Families can still afford a great summer holiday abroad if they grab a ferry bargain and drive to their holiday destination, a major campaign claims.
In National Ferry Fortnight, running until March 16, ferry operators promise a range of special deals to slash travel costs.
They include ‘kids go free’ offers on Brittany Ferries sailings to France, Irish Ferries and on Stena Line sailings to Ireland and Holland.
Brittany Ferries reckons its deal, including the peak school holiday period, could be worth a £180 saving, including the offer of free day cabins for some travellers.
Mike Bevens, a Brittany Ferries director, says: “National Ferry Fortnight is a great way for the ferry industry to work together to convey to the public the very real benefits of ferry travel.
“Our offer is clearly focusing on the family and brings them some very meaningful savings.
“We feel this is important because we know how stretched many family budgets are. “With this offer available on four routes to France throughout the summer, there has never been such choice and value for families.”
DFDS Seaways offers 20% off ferry crossings to France, Holland and Denmark – valid for all bookings by March 16 on Dover to Dunkirk, Dover to Calais, Newcastle to Amsterdam, Harwich to Esbjerg, Newhaven to Dieppe, and Portsmouth to Le Havre crossings, on selected departures until October 31.
This deal means ferry tickets for a car and up to four passengers start at less than £24 each way on the Channel and £116 each way for a car and four passengers on the North Sea.
DFDS Seaways also offers a 40% discount on two-night mini cruises to Amsterdam, so short getaways start at £47 per person.
DFDS Seaways director Max Foster says: “Many people new to ferry travel, or who haven’t used a ferry for a long time, are pleasantly surprised by the smooth, hassle-free experience, compared to other international transport these days. The convenience of taking your car away with you means you not only have no baggage restrictions, but your luggage is tucked safely in your car and doesn’t have to be carried everywhere.”
Britain’s ferry network of 75 routes provides more than 178,000 sailings annually across the Channel, North Sea, Irish Sea and Bay of Biscay to link mainland Britain to France, Denmark, Holland, Ireland and Spain, plus the Channel Islands, Isle of Wight, Isle of Man and the Scottish islands.
In 2012, top ferry firms carried nearly 33 million passengers, 7.8 million cars and 140,000 coaches – and those numbers are expected to rise in 2013 as more passengers seek to trim travel costs.
Ferry travellers also dodge the pernicious air passenger duty, which costs £104 even for a family flying to France.
With P&O’s overnight sailings from Hull offering live entertainment, cinemas and a casino, two-night mini cruises, with transfer coach services to see Rotterdam, Amsterdam or Bruges, lead in at £75 for two people for much of March, against a normal price of £75 each.
However, one of the biggest benefits of going by ferry is that tour operators providing self-catering holidays in gites, mobile homes and camping include the crossing at minimal charge – or even for free.
Brittany Ferries offers a gite sleeping four near the Bordeaux vineyards in Aquitaine in late June for a total price of £610, including the Portsmouth to Caen crossing. Driving costs from Caen to the gite are about £107.81 each way, including tolls and fuel.
And seven nights’ self-catering for a family of four in a gite near Roscoff starts at £577, including crossings between Plymouth and Roscoff departing on June 2.
Driving costs in this case are negligible, with the gite so close to the port.
Mobile home specialist Keycamp offers seven nights’ self-catering from May 26 – summer half-term – at La Croix du Vieux Pont, outside Paris, staying in a two-bedroom mobile home (sleeping up to four adults and two children), including return Dover to Calais crossings, from £523 per party.
This lakeside park offers a great choice of things to do – a pool complex with waterslide, sauna and spa, plus canoeing, pedalos, kayaking and windsurfing nearby.
Alternative ferry crossings and fly-drive packages are available at a supplement.
Keycamp spokesman Chris Hilton says many holidaymakers are securing cheaper mid-week travel and self-drive options, with parks in Paris and south Brittany particularly popular.
:: DFDS Seaways: 0871 574 7235 and www.dfds.co.uk/ferryfortnight; Brittany Ferries: 0871 244 1444 and www.brittanyferries.com; Keycamp: 0844 406 0319 and www.keycamp.co.uk; P&O Ferries: 08716 642 121 and www.poferries.com