One of the kids best adventures so far this summer was most definitely travelling to France by ferry! We’ve never been on a ferry before as a family as we have always found it cheaper and easier to fly to the places we have travelled to outside of the UK. But, with the savings we could make, and the bonus of having our own car in France, this time it made a lot more sense to take the ferry.
We drove from Yorkshire to Newhaven overnight and caught the 9am to Dieppe. For 7 of us (4 adults and 3 kids) with a minibus, it cost only £233 return with DFDS and thankfully both journey’s were calm waters and lovely weather. On the way home we had an evening Ferry, arriving in the UK at 9pm. This drive home was a bit harder and I think next time we would stay over night in the south of England before the 5hr drive home, but either way each ferry journey was great and gave us a positive experience of travelling by ferry for the first time.
The kids loved looking out to sea, exploring the ship and were generally just fascinated by the sheer size of it and it’s ability to carry so many people, cars and lorries! It was a lovely adventure and change to how we travel and here are 5 things we came up with that we loved about travelling by Ferry and why we would opt for it again in the future (to go to France, Bruges, Holland or Amsterdam).
1. You can take your own car
This (aside from cost) was clearly the biggest benefit and attraction to ferry travel. In the past we have spent anything from £90 up to almost £200 on car hire (depending on where we go, how long for and size of car – of course!). And so to take this additional cost out of the equation and have our own vehicle was such an attraction to taking the ferry for a budget friendly holiday this summer.
There also wasn’t that last minute scrat around the car for all our stuff as we dropped it off at the rental place and the anxiousness just in case there’s a reason they’re not happy with how we return it. And I liked that we didn’t have to squish all the tat into bags before handing the car back and legging it for the plane, but the kids could keep their snack, drinks, drawing stuff and blankets etc all chilling in the car if they wanted to and it was so much less stress!
Finally another bonus to having your own car is that heading through customs/immigration is so much smoother as you are all together, the kids are strapped in and you can sit down. Yes, to have your own car has so so many bonuses when you travel to europe!
2. Walk around and have fresh air
I never realised how much I valued fresh air on a long journey abroad until going by ferry! It was such a bonus for both us and the kids to be able to get up and wander and explore – look out at the channel, stretch our legs and breathe in some good sea air! It was a welcomed treat to sunbathe on deck or generally sit and look out instead of being confined to an air cabin! I loved this part of being on a ferry and really embraced it.
3. No baggage allowance or food limits
Buying food on a plane and now having to pay extra for even small bags, quickly makes a budget flight a little more pricey. Travelling by ferry however meant that we could not only take as many bags as we wanted to, but things like bedding for eurocamp, food, buckets and spades and shampoo etc wasn’t an issue either. Packing was so much easier for this trip and then taking on snacks from Lidl at each end was an absolute bonus!
Whilst we were away it was also Alice’s 3rd birthday and having our own car and that extra space meant we were able to take all her gifts with us and make it a really special day for her. I really loved being able to take pretty much anything we wanted to – extra blankets for the kids, food, toys – it was mint!
4. Far more varied for the kids!
Asking any child, especially wild ones like ours, to sit for a long period of time is destined for failure. I think having been on a ferry I can finally see why air travel can at times be mega stressful with little ones in tow (though it does not deter us!). Being on a ferry however was a new experience for them and so that in and of itself was exciting and kept them occupied. But, another bonus for the kids was that from having a little shop to nosey around (and pick up a fan and get it stuck in your sisters hair – yes – awkward moment!) to walks up on deck, arcade games to annoy other passengers with as you pretend to ride motor bikes that your parents are too tight to put money in and, a little play area with movie – the kids certainly had way more variety and scene changes to mix up the journey than sat in one tiny seat for several hours repeatedly being told to quieten down!
We played snap, ate our snacks and treats and had lots of walks and eye spy type games to pass the time and the variation made it way more easier! But next time I will certainly pack a few more games, drinks and treats to bribe them with. I am also thinking of investing in a couple of cheap tablets for all travel experiences – I think I am finally going to surrender and admit they make the world of difference in long car journeys, flights and ferries too!
5. Its Cheaper overall!
There are a lot of places where to fly to makes the most sense and, with budget airlines (minus additional costs) it works out pretty cheap too. But overall, when you account for how much stuff you can take, food you don’t have to pay a premium for and having a car in tow – it is most definitely is the cheapest way to travel overall. For this reason alone we would definitely opt for it in the future – especially as we hope to do Dunkirk/Bruges next year and possibly see more of southern france and spain on a longer camping adventure one summer too.