Travelling with toddlers is a daunting task – I’m not going to lie! And 2, nearly-2 year olds make quite demanding travel companions.
Back in September, we went on a camping holiday to Holland – the first leg of our journey was an overnight ferry crossing from Newcastle to Amsterdam.
The journey from Dunfermline to Newcastle was uneventful; i.e. the boys slept, waking just as we arrived at the port – perfect timing!
I’ve done a fair few ferry crossings over the years, and I have to say boarding at Newcastle was very easy. It might be because it was out of the main holiday season (although the boat was quite full) but there was hardly any time waiting in queues.
I had come prepared though, so had snacks and drinks for the boys, along with some episodes of Peppa Pig on the iPad!
Getting from the car to the cabin was our first challenge. They were desperate to walk, but can be relied on to demand picking up at any given moment. We decided to leave everything but us, them and some nappies in the car and find our cabin. My husband then headed back to the car to collect our overnight bag. And then I headed back to collect all the things he forgot!
Sleeping arrangements on the boat were my biggest stress ahead of the trip. DFDS don’t provide travel cots (the bottom bunks are fixed, so there is no room in a standard cabin) so we had to request bed rails for them and hope for the best. Someone brought them along to the cabin and fitted them for us. I had no idea if the boys would sleep OK, but they seemed happy enough.
Once we were all settled and has everything we needed, we decided to explore. We’d pre-booked meals in the restaurant as it worked out a bit cheaper, so reserved a table for 5pm when it opened.
The bad news was it was only 3.30pm, so we had AGES to entertain the boys. But I shouldn’t have worried. DFDS have really thought about their youngest travellers and provided a fab soft play area and ball bit, plus kids club activities (balloons shaped as swords anyone?) There were hardly any other kids on the boat, so we mostly had it to ourselves. I even managed a quick glass of wine while they were playing!!
The food in the restaurant was buffet style, with plenty of choice (including chocolate cake which went down very well with my 2!) My only criticisms would be that the chips on the kids buffet were drenched in salt, and they tried to charge us €1.50 for a glass of tap water for them.
Fed and watered, we headed back to the play area to tire them out a bit more, before the dreaded bed time.
Again, I really shouldn’t have worried. The boys were really excited about their big beds, and snuggled in with a story. Miraculously, they went straight to sleep and I camped out on the top bunk with another glass of wine! Even more miraculously, they slept right through the night, probably better than I did (it was a pretty rough crossing!)
The next morning we headed back to the buffet restaurant for breakfast – the boys weren’t especially interested in cereal when they saw cakes were on offer, but they did enjoy watching all the other holidaymakers.
Once we’d eaten, we went back to the play area as we still had a while before we docked. There was a door out to deck, and once they realised this, we had no choice but to spend the time walking round while they splashed in puddles. I blame Peppa Pig for this particular obsession… They did also enjoy looking at the boats as we got closer to shore, and spotting seagulls.
Considering we’d been on the boat for almost 18 hours by the time we were called to get off, the time flew by. There was plenty to keep us all occupied – the play area really was a life saver.
That said, it was nice to get back to our car and drive off into Holland, ready to start the next part of our adventure. Camping Duinrell here we come!