According to our latest expat survey, a large proportion of those of you who live in Europe do just that. There are plenty of tips and tricks for finding cheap flights, but not much has been written about getting a great deal on ferry tickets. We thought we'd do a bit of research and have come up with a great guide to help you save money the next time you cross the channel.
When you’re booking a ferry it pays to be flexible. Ferries that sail at less convenient times are often cheaper. Sometimes it’s worth getting up earlier or arriving in port at a later time in order to save a chunk of cash. Another area you should be flexible in is which ports you travel to, and from. Driving a couple of hours in either direction could find you getting better deals. For example, while researching this article I looked for ferries from Santander to Plymouth for the 5th August. While it would cost me APS379 for this ferry, I could travel on the Santander to Poole line for only APS240.
Use a ferry comparison site
It can take a lot of leg work to find the best deals, but thankfully there are some ferry comparison websites out there that make finding the best value ferries quick and easy. Aferry is one of our favourites and has a very similar model to the flight comparison website Skyscanner. You put in your preferred routes and your dates, and the website shows you the ferries which are available and the prices. They also show you some alternative routes, so on the Santander to Plymouth search I was also shown Bilbao to Portsmouth and Gijon to Poole. It’s all laid out in a table so you can see the best deals at a glance.
Leave your pets behind
You’ll have far more choice when it comes to ferry routes if you leave the dogs and cats at home. Pets can only travel on certain approved routes, and often there’s a price premium. Obviously if you are moving to (or back from) Europe this isn’t an option, but if you are just popping home for a visit you can leave your four-legged family members with a trusted house & pet sitter. The animals won’t have to deal with the stress of travel, and you will have a lot more room in your car to bring back some British goodies: so it’s a win-win situation!
Consider a ‘mini cruise’
Overnight crossings can sometimes be cheaper than short crossings, as they are less popular. Depending on where you live, overnight ferries can also cut wads of time out of your journey by skipping the drive through France. Although it’s cheaper to snooze in a seat in the lounge, we recommend splashing out on a cabin. Having your own personal space, your own loo, and a proper bed to lie down on can make the difference between an awful experience and a great one. It can be a bit boring sitting in your cabin for 16 hours straight, so bring your laptop and some DVDs to enjoy on board. Food can also be pricey and once you’re on the ferry you can’t leave so pack a picnic and recoup some of the money you spent on the cabin.
You can risk waiting for a last minute deal, but these are becoming rarer and rarer. If you wait until the day before you might even find the ferry fully booked, or with a prohibitive ticket price, so you miss out completely. Booking at least four weeks in advance should see you getting the best prices on your ticket. It also means less stress, as it’s one less thing to sort out in the run up to your voyage home.