fit!!

You can find all the details you need on the official Pass site at www.passportesdusoleil.com, and registrations open on 12th February at 9am.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, why not make a weekend of it and stay with rudechalets™, who are offering a Pass’portes Package at just £279 per person which includes 4 x nights ensuite catered accommodation and return airport transfers from Geneva including bike carriage. See details at www.rudechalets.com