For our family, taking a ferry is a way of life. From going to work every day to the occasional baseball game, driving or walking onto a ferry is second nature. For some folks, however, getting onto a ferry can be a nerve-wracking experience! With a little preparation, however, you can get onto a ferry like a pro, even if you’ve never done it before. Here’s how it is done.
#1. Check the Ferry Schedule
Ferries are a lot like trains. They run on a schedule, but they aren’t always on that schedule because with sometimes hundreds of cars to load on and off, delays can happen. The day you’re planning on getting onto the ferry, be sure to go online or call ahead to see if your boat will be on time. This will help to minimize wait times that you may face and let you know if the boat might actually be running ahead of schedule too! Tidal conditions and other factors might also cause your planned crossing to be cancelled, which knowing ahead of time is extremely beneficial.
#2. Plan on Arriving At Least 30 Minutes Ahead of Time
A ferry can fill up a lot faster than you might expect! You’ll want to arrive about 30 minutes ahead of time at the very minimum in order to ensure that you get onto your preferred sailing. If you are getting onto a ferry with a lot of expect truck or commuter traffic and you can’t make a reservation, then you may want to push your advance arrival to 45-60 minutes so that you can get your place on the boat. This is less critical if you’re just going to walk onto the ferry instead of driving your vehicle onto it.
#3. Keep Everything With You At All Times
The fastest way to get pulled off of a ferry is to leave your luggage, backpack, or diaper bag unattended during the boarding process. Always keep your items with you, be prepared for an inspection, and remember that in most locations your vehicle can be inspected as well. Search dogs are often part of this inspection process in the modern age, so just be aware of where your things are, where you are, and you’ll get onto your boat with plenty of time to spare.
#4. Bring Food and Drinks With You… If You Can
Some ferries have a galley of which you can take advantage, but the one issue is cost. Ferry food and drink is expensive! Now you generally can’t bring alcohol to consume onto the ferry, so you’ll be stuck paying $7 per glass of $3 a bottle wine, but you can bring on food to consume that is better than the $6.50 cheeseburgers that cost $1 to microwave. For extended trips on a ferry that go beyond 3 or 4 hours, this can really save you a lot and you can be certain of the quality of your food! More advanced ferries have a full restaurant on them sometimes with incredible food and fine dining prices – if you can afford it, then maybe skip this tip in this instance.
#5. Turn Off Your Vehicle Alarm
One of the biggest pet peeves you’ll find of ferry crew is a vehicle that has its alarm start going off when there’s a crashing wave. Before leaving your vehicle, make sure that you’ve turned off your vehicle’s alarm or you don’t set it while locking your vehicle. If you’re going to have a choppy trip, it’s also a good idea to set the parking brake as you park. It’s often tight quarters on the car deck, so if your mirrors turn in you might consider doing that as well. Just don’t forget to turn them back out before you drive off of the boat!
#6. Have Fun!
Being on a ferry is usually a wonderful experience! From friendly chatter to a cool breeze in your face, it’s the perfect opportunity to take your own stunning travel photographs, read a book, or just relax with the ones you love. Ferry accidents are few and far between! If you do want to prepare for an emergency, sit near the emergency assembly locations or next to where the life vests are stored so that you can quickly don them if need be. With our family, we tend to sit near where there are children’s vests stored so we can quickly break the seal of the container and get the little ones prepped for an emergency if the unlikely need arises.
No matter where you’re headed on your ferry, the adventure is just beginning! These travel tips will help you make sure you get onto the scheduled ferry on time with a minimum of hassle. If you do happen to miss your boat, don’t worry – it’s the perfect time to grab some coffee and explore for awhile until the next boat arrives!