For a long time we've promoted the savings that can be made by getting a ferry at an odd time of day.
We wrote this back in early 2013:
"During Cowes Week 2013, a single car journey on Wightlink's Portsmouth route on Saturday lunchtime cost up to £93 whereas just before midnight it was £22"
The Isle of Wight ferries work much like budget airlines which bump up prices during peak times and lower prices at quieter times.
However, the savings that can be made by travelling at odd times has increased. Well, it had certainly increased in the search that I did with Wightlink today (Red Funnel prices weren't available yet for the dates we were researching).
Take at look at these on peak prices for a family of four taking a car to the Isle of Wight with Wightlink for a week in August 2022.
So, a total of £249.50 for the return 'economy' fare.
Here are the figures for travelling very late at night:
That means you can save yourself a whopping £174 by travelling in the middle of the night. Back in 2013, the saving was £71.
It's also worth noting the overall increases in both the on-peak and off-peak fares.
The night time price has increased by 240% in nine years whilst the daytime price has increased by 168%.
Of course, you would expect prices to rise with inflation. According to the Bank of England's Inflation Calculator, £22 in 2013 was worth £25 in 2020. £93 in 2013 was worth £109 in 2020. The calculator doesn't go right up to 2021 just yet, but I would guess it will somewhere around £28 and £115.
But what if I don't want to check-in at my accommodation at 1am?
The problem - of course - is that holiday parks, campsites, hotels and self catering cottages don't tend to allow you to check in at 1am.
We also find that our children don't travel well at night, so a lunchtime ferry is a much better option.
How to lower that £249 Isle of wight ferry price
Here's some practical money saving advice. These are covered in more detail in our guide to discount Isle of Wight ferry travel.
1. Buy a multilink pass
If you're an Isle of Wight resident or you are lucky enough to be a second home owner then buying a Wightlink Multilink pass is worthwhile.
A return is available for about £60, albeit with some legwork and limitations. Read our Multilink guide for more details.
Red Funnel's equivalent is a card where you pre-pay £1000 and then get 20% off the standard fares.
2. Get your accommodation provider to book the ferry
Most hotels, guest houses, campsites and holiday parks get a special rate on the Isle of Wight ferry. Some just pass on the saving whilst others take a hit themselves and give you an extra discount.
For example, that £249 ferry was reduced to £117 when bundled with a holiday at Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park.
The discount varies, depending on how long you are staying for.
3. Watch out for discount codes and deals
Wightlink and Red Funnel sometimes offer deals of somewhere around 10-30% off. You can get 10% off Red Funnel all year round on our ferries page. You can find that deal and other current offers on our ferries page.
4. Travel as a foot passenger and hire a car or catch a bus
If you're travelling alone, then you'll still pay for the full £249 fare for a peak time sailing. However, if you travel as a foot passenger on the car ferry then it will be more like £20. Foot passenger fares don't fluctuate as much as car fares.
Your option would then be to rely on buses and trains or to hire a car. Buses and trains will be the cheaper option. You'll pay about £25 for a bus pass for the week and you can also use them on the open top buses in summer. However, it's a fairly slow way to get around. The trains only cover the east side of the Isle of Wight, but they are quite quick and were recently upgraded from antediluvian rolling stock.
Out of curiosity, I searched for the price of hiring a car for week in August at Enterprise in Newport.
Hiring a small van seemed to be cheapest (£120 for the week) but I didn't fancy looking like Postman Pat all week. The next cheapest was a 'Toyota Aygo or similar' at £137. You've got to get to Newport to pick it up, but that's still a saving of about £85.
There are other hire car companies in our guide to public transport.
Of course, you might need to leave your car somewhere in Portsmouth. We've found that using a site such as Just Park is cheaper than turning up on the day.
If you're arriving in Portsmouth, Lymington or Southampton by train then you can get an extra saving as a foot passenger if you've got a railcard. There's more on how this works in our ferries guide.
5. Use Tesco Clubcard Vouchers
Another favourite money saver with Wightlink is using Tesco Clubcard points.
Tesco Clubcard vouchers are worth three times as much on Wightlink, so £80 in vouchers would pay £240 towards a ferry fare.
Read more about this in our guide to the Wightlink/Clubcard deal.
6. Check the Red Funnel price
Needless to say, it's worth checking the Red Funnel fare alongside the Wightlink deal. Also check the price for the Wightlink crossing from Lymington to Yarmouth. Prices fluctuate with both companies but the difference between them can be quite significant.
There are several other deals which we won't go into here, such as the discount for English Heritage members and the benefits of travelling on a Friday or a Monday.
The full discount ferries guide is here.
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