More of us are ferrying than ever before
Q | How do I book?
Disillusioned with air travel, more of us are ferrying than ever before. The PSA has reported a 1-2% year on year increase in ferry journeys over the last three years.
Book well in advance and use price comparison websites to get the best deals. Try ferrybooker.com, ferry-to-france.co.uk and ferrysavers.com. The Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) has a good website providing an overview of routes, operators and frequency of crossings: discoverferries.com
Q | Which routes are cheapest?
Dover and Ramsgate have the most frequent departures (over 20 return crossings a day between Dover and Calais with P&O, for example) and fares on this route generally tend to be the most competitive. A general rule of thumb is that short crossings are cheaper than longer ones. At the time of going to print, a return Dover or Ramsgate fare for a car and passengers was around £60 for travel in the peak school holiday season; peak season, long-distance crossings to Normandy or Brittany, by comparison, were around seven times that cost. But if you factor in car hire, fuel costs or overnight hotel breaks, especially for larger groups, long distance ferry may be more cost-efficient.
Q | What if I want to go further than France?
Fares are higher. You’re looking at an average spend in August of £1,000 on a return crossing for a car and passengers to Spain, for example. The most popular and well served route is with Brittany Ferries to Santander from Portsmouth and Plymouth; and with P&O from Portsmouth to Bilbao. Crossing time is between 24 and 35 hours. It may not be as quick as flying, but the cruise-like atmosphere and ever-increasing range of amenities makes the ferry crossing part of the holiday. Millions have been invested in ferry services over the last few years, meaning cabin comfort, food and facilities can compare to a very decent hotel. You’re not restricted to northern Spain, with Valencia and the sunny south about six hours’ drive away. A ferry to Spain is likely to cost more than flying even if you factor in car hire costs, but certainly for groups or families, it can be a money-saver. Plus once you look at all the ancillary costs attached to booking air fares, ferry travel can be the most economical option. And if you’re taking your car, you save on airport parking fees. brittanyferries.co.uk poferries.com
Q | Where else is good for a summer break?
The beaches of Denmark and Sweden are surprisingly sunny and far less packed than the Med. DFDS has a ferry service from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark. From here you can drive about three or four hours to Copenhagen, with access to Malmo and other Swedish points. dfdsseaways.co.uk visitdenmark.com visitsweden.com