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BC Ferries warns this weekend is going to 'be a busy one' with peak summer travel

With so many people coming and going, BC Ferries has some travel tips for smoother sailings, too
BC Ferries' Coastal Celebration on the Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Victoria (Swartz Bay) route. Photo by Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome

The middle weekend in August is a popular time for travel in British Columbia, and BC Ferries cautions passengers it's going "to be a busy one" this year, too.

BC Ferries said Friday (Aug. 13) that this particular weekend is dubbed the unofficial "change-over" weekend of the summer - it's that crossover time when you have one group of travellers coming home from being away the first two weeks of the month and go time for a whole other group of travellers starting off their August holidays. 

In order to manage expectations, BC Ferries is warning that if you are looking to catch a ride between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island between now and Sunday that you make a reservation, look for off-peak sailings, or plan on long waits to make the crossing without a reservation.

BC Ferries expects sailings from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen to Duke Point and Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay to be particularly busy all day Friday and Saturday morning, indicates a media release from BC Ferries. 

On the flip side, trips from Island terminals to Metro Vancouver's two terminals are expected to be full on Sunday, Aug. 15. "If you are planning to travel back to Metro Vancouver without a reservation and wish to avoid sailing waits, we recommend you travel in the afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 14 or the
afternoon on Monday, Aug. 16," urges BC Ferries.

Vancouver Island is a particularly popular destination at this point in the summer, thanks to wildfires in B.C.'s Interior region.

Traffic on BC Ferries has ramped up in recent weeks as pandemic restrictions have been relaxed. Vessels are now allowed to operate at full capacity after being limited for months to allow for social distancing. However, staffing shortages have forced BC Ferries to cancel some sailings altogether; the company is currently looking to recruit more employees. 

BC Ferries offers the following "Weekend Travel Tips" for smoother sailings:

  • Book in advance – Book early to secure a spot at the sailing day and time of your choice. Customers with flexibility can travel at less busy times and take advantage of reduced fares to avoid the rush. Book online at Customers with a booking do not experience sailing waits.
  • Be prepared for sailing waits if you do not book in advance – Sailing waits are common during popular travel periods. If bookings are sold out, the best option to avoid sailing waits is to travel during less busy times. These are typically mid-week days and early morning or late evening sailings.
  • Travel as a foot passenger – Leave the car at home. If possible, choose public transit or arrange to be dropped off at the terminal. Foot passengers can now make bookings on the Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island routes.
  • Arrive early – Customers with a booking should plan to arrive at the terminal 45-60 minutes before their scheduled departure. Walk-on passengers should arrive 45 minutes before their scheduled departure.
  • Keep hydrated – Bring plenty of water for you and your pets. Terminal holding compounds can reach high temperatures while waiting to board a ferry. Hats and sunscreen are always a good idea. Water fountains and fill up stations are available inside our staffed terminals. BC Ferries makes every effort to get traffic inside the holding compounds; however, during peak travel times you may need to lineup outside the terminal so bringing your own water bottle is
  • recommended. For traffic safety reasons, there are limited or no facilities/amenities outside terminals. Please plan ahead.
  • Respect fellow passengers and crew – High traffic volumes can be stressful for both customers and employees. We have a zero tolerance policy for abuse, including verbal abuse, towards employees. Our employees are professionals doing their best to meet everyone’s needs. We deny service to customers who abuse employees.

As always, passengers are encouraged to check BC Ferries on Twitter for the most up-to-date travel information. 

With a file from Carla Wilson / Times Colonist