Calendrier scolaire

Here in France we are slaves to the rhythm — the rhythm of the French ‘calendrier scolaire’. The entire country dances to the tune of the school calendar as it determines the official vacation dates.

While the Christmas and summer holidays are the same for everyone, the three shorter vacation periods (two weeks each) in the autumn, winter and spring are organized in waves by ‘zones’: A, B and C. This is to help ensure a couple of things: a) a longer season for the tourism trade and b) slightly less craziness on the roads.

Believe you me, when le tout Paris decides to hit the roads to the ski resorts in the Alps, it is just as well that those from everywhere else in the country (not to mention many parts of Europe) are not also en route.

Where we live in Rhone-Alpes is Zone A. That doesn’t necessarily mean we go first as they alternate dates each year so that everybody gets a shot at the best weather.

This only applies, of course, to people with school-aged children. But everyone is somehow affected as prices for hotels and transport often increase dramatically during vacation periods — and availability is at a premium.

Tourists should keep these dates in mind and if possible avoid travelling to the seasonal holiday spots during school breaks. That’s if you want to avoid the crowds and get a better choice of accommodation. It doesn’t apply so much to Paris, unless perhaps over the long May weekends. More on those later.

We are now starting two weeks of spring break in Zone A. I’m staying home for now but plan on enjoying a quieter period with less traffic on the roads.

Bonnes vacances à tous!


  1. francetaste · April 12, 2019

    And we are in Zone C, lumped in with Parisians. Sigh.
    Good advice about avoiding vacation periods if possible. Especially good to travel just before the school vacations–staff isn’t all worn down by weeks of crowds.

  2. Garfield Hug · April 12, 2019

    Enjoy your quiet short break!

  3. Heide · April 12, 2019

    I’d never heard of this tiered-vacation arrangement. France really does have a system for everything, doesn’t it? Poor little Corsica, though: Once again, it’s a bit of an afterthought, it seems (or maybe it gets the yucky dates the other three zones don’t want?).

    • MELewis · April 13, 2019

      Yes, France is certainly well organized on an administrative level! Makes you wonder when you see so much chaos in real life. 😆 I don’t think they would dare give Corsica a bad deal on dates. It’s more likely they get special treatment as an ‘exception culturelle’ due to being so far away and as a tourist destination for the rest of France.

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