We've been getting the ferry to France for a few years now. Prior to that for Summer holidays we rented a house in the West of Ireland. Which was lovely, but so wet and windy. I think it was the year we bought thermal vests for our kids, or maybe the year we got a half hour of sunshine in two weeks that prompted us that it might be time for a change.
So, we bought a tent and booked the ferry. Or ferrries, to be precise. The first year we got two - one to Holyhead where we promptly got lost, eventually found an Argos, bought a Satnav, and drove to a site outside Birmingham where we camped for the night. And the next morning we drove to Dover and got another boat to Calais. I would not recommend this journey if you have kids under four. Actually I wouldn't recommend it at all. Gruelling is the only word that comes to mind.
The next year we booked one ferry, from Cork to Le Harve with two cabins, one four bed with porthole and t.v. and one two bed with nothing. I got the four bed plus the kids, and my husband got the coffin, to himself.
It was almost worth the nightmare journey the previous year as by comparison this was the Four Seasons. We all particularly loved the porthole. And having your own private space on the ferry is really bliss. It means that while you are navigating the play areas and shops and "swimming pool", (surely no one ever actually puts their kids in there?)you know there is respite only a few minutes away.
Which brings me back to my main point. There are a few things you must bring wih you on the ferry. First up is Pot Noodles - one for everyone. Yes they serve food, but its pricey and not particularly nice .(I've never tried the fancy restaurant though). Theres a kettle in your cabin, so for anyone who is small or tired or not in the mood for venturing further, you have a smallish, dinnerish option. That is ready in about four minutes. Follow it up with a trip out for a treat and you've spent a fraction of the cost of the meals and everyone is happy. They're even more valuable on the way home, when everyone is exhausted after the drive to Le Havre, and the post holiday credit card bills are looming.
Second, I always bring my kid some new books. Yes, of course we bring as much charged up screeny stuff as we can fit in the car, but when they are all tucked in their bunks and everything is being recharged for the journey the following day, it is our tradition to have a new book for everyone.
I go for the Tom Gates/Wimpy Kid style. Basically, light, easy reads. This year I've already bought and hidden away for the holiday Wierd but True by National Geographic and The Tapper Twins go to War by Geoff Rodkey . Our biggest success in past years has been the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger. I'd highly recommend them. Also good and a bit more girly are El Deafo by Cece Bell and Smile by Raina Telegemier. (all these are for seven or eight and up.) And I'll read Flat Stanley Goes Camping to my youngest.
Lastly, remember that there are narrow metal stairs that take you from your car up into the ferrry. Cross body bags really come into their own then. Especially if you are carrying a child. (Mango has a nice big tasseled one at the moment. It is white and black stripes and a good size. I think I might treat myself.) Also big bottles of water are heavy and a pain to carrry, but well worth it. Everyone will thank you.
Now what else comes in handy? Ok - I'll ask the family.
My husband says for him; a plastic coffee filter cone, paper filters, coffee, milk and travel mugs are imperative(it means we leave the Ferry with a cup each of freshly brewed coffee -which is very, very nice.)
My thirteen year old says food - any food! My nine year old says ginger snap biscuits, (they've warded away seasickness in the past), my twelve year old says food - lots of food! And my four year old says comics.
So there you have it. My guide to surviving the ferry. Has anyone anything to add? I'd love to hear.
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