Strikes and Holidays in France

by | Feb 14, 2022 | France | 1 comment

Travel Planning: Strikes and Holidays in France

Travel Plans plans before COVID-19 were much more reliable than they are at the moment. Although we would like to pretend it’s all going to be ‘back to normal’ soon, the reality is, pandemic adaptability will be a superpower of sorts, gracefully getting you to your desired location.

Nowadays, international airline companies are canceling flights within a moment’s notice because of sudden border closures. Even those who are residents in France are having a hard time at Border Control for traveling during times of quarantine.  It never fails that every time we traveled back to the States from the south of France, we hit a snag. It’s not the lack of planning, but the lack of cultural knowledge. So here is a lesson on what is going on in France during the year.


The French take vacation seriously. The educational system has a 2-week vacation on average every 7 weeks. The educational calendar divides France into three regions. Each takes their vacation a week after the previous.

Flights, trains, and buses into a region that is on holiday or vacation will be more expensive or possibly booked. Here is a timetable of the French school calendar and its regions. Traveling around these dates may cause full trains, overbooking, and extra reservation charges on an Eurorail pass.

School Year 2020-2021

School Holidays Starts Finishes
First Day of School 1 Sep 2020
All Saints Holidays 18 Oct 2020
1 Nov 2020
Christmas Holidays 20 Dec 2020
3 Jan 2021
Winter Holidays (Zone A)* 7 Feb 2021
21 Feb 2021
Winter Holidays (Zone C)* 14 Feb 2021
28 Feb 2021
Winter Holidays (Zone B)* 21 Feb 2021
7 Mar 2021
Spring Holidays (Zone A)* 11 Apr 2021
25 Apr 2021
Spring Holidays (Zone C)* 18 Apr 2021
2 May 2021
Spring Holidays (Zone B)* 25 Apr 2021
9 May 2021
Ascension Holidays 13 May 2021
16 May 2021
Summer Holidays 7 Jul 2021
1 Sep 2021

Please visit for the original release of the 2020-2021 approved calendar.

The holiday schedule released by the Ministry is followed by all schools across the country. The dates are split into three zones—Zone A, Zone B and Zone C, respectively. The school holiday dates vary across the three-zone regions for the winter holidays and spring holidays.

  • Zone A : Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon, Poitiers
  • Zone B : Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Caen, Lille, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rennes, Rouen, Strasbourg
  • Zone C : Créteil, Montpellier, Paris, Toulouse, Versailles


Pont Vaccance – Bridge Holidays

Our beloved French don’t need an excuse to take a day or two off; it’s logical, but of course!

June 2 - Bridge Holiday by Maday Carnley
June 2 – Bridge Holiday by Maday Carnley

Pont means bridge in French. If a public or bank holiday falls towards the beginning, or the end of the week, the French will take a day that will bridge the bank holiday with the weekend.

For example, if the holiday is on a Thursday or a Tuesday they will take Friday or Monday off, having Thursday to Sunday off or Saturday to Tuesday. This extends their time off to 4-5 consecutive days.

Be warned that bridge holidays in May and August will cause traffic comparable to that of memorial day weekend or the Fourth of July near a coast or lake in the States. Fleets of RV’s or Camper Vans will maneuver through tiny streets in small villages.

The sun will be shining for hours and everyone will head toward the water.  Stores may or may not be open! On the actual bank holiday, even big chain supermarkets and stores will just be closed!

Watch for these Public French Holidays:

New Year’s Day Fri, Jan 1, 2021
Easter Sunday Sun, Apr 4, 2021
Easter Monday Mon, Apr 5, 2021
Labour Day Sat, May 1, 2021
Victory in Europe Day Sat, May 8, 2021
Ascension Day Thu, May 13, 2021
Whit Monday Mon, May 24, 2021
Bastille Day Wed, Jul 14, 2021
Assumption of Mary Sun, Aug 15, 2021
All Saints’ Day Mon, Nov 1, 2021
Armistice Day Thu, Nov 11, 2021
Christmas Day Sat, Dec 25, 2021


Armistice Day

Armistice Day France by Maday Carnley
Armistice Day France by Maday Carnley

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on the 11th of November to mark the Armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany.

It was signed at Compiègne, France for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I.

This took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations and it coincides with Remembrance Day (UK) and Veterans Day (USA) public holidays.


France is the king of strikes. In an RF1 article written about the 2 months long strikes of December 2019-January 2020 (the longest in three decades), Jean-Pierre Durand, a professor in labor sociology, wrote:

“The French spirit, if there is one, is one of skepticism,”

Rene Descartes said:

‘I think, therefore I am’ can easily be translated for the French as ‘I question, therefore I am’,” he said.

How to Plan

These things may or may not happen. Sometimes planning and purchasing cheap tickets may not be the most affordable option if they are nonrefundable. Currently, with COVID-19, it is difficult to get refunded or change your flight with third-party websites like, even with travel insurance.

Strikes do have their own stipulations because services are not provided and money must be returned. This is why strikes are effective tools for the unions here in France. While waiting for a refund that may take months to receive, always have a Plan B and funds to support a change of plans.

Such changes may be an expensive one-way car rental or extended stay at a hotel.  Having a little extra time and money will fix most situations.

Mais Quoi? There Is English-Speaking French TV?

When we arrived in late Nov 2014, we had planned to take the train from Paris to Carcassonne. That didn’t happen.

Maday's First Cottage in France by Maday Carnley
Maday’s First Cottage in France by Maday Carnley

Blogs about how to move abroad were scarce. Facebook groups were full of opinions. Everybody had one. Finding references so that I could research the situation myself was difficult.

I wish someone had told me, ” Hey! France-24 English is a news station that will keep you updated on what’s happening in France. As of January 2021, it streams live on YouTube. Go watch it!”

Just knowing that one simple detail would have given me a plethora of things to research or questions to ask both cultural and practical.

The transportation strike went on for weeks in 2014. We extended our hotel stay for a week until we had enough waiting. We rented a minibus because the cars were too small to hold all of our luggage and the minivans were taken.

A Price Worth Paying

I remember it as if were yesterday. It was my birthday, Joel, my husband, was driving around Paris ‘like a boss’; navigating to our new home for the first time on French tolled-highways for 10 hours. It was thrilling that we pulled it off. The cost was stressful (double our budget); a small price compared to the serenity we felt for that year in our little cottage on the Aude river.

Remember, even when things don’t go your way, and all the information, steps to take, and language, become overwhelming, these are the moments that build your rich expat experience.  The detours and hardships are part of your adventure that you will hold dear to your heart because you endured!

Have you had setbacks that were worth enduring? Share them with me!

by: Maday Miralles-Carnley