How to Survive a Ferry journey with Kids

I hadn’t been on a ferry since I was at school until last weekend and I was quite blase about it, after all I had never been unwell aboard a boat.

When we arrived in Poole harbour to board, what is affectionately known locally as the vomit comet, I started to worry. The winds were howling and the rain was so strong it managed to blow up the poor check-in assistants computer so she had to hand write our tickets manually.

Once we finally boarded the ferry we locked up the car and headed upstairs to get seated. Travelling with Condor Ferries, we were given a choice of seating options and we were at the front on their Ocean Club seating area which offered spectacular views out of a 180 degree window.

We left the harbour on time and after watching the amusing safety video, with a rap and dodgy dancing, the kids settled down to watch a film on the ipad.

Condor Ferry

We had table seats which meant that the kids were facing forwards, but I was facing backwards and I soon began to feel unwell so I headed off for a walk around the boat. I found a kids area where they had large bean bags and there were children lounging around watching Hotel Transylvania, there was a large duty-free shop, a bar and a restaurant.

I did the worst thing possible when you feel unwell and went and shut myself in the toilets which were all enclosed, thus making me feel worse. By the time I finally got back to my seat it was apparent that pretty much the whole cabin was suffering due to the weather. The staff were amazing, looking after everyone and trying to make people as comfortable as possible. One admitted that the weather “wasn’t the worst he had seen, but was almost there” which made me feel slightly better as the rain drove against the windows.

Condor Ferry

By this time it was clear that Sebby didn’t feel well so I sat, facing forwards this time, to concentrate on the horizon and let him lay on me and go to sleep. Poor Isaac was sick a couple of times but the others seemed to be ok thankfully.

We made a stop at Guernsey to let off some passengers and then set off for Jersey, where the crossing wasn’t much better but by now I was starting to feel better so we sat in the front seats to watch as the boat bounced over the waves.

I was quite glad to get on dry land when we arrived in Jersey. We had been due to get straight back on another ferry to St Malo, but the timings had changed so we had six hours to explore the island. We headed for town first where I invested in some sea bands in preparation for the next ferry journey and I have to say that they worked!

My top tips for preventing sea sickness:

  1. Be prepared for sea sickness – ensure you have bags at the ready, a change of clothes and invest in sea bands to wear. It may be a mental thing but they worked for us.
  2. Look at the Horizon if you can – when a ship is riding to a heavy sea everything is moving. The only thing that is stationary is the horizon and looking at it will often  reset your internal equilibrium.
  3. Watch what you eat and drink – Avoid greasy food and sugar which can make you light-headed and dizzy.
  4. Avoid Books and Computer Screens – Reading, whether on a device or paper, is a sure-fire way to get you sea-sick
  5. Go to sleep – well it worked for Sebby
  6. Chew Gum / suck a sweet – takes your mind off the rocking of the boat
  7. Stay In The Middle – A ship balances at it’s centre so that is the place where motion is least pronounced. The bow and stern should be avoided at all cost (this is where we went wrong)
  8. Lay Down –  Some say that lying down prevents histamine from reaching the brain, decreasing nausea. Try laying on your back to prevent your stomach from being pushed into the deck by your body weight – this is only really possible if you have a cabin though.
  9. Mind over matter – it really worked for me on the second crossing

So to prepare the kids for a ferry crossing, all I can say is be prepared:

  • Eat a light, non-greasy meal before you board
  • Take a change of clothes (just in case)
  • Bring your own water, as food and drink in ferries is expensive
  • Find the kids areas, nothing like a bit of distraction to help with a long crossing
  • Sit facing forwards and if you have a window focus on the horizon

Do you have any tips for surviving a ferry crossing with kids?

35 thoughts on “How to Survive a Ferry journey with Kids

  1. It must have been a rough crossing. Seasickness is horrible.

    I used to work on the cruise ships and I experienced some rough seas but luckily I only got seasick once. The same couldn’t be said for the passengers though.

  2. I have one son who’s sick whenever we go on water, but the other is usually fine….until we took a cross-channel ferry at Christmas and the little one was sick too! The horizon is a good trick. I’d also add staying away form the restaurant areas as they always have an overpowering smell of chips and fat frying which is unpleasant at the best of times and absolutely foul when feeling sick.

  3. Oh man. I got a little seasick reading your description and got my own ferry flashbacks! We went on a car ferry and I found that to be an ordeal. I did not like the idea of all those cars close together on a boat. I’m a wimp.

  4. I haven’t been on a ferry since my school days neither, and I never really thought about it then you just sort of get on with it when you are younger! But i know how anxious i get as an adult and this sounds like not so much fun anymore lol Sea sickness and closed in spaces sounds horrible to me! Your tips are helpful I think i would struggle because my favourite distraction is to read – maybe an audio book could be useful! xx

  5. I’ve been on that ‘Vomit Comet’ from Poole to Jersey. I knew it would be bad as they strapped everyone cars when we got onboard and I’ve never known that before! I remember they put a call out to the owner of a Ferrari as it had broken free and got damaged! I always put my head down and close my eyes when the sea get bumpy as I do get seasick. Thankfully the only ferry crossing I have never had a problem with is the one across to my beloved Isle of Wight.

  6. Oh no, my worse nightmare, it really sounds awful Kara. I once went looking for Dolphins in the Canaries and I was so ill, the sea wasn’t even rough. I will steer clear of boats lol x

  7. oh see I am terrified of ferries ever since i went to France on a school trip it was just awful – my son went last year and he loved it though thankfully some great tips

  8. Sorry to hear it was such a rough crossing! I suffer from travel sickness myself and last time I was on a ferry I couldn’t move I was that bad. On the way back it wasn’t as bad because I took tablets but it was enough to make me feel really crap lol.

  9. Sea sickness is just the worst isn’t it! Sorry you had such a rough time, it’s really taken me back to a horrific ferry ride from Italy to Croatia!! However great tips for preventing sea sickness. x

  10. No matter the weather when I step on a ferry seasickness sets in. Never ever again will I travel on a boat. We get the tunnel! I hate it. The worse ever was on a hovercraft and one side engine went we just went round and round and everyone was sick except my Dad (who was a marine engineer)

  11. I’ve never been on a ferry journey with my son but went on one during the summer with my other half and the weather was bad on the first crossing too. Like you I felt awful and vowed never to go on a ferry again, lol!

  12. The first time I ever went on a ferry I was terrible sick. I get motion sickness. We have to grab a short ferry to the Isle of White this year, I’m already dreading that which is ridiculous!!

  13. Great tips here. Some I would never have thought of myself. We have done a few ferry crossing but not anything else. They are quite short so we just grab the kids some food and sit at the front to watch as we go across. X

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