Travelling by car and ferry from the UK to Europe rather than flying is a great option for families. This is because of two main factors: luggage and seating.
Rather than being restricted, as you are on a plane, to 20 or even 15 kg of luggage per person, plus hand luggage, when travelling by ferry you can take whatever you can fit in to your car. This means that you can take your own baby and toddler equipment and toys and whatever else you need on your travels. It also means that you can bring back more than a couple of bottles of wine when you come home.
On a plane you and your children are confined to your narrow seats unless you’re using the bathroom. Your boisterous toddler cannot run around or climb on anything. Your bickering older children cannot distance themselves from each other or from you for the duration of the journey. On a ferry they have a whole ship to explore and nobody has to sit down at any point unless they want to.
If you’re planning a ferry crossing with your kids here are some tips to help you.
Book your crossing as far in advance as possible in order to get the best value tickets. In peak times, such as the school summer holidays, the ferries get very busy so book as soon as you can to try to get the crossing time that you want.
Book a cabin
If it’s a long crossing (more than two or three hours) think about booking a cabin. This gives you all a place to rest and store your stuff. Most cabins have an en-suite bathroom. Some ferries have cots available if you book them in advance.
Pack a ferry bag
Once you’ve parked your car on the ferry you’ll want to get on to the passenger decks as soon as possible so make sure that you have everything that you’ll need for the crossing ready in a bag. You won’t be able to access your car during the crossing. Use a backpack so that your hands are free to hold on to the handrails and to small children.
Once you’ve parked your car make sure that the handbrake is on and the car alarm is off. Make a note of where you park so that you can find your car easily when it’s time to disembark.
If you don’t have a cabin, find some seats on board where you can all sit down, relax and leave your stuff if you go anywhere else on board. Take a light blanket or sheet with you if you want to sleep. If you take a stroller on board make sure that the brake is on when it’s not moving in case it rolls with the motion of the ferry.
Explore the ferry
It’s interesting to explore the different passenger decks and restaurants and other facilities on board. When they’re old enough, let kids explore on their own. Some ferries have entertainment areas such as cinemas, play rooms and games rooms. When you board the ferry go to the information desk to find out what’s available. Go on deck to see what’s happening there, especially when you’re leaving or arriving at a port.
Food and drink
Ferry restaurants can get busy. If you want to avoid waiting in line, and to save money, take your own food and drinks on board with you. You can take a cool bag on board to keep everything fresh.
Take spare clothes and warm layers on board for the crossing. You may need these if anyone is sick or a messy eater and also for when you go on deck as it will probably be breezy there.
Be prepared for travel sickness by taking anti-sickness medication. Have sick bags and changes of clothes to hand. If you feel travel sick go up on deck as fresh air can help.
Do you have any tips to add for travelling by ferry as a family?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by P&O Ferries but all words and opinions are my own. P&O ferries have routes from the UK to France, Belgium, Holland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.