Travel in France without advanced hotel reservations

  • Hi Guest, welcome to the help forum. You can get fast answers to your customer service questions here. We have a dedicated team of advocates who are ready to help. Just go to the section that matches your question and ask us!
  • If you've posted a question or issue for our advocates to assist with, please be sure to check back frequently for responses and requests for clarification.
  • Did you know you can get email notifications when something new posts to your favorite forum? It's easy. Just click the "watch" link right next to the "post new thread" button at the top of your favorite forum. The rest is easy. Now you'll never miss another conversation.
  • Want to become an expert user? Drop by the How to use this forum section and all will be revealed. We'll show you how to make the most of your experience.
Sep 17, 2018
2
0
1
72
#1
I am considering doing a driving tour of France without making advanced hotel reservations. I did a trip through Germany this way in 1984 and had little trouble finding accommodations. At this point I do not have a specific itinerary but would most likely be traveling in September. I would just like to maintain the freedom of adjusting the itinerary on the fly.

Any input and suggestions on traveling this way would be appreciated. We are in our 70's so the hostel option may not be appropriated.

Thanks for any input.
Jim
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,126
14,724
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
Do you want to stay in hotels or Airbnb’s? Finding an Airbnb the last minute might not be feasible but something like HotelTonight might work.

There are also some travel companies that do fly/drive packages that offer a list of hotel or b and bs you can rent last minute or a day or two in advance. If you do a search for fly/drive packages in France you might find some.

Just make sure the car rental company you choose doesn’t have age restrictions on car rentals. Some countries, like Ireland, do. In Ireland there is an insurance surcharge if you are over 70.

And make sure you have collision insurance on the rental car! We have a lot of issues here wuth folks who either didn’t opt for it or thought theyr credit card insurance covers and it didn’t .
 
Sep 19, 2015
3,821
5,022
113
48
#3
Travel has changed a lot with the low cost airlines — with direct flights to smaller airports in France (Poitiers for example) more people are doing these short trips and hotels can fill up.

Also September there are trade shows, business meetings, things that can take out a lot of inventory.

Do you have a smart phone? How would you be finding hotels? Would you be doing it a day or two in advance?
 
Jul 13, 2016
223
377
63
56
#4
In the 1980s, local tourist boards in every small city/large town carried a list of small hotels and B&Bs and would actually call for you to inquire about availability. Those days are long, long gone. You will have to use a smart device and the internet to find any kind of list nowadays and even then, you have no idea honest the listing is. Back then, Eurailpass holders could just jump on any train, but now, most long distance trains require advance sea reservations. Traveling spontaneously through Europe is more and more difficult now.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,177
1,113
113
Maui Hawaii
#5
I am considering doing a driving tour of France without making advanced hotel reservations. I did a trip through Germany this way in 1984 and had little trouble finding accommodations. At this point I do not have a specific itinerary but would most likely be traveling in September. I would just like to maintain the freedom of adjusting the itinerary on the fly.

Any input and suggestions on traveling this way would be appreciated. We are in our 70's so the hostel option may not be appropriated.

Thanks for any input.
Jim
If you are driving yourself and are flexible, with online access through various websites (I prefer booking.com for hotels but that is just my personal preference) you should be fine. Don't start looking late in the day though. You can plot out your options for the next day and decide what destinations have hotel options. If you get stuck you can always access some of the big chains such as Marriott etc. in cities.

You do need to research the age restrictions for car rental. Some places will NOT rent if you are over 70, some limit at 75. This is a concept we in the US would not even think of (my father-in-law rented in Maui until he was 87). You need to figure out where you are going to start and find what rental options you have. When we were in Fr Polynesia the age limit was 70 (we are 72), but our daughter was with us and she was the renter of record. We are actually looking at rental car travel in Europe until we are 75. After that, it will likely be bus, rail, and river cruises.
 
Likes: AMA
Dec 24, 2018
1
0
1
63
#6
am considering doing a driving tour of France without making advanced hotel reservations. I did a trip through Germany this way in 1984 and had little trouble finding accommodations. At this point I do not have a specific itinerary but would most likely be traveling in September. I would just like to maintain the freedom of adjusting the itinerary on the fly.“
It depends mainly on the regions you want to visit. As long as you are staying out of Paris of some wine growing parts, France is not overflowing with tourists. In smaller towns it is recommended to be able to communicate your needs in french. Welcome to Europe!
 
Jan 10, 2017
2
1
3
73
#7
Just completed a ‘no hotel reservation’ road trip in Scotland. One reservation in advance was a car rental (through COSTCO) and verified collision coverage through my credit card (Visa Benefits). Also, ascertain the data/telephone usage charges with your carrier IN ADVANCE. As to where to stay - with the use of a smart phone, GPS and a local map, (and approximated distance to travel each day), we were able to find B&B accommodations every night, where we wanted to stay, within our budget. BTW: road trip was after October 30: the “official end of the season”. Only one night’s reservation was a bit difficult to obtain, but a few outreach attempts resulted in one of the best B&B stays of the trip. Heed the caution regarding age/car rental. And, have a great trip.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
May 26, 2018
37
32
18
68
#8
I am considering doing a driving tour of France without making advanced hotel reservations. I did a trip through Germany this way in 1984 and had little trouble finding accommodations. At this point I do not have a specific itinerary but would most likely be traveling in September. I would just like to maintain the freedom of adjusting the itinerary on the fly.

Any input and suggestions on traveling this way would be appreciated. We are in our 70's so the hostel option may not be appropriated.

Thanks for any input.
Jim
If you are backpacking and don’t mind basic accommodations, you’d likely not have too much trouble locating hostels.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,680
7,485
113
San Francisco
#9
My colleagues have given you several great tips. Indeed, things have changed mightily since 1984. I think a trip as you envision is still doable, but September can see lots of tourists and locals travelling. One of the nasty situations that has cropped up over the last years is traffic, too many vehicles on any and all roadways. We travelled without reservations for years, but gave it up for that reason. Parking is difficult as well; research parking areas outside of the town centre with shuttle bus into the main area/site.

I can offer these specifics: 1) book your first and last night's hotel 2) hit the road early for your sightseeing and look for a place to spend the night about 2pm every day 3) Know/learn how to use Best Western's web and telephone app. They have fabulous, affordable hotels all over France 5) There are a couple of good-value chains in France to check out as well ... the names escape me at this minute. 4) Use a separate credit card if you need to guarantee reservations (just in case). 5) Research any holidays that may happen during your travel time. 6) Use a telephone that works in France with an affordable plan. 7) Consider sleeping in an area for several nights, going out on day trips. I am very envious that you are making this trip! I'd love to do it again.
 
Likes: ADM
Jul 30, 2018
9
2
3
74
#11
I am considering doing a driving tour of France without making advanced hotel reservations. I did a trip through Germany this way in 1984 and had little trouble finding accommodations. At this point I do not have a specific itinerary but would most likely be traveling in September. I would just like to maintain the freedom of adjusting the itinerary on the fly.

Any input and suggestions on traveling this way would be appreciated. We are in our 70's so the hostel option may not be appropriated.

Thanks for any input.
Jim
 
Jul 30, 2018
9
2
3
74
#12
Until about 7 years ago, My daughter and I (I am 74) drove around France without any pre-booked hotels. We liked being able to stop whenever we found a town that appealed to us. We would simply park and go into a few hotels and ask. We are not picky so long as a place is clean and we generally didn't opt for large hotels or chain, just pensions, small, independent hotels and such. We would do this in Sept/Oct. I would not recommend doing it in June, July or August. If we were to do it now, we would probably book online the previous day, but we didn't have cell phones back then. Wing it and you'll have all kinds of adventures. Go for it.
 
Likes: jsn55

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,126
14,724
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#13
Years ago there were not as many online agencies. This more rooms were available at the last minute. With the advent of sites that specialize in last minute reservations much of that inventory is gone so there isn’t quite as much available when you just show up.

It’s not impossible but you need to be able to accept you might have to make a few stops to find room
at the inn. It’s all about how comfortable you are.
 
Dec 27, 2018
1
1
1
61
#14
We spent September in Europe with a rental car, and the only advance reservation we made was for the first night in Milan, since we'd be arriving late and wanted a good place close to the airport. Everything else we did on the fly with smartphones, never had a problem. We used these apps for navigating and reservations: Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Hotel tonight for hotel ideas and reservations. Had one glitch with Booking.com, but they resolved it right away with no problem. We did a lot of hiking, and found that maps.me had much better info on trails than Google maps- you can download your area then navigate while offline. For data, I got the My3 sim card from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/PrePaid-dest...aid+Europe+(UK+THREE)+sim+card+12GB+data+3000) Had 12 gigs of data, used less than four in a month. Had to call them once to get the Access Point Name (APN) setting squared away, but all in all, very good deal, and I'll definitely use them again. Good luck!
 
Likes: jsn55
Sep 26, 2015
20
10
3
66
#15
I have also read that France requires either an International Driver's License or your driver's licence translated into French. You may want to verify this with the car rental agency before you leave home.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,177
1,113
113
Maui Hawaii
#16
I have also read that France requires either an International Driver's License or your driver's licence translated into French. You may want to verify this with the car rental agency before you leave home.
This is a good point. Getting an international DL is not difficult and it is a good idea. The French can be difficult about this issue.
https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html
 

Dwayne Coward

Administrator
Staff Member
Director
Apr 13, 2016
530
673
93
St. Louis
#17
I have also read that France requires either an International Driver's License or your driver's licence translated into French. You may want to verify this with the car rental agency before you leave home.
This is a good point. Getting an international DL is not difficult and it is a good idea. The French can be difficult about this issue.
https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html
Excellent point, except I would recommend checking the US Embassy website in any country you're a visiting on IDL requirements.

I will tell you from experience that rental companies may still rent to you without showing an IDL, even if it is required.

While stationed in Germany, I knew someone who was stopped in Spain, ticketed, and their vehicle impounded because they did not have the IDL or translation of their license. This can definitely ruin your vacation plans.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,680
7,485
113
San Francisco
#18
We've gotten IDLs a couple of times, but nobody every wanted to see them, so usually we don't bother. I do believe that I'll start getting them for every trip. They're cheap, easy and I certainly don't want a rental car impounded.
 
Feb 28, 2018
28
12
3
85
#19
A driving tour in France in 2019 will be very unlike l984 or even 2004. The open borders in Europe and lower prices on small cars has resulted in millions of people travelling, most of whom book accommodations in advance. The advice above about stopping earlier in the day ( about 3p.m,)if you do not have reservations is real. In prior years I rented cars and travelled without reservations in Germany and France, but would not do so now.
Stan