10 days off for just 3 holiday days: Why French workers love May

We also look at where people are planning to go during this added holiday time

May offers the chance for many days off in France, with the majority heading to the seaside

This May is a good month for workers in France on regular contracts, as the - hopefully - improved weather coincides with the chance to take 10 days’ holiday using just three annual leave days.

This year, today (May 1), and May 8 and 9 are national holidays, and they will allow workers to ‘faire le pont’ to extend their time off as much as possible. 

‘Faire le pont’ is a French term used to describe ‘bridging the gap’ between a day off and a weekend, to effectively take a longer break, while only using a few annual leave days off. For example:

  • May 1 is a Wednesday: Taking Thursday, May 2, and Friday, May 3 off, plus the weekend, equals a five-day break.

  • May 8 and 9 are on a Wednesday and Thursday: Taking Friday, May 10 off, plus the weekend, equals another five-day break.

This means that while taking off just three annual leave days (May 2, 3, and 10) workers can take 10 days away from work (including the weekends) over the next two-week period.

Read also: Museums and mothers: key dates to note in May in France 
Read also: Lily of the valley and workers’ rights: May 1 is special day in France 

Tourism thriving

This is good news for tourism professionals too.

"This year has been a good one, with 17% more bookings than in 2023, and 37% for the May 8-9 weekend alone,” said Corinne Jolly, president of holiday specialists PAP Vacances to Le Figaro. “While weekend rates are more expensive than in February, they are less expensive than in summer.” 

May bank holidays tend to be very popular with people in France when it comes to booking a trip. 

“Last year, between Friday April 28 and May 2, more than 1.4 million people took a flight from France," said air passenger rights group Airhelp. “[Of these], nearly 350,000 people flew to other French regions.”

Read also: A brief history of the May 1 holiday in France

Where do people go for a May break?

Ms Jolly said that people from Paris and the north of France tend to head for the seaside at this time of year, especially the Vendée, Morbihan, and Charente.

“Given the length of the stay, you need to find a destination that's easy to get to, where you won’t lose more than half a day to travel,” she said. “It's only logical that regions such as Brittany and Normandy should triumph [in attracting people from Paris].”

This is in contrast to destinations in the south of France, which are slightly too far for Parisians to travel to if they want to minimise transport times, she said.

Some people do take domestic flights, however, to quickly travel further - especially if they want to return to their hometown quickly, or spend time with family in a specific location.

Overall, a PAP study showed that:

  • 76.5% of travellers head to the seaside at this time of year

  • 11.6% go to a rural, countryside region 

  • 6.4% head for a mountainous region

  • 5.5% go abroad

Similarly, the Gîtes de France tourism accommodation association states that Vaucluse, Pas-de-Calais, Côte d'Or, Finistère, and Doubs are among their most popular areas at this time of year. 

And short-term rentals group Airbnb has also noticed a trend for people to escape the city. It said that “interest in domestic stays in rural areas continues to grow”, with “stays in more remote locations, outside major cities, are also on the increase”.

Read also: Opinion: Another week off – how I love living in France

Destination: Abroad

The relatively few people who do venture abroad tend to seek some early sun by flying south, where temperatures are already starting to soar. The most popular destinations in May are: 

  • Turkey

  • Tunisia

  • Greece

Spain and Italy also start to see more tourists from France at this time of year, especially in southern areas, where weather is (usually) already considerably better than in the north of France.

"Over the past week, May departures have accounted for 43% of bookings, compared with 30% at the beginning of April,” said low-cost e-commerce platform Cdiscount. “This year, our customers are waiting for the right last-minute deal. We're looking more at [spontaneous] ‘opportunity trips’ rather than long-planned trips.”

Read also: Saharan sands, rain in Pyrénées, warm spring: French weather trends 

This would appear to tally with the ‘spontaneous’ feel of 10 days off with only three annual leave days…although, after an unseasonably cold April across much of Europe, it remains to be seen if the weather will cooperate…