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You will have more than 7 weeks of paid vacation in France. The vacation dates for the académies can be found on the French Education website. Generally, you will have ten days off at the end of October/beginning of November for All Saint's Day, 2 weeks off in December for Christmas, 2 weeks off in February for winter break, and 2 weeks off in April for spring break.
There are several low-cost airlines throughout Europe that can take you almost anywhere, such as Vueling, but beware that if there is a problem such as flight cancellation, you might get stranded at an airport in a foreign country because these airlines rarely comply with laws on passenger rights. Eurolines is a great bus company if you'd rather not fly. Don't forget to take advantage of your Carte 12-25 on the trains. Check out Rail Europe for train tickets throughout Europe. If you need to know if a certain train station in France has luggage lockers available, check the Services section of each station on the Gare en Mouvement site.
This is how the academies are grouped for vacation dates. You will need to check your academie's website for the dates if you are in a DOM-TOM. In addition to these vacations, there are also a few holidays (jours feriés) during the school year, such as Easter Monday, when schools will be closed.
For my first vacation at the end of October, a few other assistants and I rented a car and drove from Annecy to Salzburg, Austria, for a few days. Renting a car and splitting the cost is generally cheaper than other modes of transportation. It did take us 12 hours to get there, but only one of us could legally drive so we had to stop often. Most rental places require that the driver be over 21 and have had their license for at least two years. The credit card used must also match the driver's license (you cannot have one person drive and charge the car to someone else's credit card). Plus, if the driver is under 25, you will be charged extra for young driver's insurance. We got directions using Michelin's website but the highways were a little confusing to figure out. It probably would have been better if we had taken maps of each of the countries too. If you plan on driving through Switzerland, you must buy a vignette sticker in order to drive on any highway. This costs 40 Swiss Francs or 30 € if you wait to buy it at the border, but it is valid for the current year. If you stop at the exchange office right before the border, you can exchange 25 € for 40 francs in order to buy it and save 5 €.
For the second vacation after Christmas, I flew to Dublin. I bought two separate one-way tickets on two different airlines because it was cheaper than a roundtrip. I bought my tickets only two weeks in advance, so I paid 125 € to fly Lyon to Dublin on Aerlingus, and 25 € to fly Dublin to Grenoble on Ryanair. My experience with both airlines was fine, and the only difference was that Aerlingus has assigned seats and Ryanair does not.
For the winter vacation in February, I took the TGV from Annecy to Paris for a total of about 75 € roundtrip (thanks to my Carte 12-25). Then I flew from Geneva to Barcelona on Easyjet for 60 € roundtrip. Easyjet has unrealistic expectations about the turn-around time, so their flights are late a lot and you have to wait in line forever to check in. I arrived at the Barcelona airport two hours in advance of my return flight, and still barely made it through security in time to catch my flight. Only the airports in Geneva, London Luton, and Berlin have the automatic check-in kiosks, so be prepared to wait forever at the other airports or if you need to check in luggage. My advice is to take carry-on only, check in online, and print your boarding pass before going to the airport.
If you'd like to go somewhere a little more exotic or further away than Europe, Tunisia is the cheapest country to go to. You can find some good deals through travel agencies for a week-long trip for around 300 €.
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