Travel is one of the best things you can do to expand your knowledge. But it can be costly.
We all love a bargain and with that in mind here are my top tips for finding bargain ferry tickets.
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1. Book Super-Early or Risk Booking Super-Late
As with airlines, there are a finite number of passengers sea vessels can accommodate. Cabins are priced on a supply-and-demand basis. Where there is low demand there is a surplus in supply (i.e. there are too many empty cabins). As a result the operator may choose to discount cabins to encourage demand. When there's too much demand then this can cause cabins to become rarer and more in-demand. This forces the price up as there is less supply to satisfy the remaining demand.
Most often the lowest price is available as soon as the sailing becomes available. This is most often known as an early-booking rate. Booking this rate will secure you a price that may well be very competitive.
There's another school of logic that says that by waiting until a few days or weeks before departure you can take advantage of a last-minute discount offered by the operator. The caveat to this idea is that this is only likely to happen if demand is low and the operator is struggling to sell the cabins. If you have alternative options are aren't bothered too much and how you travel and potentially where you travel to, booking late can be a lucrative move. Whilst the reward is very good there is considerable risk that you might not pay a low price in the end.
Booking early is a safe and conservative option. Booking late is risky but you could end up with an outrageous bargain.
Most people I have helped book ferry travel book a couple of months in advance. Perhaps this is the sweet spot after all?
2. Book Online
Some operators charge a booking fee for booking over the phone. Some charge to send out the paperwork. Some charge you for correcting mistakes made over the phone.
Book online and you can be assured of the following:
- You can double-check the dates and times of travel as they are displayed on your screen.
- You can make sure your passenger details are correct as they are displayed on your screen.
- You can avoid a telephone booking fee by booking online.
- You can print out your travel confirmation at home which normally act as your tickets.
Booking online is quick and painless. It is also secure as all ferry operators have a vested interest in keeping your information secure and private.
3. Avoid Key Holidays
It's not always possible but if you can avoid travelling on UK bank holidays, during the UK school summer holidays and during UK half-term holidays then you are more likely to secure a better price as demand shoots up during these key dates.
The travel industry is heavily affected by supply-and-demand. During these key dates demand surges whilst supply stays the same (and decreases and more bookings are made). This forces the prices up.
4. Travel Off-Peak
Travelling in the off-peak seasons will help you secure a better price.
For scheduled ferries there are periods which are least popular with tourists purely as there are other things going on. For instance, between September and March there is often a slow down in the amount of foot passengers hence the prevalence of 2 for 1 deals during this time.
For scheduled ferries this extends down to the micro level. Travelling in the afternoon or overnight can be cheaper on some routes than travelling in the morning. On certain routes the reverse is true.
5. Keep an Eye on Special Offers
When demand stagnates special offers are used to drum up some business. They are used universally by all travel businesses and can sometimes be good value. I say "sometimes" as occasionally these special offers are used to mask the fact that prices have surged.
In this instance the special offers, whilst better value than regular bookings, are designed to boost demand even further pushing prices up even more. That's why it's usually better to book super-early as per tip #1.
6. Pre-book Meals
Scheduled ferries often have on-board restaurants and you may fancy a bite or two to eat on-board. If you are sailing on an overnight service you'll most likely want dinner and perhaps breakfast too. Normally you can pre-book meals at the time you book your sailing and usually this is offered at a reasonable discount.
Don't be fooled into thinking you can last the entire journey without food. I've though that before and it just doesn't work. Perhaps it's the fresh sea air or the aroma of cooking but it's hard not to eat anything on a sailing! By pre-booking your meals you can be assured of a good value meal and the best price possible.
7. Watch Out For Travel Agent Booking Fees
These are few and far between and not all travel agents do this but I have come across some travel agents who include a charge for booking your travel arrangements. You can normally book online direct with ferry operators without any booking fee.
8. Watch Out For Credit Card Charges
Some ferry operators charge for the use of credit cards. Debit card transactions are normally free of additional charges though even these may incur a small fee.
Some people prefer the security of paying using a credit card and so in this case the extra charge may be justifiable. For others the risk of paying by debit card is a better choice as to them the credit card processing charge is an avoidable expense.
Check on the website before you tap in your details to make sure you know whether your credit or debit card will incur a processing fee.