There’s no escaping it – the Chunnel was a game changer. 35 minutes to France, super straight forward, roll on, roll off. I use it for work regularly and when travel itself is not the purpose of travelling (if you get what I mean) then no doubt, it has it’s plus sides. Otherwise, why not travel by ferry?
However, there are a bunch of reasons why we decided to travel by ferry from Dover to France when embarking on our Winterized motorhome skiing adventure and it was a decision we’d encourage any van-lifer to make.
#1: Value for money
First off – it’s cheaper. And not by a little bit. There was about £100 difference at the time of booking for our size of vehicle (7.3m) which basically paid for our fuel all the way to our first mountain hang out.
It’s a lot nicer. More romantic perhaps. Waving goodbye to the White Cliffs of Dover whilst hanging out over the stern of a whopping great ferry is rather lovely. People have been doing that since the beginning of time and despite the modern boats, there’s something old fashioned about the whole affair. It’s like the difference between taking the M1 and the back roads. We had a glorious day and despite our dark o’clock start on a Sunday morning, our lunchtime sailing really felt like the start of our trip.
#3: Protect your motorhome
You’re 80% less likely to prang your motorhome when travelling on a ferry.
Actually, that’s a made-up stat but it’s probably true. Whist the assembly area for both the ferry and the tunnel are the same format, getting aboard is an entirely different kettle of fish. Up onto the ferry on a big ramp (which is wide enough to accommodate artic trucks), between two painted lines and stop in front of the parking chap versus…. through the concrete bollards of doom; down a ramp steep enough to topple an MG midget; hairpin bend onto the train; up the narrowest ramp in the world; and stop when you’re told… inch by inch packed in like sardines to fit as many in a carriage as possible. If you haven’t nobbled the motorhome somewhere on that assault course you deserve a badge.
If you’re in a Ford Fiesta this is not a drama. If you’re driving your first couple of hundred miles in a motorhome that you’re not entirely spatially aware of just yet, you’ll take option A please Bob.
#4: Life in the slow lane
Contemplation time. There’s zero time to contemplate anything on the tunnel. By the time you’ve set off you’re arriving and that’s awesome if you have a schedule to keep to. If you haven’t, why would you miss out on watching land come into view with all the excitement that brings? Out with the old and all that.
Part of our motorhome ski tour is about just that – taking a step back and relaxing. We both bust a gut in the six months before we left working double our usual hours both normal jobs and preparing for the prospect of spending six months away from home. Taking the relaxed route was exactly what we both needed.
The unexpected reason. Whilst dodgy weather and problems in port can delay ferries, if you’re departing Dover, expecting to land in Dunkirk, there’s another route and this is exactly what we experienced. A delay on our ferry meant that the super efficient DFDS staff offered us an alternative if we didn’t mind – reroute to Calais and loose 15 minutes and not the hour and a half that we would otherwise have had. It made no real odds to us and somehow, we ended up arriving before we would have on the Dunkirk ferry. Marvellous.
If you hadn’t realised by now, we’re full on ferry converts and from our limited experience – here are our top tips for ferry travel:
1) Book early and sign up for carry company newsletters where they’ll send special offers
2) If you’re on DFDS, book the Premier Lounge! For us, a really chilled out place to hang out, grab a coffee (or pretty much whatever soft drink you want) or Prosecco for the non-drivers and grab a snack was a welcome break after such an early start. Couple that with being able to plug stuff in to charge it up and watch the sea-scape through a panoramic window and you really do feel like you’re getting first class travel – even if only for an hour or so.
3) Take all the stuff you want with you because you can’t come back to your vehicle once you’ve set sail (unless you’re visiting your dog with a crew member)
4) Take a EUROPEAN ADAPTOR WITH YOU. The sockets are 2 pin.