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Eliminate “packing anxiety” this Christmas – the ferry industry shows the extraordinary items passengers can take on board without extra luggage costs

  • Full-size dinosaurs, donkeys and even the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree traverse British waters by ferry

Luggage fees are travellers’ biggest gripe1, with tight restrictions and hefty excess baggage charges proving particularly challenging at the most magical time of the year. Heavy jumpers, winter coats and Christmas presents can all add to the weight of getting away during the festive season but ferry passengers need not worry as Discover Ferries, the ferry industry body, highlights that there is space for packages of all shapes and sizes.

Abby Penlington, Director at Discover Ferries says: “Owners of sports equipment, parents of small children and people with specialist hobbies are choosing to travel by ferry so they can holiday with the things that don’t fit in their suitcase. From a suit of armour (which would certainly set metal detectors off!) and beloved family pets to sports equipment such as kayaks, yoga mats, snowboards and even a boat – ferry passengers have the freedom to bring more than just the essentials. And this will become even more prominent in 2024 as the trend for hobby-led holidays grows.”

Suited up on Red Funnel

Free from exorbitant excess luggage fees and the reassurance that luggage won’t get lost en route – a fear almost half (49%) of British travellers face2 – ferry travel means passengers don’t have to fret about packing for their festive trip.  

Penlington continues: “Packing for time away can be extremely stressful but travelling by ferry can alleviate this anxiety as there are no concerns over luggage weight, transporting liquids or making sure it fits in your suitcase. Especially for those sailing with a car, passengers can fill their boots so they can pack in those extra Christmas gifts and Duty-Free. Not only is it easier to take larger items away on a ferry but it also offers peace of mind, as travellers don’t need to worry about the potential loss or damage of items such as expensive road bikes in transit.”   

You wouldn’t believe what we saw on holiday…!

Proving that sightseeing can begin from the moment you arrive at the port, in addition to wildlife-spotting from the deck for potential sightings of dolphins, whales, and seals, ferry passengers may have also caught a glimpse of even more unusual sights.

Blessed with large areas for cargo and wide ramps for easy loading and unloading, it’s no surprise that ferries regularly transport sizeable items – verifying that any passengers’ luggage requests can be accommodated. Some of the largest and most unusual items seen on board include a replica, full-sized harbour porpoise named Harry and life-like dinosaur robots destined for an amusement park.

Some cinematic stars have even been spotted on board, with Stormtroopers from the Star Wars franchise, the iconic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and even Daleks crossing the Solent to visit the Isle of Wight.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sails to the Isle of Wight aboard Wightlink

Bringing a Ferry Merry Christmas home

As well as transporting thousands of people (and their presents) to reunite and celebrate with loved ones over the festive period, the UK ferry industry is also responsible for bringing the spirit of Christmas to the British Isles with services bringing festive food, decorations and gifts to our homes.

Fresh vegetables, such as AOP Roscoff onions, Lamb’s lettuce and cauliflower grown by the Breton farmers who founded Brittany Ferries still arrive by sea. Stena Line ships many special products from Ireland on behalf of its customers including 7,000 palettes each of turkeys and Pigs in Blankets and 22,000 palettes of festive favourite, Baileys Irish Cream. Already this year, Wightlink has delivered more than 2,700 Christmas trees to the Isle of Wight.

Furthermore, commuter services from Hovertravel and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers are easing the load for Christmas shoppers who are looking to take the weight off their feet away from the crowds after a day of searching for the perfect gifts. Hovertravel staff will even help passengers to carry their heavy loads on board.

Penguins, donkeys and a group of elves have all hitched a ferry ride in recent weeks, so passengers should keep their eyes peeled when travelling – lucky travellers may even get to see Father Christmas himself.

Penlington adds: “At this time of year, it’s important to remember that so many of our beloved Christmas traditions reach the British Isles from overseas. One of the most celebrated Christmas items the ferry industry brings to our shores is the iconic Christmas tree that sits in Trafalgar Square and is transported across the sea by DFDS. Gifted by the Norwegian people, the spruce is over 20 metres tall and travels more than 1,700km and its arrival signifies the start of the festive season for the capital.”

Trafalgar Square Christmas tree shipped from Norway by DFDS

Editor’s notes

Luggage fees were named the biggest travel rip-offs in a survey conducted for Discover Ferries carried out online by Censuswide. A panel resulting in 2,042 responses from general UK consumers was questioned between 20th and 23rd January 2023. All the research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines.

2 Research into the Top Travel stresses was conducted for Discover Ferries carried out online by Censuswide. A panel resulting in 2,042 responses from general UK consumers was questioned between 20th and 23rd January 2023. All the research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Results were calculated from a combination of ‘Extremely stressful’ and ‘Quite stressful’ responses

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