Riding the victoria clipper with kids
Seattle,  Victoria

Victoria Clipper with Kids: 8 Tips for Families

Victoria Clipper with Kids
Clipper with Kids

One of my favorite ways to reach Victoria, B.C. from Seattle, Wash., is via Victoria Clipper. The Clipper’s three ships are passenger-only, but each one cruises from downtown Seattle’s piers directly into Victoria’s Inner Harbour. And vice versa, for Seattle-bound Vancouver-Island residents. No cars, no headaches, no hassles!

While the Clipper’s fares can be spendy in summer, prices tend to go down in winter and spring (as low as $50/per person). Kids are often free, year-round. Combining Clipper and hotel via the online packages can save families between 10-30%.

Eight tips for your trip aboard the family-friendly Victoria Clipper:

  1. Check in at least an hour early as requested, perhaps even 15 minutes before official check-in. If you’re traveling with kids in strollers, request pre-boarding. Pre-boarding helps you find the family-friendly seats on the Victoria Clipper.
  2. You’ll need to break down your stroller for storage once on the Victoria Clipper. So make sure your stroller breaks down easily (one-handed, if possible!).
  3. Pre-boarding families can (and should) look for four- or six-seat clusters around tables, which makes both feeding and play easier to pull off. Bring toys that are easily contained and won’t spill all over the ship.
  4. It’s generally a pretty smooth ride, but the Strait of Juan de Fuca can get a little rough in bad weather. Staff will generally let you know in advance. If you or the kids are prone to seasickness (my son often yaks, no matter the transportation option), prepare beforehand. I bring quease-easing lollipops and try to sit toward the front of the Victoria Clipper, looking forward. Or sit near the bathrooms (rear of ship) for quick visits.
  5. Breakfast and meal packs are offered aboard the Clipper. I like to pack my own easy-to-eat breakfasts: sandwiches, juices, fruit. Remember that you’ll need to toss leftover-and-now-contraband fruits and veggies before disembarking in Victoria. Tip: The Clipper Cocoa is a enormous whipped-cream-smothered delight. It’s best right before arrival, unless the kids can handle their caffeine.
  6. At the front of some Clipper vessels, the crew shows kid-friendly films during the voyage. Ask at check-in if your ship will show a movie. If yes, sit near the front of the ship, where the movie plays on small, floor-level screens.
  7. You can get up and walk around during the journey. However, it’s not a good idea to let kids run, play or get too rowdy. The ship can tilt suddenly, catching kids off-balance, and aisle traffic can annoy other passengers.
  8. On-board or during booking, the Clipper offers extras, including tea at the Empress, Butchart Gardens admissions, and other Victoria must-dos. Check beforehand whether their prices save you money by looking up the direct-buy option from the attraction; depending upon the exchange rate, you may save a few dollars by booking through the Clipper.

Do you have any tips for riding the Victoria Clipper?

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Sarah

    Thank you for posting these tips! We are planning a trip to Victoria and we hadn’t found much information on the ride experience with the Clipper. We are using your article from Parent Map from a few years ago. 🙂

  • Lindsay

    Do you have similar tips for taking the Coho from Port Angeles (We are hoping to take our car but haven’t made the trip before).

  • Lora

    Lindsay, the ride is much shorter between Port Angeles and Victoria (1 1/2 hours on Coho vs. 3 1/2 hours on Clipper), if you’re already out there on the peninsula. Otherwise, it’s a long drive. If taking my car, I typically take the Washington State Ferries from Anacortes to Sidney, but only because I like to visit Sidney, and I like the cruise through the San Juans.

    Based on previous experience, I’d arrive at the ferry terminal very early and pack some fun games to play on board. I’ve seen orcas out the Coho window in the past — keep your eyes peeled for black-and-white mammals!

  • Jill

    Parents with young children will be glad to hear that you can check in and get your boarding passes up to six days before you leave. Only the person who made the reservation needs to be present to do that. If you tell them that you are travelling with kids, they will put you in the preboarding group so you don’t have to worry about trying to find someplace to sit together. You can also bring any kind of stroller, not just an umbrella-type one, so I am definitely bringing my heavy, but useful, double stroller!

  • walkingontravels

    We are trying to take a weekend trip to Victoria and I am just devouring your tips for the clipper, places to stay and things to do. We are going up on a gift certificate we got so we will definitely be going to Butchart Gardens. Thanks for all of the amazing tips you provide to make my travel life easier 🙂