Do you remember the Peugeot 505 Familiale estate car? I'm showing my age here, but back in the early 80s it was the go-to ride for big families thanks to the novel idea (well, in a car anyway) of a fold-up third row of seats in the otherwise cavernous boot. Some of my fondest holiday memories are of the eight of us (me, my father, stepmother, three older stepbrothers and two younger half siblings) careering around the French countryside without a seatbelt in sight (was that just the 80s, or a deeply irresponsible father?) and essentially playing musical chairs as the back two rows mutated from den to obstacle course to wrestling ring and back again.
Looking back I'm not quite sure how we emerged unscathed, but somehow we did, enjoying some magical European road trips along the way. Sure, there were some less fun moments, such as traipsing round Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals in Normandy (the perils of having an amateur historian for a father), but mostly I remember long sunny summer days exploring beautiful corners of France; rolling down the towering dunes of Archachon (the tallest in Europe, no less) in Aquitaine, canoeing along the Loire River and clambering on tanks at the D-Day beaches in Normandy.
Given that - at least in the short-term - long-haul travel looks unlikely, and airports will be difficult places to navigate, we predict that for the first time in a generation European road trips from the UK are going to be the hottest ticket in town this summer. And if I'm honest, I'm really quite excited about introducing my children to the experience (seat belts mandatory this time, mind) which will be far smoother than before thanks to the Eurotunnel, which has revolutionised the Channel crossing experience. No more vomit-inducing ferry rides (big family equals bigger chance of at least one person blowing chunks), just a breezy 35-minute zip beneath the sea and hey presto - you're in (though it might pain a Brit to admit) the most beautiful country in the world. Another change from the old days? You can even take your dog (or cat, if you must) on Eurotunnel if they've got a pet passport, a microchip, a rabies vaccination and a tapeworm treatment (for dogs) and your eventual destination(s) accept four-legged guests. Quick note, though - you must wait 21 days from the date of the rabies vaccination before travelling, and make sure your pet is microchipped first - otherwise the rabies jab won't count.
Even better, our French connections mean we have the inside track on those secret little corners - the charming chic boutique hotel, the special cheese producer, the wildlife reserve guide who can introduce children to birdwatching - that make France the most amazing destination for families and couples alike. Likewise, our team of clued-up French Concierges delight in opening the doors that most visitors to France don't even know exist. So what are you waiting for? Vive la France, drive la France! And if you're looking to linger longer, why not keep on driving and take in Italy, Spain and/or Portugal while you're at it. Rumour has it they're half decent destinations as well.