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Travel by ferry with kids: 7 ways to make it easier for you

Minimise stress with these handy Mumsnetter tips if you plan to travel by ferry with your kids.

By Louise Baty | Last updated Aug 4, 2023

Brittany Ferries travelling with a child

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If you’re planning a ferry holiday with your kids, you’ll want to ensure things go as seamlessly as possible, right? Aside from the obvious stuff like stashing your passports in a safe place and keeping an eye on timetables so you don’t miss your ferry, it’s essential to keep your little VIP travellers happy. This means minimising the risk of child-related mishaps and tantrums.

Travel savvy Mumsnetters are fans of hopping on ferries, whether they’re heading to France, Holland or Spain. Brittany Ferries offers a selection of ways to travel from the UK to mainland Europe, ranging from speedy four and a half hour crossings from Poole to Cherbourg to more leisurely overnight journeys, such as Plymouth to Santander. In fact, the company has several UK ports you can depart from. These include: Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth that travel to France and Spain, as well as Ireland to both European countries, too.

Some Mumsnetters reckon that their family ferry trip is where the holiday fun actually begins, with modern ferries featuring live entertainment, play areas, cinemas and even swimming pools. Take MrsAvocet who says: “We've always viewed it as a kind of mini cruise at the beginning of the holiday.” 

If you want to channel this parenting positivity on your next ferry holiday, then you’re in the right place. As with all things parenting, it pays to be prepared. We’ve rounded up the best Mumsnetter tips for making travelling by ferry with children stress free and enjoyable (yes, really).

So, if you’re planning a ferry holiday with children this summer with Brittany Ferries, take note and… bon voyage!

1. Consider an overnight sailing

Overnight sailing with Brittany Ferries

Image credit: James Lovick-Designate

If you and your DC would rather spend your time on board snoozing, booking an evening ferry departure makes total sense. Brittany Ferries offers a range of relaxing overnight cruises, which are ideal for young families. You can also book a variety of accommodation suitable for your needs, to avoid disrupting your kids’ night-time routine. Cots are available to request to save you carrying more luggage from your car!

One idea is to book a private family cabin, so that you and your DC can relax in comfort and wake up refreshed and ready to continue your holiday. Alternatively, Brittany Ferries gives you the opportunity to reserve cosy lounge seats, giving you a dedicated spot to relax. You can even purchase a sleep pack with eye mask, pillow, blanket and ear plugs to help you arrive at your destination feeling refreshed.

If you’d rather bring ear plugs for you and your DC, Mumsnetter mswales says: “The disposable foam ones from Boots (RRP £7) are the best in my opinion...” 

What Mumsnet users say

“We've always used Brittany Ferries, a few different routes, but the 'best' for travelling over is Portsmouth-St Malo as you leave at 8pm, have a couple of hours to explore the ferry and watch the entertainment, and then sleep, ready for the onward journey when you dock at about 7am. Costs a bit more, but well worth it!”  TheGracelessAged

Related: The best scooters, tried and tested by Mumsnetters

2. Or book an early morning departure and enjoy breakfast on board

Brittany Ferries early morning departures

You may prefer to spend the night before your ferry departure on dry land, in a comfortable hotel close to the ferry port. That way, you can get up fresh and early and ready to sail.

Remember that if you’re travelling with Brittany Ferries, you must check in at least 60 minutes before departure and 90 minutes before departure if you’re travelling with a pet.

Once you’re settled, it’s time to relax and enjoy breakfast on board. As all parents will testify, the sure fire way to stop tantrums in their tracks is with a bag full of easy-to-reach snacks. A pack of brioche, cartons of juice and fruit is a budget-friendly breakfast option. Brittany Ferries have microwaves on board, which are ideal for warming baby food. Plus high chairs are available to keep those wrigglers nice and safe.

But if you fancy starting your holiday with a delicious on board breakfast, Brittany Ferries offers a selection of yummy options, from a continental buffet or English breakfast in the full service restaurant or self-service cafe to breakfast served in your room, if you’ve booked the top drawer Commodore Cabin.

What Mumsnet users say

“Was much better staying at a Premier Inn in Southampton and catching the 7am crossing. Kids ran off a lot of energy exploring the ferry so even slept a little on the drive down to the Il du Re region.” blobby10

3. Enjoy the on board entertainment

Enjoy the on board entertainment

Aside from the restaurants on board, Mumsnetters reckon that there are plenty of ways to keep your DC busy on a ferry journey, from soft play centres to child-friendly performers. Brittany Ferries offer lots of family-friendly entertainment, including magicians, singers, DJs, cinemas, where you can watch the latest movies and games rooms with plenty of video games to try out - ideal for older kids and teens. On some sailings you may even get to meet Pierre Le Bear!

There are also playrooms and kids clubs where you can tire out younger DC during your journey. As always, it pays to be organised. You can plan your entertainment schedule by asking for the day’s entertainment programme - available at the on board information desk. The facilities do vary across their ships so take a look before you travel to help with your planning!

What Mumsnet users say

“..we have just returned this morning from France with Brittany Ferries. Great ferry, plenty of restaurants/cafes. Lots of seating. Entertainment for the kids and kids play room.” SkyLarkDescending

4. Reserve a cabin

Cabins on Brittany Ferries

While a stroll around the ferry to explore is nice, it’s helpful to have a base where you and the DC can retreat for a bit of downtime away from the crowds. It makes sense to book a cabin when you have small children in need of naps and quiet time - and don’t underestimate the value of having your own private bathroom for freshening up during a long journey.

All Brittany Ferries cabins are ensuite and air-conditioned with bed linen, towels and toiletries provided. On every ship, there’s a range of different styles to fit most budgets, from basic to more luxurious, with room service.

The standard cabin, which is available on all ships, is an affordable, convenient base for a family, with four-berth and two-berth options available. Some cabins have windows so your DC can have a good look at the sea and passing ships… Exciting!

Take a look at the range of Brittany Ferries cabins on offer.

What Mumsnet users say

“If you get a ferry get a cabin even on a day one as it gives you a place to hang out and is quiet. There are economy crossings and more lux ones. Cabins on economy can be cheap. But they all book up a long way in advance.” Popeyeandolive

“We had a cabin on a day ferry once, which was a godsend for some peace and for DS to have a nap.” Katkincake

“I really would get a cabin, it's lovely just to have a meal and chill in your cabin –after too much wine– and it's a lovely start to the holiday.” Roussette

5. Consider a child-friendly tablet

Child-friendly tablet

When they’re fed up with books and toys and don’t want to gaze at the view, there’s no shame in settling them down with a screen. If you’d rather not sacrifice your phone to your clumsy little hands, consider a child-friendly tablet.

The Mumsnet Rated Amazon Fire HD Kids comes with clear audio and a bright screen, and offers easy-to-use parental controls to avoid your child seeing inappropriate content. The durable case comes in a range of eye-catching colours. There’s also a camera so your DC can take some snaps of their travels.

If you board a Brittany Ferries ferry, you can download Brittany Ferries Ferrynauts, a new app filled with fun and fascinating facts for kids aged between 7 to 13 years. Don't forget to download the app before travelling.

What Mumsnet users say

“As for entertaining DS (8) we load him up with films on his iPad and ration sweets. We try and stop every 2hrs to stretch legs and have a wee.” Katkincake

6. Bring travel games

Board games for travelling

On long ferry journeys, it’s great to have a fun group travel game or two to help pass the time. Card games are ideal as they slip handily into a travel bag and won’t take up too much space in your ferry cabin.

Uno is a Mumsnet favourite and has become iconic in the travel games market over the years. Simple to follow, it’s ideal for anyone over the age of seven (although we reckon it’s fairly easy for younger players to get the hang of too). Also, unlike the original board game, Monopoly Deal consists of just a small pack of cards with no fiddly bits in sight. It only takes 15 minutes to play each game too, so it’s ideal for fitting in around travel stops. But don’t worry if you forget to pack a game the shops on board Brittany Ferries are stocked with small toys, games, puzzles, magazines and colouring books – everything to make your holiday a little easier!

What Mumsnet users say

“Monopoly Deal is my go to card game - and I have been a big fan of Uno for decades!” 30under

7. Be prepared for travel sickness

Travel sickness in kids

Sadly, some of us are more prone to travel sickness than others - and it can strike on long car and ferry journeys. If you or your DC have a tendency to puke when travelling, it pays to be prepared. Mumsnetter mellicauli is a self-confessed ‘veteran’ when it comes to dealing with travel sickness and recommends the following:

  • “No screens or books (use audio books instead)

  • Games to encourage to look out of window (eg eye spy)

  • Easy round the roundabouts, don't take the scenic route

  • Encourage to tell when feeling sick, open a window, stop/walk around

  • The right kind of breakfast - toast or cereal, not fruit or egg

[and] have a sick kit consisting of:

  • rubber gloves

  • apron

  • spare clothes

  • towel / paper towels/wet wipe

  • plastic bags for dirty clothes

  • small bucket lined with bag(s)

  • large and small bottle of water

  • a cover for car seat”

Some Mumsnetters swear by anti-sickness travel wrist bands, which are available from Boots and on board Brittany Ferries in their shops. You might also consider asking your pharmacist for sickness tablets for kids, Kwells.

What Mumsnet users say

“No reading in the car, ever! We really rate the travel bands that put pressure on pressure points on the wrist. That (and not eating just before travelling) seems to keep it at bay.” DelurkingAJ 

Why book with Brittany Ferries in 2023?

  • Forget the early arrival times at airports and waiting around to board your flight, simply arrive 60 minutes before and drive on with your car, and then relax!

  • Pack your car up and take as much luggage as you want with you – from buggies, travel cots to more clothes than you need, plus that stash of snacks!

  • Plenty of space to relax and let the kids explore

  • On board you’ll find changing areas, microwaves, high chairs and lifts for buggies...making travel with babies and toddlers all that bit easier!

  • Great on-board entertainment for both kids and adults, including play areas, games rooms, live entertainment and cinemas.

  • Indulge in great value dining across a variety of restaurants and self-service options, with meal deal options for the kids

  • Choose from flexible booking options with various ticket types to suit your travel planning needs.

  • Enjoy low deposits to better manage your expenses.

  • Explore unique holiday destinations that are easily accessible.

  • Bring your furry friends along for the adventure.

Plus, find essential driving information for France, Spain, and Portugal in this comprehensive guide here.

About Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries is a renowned ferry travel company offering excellent services for travel to France and Spain. With a range of routes from the UK and Ireland, they provide a convenient and cost-effective alternative to flying. Passengers can enjoy spacious accommodations, onboard entertainment, and amenities like play areas and cinemas. Brittany Ferries' fleet includes the impressive Pont Aven ferry, which features a swimming pool. With their award-winning reputation and dedication to customer satisfaction, Brittany Ferries ensures a memorable and enjoyable journey to popular destinations in France and Spain. Brittany Ferries were recently awarded ‘Best Travel Company for Family Holidays’ at the British Travel Awards, voted by consumers!

About the Author

Mum-of-two Louise Baty has been a journalist for almost 20 years and covers parenting, health, travel and lifestyle for consumer print and online publications. She has authored four books on parenting (and grandparenting) and is also an expert online shopper and bargain hunter, which comes in very handy when she researches and writes travel reviews and recommendations for Mumsnet.