I find traveling by ferry boat in Greece one of the most romantic and exciting ways to travel. I cannot count times that I have been on a ferry boat in the 20+ years that I have been in Greece. After having kids, the romantic relaxing boat trip changed a bit. There are some challenges on a ferry with (young) children. There are some dangers (steep stairs and railings) and more luggage. But I believe it is very interesting for the children too. There is so much to see, to show and to explain to them. The hustle and bustle in the ports, the big ropes, and anchors of the boat, the endless blue sea under a clear sky in summer, the chance of spotting dolphins or other ships, the motion of the sea. Ferry boat travel has many benefits too; is cheaper than air travel. You can bring more luggage and you can take your (rental) car. There is space for your child to move and run around, there are no restrictions such as during plane travel. With the right preparation, your journey will be amazing. Read on for tips and advice from personal experience.
Ferryboat travel with kids in Greece
Your journey will be amazing as long as you prepare well. When you book your ferry boat in Greece, do check the kind of ship. Because there are many different ferries boats and shipping companies. Some are small and only carry passengers. Big ferry boats move cars, buses, and trucks too. Some use a roll on roll off system for the cars. The smallest is the hydrofoils that only operate on short distances (mostly the Saronic islands). They are more like a bus or plane on water without facilities, inside is only a long row of airplane seats. There is no space for walking around in these so-called Flying Dolphins and they are often smelly from the engine and noisy. I would not recommend these for young kids unless the sea is very calm (they are not made for rough seas) and only for short distances. You have to stay seated and it is difficult to look outside. For families, I would recommend choosing a larger high-speed option or catamaran, if available. The journey is a bit longer but they are bigger, there is space to walk, there are snacks and drinks on board and it is easy to watch outside. There are also the traditional (slower) large ferry boats and super fast ferries. Some ships are old but there are news ships too with amazing facilities and features. The choice of the boat depends on your route and the shipping company operating on that route. Some ferries resemble floating hotels and are similar to cruise ships with restaurants, salons with movies, games rooms, some even have a swimming pool.
Ferryboat travel with kids tips
- Be prepared. Greek ports can get chaotic during the high summer season. If you are traveling on a large long distance ferry boat you will find cars, trucks, buses, people and pets, all boarding/departing at the same. Some ships have no separate waiting lines for all these and the boarding procedures are not efficient. It can be dangerous when cars and people are moving at the same time. Keep your kids close.
- Bring sunhats/water and a stroller sun cover. Queuing for the ferry boat can take a long time and you will stand in the sun or sit in your car waiting to board. You will carry your luggage too.
- Leave your luggage/stroller at the luggage compartment next to the garage or at the back of the ship. Most big ships have stairs or escalators to get on board. If you need your stroller on board then you can take it up the escalators. With babies, I would advise bringing a baby carrier. Backpacks for adults and kids are a must.
- Have your bags ready to leave the car. If you travel by car you will need to park your car inside the boat and leave your car immediately. This is definitely a challenge when traveling alone with kids. When there are two or more adults, have one park the car whilst the other takes the children inside. It used to scare me a lot to park the car on the ferry boat by myself. My first ferry boat travel trip with kids by myself (with the car and the baby) was to Aegina island on the traditional slow boat. I was terrified to park the car inside the ferry garage and asked one of the car park helpers to park it for me. Keep this in mind as an option.
- You should consider a cabin if your trip is a couple of hours or more. Your children will have a private space to sleep and use the toilet or showers. You will also have a place to leave your bags. If your trip is overnight, a cabin is a must.
- You can always ask for help. It is my experience is that the ferry boat staff is very helpful and they will give a helping hand carry your bags/kids up the stairs/ out of the boat. If you have booked a cabin, a porter will help you with your bags after you pick up your key. I often traveled alone with 2 kids and many bags. I have always found the staff and other passengers helpful.
- Go early if you did not book designated seats. This way you will find a nice spot inside the boat. A quiet corner or sofa, away from the loud TV or bar is best. I always choose a sofa so my little one can sleep. Pick a spot inside, away from dangerous railings and sun/strong winds.
- Bring something warm to wear. The A/C in the Greek ferry boats keeps it very cool and I bring a vest or scarf to keep warm and to cover my kids for a nap.
- On short routes, there is no need to bring toys and entertainment for the children. There is so much to see on the ferry boat. I find that just gazing out of the window or visiting the deck and admiring the big blue is enough to keep them busy. Some super fast ferry boats have family friendly features such as TV’s or movie screens, soft play playgrounds, games rooms, I have even seen a carousel on a ferry boat once.
- Breastfeeding was never a problem for me on the ferry boat. The Greek ferries usually have refrigerators in case you need to transport breast milk or medicine. A fellow traveling mom told me that she was once given a special room to use the breast pump.
- If you are traveling on a budget, bring snacks and drinks with you. Most ferry boats have good restaurant facilities with snacks, drinks, candy etc but – similar to airports – prices are higher.
- Be prepared for waves. Although Greek seas are usually calm in the summer, waves and some wind is not unusual, especially in the Cyclades island. My oldest gets sick easily. My remedies for seasickness is lying down, get fresh air, watch the horizon, deep breaths and a light but good meal before travel. Another mom advised eating salty snacks.
- Do not rush to exit the boat. Unless you are using the smaller Flying Dolphin or catamaran boats, the entrance/exit to the ferry is usually via the garage. This means that you can find yourself and your kids queued on the stairs or inside a closed garage surrounded by cars and trucks for a while before the doors are finally opened. Although the staff is usually eager to get everyone downstairs before arrival (so the ship can quickly continue its journey to the next island) my suggestion is that you wait a bit longer and let others go first. But do make sure you do get off and not sail to the next island!
I wish you a safe trip. Enjoy your ferryboat travel with kids!