Travel to Europe: airplane or ferry?

girl on boat

girl on boatIn an age of low cost airlines it might come as a surprise to learn that taking your car on the ferry to Europe could be the cheaper option for families.




How the savings stack up

We compared the price of Easyjet flights from London to Bilbao, with the Brittany Ferries-operated Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry for a two week trip in July 2012.

At first glance Easyjet looks the clear winner costing £352 compared to £1,333 for a family of four.

But factor in that the ferry price includes the cost of two nights’ accommodation and transportation of the family car to Europe and the apparent savings begin to slip away.

An extra two nights’ hotel stay at the Barcleo Hotel Bilbao would be £194. While two weeks’ car hire would be around £843 with Eurocar.

Tot that all up and suddenly the ferry is £56 cheaper.

Not all ferries are the same

Brittany Ferries was the most expensive of all the ferry companies we costed.

DFDS Seaways Newcastle to Amsterdam in July 2012 will cost £1,064 and Stena Line Harwich to Hook of Holland is £632.

The Stena and DFDS fairs also include breakfast and dinner. Both these lines also offer free Wi-Fi – it’s £4 per hour on Brittany Ferries.

I’ve travelled with my family on all three companies in the past few years and it’s not just the extra cost of food on Brittany Ferries but the range which disappoints as well.

When we travelled with them, they served the same vegetarian meal choice (and there was only one) for both dinner and lunch the next day. And sadly volume substituted for quality with the children’s meals.

Young families and pets

Judging from our fellow passengers, ferries seem to be especially popular with families with young children. So it’s worth noting that there is a big difference in facilities offered onboard.

DFDS has treasure hunts, quizzes, face painting, a ball pit and a tour of the bridge, all guided by Captain Parrot.

Brittany Ferries did have an outside play area and pool however neither could be used on our outward trip. Its children’s activities all took place in the crowded bar at the back of the ship and failed to inspire my kids.

But all have cinemas for parents willing to take it in turns for a couple of hours’ peace.

Finally as all these ferries have either kennels or cabins which allow dogs, you’d be looking at another thousand pounds, or more, of savings on kennel fees if you have a pooch.

Happy sailing!