OK, first things first, this advice is only useful to people who have an Isle of Wight residence (which includes second homeowners).
If you are planning an Isle of Wight holiday and are looking for the best ferry price, check out our discount ferry page.
Anyway, I recently met up with an Isle of Wight schoolfriend in London, who was complaining over his steak avec frites that he had paid £150 for the Isle of Wight car ferry.
He nearly choked on his £7 Corona when I told him that he needn't be paying more than about £50 - £60 for a return crossing with a car if he did a bit of research and invested some cash (I figured he could afford an investment if he was willing to pay £7 for a small bottle of Corona).
So, here’s my two stage plan - I'm sure lots of Isle of Wight residents know about these deals already, but for those who don't:
1. Firstly, if you have an Isle of Wight residence and manage at least two return crossings in a year get yourself a Wightlink Multilink ticket. You’ll need to stump up £264 in advance (as of 2017) but that covers five return crossings over 12 months. You can generally travel at any time, even on a Saturday in August as long as you don’t leave it to the last minute.
Of course, you might not manage five return journeys in a year.
However, there are three bits of small print which make it worth considering:
a) you can put two names on a Multilink ticket and you don’t need to travel together – you just need to live together. So, for example you could put yourself and your spouse or child on the same ticket. You don’t even need to be the driver, you can be a passenger in the car.
b) your credit rolls over if you top up before the 12 months is over. So, if you travelled three times in one year and seven times in the next then it wouldn’t matter.
c) even if you don’t manage five return journeys between you and don’t top up your card, you can claim back 75% of the remain credit ("you can claim back 75% of any unused journeys, providing you request a refund no later than 30 days after the expiry of your Multilink Pass").
So, if you only managed three returns in a year between two of you, it would work out as about £61 per return crossing – still a very good price compared to the summertime peak prices. Even if you only travelled twice in a year it would be about £73 per return.
2. Secondly, if you can afford it, get yourself a Red Funnel Travelcard. It will cost you £1000 as a one off which is credit which then sits in your account.
That’s obviously a big investment but it gives you 20% off car ferry bookings at any time and it never expires. With bank interest rates currently at rock bottom, you won't be losing much by having it sat as credit.
You can also book for family so you’ll find you get through the credit and you can potentially share a card between a few people.
You can also combine that with the Red Funnel loyalty card, which is free to join and basically works out as a discount of about 4% (UPDATE: it actually works out as 3.2%, sorry). It's not fiddly, you just earn points on one journey and spend them on the next.
So, combining those two deals will give you a discount of about 23.2% - almost a quarter (although you can't combine it with discount codes unfortunately).
You’ll find during the off-season or for day returns, Red Funnel will sometimes work out as cheaper than the £53 Multilink fare with your 23.2% off, so you can just plump for whichever is cheaper (or Red Funnel might be more convenient etc etc).
I admit that £1264 is a lot of money to stump up, but if you are able to pay it then you should never have to pay more than about £50 - £60 for getting to and from the mainland.
Easter holidays on the Isle of Wight are a bit risky. Everything is open and people working working in the tourism industry are pleased to see you after a long winter but the weather can be iffy.
I took some of The Lads to the Island at Easter a couple of years ago for a weekend. One was a first timer and I planned to impress with my carefully selected tour - a bit like the tour they give to the IOC when they are visiting potential Olympic sites.
Unfortunately it rained all weekend. We still got out and about but it wasn't quite the evangelical tour I had in mind.
So I was slightly pessimistic when I took a couple of weeks off this Easter. I would have settled for a couple of days of sunshine and a temperature which only required a thin coat.
For some reason, the Isle of Wight became tropical for five glorious days. I wore nothing but shorts, wandered around in sandals like a muppet and found myself slapping on sun cream in April. The whole thing was absurd. My wife commented that she felt as if she was in a foreign country whilst admiring the palm trees in the heat along The Undercliff.
On this occasion it was child number two's first visit so once again I wanted to make a good impression. Needless to say she loved it and has been going on about the Isle of Wight ever since. Admittedly she has no teeth yet and is unable to talk yet but there was definitely a positive vibe.
We weren't especially adventurous and went for some of our favourite beach trips, always fearing that today would be the final sunny day.
As we had a pushchair, most days involved a walk along a seafront (Freshwater Bay, Cowes/Gurnard and then Ventnor/Bonchurch) followed by a playground (Dandelion Cafe in Freshwater Bay, Gurnard and Seabreeze in Ventnor).
We also managed trips to St Helens and Steephill Cove which were idyllic, even though I negligently ignored the tide times and ended up with about 3 inches of beach to play on.
If you come to the Isle of Wight at Easter time I can't promise you endless sunshine but you could get away with being a little more optimistic than me.
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