Forget airport stress – this is plain sailing: Travelling by ferry can be less expensive

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Forget airport stress – this is plain sailing: Why travelling by ferry can be less expensive and a lot more fun

  • Fans say the ships can be less stressful, less expensive and a lot more fun
  • Packing is easy as you can take as much kit as your car can carry 
  • Many ferries have cruise ship-style entertainment, with bars and restaurants 

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week, he reveals why ferries are perfect for low-cost, last-minute summer breaks.

Airports in August are not for the faint-hearted. Book a last-minute break and be ready for high fares, huge crowds and the ever-present risk of an air-traffic control strike in France

You could avoid all three by travelling to Europe by ferry. Fans say the ships can be less stressful, less expensive and a lot more fun. Here’s why.

NO HITCHES

Fans of travelling by ferry say the ships can be less stressful, less expensive and a lot more fun

Fans of travelling by ferry say the ships can be less stressful, less expensive and a lot more fun

Forget about finding parking and getting the family to the airport at least two hours before departure time. Forget about keeping the children quiet while you queue to slip off your shoes, get out your laptop and put liquids in clear plastic bags at security. And forget about coping strategies for nervous flyers or crying babies.

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Travel by ferry and children can normally stay asleep in the back of the car as you drive on board up to 45 minutes before departure time. 

Packing should be easier too, as you can take as much kit as the car can carry, and ferries have no 100ml maximums for suntan cream or other liquids.

Top tip: Don’t forget the passports. You can’t cross the Channel, even for a day trip, with just a driving licence or any other form of ID.

BOOK A BARGAIN

P&O has Dover to Calais returns in late August from £134 for a family of four in a standard car

P&O has Dover to Calais returns in late August from £134 for a family of four in a standard car

The sooner you book, the cheaper the ferry fares – tickets for next summer are already on sale. But even last-minute deals can be bargains. P&O has Dover to Calais returns in late August from £134 for a family of four in a standard car. 

With Stena, families of four can book Harwich to Holland night sailings in August, including a cabin in both directions (so you need two fewer hotel nights), for £353. Alternatively, pick a ‘sail and stay’ trip with Brittany Ferries and get discounted accommodation throughout France or Spain.

Top tip: Don’t add a roof box or bike rack to your car unless you book it in advance. Go over your vehicle’s agreed dimensions and you can be fined or even refused passage.

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ON BOARD FUN

The lack of space and freedom on planes brings out the worst in some travellers, as parents of toddlers can attest. That’s why big ferries can be so enjoyable. Many have cruise-ship-style entertainment, with cafes, bars and restaurants. 

Staff dress up as Pirate Pete on P&O and Happy the Porpoise on Stena to amuse youngsters, while arcades keep teenagers occupied.

Check your car insurance and breakdown policies are valid (pay supplements if needed) before driving in Europe

Check your car insurance and breakdown policies are valid (pay supplements if needed) before driving in Europe

Shops, casinos and cinemas can also help pass the time. Brittany Ferries even has a spa on its Portsmouth to Bilbao route.

Top tip: Get a pet passport and the animal can join you on most ferries, sometimes for free.

FINALLY: Check your car insurance and breakdown policies are valid (pay supplements if needed) before driving in Europe. France demands extras such as warning triangles in cars: get a French driving kit for £20 from the RAC or other firms. Travel insurance (and a valid EHIC card) is important, even for short trips. A family of four can get a week’s cover in France or Spain from £12 on comparison websites. 



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