Photo credit: Lauren Grice via http://www.3princesandaprincess2.com/2013/02/6-ways-to-keep-kids-amused-on-cruise.html
A ferry can be a great way of travelling if you don’t want to fly- with loads of facilities and things to do, you can easily keep boredom at bay during your journey.
Rather than confining kids to a plane, car or train where they are expected to sit still for hours, a ferry trip can be a simple and cost-effective alternative for travelling to far-off lands- but what should you know when taking a ferry trip with a child, toddler or baby?
1) Book a Cabin
If your ferry journey is due to last more than a couple of hours, then booking a cabin is a must. Having a private space where you can dump your luggage, nap, contain terrible toddler meltdowns and allow your little ones to overuse their favourite annoyingly noisy toy, is invaluable.
Most private cabins also contain a bathroom, which is handy for avoiding queues and for little ones just getting to grips with potty training. It’ll also be useful for refreshing before the next leg of the journey.
Even if you’re not staying overnight, many ferry operators offer the option of booking a day cabin. Also try and find out what options they provide for young children, such as cots or high-chairs, and sort out booking these before your journey begins. Booking your journey as far ahead as possible can also keep prices down.
2) Be Aware of Restrictions
It’s important to be aware of what you can and can’t do before you book and embark. For example, some ferry operators have particular requirements or travel restrictions for heavily pregnant women. You also need to check whether your kids (no matter what age) will require a passport for the journey, and if so, make sure that these are acquired in plenty of time and are up-to-date.
3) Before You Board and When you Leave
Queuing for a ferry can be a long and stress inducing process- if you have some time before boarding, allow your youngsters to have a last run about on land so that they can burn off some of their pent-up energy. Try and arrive as early as you can, to avoid the inevitable ‘Are we there yet??’ backseat chorus.
Once you’ve parked aboard the ferry, make of a note of where you are- combing the lower decks amongst Lorries and other vehicles when it’s time to get off can be stressful and dangerous. When it’s time to leave, get down to your car early so you can get everyone settled before the mad rush starts.
4) On-board Facilities
Make sure you explore the boat- lots of ferries are geared up to help entertain youngsters during the journey, and also have lots of ‘exciting’ features to have a look at. Explore the viewing deck, lifeboat areas or helicopter landing pads to keep kids interested.
Many ferries have the likes of cinemas, play areas, games rooms, TV lounges and even swimming pools or activity programmes. Keep an eye out for entertainment, particularly where dropping off your little ones for a while is an option, such as kids game shows, pantomimes and discos – leave your little ones to merrily bellow along to ‘Let It Go’ for the umpteenth time, whilst you get some much needed peace!
5) Pack a Ferry Bag
During the ferry trip, you won’t be able to access your car. When it’s time to leave yours, avoid having to root through numerous bags or inevitably forgetting the little things you need the most (think baby wipes and boarding passes!) by pre-packing a travel essentials bag.
Using a backpack, (to keep your hands free, in case of escaping children) include:
– Nappies and baby wipes
– Spare clothing and PJs if you need them
– Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
– Sun cream (if the weather is especially nice and you plan on being up on deck for a while)
– A small towel
– A few new or favourite toys, colouring books and films, with the appropriate tech to be able to use them
– A continental plug adaptor, just in case
– Swimming costumes, if there is a pool
– Travel sickness supplies (see below)
– Any important documents
6) Bring Your Own Food
Although you will usually be able to get hold of snacks and children’s meals on-board, ferry prices can be expensive. Bring a bag of snacks, cold meals such as pasta salads or even beer, wine and water bottles to help keep costs down. Avoid taking too many sugary snacks; being stuck in an enclosed space with a bunch of little over-hyper hooligans is nobody’s idea of fun…
If you do choose to eat in the ferry restaurants then avoid peak-times; queueing in busy self-service restaurants whilst your kids run riot below eye level is a recipe for disaster!
7) Be Prepared for Travel Sickness
It’s impossible to guarantee a super-smooth ocean crossing, so its worth being prepared for poorly tummies. Bring spare clothes (especially warm ones suitable for standing out on deck, as fresh air can help with nausea) , sick bags, anti-motion sickness tablets or wristbands and lumps of crystallised ginger for little ones to suck on to help settle their stomachs.
Also avoid eating too many fatty foods before the journey or encouraging kids to read or watch something if they feel ill- this can actually make things worse. Whilst exploring the ferry, it may well also be worth just making a mental note of first aid points, baby changing facilities and sick bag dispensers, so you’re not caught unawares!
8) Avoid Losing Stray Children!
It may be useful to bring a carry sling or support for carrying your baby- negotiating decks with prams and waiting for busy lifts can be nightmare. If you do decide to bring a pushchair, hold on to it at all times and make sure the break is on when stationary.
In the case of controlling unruly toddlers, a harness or child leash is super useful- it’s very important to keep an eye on youngsters at all times during the journey, particularly around stairs or doors that lead to decks. Also be conscious of heavy ferry doors closing- they can cause a lot of damage to tiny fingers.