Are you ready for a little summer fun, sun and pleasure? The French Riviera has everything you need for a fabulous vacation get-away. Here are the five steps to planning the perfect French Riviera vacation..
Step 1: Describe your ‘dream vacation’ on the French Riviera…
When you hear the words ‘French Riviera Vacation’ – what comes to mind? Do yoou think of exploring perched medieval villages, ancient ruins, castles and churches built in the 4th century?
Or maybe your idea of heaven is spending your days at the beach, swimming, boating, snorkeling or wind surfing, and your nights at the hottest of hotspots, rubbing elbows with celebrities and the rich and famous?
Or perhaps your idea of the perfect French Riviera vacation means learning Provencial cooking, visiting local vinyards and wandering through local farmer’s markets, antique stores and villages where local artisans sell their pottery, linens, or kitchenware?
Whether your idea of the perfect French Riviera vacation means total immersion and living like the locals, or living it up at luxury hotels or quaint guest houses (called gites) – the French Riviera has exactly what you want.
But you need to know what that is, before you start planning your trip.
Step 2: Think about transportation
Renting a car here can be an expensive proposition, and you should know that most of the roads are narrow, parking places are tiny and people seem to drive fast and recklessly.
So if you decide you’d rather not risk the roads, you’ll want to choose a place to stay that offers public transportation. Luckly, that’s almost everywhere! You’ll find excellent bus service, as well as local trains in many cities and villages along the French Riviera. Many of the bigger hotels also offer some shuttle services. And of course, walking is the way most locals get around.
If you decide you do want to have the freedom of driving, check with your travel agency when booking your trip – they can often get you a better deal than you’ll find once you’re in France. Many packages often include rental cars.
Step 3: Where to stay
Again, this is going to depend on your preference. If you want hot and cold running room service, someone to pick up after you, and cater to your every need, then choose one of the hundreds of hotels along the French Riviera. As an added bonus, many hotels also offer private beaches – which can be wonderful, especially because public beaches are always crowded in the summer months. And for around 20 euros, you can have your own beach chair, umbrella and towel for the day, so you’re not having to share a tiny corner of sand.
If you’d rather live like the locals, you can look for a gite – guest house, or a short term rental. These are fun and surprisingly affordable. You can rent everything from a pied-a-terre to a luxury apartment to a Villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Rentals usually run for a week, two weeks, to a month. They come furnished – many with internet access and computers, and some even offer swimming pools and maid service. In some gites, you’ll get one meal served family style, or have access to the kitchen. Make sure you specify what you want when talking to your travel agent.
Another option – one that is far more common in Eurpoe than in the United States, is to exchange houses for your vacation. In addition to meaning that you don’t pay for lodging, the exchange can often include vehicles – which means you’ll have more freedom to get around. Another perk of home exchanges is that you will usually get to meet your neighbors or the friends of your home exchange partner – which can lead to making new friendships and getting to know the ‘real’ French Riviera. Home exchange companies can be found online, just look for ‘Vacation Home Exchange’.
If money is an issue, you can often find inexpensive lodging at local monastaries, convents or hostels. The lodging is basic – sometimes you’ll even need to bring your own blankets and sheets and towels, and meals may be anything from having access to a shared kitchen, to family style meals where everyone pitches in with the chores.
Yet another option includes campaing and vacation villages. In these cases you may have a small vacation cabin – furnished with a bed, shower, microwave or hotplate, to a small furnished apartment inside a ‘vacation village’ which was built precisely for people and families who come to the French Riviera to vacation.
Step 4: Getting here:
Obviously the earlier you start planning your French Riviera vacation, the cheaper the fares and the more available choices you’ll have.
Check with your travel agent and ask about vacation packages, which in many cases can save you money.
But, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, or a spur of the moment traveler, don’t despair! It’s amazing what deals you can find online, if you’re willing to spend the time and effort in looking.
Also there are often some great packages available for last minute travelers, so you’ll want to check out travel sites that offer special deals.
When checking prices and availability, you have three 3 choices of airports here on the French Riviera. The first is Marseilles International airport. The second is Toulon/Hyeres and the third is the Nice International Airport.
Another option is to land in Paris, spend a few days walking along the Left Bank, checking out the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, then taking the fast train to the French Riviera city of your choice.
Step 5: Travel Light and Enjoy Yourself
The last bit of advice I have for you is to travel light and once you’re here, enjoy yourself! Check out my article on how to pack for your French Riviera Vacation – because the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re trying to get to your destination is to be shleping a heavy suitcase around – especially if your ultimate desitnation is one of the villages that have stones stairs all over the place!
Once you’re here, take a deep breath and relax… Here, on the French Riivera, people really know how to live… Go to the beach in the morning, have a long, leisurly lunch, eating delicious meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients, then take a nap. (Most businesses are closed between noon and two, and sometimes between noon and four – exactly for that reason)… and then enjoy the beautiful scenery, light breezes and amazing sights and sounds and experiences of life on the French Riivera. At night, after dinner you can enjoy music, dancing, theater, opera and more – whatever your heart desires you’ll find here during your vacation on the French Riviera.