Sail away to your next holiday: how to take your car on a ferry

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Take a family holiday by ferry: sailing at sunset

If you're thinking of taking your car on a ferry holiday to France or Spain, we've got all you need to know about preparing for your journey and driving abroad

From the French Alabaster Coast all the way down to northern Spain, Brittany Ferries has a holiday for you. And there’s a special Boundless member discount, too.

If you think of a ferry as a convenient way to cross the Channel, you'd be right. But only partly. It’s convenient, certainly – and cost-effective, too – but you can get so much more from a Brittany Ferries holiday.

Taking your car to France or Spain on a ferry is so easy, and you can embark on your adventure from any one of five UK ports. And, to make your holiday experience even more relaxed, you can book it all through Brittany Ferries.

Endless holiday possibilities

Perhaps you’d like a beach holiday? No problem: Brittany and Normandy are great for families who don’t want to travel far. Or you could sail to Roscoff or St Malo and head to the Vendée, which has almost as much sun as the south of France – or take in the sights as you drive down to the Riviera. If driving doesn’t sound like a great way to spend a holiday, you haven't driven on the continent: it’s as far removed from a British motorway as it is possible to get. Wide, open, well-maintained roads beckon, often with beautiful scenery to boot.

If it’s captivating views and stunning landscapes you’re after, you could book an apartment in Spain’s Picos de Europa National Park or embark on the Hidden Loire tour in France. You’re more of a history buff? Follow the pilgrim trail in northern Spain, or stay in Aquitaine, surrounded by fortresses and chateaux (there are stunning beaches, too). You want a city break? Sail to Bilbao, hop off and explore this vibrant city – it’s a cultural and culinary feast.

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Portugal has been an award-winning destination in recent years and its star shows no sign of fading, so you could opt for Brittany Ferries’ six-night Spain and Portugal Explorer car tour to find out what all the fuss is about. Perhaps you’d prefer to drive straight to Porto, arriving the same day and stay in an intriguing palace overlooking the Douro River.

As you can see, there’s a Brittany Ferries holiday for everyone. City breaks, road tours, campsites, hotels of every size and shape, self-catering villas or apartments are there for the choosing. Whether it’s a five-star treat or a budget break you’re after, you'll find something to enjoy. A week’s chalet camping in Normandy during August, including your ferry crossing, costs just £143 per person for a family of five, or you can pull out all the stops and head for the opulent Hotel Real overlooking the bay of Santander.

Start your holiday straight away

One of the best things about a Brittany Ferries break is the travel. Set sail on one of its eight cruise ferries and your journey becomes part of the holiday. It’s a far cry from the usual stress about baggage on airlines, airport queuing and a flight usually endured rather than enjoyed. Why choose that when you can leave your luggage in your car (did we mention you can even bring your pet along, too?), and enjoy a choice of restaurants, entertainment and a bar on board? Go to the cinema, indulge in a little shopping and enjoy fresh air on the deck – it’s up to you how you spend your time.

There’s even live entertainment on many cruises, from magicians and musicians to cabarets and cocktail pianists. It’s easy to keep children of all ages entertained with play areas and games rooms, too.

If you're sailing to Spain you might even spy whales or dolphins – with the Bay of Biscay one of the best places in the world to spot them. Now, that would be great start to a holiday, wouldn’t it?

Four steps to a perfect sail-and-stay holiday

1. Book your holiday

Make sure you book through Boundless and enjoy a discount of up to 5% on holiday packages.

2. Prepare for your journey

If you haven’t taken a car abroad before, don’t worry – it’s not difficult. It's just like any other driving holiday except that you need to check the vehicle requirements of the country you’re travelling in before you go. Brittany Ferries has some excellent guides to overseas requirements such as EU stickers you'll need, compulsory car kit for driving abroad such as headlight converters and warning triangles, plus any special certificates.

One more tip: pack a separate bag for the journey so that you need only take one bag with you while on the ferry. You won’t be allowed back on to the car deck once the ferry has set sail, and while you’ll probably be able to get anything you forget from the shops or restaurants on board, it’s good to have your own essentials.

3. Board your ferry

There's no need to be daunted by driving onto a ferry – just arrive at the port at least 45 minutes before departure, follow the signs to the Brittany Ferries embarkation check-in booths, and the routes on to the ferry itself are clearly marked, with trained staff to guide you on board to your parking space. There are detailed ship plans on board to help you locate your cabin or seat, and to find your car again when you’re nearing your destination. Brittany Ferries has a helpful video showing you what happens at the port and when you drive on board.

4. Hit the road to your holiday destination

Depending on what holiday you've booked, you'll have detailed route plans to follow once you disembark. Obviously you'll be driving on the right, so it's a good idea to drive cautiously - but it's not difficult. And the roads are often quieter than UK motorways. Have some euros handy, as toll roads are common in Europe. For more tips on driving, check out Brittany Ferries' driving guides.

Set sail and stay with Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth, Plymouth and Poole to Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, St Malo, Roscoff, Santander and Bilbao.

Visit the Brittany Ferries website to find out more.

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