Holidaying as a family inevitably raises the question of affordability, from the where, to the what, to the how. Families need not despair though; a holiday by ferry offers multiple opportunities to save money such as no baggage costs, a minimum of two passengers included in each vehicle fare, and partnerships with accommodation providers and resorts that result in great value.
From the excitement of the open road to the diverse array of destinations and affordable holidays and with more than 75 routes from and around the UK, a family holiday by car and ferry makes a pleasant alternative to the stress of flying.
Brittany Ferries ships offer entertainment for all the family, from magician performances and pantomimes to stand-up comedians. On board the Pont-Aven and Cap Finistère there is a family friendly swimming pool; the perfect start to a family summer holiday. If you travel over the summer months, keep your eyes peeled for a visit from their famous mascot Pierre Le Bear.
When it comes to holidays, there’s something to suit everyone. From action-packed chalet camping resorts and beachside apartment complexes to family friendly cottages, villas and hotels. Stay at St Gilles Croix de Vie; midway between the larger resorts of St Jean de Monts and Les Sables d’Olonne, St Gilles is a friendly, relaxed little town with a lovely beach and a fishing harbour. The location is perfect for families to explore the natural surroundings, with the property within close proximity to the beach. A week’s chalet camping starts from just £508 for a family of four, including ferry crossings and accommodation (www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/holidays), or take a four-night half term break from just £316 for a family of four (www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/offers).
P&O Ferries is currently running a three or five-day short break offer on travel between Dover and Calais for only £70 return for up to nine passengers – a great way to see France during the summer holidays and top up the children’s French skills. In the summer months, professional entertainers run the Junior Crew Club to keep children occupied with activities such as model making and face painting, and tales of adventures of the high seas by Club Mascot Pirate Pete. To find out more, visit www.poferries.com/en/dover-calais/offers/short-breaks
DFDS Seaways offer a Kids’ Club and children’s entertainer, while older children will find plenty to do in the games room and the on-board cinema shows a range of films suitable for all ages. DFDS have a number of great short breaks on offer, including a Dover to Dunkirk or Calais three-day return for a car and up to nine people for just £65. They also have a range of family deals to help you enjoy yourself whilst you’re over there, including €25 off accommodation at Center Parcs Europe when you book through DFDS, and offers on accommodation, rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris. To find out more, visit www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/holidays/family-holidays
Families are well catered for on board Stena Line, with a children’s play area, basketball court and even an on-board cinema showcasing the latest blockbusters. Children will be kept entertained when the newly refurbished kids’ fun zone, Happy at Sea, is unveiled in time for the summer holidays.
Families can save 20% on a return ferry crossing when booking a holiday to Center Parcs in Holland with Stena Line by booking their ferry and accommodation in one go. Located on one of the finest parts of the Dutch coast, families can stay in cottages amongst the North Sea dunes and the village is also handily located for outings to nearby Amsterdam, Bloemendaal, and Haarlem. Center Parcs Zandvoort has proven very popular with families booking with Stena due to its comprehensive child-friendly facilities. A week’s accommodation and ferry travel on board Stena Line’s Harwich to Hook of Holland route starts from £180 per person when booking through Stena Line. For more information visit: www.stenaline.co.uk/ferry-to-holland/book-hotels/center-parcs
For thrill seeking families, DFDS offers a brilliant family getaway to Efteling theme park in Holland. Efteling is a fantasy-themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel, Holland, where the attractions are based on elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales and folklore. A five-night break starts from £221 per person and includes ferry crossings from Newcastle to Holland together with tickets and accommodation at Efteling’s Bosrijk Village’s self-catering lakeside cabins, located just outside the park.
Kids of all ages will love sailing with P&O Ferries, with enough to keep even the most active entertained. During the summer, the Junior Crew Kids Club gives children aged 5 to 11 a place to meet and play, with activities ranging from arts and crafts sessions to face painting, puzzles and games, as well as special children’s shows like Treasure Island and The Little Mermaid. If that isn’t enough, there’s an on board play area and colouring packs for the little ones, and a cinema and video arcade room for older kids – including those that are big kids at heart! Return fares from Hull to Europoort are available from £169 each way.
Isle of Wight
For Isle of Wight family fun, Wightlink, the winner of Family Traveller’s Best Family Ferry Operator 2017, is offering families of five who are travelling by foot the chance to travel as a group on a day return for £38.60. With great transport links into Portsmouth and Lymington, a day trip to the Isle of Wight is a great affordable day out. Once on the island, families can explore Blackgang Chine, the UK’s oldest amusement park who will this year celebrate its 175th anniversary this year. Expect exciting events to take place throughout the year at this magical, wacky, wonderful park. For more information visit: www.wightlink.co.uk
For those looking for the ultimate getaway, a family of four can enjoy a week’s stay self-catering at Waverley Park Caravan Park with Red Funnel Holidays and return vehicle crossings from £288.92, based on staying 28 May-1 June 2018. Located in East Cowes, the caravan park is only minutes away from the Red Funnel Ferry Terminal and has stunning views over Cowes Harbour and The Solent. The Cowes Yacht Haven, boutique shops, traditional pubs and stylish restaurants are within walking distance and Osborne House, the summer residence of Queen Victoria, is only a short drive away. With lots of open space, the holiday park is ideal for kids and pets alike. What’s more, families can save up to 25% on Isle of Wight attraction tickets when booked alongside ferry/accommodation through Red Funnel. For more information visit: www.redfunnel.co.uk
Throughout the year the Isle of Wight will also be hosting some special “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” outdoor adventures. Highlights include a series of National Trust Bear Hunt Weekends where little ones can follow a Bear Hunt trail and claim their free “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” badge…you may even meet the Bear! Other events include a Bear Hunt Weekend at Robin Hill and a Bear Hunt themed Isle of Wight Children’s Literary Festival in October.
Irish Ferries is a family-friendly ferry company. This summer standard fares, for a family of two adults and two children under the age of 16, start at £273 return. Do also look out for tactical Kids Go Free offers. Most ships have additional facilities for children, such as soft play areas, gaming zones and cinemas. In addition, Irish Ferries Holidays offers a great choice of family-orientated accommodation at which kids travel and stay free. This deal applies at most featured hotels (when sharing their parents’ room) and at all featured holiday cottages. Other offers include free nights at hotels, and a second week free at selected cottages. A family of two adults and up to three children under 16 can enjoy a peak summer self-drive holiday by the sea in County Clare at Spanish Cove holiday cottages from as little as £859. This includes both holiday cottage rental as well as return ferry crossings for car and passengers. To find out more, visit www.irishferries.com/uk-en/holidays/ireland-holidays/west-holidays/cottages/
Stena Line ferries have plenty on board to keep families entertained – each ship has a cinema, soft play area, computer gaming zone with PlayStations and interactive floor. Plus they offer ‘Happy’ entertainers on board over peak times such as Easter, summer, Halloween and Christmas. To find out more, visit www.stenaline.co.uk/fun-onboard. Later this year, Stena Line will welcome a new kid’s play area, ‘Happy World’. To find out more about the play area and the ‘Happy’ concept, visit www.stenaline.co.uk/happy
Looking for a short break away? Jump on the ferry with Stena Line and visit attractions such as Fota Wildlife Park, Dublin Zoo, Tayto Park or Guinness Storehouse. For those who love to drive, why not explore the Wild Atlantic Way and Ancient East coastlines. Sail to Ireland and enjoy up to 36 hours of Stena Line’s fantastic short stay trips, for just £184 for three people. Alternatively, hop across to Belfast for just £10 per person return, and experience the wonderful hospitality, many museums and fabulous shopping. Ticket price includes return Superfast ferry travel, metro day passes to get about the city and a £5 off on board shopping voucher. Stena Line also offers great deals to explore the Northern Irish countryside, with day trips to the stunning Giants Causeway just £30 per adult return, including transfers. To find out more visit: www.stenaline.co.uk/ireland
Whichever part of the Emerald Isle you’d like to visit, you’re only a short hop away, with P&O Ferries offering routes from Liverpool to Dublin and Cairnryan to Larne, just 30 minutes’ from Belfast, Northern Ireland’s buzzing capital. Enjoy cultural city breaks in Dublin or Belfast, or escape to the country with trips along the Wild Atlantic Way in the south, or along the beautiful Causeway Coastal Route in the north. If you’re taking the Cairnryan-Larne route, book by 30 April 2018 to get 15% off your journey when travelling any time before 3 January 2019 using code SPRING18GB, for the best way to experience Northern Ireland without breaking the bank. To find out more visit: www.poferries.com/en/guides/ireland
West Coast of Scotland
Families can enjoy a huge range of great days out and short breaks on Scotland’s beautiful west coast with fares starting from less than £4 adult return. From great beaches, to exploring ancient castles, Scotland has something for everyone. Spot iconic wildlife including whales, puffins, eagles and dolphins or get active with great walks, cycling on quiet roads, stargazing, kayaking and other exhilarating outdoor activities, as well as enjoying great family friendly festivals and cultural events, particularly during summer months. Enjoy great local food & drink including child friendly options on board CalMac Ferries.
CalMac has also just launched a series of exciting ‘Adventures’ day tours in conjunction with their partners across the Hebrides. For more information, visit www.calmac.co.uk/things-to-do/day-adventures
CalMac Ferries offer great value day trips, combined rail and sail options with ScotRail and multi destination Hopscotch tickets with plenty of options for a hassle free, great value family break. Visit www.calmac.co.uk and book your own west coast experience now.
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is overflowing with action-packed activities for the whole family to enjoy. An afternoon can be spent exploring the stunning coast by kayak, swinging from the trees at Ape Mann, making new friends at Curraghs Wildlife Park or discovering the island on an historic steam railway or horse-drawn tram.
A scenic walk to the peak of the Island’s only mountain, Snaefell, offers breath-taking views of the surrounding area, and on a clear day the seven kingdoms, (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, plus Heaven and Earth) can be spotted. After a fun-filled day the family can relax and enjoy the wide range of local, fresh food available on the Island.
Isles of Scilly
Look out for dolphins as the mainland slips away from the deck of your ferry and head to one of the five islands that make up the Isles of Scilly. These tiny islands pack a large and friendly welcome and families can enjoy beautiful beaches, wildlife walks and glorious fresh local food. The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group always has families in mind with discounted tickets for children. 2018 fares will see adults pay from £49.50 while child fares cost from £25, plus thee is now a day trip ticket available for £69.50 for two adults and up to three children.
To find out more, visit www.islesofscilly-travel.co.uk/scillonian-iii/
Travelling by river on board MBNA Thames Clippers is a great way for families to get about London, whether you’re exploring the city for the day or needing to get from A to B in comfort. Kids go free with a Family River Roamer: explore all London has to offer with this all day hop-on, hop-off ticket for two adults and up to three children (5-15 years; under 5s travel free as standard) for just £32.60 when you book online. Other family-friendly features include easy ramp access for buggies, baby change facilities, free activity packs and kids lunchboxes (peak season only) from the on-board bar. Take to the air with Emirates Air Line cable car and enjoy spectacular views over the city skyline plus all day hop-on, hop-off river travel with a joint ticket priced at just £50 for two adults and three children.
To find out more, visit: www.thamesclippers.com