The best way to travel to Europe

If you want a surefire way of beating ash-clouds, or a way to take the holiday you want, when you want, then the ferry is a superb choice of transport. It's never been as easy or as comfortable as it is today, and many of you may be surprised with the facilities of the modern ferry...

Bob Atkinson: With both 2010 and now 2011 seeing the grounding of aircraft due to volcanoes and the holidays of millions affected, it’s a great reminder that there is one form of transport that sails on unaffected by the problems – the ferry.

Whilst for some it became a lifesaver, getting them back to Europe or home to the UK, for millions of us each year this remains way to travel to the continent on our holidays. No busy, congested airports, no hassle at security and no extra fees for baggage and seating.

So taking a ferry as your way to get on your holiday on the continent really does open up a massive range of opportunities to you. You can travel to cities, towns, the countryside, mountains, beaches – you name it. And of course there’s a massive range of accommodation as well, everything from holiday parks and campsites through to chateaux, with gites, villa’s and hotels in between.

Using your car means that you’ve got complete freedom, you can move on and go wherever you want to go at any time, you can stock up on loads of goodies to take home and really make the holiday the holiday that’s right for you. It’s your choice, you’ve got that ultimate freedom, so it’s an excellent way to travel and get yourself a holiday you wouldn’t normally do.

Booking and Preparation

So, let’s start with the basics. Booking has never been easier. We offer a price comparison service for all the ferry companies operating to and from the UK. You can pick one way or return and go out and back with different companies on different routes.

Today we’ve picked a crossing where we’re going to travel with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to St Malo, and then come home again from Cherbourg back to Portsmouth.

Now before setting off there are a few things that you need to be prepared for;

• Headlamp Adaptors – easy to fit;
• GB plate – fit to the back of your car;
• A Warning Triangle – you need one for France and 2 for Spain in case of a breakdown

You’ll also need a:

• A first aid kit;
• Reflective vest to wear in case you breakdown (by law in France)
• Fire extinguisher

Don’t worry if you forget any item before you get onboard, because you can usually pick these up from the shop either at the terminal or on the ship.

And of course don’t forget your driving licence – you’ll need both the green form and the photo-card as well as your motor insurance for driving in Europe and a breakdown cover for complete peace of mind.

Leaving the UK

Now arriving at the port can be worrying if you have never sailed before. However your tickets will give you all the info of where to go and what time to arrive. 

Now here at Portsmouth, they’ve just opened a brand-new, state of the art terminal. It’s got everything from check in desks, through to cafes, shops and toilets, just to make your journey easier.

Once it is time to board, you need to drive up with your documents and ID to the desks, these will then be checked and then you’ll drive straight onto the ferry. It’s easy - just follow the directions of the staff, as there are many of them throughout the port.

Okay so we’re now onboard and parked up on the deck. They’ve give us a little card so we know where to come back to later. I’ve got my bag for overnight, that’s all you need to take with you. So I’m just going to shut the car up now, head up into the ship and explore, and we’ll catch you later.

Accommodation and Facilities

The cabin I’m staying in for the overnight trip to St Malo is an outside Club class four berth. It has its own facilities, very spacious and comfortable with air conditioning as standard, and it’s great for a family or a group of friends.

In addition you could also opt for a two or four berth cabin that may or may not have a porthole. The best cabins on board Brittany Ferries are the Commodore Class cabins. They are really luxurious, with every mod con, and you even get a free chocolate bar.

Of course another option is to just go for a reclining seat – more than comfortable and you can sit back, relax and enjoy the journey in comfort.

Now, the ship has a full range of services on board, with shops catering for last-minute essentials as well as duty free. The kids can play in the (supervised) play area or take part in the organised on board programme of events. There is also a games room and internet wifi throughout the ship.

There is loads of places to eat, with choices from a self service restaurant, a café, a piano bar and a main bar and of course a full service restaurant Les Abers where you can order a meal and wine from the friendly waiters.

And after dinner why not retire to one of the bars, catch a film or enjoy the onboard cabaret. All of this will really set you up for a great start to your holiday.

The holiday you want, when you want

Well good morning. I’ve had a great night and I’m feeling really rested and relaxed. I’m going to have a quick breakfast and then we’ll shortly be called down to the car decks to actually disembark. France is just on the horizon now, the sun’s coming up, and I’m looking forward to the start of our holiday.

And so, welcome to France! We’ve made it here now and it’s time to go on our break. Don’t forget of course when you’re driving here you’re going to be driving on the right hand side, and it really does pay to read up on some of the basics such as road signs, because they can be quite often different to what we’re used to in the UK. Also be very aware of speed limits which again are going to be different, and they’re always in kilometres per hour, not in miles per hour which is what were used to at home. And of course it’s always handy to have some change with you in the car – many of the motorways here are toll roads, so it’s good to have cash to pay should you end up on a motorway. Off we go...

Homeward bound

After your break on the continent, the journey home could not be easier. We chose one of Brittany Ferries High Speed Ferries to leave France, whisking us back to Portsmouth in only three hours and giving us time for a drink on board in the comfy lounges and chance for a last minute visit to the duty free shop.

But I like to be out here on deck, taking in the sea air and reflecting on my break as we zoom back home.

Taking a ferry is such an easy way of travelling to the continent. It’s modern and comfortable. It’s also very cost effective as you don’t have to worry about paying for extras such as luggage like on a holiday flight. And it is definitely relaxing and breaks up the driving. It really does get you into the holiday mood and the sailing becomes a real part of your break.

So where are you heading next on your next ferry holiday?

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