Over the last 15 years or so, the majority of our holidays have involved cross channel ferry travel, either to France or Spain. I thought I would share my tips on how to have a stress free journey.
When you are packing up your car full of suitcases etc, remember to keep a rucsac or holdall separate for the ferry that is easy to access. Depending on the age of your children, pack it with food, drink and plenty of things to keep them occupied - puzzle books, colouring book, handheld games consoles etc. I used to buy little craft packs from the supermarket to tuck in the bag too. You will also need your passports on board with you, if you think you will want to buy any duty free items. When your car boards the ferry, you have very little time and space to exit the car with your belongings, so make sure this bag ready to grab quickly (ie. not in the boot!). No access is allowed to the car decks once the ferry is sailing.
Allow plenty of time to travel to the ferry port. You need to arrive at least 45 minutes before your sailing (this will depend on your ferry company). Have all your travel documents in one place and to hand. This year, as our ferry leaves early in the morning, I have frozen a bag of chocolate chip brioche ready for breakfast whilst we are waiting at the port.
If you can afford it, book a cabin, even if it isn't an overnight ferry. Just having a space of your own away from the hubbub of the ferry is bliss, and you can have a nap and a shower to freshen up. If you are going overnight, I would definitely recommend a deluxe cabin which is more like a hotel room, and has a fridge with goodies and you have extra privileges such as breakfast in bed and reserving a table at the restaurant.
If you have children who get travel sick, be prepared. Pack a change of clothes for them in your ferry bag, dose them up with travel sickness tablets and grab some seasick bags. Keep them still until the tablet takes effect. Considering how often we travel by sea, I do not have sea legs and spent 18 hours in bed on last year's ferry trip to Spain.
With a baby, you can buy both disposable bottles and pre-mixed formula. There is usually a microwave for warming bottles near the self service restaurant.Check beforehand on whether you can borrow a cot, or bring your own.
Think about meal times well ahead of time. Especially in Summer, the restaurants can get really busy at meal times, so be prepared to eat a little earlier or later than usual, and if you are prone to seasickness, keep your meals fresh and light.
Explore the ferry - it can be nice to go out on deck to see if you can see land yet, or sea life. Some ferries have cinemas and swimming pools, and most have a room with young children's activities.Teenagers are likely to want to explore on their own or with siblings - make sure you have a rendez vous point and that they know what to do if they get lost.
Love Mrs Jones x
PS. I would love you to add your own tips in the Comments.