10 ways to make travelling on a ferry with small children smooth sailing

10 ways to make travelling on a ferry with small children smooth sailing

10 Ways to make travelling on a Ferry with small children smooth sailing

We are pretty in love with the Emerald Isle and the fact that we have family out there makes a good reason to go and explore it as often as we can. It still feels like we’re getting abroad without the hassle of the flights and we get to take our own car (and manage to fill it to the brim every single time!).

We usually get the Irish Ferries Pembroke to Rosslare crossing but have also taken the kids on various ferry route to France where unfortunately sea sickness gets the better of me and sometimes the kids – it can be a real mixed bag! That means that managing the kids sometimes comes down to Daddy Day care whilst I end up hugging the nearest porcelain.

We were lucky on our most recent crossing to have some amazingly calm seas which make it so much more enjoyable but I thought I’d ask a few other bloggers for some hints and tips to make ferry crossings with kid’s smooth sailings and combine it with our learnings from the past few years.

kids ferry window travelling sea view cabin


  1. Timing your travel – Have you considered taking an overnight ferry instead? That’s what Katie from www.mumof2point5.com suggests – she says if they book a cabin, the kids will sleep making it a much easier trip.                                                                                                                                                                                                            We try to arrive at our destination at bedtime. We use the time on the boat to let the kids run around as the drive on the other side is a long one. Then get them changed into their pyjamas before getting into the car so they can nod off when they fancy.

    kids ferry window travelling sea view cabin Rosslare Irish Ferries
    Arriving in Rosslare ready for bedtimes
  2. Book a cabin – We always travel in the day so I never saw the point of booking a cabin, until we did and then I realised the error of my ways. One parent can sleep whilst the other parent takes the children around the boat. You can try this without a cabin (as we did a number of times) but you end up with kids jumping all over you or realising your mouth might be starting to hang open as you fall to sleep as people walk by. Much nicer in a bed, in a private room where the kids are amused elsewhere.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       When the kids are in the cabin, they are in a confined space, so you’re more likely to be able to get a chance to sit down and do activities with them rather than having to follow them around the boat as they get distracted by the big open spaces and flashing lights of all that’s around. Definitely helped ward off my sea sickness!

    kids ferry window travelling sea view cabin Rosslare Irish Ferries Pembroke
    Ready to board our ferry and find our cabin for a snooze!
  3. Tablets – Gail from www.yammymommyblog.wordpress.com says that her Amazon Kindle Fire is always a winner for keeping the kids amused. Catherine from www.battlemum.com brought her son a Leapfrog Epic which kept him busy.

    Leapfrog Epic courtesy of www.battlemum.com
  4. Snacks – You’ll already know not to underestimate how important food is in keeping a child happy – especially a toddler. You will have a more limited selection to choose from on the ferry (and they will be far more expensive) if you don’t pack enough or leave your stash in the car. So pack more than you’ll need and remember to bring it up with you. As Kati from www.howtorockatparenting.wordpress.com says ‘Food, food, oh and did I mention, get lots of food!’


  1. Bag of activities – Similar to what you’ve probably already brought to keep the kids amused whilst on the road but save some fresh items for the ferry. They could be things that need a little more room like a drawstring bag of duplo or lego that Victoria from www.fabulousmummy.com suggests. Helena from www.thequeenofcollage.blogspot.com suggests some of our favourite items, sticker/activity books and Crayola packs and magazines.


  1. Split your time – If you’ve got a long journey, I like to try and space out the activities on the ferry to explore each part at a time, that might mean going to the play centre in the first hour, saving a look around the shop in the second hour, a meal in the restaurant in the third hour and then some time on the outside deck in the next etc – it gives you something to look forward to and breaks up the time a little for the kids. If they do it all within the first hour, there is nothing new to look forward to.

    soft play kids ferry window travelling sea view cabin Rosslare Irish Ferries
    Too much Soft play for Austin on the Isle of Inishmore!


  1. Boat games – Pete from www.householdmoneysaving.com sets the children tasks of finding certain areas of the ferry and rewards them when they do it. It helps them with reading signs and can help fill up the time.


  1. Medication – There is a definite consult your doctor/pharmacist warning with this recommendation! My daughter has suffered from sea sickness on a couple of occasions and although we’re mightily prepared with a change of clothes for her, we’ve never got one for me who has managed to bear the brunt it! After chatting with my pharmacist about an upcoming trip, she was able to recommend some anti-sickness for children from the age of 2 and it worked a dream so it worth its weight in gold on this list in my opinion!


  1. Wildlife spotting – Now this one is reserved for only particular crossings (not so much the Pembroke to Rosslare) but the Santander crossing. Vikki from www.familytravelwithellie.com said that her children were given a wildlife booklet by the crew when they boarded of possible animals to spot whilst on-board. Both Vikki and Catherine from www.battlemum.com were able to spot dolphins on their trip which were amazing to see!

    Spotting Dolphins in Santander with www.familytravelwithellie.com


  1. Tag team – Happy parent = happy child right? If there is more than one of you in charge then make it a tag team so that you can either get a rest (as per point 2) or just get to do something you want to do (wander round the shop child-free!). If you’re travelling with more, include them in the mix too, the more the merrier!

    kids ferry window travelling sea view cabin Rosslare Irish Ferries
    Aww they look cute enough right, they can’t cause too much havoc….can they?

 Have any more to add to the list? Let me know and happy sailing in the meanwhile!

We caught the 2.45pm Isle of Inishmore Irish Ferry from Pembroke and took 4 hours to reach Rosslare in South East Ireland at 6.45pm, ready for our road trip across the country.

Read more about our Irish adventures in our upcoming blogs. We’d love to show you around our favourite parts of the Emerald Isle’s rugged wild west!

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