Tips for travelling by ferry with kids

A family look out over the cliffs of Dover

Family holidays should be a time to unwind – but battling through an airport with kids isn't necessarily the quickest route to relaxation. Spare yourself the hell of the departure lounge, and guarantee a stress-free sojourn by getting to France or Spain by ferry. From packing tips to entertainment recommendations, Mumsnetters are at hand with their top tips to help you make the most of your time on deck.

1. Too organised? There's no such thing

1. Too organised? There's no such thing

“Top tip: plan, plan, and then plan some more. We made sure all our children's home comforts were available as and when we needed them and this was a life saver. Trying to pre-empt what we would need at different times was a must.”

2. The holiday starts the moment you're on the move

2. The holiday starts the moment you're on the move

“If travelling to France, the overnight ferry is great because you then have the full day to drive to your destination. It's also exciting for kids and part of the holiday. My daughter loved it and then spent most of the rest of the journey talking about the big boat!”

3. Organised fun is the way to go

3. Organised fun is the way to go

“We found a pack of toys and games for the journey helped. So stickers and drawing pads, a book, top trumps or card games, and paper dolls (aliens, dinosaurs – you know the drill!) on sticks for pretend play and putting on shows.”

4. Screen time is a treat away from home too

4. Screen time is a treat away from home too

“When all else fails, don't be afraid to get out the tech. Let them watch a film with headphones and enjoy the peace.”

5. Even if you come empty handed, you'll find entertainment on board

5. Even if you come empty handed, you'll find entertainment on board

“Book the cinema and a restaurant. Or have a picnic on deck and let the children help choose the picnic when you are preparing. Make it all a huge adventure! I had never been on a ferry before, and I felt like I was on a little cruise.”

6. Leave the rule book at home

6. Leave the rule book at home

“Accept that 'normal' bedtimes and mealtimes may not happen on the journey.”

7. Find a corner, make it yours, and hunker down

7. Find a corner, make it yours, and hunker down

“When travelling on a ferry, book a cabin – even if travelling in the daytime. That way, you have a base for all your stuff and somewhere to put little ones down for a nap if you got up early to catch the boat.”

8. Don't overlook the distracting power of simple pleasures

8. Don't overlook the distracting power of simple pleasures

“If you are ever waiting to board a ferry, have a bottle of bubbles to blow at the kids to pass the time. It will stop a baby crying, and leave them forever amused and bewildered at the floating bubbles! As for toddlers – they run around trying to pop them, which tires them out, and is a brilliant way to practice counting numbers!”

9. Old toys are the gift that keeps on giving

9. Old toys are the gift that keeps on giving

“Pack a toy or two that they haven't played with for a while. I've even found it works well to confiscate something well in advance ready to take on holiday, so it's suddenly a novelty again and they're keen to play with it on hols.”

10. Don't worry about the small things - everyone is in the same boat (literally)

10. Don't worry about the small things - everyone is in the same boat (literally)

“We’ve been going to France by car and ferry since before the kids, and every year since. It was a pleasant surprise to realise the ferry is full of families. There’s a lot of camaraderie. I’ve even been lent pencil crayons and paper by another parent when, as a rookie, I hadn’t thought to bring them.”

11. And even the journey home can be enjoyable

11. And even the journey home can be enjoyable

“We now like to say goodbye to France and our summer holiday from the top deck, enjoy the wind in our hair and the sun setting, then go for a blow-out meal. The kids fall asleep on the car journey home, so before we leave the boat we have them in PJs ready to transfer straight back into their own beds. Easy!”