I write this from Chiavari, in the coast of Italy near Genoa. For 8 of the past 10 years we have taken the family holiday without flying. In addition to the environmental benefits of not flying, we cut down on stress, and pick up a few bits and pieces that are harder or more expensive to get at home.This year my wife, 3 children and I sailed Stena Line from Rosslare to Cherbourg, driving our hybrid 7 seater to Paris and putting it on the “auto tren” to Nice. We then took in the sights of Paris before taking what we thought was a TGV (a “Ouigo”) to Nice, where we were joined the next morning by the car. JL (mother of my children) then had the pleasure of experiencing Italian driving as we cruised into Italy. While here, the car has been abandoned most of the time, as the beach, trains and boats have kept us occupied, as well as visiting Italy’s car free but overcome by tourists Cinqueterre National Park.
Last year we tried the new Cork-Santander Ferry which got us to the Basque Country. Before that, we had regular trips down the west coast of France courtesy of Irish Ferries Rosslare Routes (hope they bring them back for Ireland’s South-East) and one trip to pre-Brexit Britain.
In 2010 we traveled with a packed car and a baby. This year, we have hardly filled 2 suitcases, and even then, we don’t even need what we have. The comfort of not being limited to 20kg suitcases ( or less!) and the chance to buy breakables (I bought a Tagine for €18 on a backstreet in Genoa yesterday) and avoiding all the anxieties of flying are more than worth it.
Having brought the car for most of the last decade, we are thinking about the next step, going car free altogether! Sail-Rail is €33 per person Dublin-London. You can be in Paris or Brussels within 2/2.5 hours of St. Pancras (which is practically next door to London (H)Euston) and from their night trains will get you well into Germany or Italy. Avoiding the sky is the limit!
It does cost more to travel this way than to book a package holiday. This is partly due to the absence of a tax on airline fuel to cover the damage it does, and the pricing structure of flying which means some go cheap while others are fleeced. However, the costs are coming down. We plan and save for our holidays, so we see that the more of us travel by ferry and train, the more economical it will become for others.
You can find out more about getting around a flight free Europe from the man in seat 61 or get yourself a copy of the Time Out Book “Flight Free Europe.” Most of the railway companies have apps and websites that have the option of English also.