Travelling by ferry with kids for me is a great option for family travel. I have travelled by ferry on several occasions now with and without kids. When travelling on an overnight ferry I have found it less stressful than flying.
Why may you ask? There is no need to get to the airport two hours before for check-in and I can take as much luggage as we want in my car and not have to bother about restrictions. This is ideal when you need to travel by ferry with kids as it means I can take their favourite toys, bikes and as much food as we want along with us.
I have even found taking a baby on a ferry a lot easier than going on a plane, so for me, it’s the easiest way to travel with kids. Check out my post on ferry vs flying.
Having said that I have put together my top tips to help guide you on your next adventure by ferry with kids.
Tips For Travelling By Ferry With Kids
Book a Cabin
Depending on where in the UK you are travelling from will depend if a cabin comes as standard or not. Nearly all ferries that go overnight you need to book a cabin as standard, if not then I would advise booking one especially with young kids. However, if you are going from the South of England then ferry crossings can be anything from an hour plus. If your crossing time is over 3 hours in length, then you may find it easier booking a cabin, so you can retreat back to the cabin and let the kids play or take a nap.
We normally travel from Hull and I normally book the Club 5 Berth cabin. This means we have some extra space (cabins don’t tend to be large) so booking a Club cabin means there is extra space for a travel cot (if required) and our overnight bag (see below).
Tip – Travel Cots
Check to see if the ferry provider has travel cots available. P&O had them on our Hull to Zeebrugge crossing. They were a little on the small side but saves you bringing your own. My youngest refused to sleep in it so slept next to me (which wasn’t ideal but worked).
Have an overnight bag at hand
When you pack your car up before you leave you should make sure you have an overnight bag in a handy place inside the car or boot. This is a lot easier to grab and get up from the car deck to your cabin instead of grabbing a suitcase. A backpack will also make your life a lot easier, so you have your hands free for the kids. Also make sure you have all your essentials like PJs, change of clothes, nappies, teddies, toiletries inside your overnight bag.
If you have a little one remember to take onboard your bottles, sterilizer and any other feeding items you may need. Just remember that the more you take onto the ferry with you the less space you have in your cabin. If you can live without a pram for the ferry duration then leave it in the car (I used a carrier and it was very useful).
Once onboard the ferry
Firstly, I would advise you to make your way up to your cabin key collection point and then make your way to your cabin. Get yourself settled, leave your bags in your cabin and if you haven’t pre-booked your meals make sure you then head off to do that. If you have kids on the ferry, then a big tip is to queue early for dinner as the queue can get long very and fast. It also means you can normally start eating before the ferry leaves (which is a good idea if you get seasick).
What to do onboard the ferry
There are several things on-board for your kids to do so they shouldn’t get bored.
Have a walk around and explore.
As mentioned previously, only take your pram on board if you really need it. Cabin space is small so it is best to stay out of the cabin for as long as you can and only go back for sleeping or resting. Taking a baby on a ferry is ideal as you can carry them in a carrier if needed. There are normally a couple of decks that you can explore while onboard which going at toddler speed can use up some time too.
Head outside to view the sunset (if time is appropriate!)
As well as indoors, you will also be able to explore outdoors. We managed to watch the sun setting on one occasion while onboard. Although we had to go indoors near the end as it was getting a bit chilly. Even if watching the sunset wasn’t an option, you could watch the other boats that are around or even see what else you can see (wind turbines etc). My boys love trying to spot different things.
Play areas onboard
Both ferries (Hull to Rotterdam and Hull to Zeebrugge) had an indoor soft play type area. The soft play on the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry wasn’t amazing but it kept my eldest son entertained for a while. If there are other kids around then your children can make friends and enjoy having other children to play with.
Go to the Cinema
If there is a cinema on board, see if you can get tickets etc. Although it is best to check the times and listings once onboard to see if there is anything age-appropriate.
I think this depends on the time of year as I would expect during the quiet season there wouldn’t be much entertainment on. You may find some evening shows on or listening to a band etc. My eldest had a good time at the kids’ entertainment before listening to the band which played after that had finished. which is good. Let them run off some energy in the hope that when you get back to your cabin, they go straight to sleep!
There you have it, my tips for travelling by ferry with kids. Have you been on a ferry with kids before? Please let me know in the comments below.
Have you travelled by ferry before? Did you enjoy it better than flying?
First Published – March 2016