Budget-friendly vacations in France

Where to vacation in France without breaking the bank? N26 is here to help. Here’s our top tips on planning and budgeting for a memorable, low-cost vacation in France.

7 min read

It’s decided—you're going to make the most of your vacation days and relax in the great outdoors! And yet, just like every year, you're faced with the same dilemma—where to vacation in France without breaking the bank. Fear not, N26 is here to help. Here’s our top tips on planning and budgeting for a memorable, low-cost vacation in France

How to vacation in France without breaking the bank

Managing your vacation budget without cutting corners is all about good planning. We get it—sitting down with a calendar and spreadsheet isn’t all that glamorous, but it’s a wildly effective way to reduce costs. Plus, planning early will give you a chance to take stock of what you have the budget for, and to book early for great rates. Not sure where to begin? Read on!

1. Choose your ideal destination 

Before getting your calculator out, think about where you want to go. Start out by asking yourself:  ‘What's my dream getaway?’. Do you fancy the seaside, the mountains, the countryside or the city? Feel like going back to your favorite haunts, or exploring new ones instead? Do you prefer the heat and the crowds, or would you appreciate cooler, more peaceful surroundings? Next, draw up a list of all the destinations you'd like to visit, and then a second list including factors that matter to you—sun, peace and quiet, historical sights, cuisine, proximity to water, sports, activities for kids, etc.

Traveling with your family or a group of friends? Develop a system to take everyone’s preferences into account—why not try taking a vote or letting someone new choose the destination each year? The good news is that whatever your preferences—sun, woods, mountains, seaside—France has it all. 

2. Pick the right dates

Following the location, your travel dates are the other key aspect that can significantly influence your budget. The school vacation period is generally the most expensive time to travel, with peak prices hitting during summer break. If you don't have school-age kids, you can save big by traveling in the off-season months, such as May, June, or September. You could save up to 50% by traveling during this time, and the weather will be just as nice!

Traveling with the whole family but can’t afford school holiday prices? Here are some "off-season" travel tips for families:

  • Instead of hitting the beach, head to the mountains over the summer
  • Treat yourself to a weekend by the sea in November for All Saints' Day, or over Easter.

3. Prepare your vacation budget 

Once you’ve set your travel location and dates, it’s time to start getting a sense of what your costs will be. Here are a few factors to take into account: 

  • Transportation—Think flights, train tickets, or gas money. If you aren’t traveling by car, remember to budget for transportation to the airport or train station, as well as how you plan to get around once you arrive. If your budget is tight, consider carpooling.
  • Accommodation—Will you stay in hotels, holiday flats, or elsewhere? Don't forget to calculate fees such as cleaning, tourist taxes, etc.
  • Meals
  • Visits and activities
  • Souvenirs

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Bargain vacations in France—a guide

As it happens, there are tons of great ways to take a relaxing vacation in France, regardless of your budget. If you’re looking for ways to save before and during your vacation, we’ve compiled some expert tips to consider, from camping to house-swapping, and more!

Before you hit the road 

Optimize your savings pre-travel with these handy tips:

  • Give camping a try 

Whether in a cabin or tent, camping is generally the best value for your money when vacationing in France. With your own tent or even a mobile home, you can cut costs by up to 50%, when compared to a standard vacation rental. To get started with booking, search sites like Camping and Co or find a list of campsites at the CampingFrance website.

  • Travel in groups

Want to spend quality time with your friends? Accommodation costs can be greatly reduced by traveling in groups of 4 adults or more. A beautiful rental villa at a reasonable price? Yes please! 

  • Book very early—or at the last minute 

For exceptional deals on travel, you essentially have two options—make arrangements several months in advance (we recommend 4 months or more for popular destinations such as the French Riviera), or book at the very last minute. If you’re flexible, most travel booking sites have a ‘last-minute’ section, and you can often find attractive offers on private rental or so-called ‘auction’ websites. 

  • Rent your home while you’re away or do a house swap 

If you’re able to rent out your home while you’re away, or swap it for one where you’re traveling, you’ve hit the jackpot! Either of these will greatly increase your vacation budget by covering rental costs. If you meet the criteria, try renting your home or apartment out on websites like Airbnb or swapping lodging via HomeExchange. 

During your trip

Always spend more than you’d hoped on vacation? Here are some tips for maximizing savings while traveling:

  • If your accommodation has a kitchen, stock up on food before you leave or bring along some basics from home like oil or condiments. 
  • Ask if sheets and towels are included in the rental price. If not, bring them from home!
  • Take a water bottle with you to avoid spending—and plastic waste—while sightseeing.
  • Always opt for supermarkets instead of mini-markets or kiosks. The latter tend to be pricier and have a smaller selection. 
  • Plan picnics during the day rather than eating out for every meal. 
  • Book free tours with volunteer guides.

Traveling in France when your budget is tight 

Looking for ideas on where to vacation cheaply in France? Fear not—there are plenty of lesser-known French destinations that are packed with attractions. Skip the Côte d'Azur, Arcachon bay, and Corsica—and opt for a low-cost getaway instead. 

Try an affordable weekend getaway 

What could be better than a city trip to get away from it all for the weekend? But rather than visiting a large city with equally high prices, why not check out smaller, more discreet cities instead? Here’s a few we recommend:

  • Reims—Experience the coronation city of French kings and “champagne” capital
  • Troyes—A sumptuous city featuring a blend of Renaissance and medieval architecture
  • Beaune—The capital of Burgundy wines, this city also features iconic glaze-tiled roofs
  • Tours—Your gateway to the chateaux of the Loire Valley

Where to go on vacation in France this summer

For affordable vacations in France during the summer season, choosing destinations off the beaten path will ensure a memorable and more budget-friendly experience.

Our advice? Savor the pleasures of the Mediterranean lifestyle by vacationing in the Hérault gorges. Located about an hour from Montpellier, this region is full of typical south-of-France villages—like Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. Plus, experience a lush green valley bursting with scents of the South—pine, thyme, and much more.

Looking for a bit more altitude? Head to the Pyrenees, where the summer prices are much more affordable. Dozens of summer resorts open their doors, allowing you to explore the mountains under the sun and enjoy hikes in spectacular settings like Cirque de Gavarnie or Lake Gaube—trust us, it's enough to make you dizzy!

Tips for preparing your vacation budget

Once you've chosen your destination and set your budget, your dream vacation is almost a reality—now all you have to do is meet your financial goals. Here are some practical tips for setting a realistic budget so you can set off on vacation with peace of mind:

  • Try to set a budget that doesn’t require you to save more than 20% of your monthly income. This way, you’ll be able to keep up with your regular savings and still have spare cash to spend as needed. 
  • Add about 10% to your estimated budget to cover unexpected expenses. This will help you pay for car problems, equipment rentals, parking, etc.
  • Check the insurance coverage included with your bank account, credit card and home insurance to make sure you’re protected in case of an accident, flight cancellation, delayed or lost luggage, or damage caused to your vacation rental. This will give you guidance on whether you need to plan some extra savings on top.
  • Set a daily vacation budget in advance, based on your total trip budget.

And guess what? No matter where you travel this year, N26 is here to help—whether it’s for a weeks-long family vacation or a romantic weekend getaway. Our premium bank accounts let you organize your savings by setting up Spaces sub-accounts. These digital piggy banks help you visualize your financial goals—and you can even schedule automatic transfers to stay on target! 

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Finally, to help you travel with peace of mind, N26 You and N26 Metal bank accounts offer travel insurance. Check out our plans to get coverage for things like flight delays, lost baggage, mobility insurance, or car rentals. Plus, you can take advantage of exclusive discounts from partner brands, and enjoy special travel opportunities at lower prices. Bon voyage!

By N26

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