Top Tips for Travelling to Tignes with Families
Updated: Mar 2, 2022
What’s the best way to get to Tignes? What are the essential things to pack? Where is the best place to stay in resort? These are just a few of the questions we’ll be answering in our brand new Tignes Direct blog. Planning a ski trip with your family can be tricky especially if you’ve never been before. We’ve been travelling to Tignes as a family with our children since they were two so have plenty of experience to offer you and lots of helpful tips to get your trip underway.
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Getting to Resort
There are three main ways of getting to resort. We’ll take a look at each and their pros and cons so that you can decide which will suit you best.
The quickest way to get to resort is to fly. The three main airports that serve Tignes are Geneva, Grenoble and Lyons, with carriers such as Easyjet offering the cheapest flights. All three airports are roughly three hour’s drive from Tignes. We usually fly to Lyons because there are around 2-3 flights a day to choose from and the flights tend to be reasonably priced. Geneva flights in our experience are more expensive but there is more choice with sometimes up to 4 or 5 flights a day to choose from. Grenoble flights are around the same price as Lyons but with less choice and often days with no flights at all. Grenoble is set up mainly to serve the winter ski season. Another less known option is Chambery, a small airport which is around 1 hour 40 minutes’ drive from Tignes. The main problem with Chambery is that due to its location it is often fog bound which means delayed and re-routed flights, but it does offer a shorter drive to resort.
Once you arrive at your designated airport you can either hire a car or catch a train or bus to resort. If you hire a car make sure to include snow chains or winter tyres as snow equipment will be compulsory for travelling to Tignes from 1 November 2021. Bear in mind too that Tignes is a car free resort so once you arrive in resort, your car will be parked up and not needed until your return home. If you choose to travel by bus to resort there are both private and shared transfers to choose from. Bens Bus offers a great service to resort with prices from £41pp. Companies such as Mountain Rescue and White Rides offer private transfers to resort which can be a good way to share the cost if you are travelling as a group. They start at around £750 return but can be more during peak weeks. Trains run from Lyons airport to Bourg Saint Maurice with a change in Chambery. Bear in mind that you will then need to take a bus or taxi from Bourg Saint Maurice train station to Tignes which takes around 40 minutes.
The distance to Tignes from Calais is just over 600 miles and you can expect to pay around 80 euros each way in tolls. It sounds daunting but it can be done in a little as 9 hours if you share the driving and make a few short stops along the way. We have made the journey door to door from Hertfordshire to Tignes in 13 and a half hours which is only a few hours longer than flying. It’s a great way to get to resort as you can pack as much as will fit into the car (which is our experience is a lot!) and if you have time you can stop overnight to break up your journey. In the past we have stayed overnight in Reims, Lyons and Beaune. Dijon is also a good half-way point for an overnight stop.
Before setting off on your journey make sure you are well prepared. It’s a good idea to take drinks and snacks as well as a packed lunch in case your scheduled stops don’t coincide with meal times (check restrictions on what you can and can't take into France as these have changed since Brexit). Downloading films for the kids to watch helps the journey to go faster along with a music play list which we found keeps our teenagers entertained. To this end make sure all devices are fully charged before you set off and, better still, take some portable charges with you. On the subject of devices, it’ a good idea to take a map rather than just relying on sat nav and phones. We’ve had a few issues in the past when certain routes haven’t been recognized and the sat nav has tried to send us to Tignes via Italy! Also you will need a UK sticker and snow chains or winter tyres as mentioned previously. In addition you will need a green card from your insurer, a high visibility vest for each occupant of the vehicle, a spare bulb kit and a warning triangle.
In terms of crossing the channel, you can go by ferry (Dover to Calais being the shortest route) or Eurotunnel. Eurotunnel is quick and easy and if you arrive early you will often be allowed to board the next available crossing rather than waiting for the slot you have booked. For smaller children the ferry will definitely be more fun as you can walk around and there’s plenty to do on the ferry such as wonder around the shops or visit the soft play area. For a hassle free option though we’d choose the tunnel every time.
The snow train which runs direct from London St Pancras to Bourg Saint Maurice can only be booked this season as part of a package with Travel Ski. It’s a fun way to get to resort and has a bar that serves hot and cold drinks and snacks. There is no WiFi yet though and no flat beds or reclining seats which can make sleeping difficult. You can still get to Tignes by train without having to book a package. There are daily trains from London St Pancras to Gare du Nord on Eurostar with the most direct route involving a taxi from Gare du Nord to Paris Lyon, and then a train to Bourg Saint Maurice. Once in Bourg you can either take a bus up to resort or it’s a 40 minute taxi ride. It’s a good idea to take your own food and drink on board and book early to get the best prices. A table seat is a great idea for families as it offers more space. The advantage of train travel is that you can walk around, it’s relaxing and is a great way to get to resort with a low carbon footprint. If you plan your journey well, you can also arrive in resort in time to profit from an extra day’s skiing at the beginning and end of your trip.
To sum up flying is the quickest way to get to resort and a great option if you have smaller children. It is however an expensive option if you are travelling at peak weeks in the season and on the main transfer days which are usually Saturday and Sunday. Flying also has the highest carbon footprint. Driving is a great option if you have older kids. It gives you flexibility, has a lower carbon footprint than flying and can be done for around £700 including Eurotunnel, petrol and tolls. Travelling by train offers the lowest carbon footprint and is a fun way to travel but might leave you in a need of a good night’s sleep when you arrive in resort.
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What to take
If you have never been skiing or snowboarding before it’s a good idea to borrow and/or hire as much kit as you can. Ski kit can be very expensive and you might decide that it’s not for you or that you prefer a different type of holiday for your family. That said most people we know love it! In terms of clothing you will need ski trousers and jacket, warm socks (at least three pairs for a week’s holiday) gloves or mittens and a set of thermals (top and bottoms). Layers work really well and we have found that a thin fleece is great under a jacket on a really cold day. A sports t-shirt under your jacket will be fine on warmer days and base layers are useful too. Hand warmers can be a great idea especially for younger kids attending lessons. Skis and poles, snowboards, boots and helmets can all be hired in resort which saves having to carry them out on your journey. Tignes Spirit offer a great service where you can book and pre-pay for your kit online and arrange for them to deliver it to your accommodation at a time that suits you. They will bring a range of sizes for you to try out. You’ll need a waterproof pair of walking boots or snow boots for walking around resort particularly if you are going in winter, and a snood can be a good idea, especially as Tignes requires you to wear a face covering at present on most lifts. Unless you are staying in a top hotel, you won’t need smart clothes as it’s pretty casual in resort. Warm jumpers and jeans tend to be the norm!
If you are driving to resort and self-catering it’s a good idea to take some food items with you if you have space in the car. Brexit has meant that there are restrictions on what you can take into France now, but dried and processed foods are fine, so are things like cereals, crisps and dried pasta . Snacks such as energy and chocolate bars are good to carry in your pockets for when you need a sugar hit on the lifts, and especially if you want to beat the crowds and stop for a late lunch. Some apartments don’t have kettles so if you can’t do without your morning tea or coffee and can fit one in, a travel kettle is a great idea. Likewise most apartments don't have hair dyers, so pack a travel one if you have room. For the evenings games such as travel battle ships or mini Jenga are a great to keep the kids occupied. Also if your apartment has a DVD player pack a couple of DVDs to watch in the evening. Skiing and boarding are tiring and you might find you don’t have the energy to be out every night!
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Where to stay
If you’ve never skied before and have the budget a hotel or chalet hotel is a great option for families. Often ski passes are can be bought through the hotel at a discount and you will get breakfast included at the very least which will set you up for your day on the slopes. If you’re on a tighter budget and want the flexibility to do what you want when you want, then a self-catered apartment might be the option for you. Some people are put off by the thought of having to cook after a long day on the slopes but in Tignes there are plenty of take-away options if you don't want to cook or eat out every night. We have also teamed up with HUSKI who can deliver meals to your accommodation which you can pre-order before you get to resort. If you are travelling in a large group or with other families then a chalet might suit you best.
Tignes itself comprises three main areas at 2100m: Lavachet, Le Lac and Val Claret, as well as Tignes 1800 (also know as Les Boisses) and Les Brevieres across the dam and a little further down the valley. The accommodation we offer is in Tignes 2100m and we’ll take a look at each area and what they have to offer.
The first area of Tignes as you enter resort is Lavachet. It has a village feel, a wide range of self-catered accommodation, a supermarket and a number of restaurants and bars. Lavachet offers proximity to the nursery slopes with easy access to a button lift as well as 2 chair lifts. Bear in mind that there is no ski school meeting point in Lavachet so if you have booked lessons, you will need to either ski or hop on the free shuttle bus to Tignes Le Lac. The bus runs frequently during the ski season and it takes only a few minutes to get between Lavachet and Le Lac. Quieter than its neighbours Le Lac and Val Claret, Lavachet is a great choice for families with younger children. There are less shops and nightlife options but a good range of places to eat and drink.
The next area of Tignes is the centrally based Le Lac. There are more hotels (including the five star Hotel Suites du Montana), restaurants, bars and shops here than in Lavachet as well as 3 supermarkets to serve the self-catered accommodation. Le Lac boasts an excellent tourist information centre where you can buy lift passes if you haven’t already done so in the UK, as well as find out about what is going on in resort. There are also daily weather reports and long-range forecasts posted here. The main advantages of staying in Le Lac are its proximity to the ski school meeting point and access to both the sports centre and swimming pool. The pool is based in a complex called Le Lagon and there is a baby pool, swimming lanes and a small water park with slides and a lazy river. Access to the pool is free with an Espace Killy lift pass and can be a great way to spend the afternoon if the weather closes in. Be warned that it can get very busy once the lifts close from around 5-7pm. As well as the pools, the Lagon also houses a fitness centre overlooking the slopes and a wellness centre complete with 3 saunas, 3 jacuzzis, a range of showers and a steam room. Access to the wellness and fitness areas is from age 16 upwards and is not included in your lift pass. A twice weekly market is held in Le Lac where you can buy great cheeses and salamis as well as clothing. Firework displays are held here including at New Year and at the end of the winter and summer seasons.