We are often asked for advice about driving to Spain and one of the main questions is whether it is better to use the Ferries or go through the Channel Tunnel and which is cheaper.
An example of our own trip to the UK last month will help to clarify some points. Periana to Colchester is a trip of 1400 miles going through the Tunnel and 700 if using the ferry from Santander or Bilbao to Portsmouth. Using the ferry means that you can drive to Santander from Periana in one day of hard driving, mostly motorways which are excellent and we managed the 550 miles in 9 hours plus a couple of stops. The ferry departed the next day so a night in the town was necessary.
Not really a hardship as Santander has some excellent fish restaurants including El Serbal a Michelin starred place that must surely be the cheapest in Europe. Lunch menu 35€ or 8 course tasting menu with wine for each course 85€, no service charge or extras for seven sorts of bread, water, appetisers etc. And when did you last get a glass of wine for 3.60€ apart from Cantueso J
The Brittany Ferry takes about 23 hours, with comfortable cabins and good restaurants as you would expect from a French boat. They describe it as a cruise and certainly their flagship the Pont-aven has all the facilities you would expect on a cruise.
Depending on the day and time you travel the journey can be one night or two, and things have improved so much in recent years that even travelling with pets is possible. There are pet friendly cabins or kennels and an exercise area on deck.
So far as costs go it was on this occasion about the same as going through France where the tolls are high and of course the extra mileage means a lot more fuel and usually two nights in hotels. Much depends on how much time you have and whether you wish to make it a leisurely drive or a sprint.
We shall make the return journey in February and that will be even easier and cheaper as there is a ferry leaving Portsmouth at 10.30 a.m. which arrives in Spain the next morning at 09.30 a.m. meaning no need for hotels just one night on the boat and the drive down to Periana.
On balance: the ferry saves time, can be cheaper (particularly if you book a reclining seat rather than a cabin!) and much more relaxing start or finish to your holiday. I particularly like the booking website for Brittany Ferries because you can go online and change your route, timings, accommodation etc. at any time before travelling without cost penalties. Makes a change after the cheapie airlines rip-off the customer policies.
Any minus points? Not really but remember the Bay of Biscay can be lumpy in winter J