Guest writers: Budget France

France on a budget by Roland Evans
I've enjoyed holidaying in France for many years, but due to the weakness of the pound, it's no longer cheap. Before you abandon all for a rainy week or two in the good old UK, here are 10 top tips that can save you money and perhaps make the difference:

1) Book early, this can save hundreds of pounds on summer holiday vacations.
2) Are you using your mobile home to the optimum? Maybe you've got room to take one of the children's friends along. It'll cost a little more in terms of food, but who knows, the owners may reciprocate in the future.
3) Take some things with you, in particular tea, which is always more expensive abroad where you'll struggle to find your favourite.
4) Check you tyre pressures before you set off and make sure they are set for a full load and when you're filling up it's worth going to a supermarket where the price per litre is usually less than the independent garages. Only put sufficient fuel in to get you to France since fuel is still considerably cheaper than the UK. You'll find a supermarket within 20km of the port. On the return fill up before you leave France. Buy your headlight covers, warning triangle, fire extinguishers etc in the UK before you get to the port. Same applies to books and games etc.
5) Once on your hols you'll need to buy food. Whilst the choice isn't usually quite as extensive, the quality of the food, including fresh, in the 'French' supermarkets rivals the big supermarkets. They can be found on the outskirts of most of the larger towns in France these days. Whilst on the subject of shopping, try to do this on your way back from your day out as it saves fuel and valuable holiday time.
6) Eating out. Firstly do you really want to? The ingredients for great bbq's can be found on markets or supermarkets and the quality is often better. The wine and beer can flow without breaking the bank. If a treat is in order then look around for chalkboard promotions, but the secret is usually the view - you'll pay considerably more for a sea view than you would for the same food slightly further from the front. You might also do what the locals do and forage for your lunch. At low tide you'll often see locals raking in the sand for cockles or collecting mussels, winkles and shrimps from the rockpools. Go native and have a go, you won't get fresher ingredients, and the only real trick is to let it stand in fresh sea water for about six hours to remove the sand, then cooking couldn't be easier.
7) If you've got the room take your own bikes, surfboards, golf clubs etc because hiring this sort of equipment whilst on holiday is expensive and never as good as your own. If it goes on the roof or the back of the car then you'll end up paying a little extra but if you're using bikes daily a great deal of money can be saved.
8) It's perhaps a little bit cheeky, because they can be hired from the courier, to take your own bbq, but I've taken the same one for the last five years and it only cost a fiver in the autumn sales.
9) Going out for the day doesn't have to involve spending. It's suprising how many kids actually like going for a walk or bike ride. The local tourist information will usually have printed circular walks and cycle routes and if they aren't free they'll be a lot cheaper than the zoo.
10) Home time. Dont throw away all that lovely cheese and fresh salad, pack it carefully and buy a fresh bagguette at the port and sit outside on the ferry enjoying the last rays whilst the rest see their euros vanish in the restaurant. Same applies to cleaning products, take them home they work just as well on your own appliances. You've got to take some wine home so checkout the supermarkets you've been using or the wine merchants close to the port. The wine on the ferry might be duty free but you can't help thinking someone else has applied their own 'tax'.

If you follow my tips, it might be bon voyage afterall.