Last week, at the start of half term I was overcome with a burning desire to make some really special memories with Kitty and Ozzy. When you have children it's easy to take 'spontaneous' and pop into a life compartment and label it 'Something I used to be'. I suspect it's a combination of my 40th birthday looming mixed with the children reaching the ages (5 & 6) where taking a mini-break doesn't mean loading 3 tonnes of baby equipment into the car. Whatever the reason, I'm so glad we did it - it transformed the week off school into the best week off school. We travelled out on the Thursday morning and returned on the Saturday night.
Living near Southampton makes France the perfect mini-break option, with Brittany Ferries running crossings between Portsmouth and Caen, which we chose for the route out and Cherbourg to Poole for the route back. Travelling with the car and kids was surprisingly simple. Referring to Google Maps I soon decided that Normandy was the ideal destination for us, lots to see and do and not much driving needed. And as luck would have it a blogging friend has an eco gite in Lenualt, one quick email across to book it for the two nights and our mini-break was sorted!
Portsmouth to Caen was the longer journey, travelling at breakfast time I was a bit concerned that the children would get bored on the journey but the facilities on aboard combined with a quiet crossing made for not only a comfortable trip but also an enjoyable one - and enjoyable isn't the first thought that springs to mind when you think about sailing for 6 hours with young children!
Keeping children entertained on the crossing
Outbound, on the Mont St Michel, there was a children's television and soft play area - this was a godsend and Kitty and Ozzy used it for most of the journey, making friends as they played. Inbound on the Barfleur, there was a children's television and drawing area, again Kitty and Ozzy gravitated to it.
There are 2 cinemas on-board the Mont St Michel, on Deck 7, that play films, some which are suitable for kids. We didn't use the cinema (only because we couldn't prise the kids from the soft play!), but if travelling again we'd certainly spend a couple of hours in the cinema area. Tickets are on sale at the Information Desk 15 minutes after departure priced at £6.50 per adult and £5.00 per child.
Video Games Room
On both ferries there was a games room, and although Kitty and Ozzy are a bit little to play most of them they did enjoy pretending to ride the motorbikes!
The self service restaurants on-board were really reasonably priced, £1.45 for a cup of coffee and £4.95 for an English breakfast for example.
Other things you might like to pack for kids to do
Kindles or tablets (there is WiFi in designated areas only on the ferries so if you want wifi be sure to check where those points are). Colouring books / notepad and pens. Coats for exploring on deck.