Friday marks the start of school holidays in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, with large waves of holidaymakers taking to the roads and heading south.
An opinion poll released yesterday by Ipsos-Europe Assistance said that 60% of the French will take their summer holidays in France this year. The figure is up 6% on last year and is largely due to continuing uncertainty about the economy.
French road traffic authority, Bison Futé, uses a colour scheme to signal traffic conditions and has labelled Friday and Saturday as orange days. This means drivers can expect heavy traffic and difficult driving. The expectation is that the Ile-de-France region around Paris and the Rhone Valley will be red, meaning very heavy traffic.
Train company SNCF is also gearing up for a busy summer by laying on 415 additional high-speed TGV trains over the next two weekends. The operator expects to carry 20 million travellers in July and August, up from 18 million last year.
A further 900,000 people are expected to pass through Paris' two main airports, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly, at the weekend. The airport operator, ADP, is laying on a schedule of entertainment for children including, it claims, a Rio-style carnival atmosphere featuring dancers and fancy dress. Grown-ups will be offered 'fish pedicures', where small fish gently nibble at weary travellers' feet and, for the less adventurous, massage facilities.