Ever since experiencing the Sunderland Airshow of the bridge of a DFDS Seaways ferry, Mini has always wanted to cross the channel on a Ferry. So on our recent trip to Domain de Mathevies, France, we decided to brush aside the fact that I suffer terribly with seasickness and make the trip from Dover to Calais on a ferry.
We travelled with DFDS Seaways and arrived in Dover about an hour and a half before our crossing (yes I am always the one that worries about getting stuck in traffic) and drove to the check in booth, which was really seamless (in fact the kids were still asleep in the back of the car). We were given a number to hang on the windscreen of the car and which lane details to park in before we drove through passport control (when we had to wake the kids)!
We then had a little wait before boarding the ferry – there wasn’t time to go to the terminal, but we did all manage to go to the loos.
Tips for ferry Crossings with Kids
- Have a bag packed with things for on the Ferry, once you leave your car that is it until the Ferry has docked at the other side. Ours included binoculars, water, snacks, Ipads (there was free wifi on board, although it wasn’t up for steaming, so make sure you download any movies before travelling), card games and if you have a baby make sure you take your baby bag. You can also take your buggy on board, perfect for getting them to nap.
- If you want to eat with the kids, then head to the restaurant first. Keep an eye out for the meal deal offers, which make eating cheaper. The food quality was great with prices in line with UK service stations.
- Be prepared for travel sickness. Make sure you hand out motion sickness tablets before travel and have an emergency kit with you on the ferry. I make sure I have wipes, plastic bags, tissues, a bottle of water and mints. There is nothing worse than feeling sick on the Ferry and if you or the kids do then head to the deck to get some fresh air and focus on the horizon which sometimes can help.
- For longer journeys, book a cabin if you are travelling with kids, as you can always just relax and use it as a base.
- Give the kids a budget to spend in the duty-free shop. My boys were so excited about all the different sweets on offer, massive bags of M&M’s and Reices Pieces, they would have spent an arm and a leg if they had the money! Instead, we set them a budget in pounds on the way out and Euros on the way back, as the shop accepts both). This made the shop an experience for them both and they spent a LOT of time making their decisions.
- Agree on a meeting point in case you lose each other. We specified a certain place on the ship.
- Do not rush to the car to disembark. The doors to the car decks do not open until the ship is docked and it gets a little crazy with everyone queuing on the stairs and waiting for the lift. We stayed in the snack bar/coffee shop playing cards and then got straight to our car avoiding the rush and the head of the car deck.
- If you have younger children then find the kids corner/area. After being in the car for a while they will love the area dedicated to letting off steam or watching a movie perfect for kids.
Our crossing was remarkably short and once we had eaten and explored the shop it was time to think about going to the car and leaving the ferry for the next part of our journey. The boys loved their experience. I did feel seasick, but it was manageable and seeing just how much the boys preferred it was lovely.
Mini tends to get anxious when we go new places and we found travelling in the car and via ferry much more relaxing for him and for the rest of the family. We looked at all the videos on the DFDS website and the plans of the ship. We even looked at the exact shop we were traveling on in one of their videos, which when it started to dock got him all excited. Not being restricted to a certain seat and having space to move around makes ferries a great way to travel for kids with sensory or special needs.
Being in the family surroundings of the car right until the last minute certainly helped with his anxiety.
Disclosure: We were gifted with ticket by DFDS Seaways in exchange for this post