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Travelling with Kids: With children, sometimes slow can be civilised

With his two-year-old in tow, taking the ferry can be an enjoyable part of a family holiday rather than just a means to an end.

When travelling with young children, would you choose to be a tortoise or a hare? Most parents, I tentatively venture to say, would opt to spend as little time as possible journeying from point A to B. An hour's flight is preferable to a day's drive, if only because it cuts short the agony of spine-tingling shrieks and barbaric yawps - the inevitable consequence of a young child safely strapped in for transport.

We've flown from Amsterdam to Manchester with Astrid, my two-year old daughter, many times. The flight takes less than an hour but getting to and from the airport and checking-in add hours to either side.

It's a classic modern journey: hours of tedium punctuated by a jolt of brisk movement. It's the kind of format that can be quite dreadful with young children. The fits and starts create tension. Often, it involves getting up very early, which exacerbates the restlessness and anguish.

There is another, slower way. P&O ferries (www.poferries.com) sail from Rotterdam to Hull. The boat sets off in the evening and arrives the next morning. It is the antithesis of the hurried hurly-burly of air travel, a languid mode of transport which includes dinner, a night in a cabin and breakfast.

We boarded The Pride of Hull as dusk was approaching. The crew - from the car deck to the restaurant - were from the Philippines, lending a tinge of exoticism to the cold and gloomy North Sea crossing.

Finding our cabin was the first part of the adventure for Astrid - up steep stairs, along narrow corridors, running past door after door on the 215m-long ship in search of cabin 10173 (deck 10).

Our cabin had four bunks - two lower beds and two fold-down upper beds - and a porthole. It was pleasant enough, and the window was a bonus, an upgrade from the cheaper, inward-facing cabin we had booked.

Dinner was next. With the evening stretched out ahead of us, we spent more than an hour eating various courses and lots of cake and ice cream. Such unhurried feasting is rare when travelling with children.

After dinner we walked around the ship. Gangs of children, aged from five to 15, were exploring the vessel. Their parents had presumably unleashed them, confident that no harm could come to their little darlings in the cloistered confines of the ship. We found a soft play area and Astrid spent a long time leaping around like a monkey with other simian creatures before we went back to our cabin to settle down for the night.

In the morning, a voice from the speaker in the bathroom announced we had arrived at Hull. We were all relaxed and refreshed. When travelling with kids, rushing is not always the best approach. Sometimes it pays to take it slow.

Updated: January 28, 2012 04:00 AM

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