This website is approaching its tenth birthday. Please don’t make a big fuss though, a simple card or an average-sized marching band will do.
To celebrate the occasion I have dug out some Red Funnel and Wightlink ferry price comparisons we did in 2013 to see how they compare to fares in 2023.
A few caveats before we compare the numbers
If you just want to see the comparison table without the waffle, scroll down to about halfway.
Otherwise, let's begin with a snippet from Isle of Wight Guru in 2013:
a Saturday to Saturday lunchtime return in early August 2013 on Red Funnel for a car and driver came up at £161 return, compared to £106 for Sunday to Sunday.
So, how does that compare to 2023?
With Wightlink, the £178 fare has risen to £300 in 2023. If we apply the Bank of England's CPI inflation calculator to 2013's figure then £178 is worth £228 in today's money. The £110 fare has risen to £227. With the CPI applied, the 2013 figure would be £141 in today's money.
In other words, if the 2013 fare had increased in line with the CPI measure of inflation then it would be £141 in 2023. However, it is actually £227 (Ed: is there going to be a test at the end?).
Red Funnel's Saturday fare of £161 has risen to £276 whilst the Sunday fare of £106 has risen to £201. With inflation, the £161 figure is the equivalent of £209 whilst the £106 figure should be £137.
If this is making your head hurt, just skip ahead to the comparison table further down.
Here's another snippet from this website in 2013:
...Red Funnel and Wightlink both charge a lot more on the car ferry if you are away for five nights rather than for four nights. For example, lunchtime journeys on October 1st 2013 to October 5th 2013 cost £58 (Red Funnel) or £67 (Wightlink) whilst October 1st to October 6th would cost you about £78 (Red Funnel) or £86 (Wightlink).
And here's the same comparison done in 2023. We changed the dates slightly for a fairer comparison so that we are looking at a Tuesday arrival date in both cases:
Lunchtime journeys on October 3rd 2023 to October 7th 2023 cost £105 (Red Funnel) or £129 (Wightlink) whilst October 3rd 2023 to October 8th 2023 cost £145 (Red Funnel) or £168 (Wightlink).
Our sample size is small, but we've got a good mix of travel times including seven day journeys in peak season in August and mid-week short breaks in October.
Here's the data in a lovely comparison table:
Crunching the numbers (and including RPI inflation)
On average then, Wightlink's fares that we looked at have increased by 87% over 10 years (I am emphasising that this is only based on the fares that we have data on, just in case I didn't make that clear enough).
Red Funnel's fares we looked at have increased by an average of 80% over 10 years.
However, most things have risen in price over the last 10 years so it's a fairly meaningless figure on its own.
I think the more useful column is the one with the exhilarating title of: "% change 2013 to 2023 (CPI inflation adjusted)". Phwooooarrr!
This tells us how ferry prices have changed, allowing for inflation. If prices rose in line with the Consumer Prices Index then you would expect it to be 0%.
Based on the data we looked at Wightlink has increased its prices by 45% above the CPI rate of inflation over the last 10 years whilst Red Funnel has increased its prices by 39% above the CPI rate of inflation.
I also entered this data into an RPI calculator which is another method of measuring inflation (the Retail Prices Index). The Wightlink fares we looked at have increased by 27% above the RPI rate of inflation over 10 years. Red Funnel's fares have increased by 22% above the RPI rate of inflation over the same period.
Please refer back to the caveats at the top of the page which give a bit more context and explanation of the limitations of our data. This isn't intended to be a PHD...
How to save money on the Isle of Wight ferry
With those increases in mind, it seems a good time to summarise our favourite ways to lower the price of the Isle of Wight ferry.
This is one of my favourite topics, and you can read the full guide in our ferry beginners guide or our guide to the latest offers and ferry discounts.
However, here's a summary for anyone who has better things to do with their time (such as picking their nose or watching a dripping tap).
1. Book an accommodation and ferry bundle
My number one suggestion for saving money on the Isle of Wight ferry is to book it via your accommodation provider.
Most get at least some discount and some offer really good deals, including these five:
2. Look for discount codes
My hunch - based on no data at all - is that discount codes for Red Funnel are easier to come by than they were 10 years ago.
Our ferry discounts page has a 10% off deal for Red Funnel and there's also an ongoing 15% off deal for Isle of Wight residents until October 2023. During Black Friday in November/December 2022 there was a 1/3rd off deal and in January 2023 there was a 25% off deal.
I've not seen as many Wightlink discount codes of late, but they do sometimes pop up. Here's the Wightlink offers page.
If you have friends or relatives on the Isle of Wight, ask them to keep an eye out for discount vouchers which are sent through the post every few months.
We include all the discount codes we know of on our ferry discounts page.
3. Check your memberships
Several membership bodies give a modest discount on Red Funnel and Wightlink. It is occasionally worth signing up for a year, just to get the discount.
As of 2023, options include:
4. Invest in a Multilink or Travelcard if you travel often
If you live on the Isle of Wight or visit fairly regularly then I would look into Wightlink's Multilink deal and Red Funnel's Travelcard.
My brief summary is that:
5. Book early
This may be obvious, but booking early is nearly always cheaper than leaving it late. There are no special deals for 'last minute' bookings on the Isle of Wight ferry. They operate more like airlines with the first booking costing less than the last booking.
The only exception is that a discount code might turn up the day after you have booked your ferry. If that's the case, feel free to fall to your knees and punch the ground like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes.
There are other ways to save on the Isle of Wight ferry - such as booking a foot passenger ticket with a railcard. For the full waffle read our guide Isle of Wight ferry discounts.
You might also be interested in our blog examining the old claim that the Solent is the most expensive stretch of water in the world (turns out that it isn't...).
It occurred to me this morning that AI will probably kill off any requirement for a self-appointed Isle of Wight Guru.
Why ask a human being for advice on cheap ferry travel or the best beach for eating chips on a bench or watching the sunset when an AI bot can do it for you?
To test this out, I decided to put three questions about the Isle of Wight to the Chat GPT AI website.
1. What is the best thing about the Isle of Wight?
First up a general question, which we cover in our guide to 'Why you should visit the Isle of Wight'.
Chat GPT said:
As an AI language model, I don't have personal preferences or experiences, but based on general knowledge and information available, the Isle of Wight is known for its natural beauty, stunning landscapes, and scenic coastline. Here are some of the best things about the Isle of Wight:
This is a good effort by Chat GPT. It sounds like a human being, but it's a bit glossy and tourist-brochurey for my liking.
It reminds me of Alan Titchmarsh's narration in the recent Channel 5 series called Isle of Wight: Jewel of the South. Everything is equally lovely and the sun shines constantly.
The Isle of Wight Guru would attempt to steer you in the right direction depending on what will appeal to you or when you are visiting (see 'which Isle of Wight town should I stay in' or 'what time of year should I visit the Isle of Wight'). For example, I would tell you that Shanklin is great for minigolf and chips, but it's terrible for avoiding people in August.
I'm giving Chat GPT 7/10 for this answer.
2. How can I save money on the Isle of Wight ferry?
Next up, I challenged the AI bot on the hot topic of ferry prices.
Chat GPT said:
There are several ways to save money on the Isle of Wight ferry:
This is another good effort from Chat GPT. These are all good tips - using discount codes, joining loyalty schemes, comparing prices and so on. Most of these are covered in our discount ferries guide and our beginners' guide to the Isle of Wight ferry.
It sounds like a human being, but it's lacking in useful detail.
For example, the Isle of Wight Guru would point you to the likes of Away Resorts for holiday parks + ferry bundles, Warner Leisure or Alfa Travel for hotels + ferry bundles or Red Funnel's bundle deal for camping, touring and motorhomes.
I would also point out the differences between the frequent travel schemes offered by Wightlink and Red Funnel. Wightlink's Multilink deal offers a competitive fixed price, but your credit only lasts for a year and it is only for those with an Isle of Wight residence. Red Funnel's Travelcard doesn't expire but it offers up to 20% off rather than a fixed price. It's open to everyone, but you have to top up £1000 to start things off.
I'm giving Chat GPT 6/10 for this answer.
3. What's the best Isle of Wight Beach for avoiding people?
Chat GPT said:
The Isle of Wight has many beaches that are less crowded and peaceful, especially if you are willing to explore the island's less popular areas. Here are a few of the best beaches on the Isle of Wight for avoiding crowds:
Personally, I would consider this a fail.
In my opinion:
There are lots of better suggestions of beaches on the Isle of Wight where you can avoid people. In fact, we've written a blog about remote beaches. In the West Wight, I would go for Chilton Chine, Atherfield or Shepherd's Chine. In the South Wight, try Binnel Bay, Watershoot Bay or Blackgang Beach. In the North Wight, try Gurnard's hidden beach (behind the sailing club, we call it Robert's Beach). In the East Wight, your best bet is probably Player's Beach near Binstead.
See our Isle of Wight beaches map for locations.
My score for Chat GPT for this answer is 2/10. I feel reassured that the Isle of Wight Guru's waffle isn't going to be replaced by robotic waffle just yet.
Back in 2022, we wrote a blog about the Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill 'Frequent Visitor Passes', which are similar to annual passes. We looked at whether it was worth buying one or whether you should just pay-as-you-go.
The passes mean that you can visit as many times as you like, including during most of the events during the year. That includes things like Summer Fest and Cowboys Vs Dinosaurs at Blackgang Chine and the Isle of Wight Balloon Festival and Festival of the Dead at Robin Hill. In 2022, we particularly enjoyed the summer shows at Robin Hill which included Braniac! Live. We also went along to an excellent summer party one evening at Blackgang Chine.
You can't get in free to Polar at Robin Hill with a Frequent Visitor Pass, but in December 2022 you could get a 25% discount if you snapped up a 2023 Frequent Visitor Pass.
Our conclusion in 2022 was that:
If you plan to visit either park during two different school holidays then an annual pass is worth paying for. If you mostly visit off peak or just want to visit during one school holiday then it may not be worth it.
Most of what we wrote in that guide is still valid. However, there have been two notable changes which are worth mentioning before you make your decision.
1. Prices for Frequent Visitor Passes have gone up - but daily visit prices haven't
In 2022, a FVP/annual pass for Blackgang Chine or Robin Hill cost £50, whilst a joint park pass cost £90.
In 2023, the price for a Frequent Visitor Pass for one park is £60 (a £10 increase) whilst a joint park pass has increased to £99 (a £9 increase).
These are the prices for anyone aged four or over. Younger children get in free.
Meanwhile, the prices for day entry to both parks hasn't increased at all from 2022 to 2023. Robin Hill ranges from £19.50 to £35 depending on when you visit and whether you book in advance. Blackgang Chine ranges from £23 to £35 per person. See our guide on how to get the best value from Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill.
Another change is that the Easter school holidays are now 'mid-peak' rather than peak season, so they aren't quite as expensive.
With that change, you might think that you would need to use a Frequent Visitor Pass more to make it worthwhile. However...
2. You can now get friends and family in for half price
The second big change for 2023 is that FVP holders can get a 50% discount on entry prices for friends and family.
The four main rules that I'm aware of are that:
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog