Booze Cruise - Saving money on alcohol

Pia-Pia-P&O (if anyone gets this reference I will send them a free bottle of wine)

Today we’ll be talking (again) about a subject that is dearly close to my heart liver, and I have a feeling that is true for many of my fellow Britons, and that subject is alcohol. Whether you like the burger and a pint deal down at Wetherspoons*, a bottle of Blue Nun, or fall into the Greygoose W**ker end of the drinking spectrum, you’ll no doubt agree that alcohol is getting more and more expensive. For years now the Booze Cruise to France has been known as a relatively easy way to get some cheap plonk, and having recently hopped over The Channel myself, I thought it would be worth taking a quick look at whether it is worth your time and effort to follow suit.

Le Booze Cruise, qu’est que c’est?

If you have no idea what I am talking about then you are probably an international reader, or at least not from the South East of England! One of my more northern colleagues at work thought I was just taking a ferry trip to get pissed when I told him I was going on a booze cruise! Just to clarify before we go on, no this is not the type of booze cruise you get sold tickets to by a greasy holiday rep when on an 18-30’s holiday!

Let me explain the theory behind the booze cruise:

  • French booze is generally a bit cheaper than over here. This used to be because of tax reasons before the EU was formed (I think… clarification from any older wiser readers welcome) but now there are no tax breaks, it just seems cheaper out there. I would say this is because it is closer to source but they have wines from all countries and they are all cheaper.
  • Around the ports (Calais in my experience, not sure about others) there are some wine warehouses that sell a great selection of wines at these discount prices, along with a small selection of beers and other alcohol. The Hypermarkets also have a bigger selection of alcohol and some of that is also cheaper – DYOR though on any spirits you may want to get before coming, as it may not be.
  • So in theory, you can get a very cheap ferry from Dover to Calais (for example), load the boot of your car up with booze, and drive all the way there and back and save shedloads of cash on your satisfying your alcohol needs

There is clearly a tipping point which makes the trip worthwhile and that is when the savings on your beer, wine, Jagermeister (gotta love a bomb on a sleepy Wednesday evening), and so on surpass what you have spent on ferry, fuel, and any other costs of the trip. Let’s take a quick look at the balance sheet:


P&O Ferry ticket for one car £28
Estimated Fuel for car** £35
Car usage depreciation £1
Food and Drinks for the day £35
Total Expenses £99


You can get really cheap and tasty beers in the Hypermarkets but they are local brands so there is no real way to compare costs to over here, so I’ll stick to comparing the wines only. Basically you can get numerous wines over there for £2 a bottle. This equates to a saving of *at least* £3 per bottle compared to standard supermarket prices, as these are midrange wines (i.e. not the complete bargain basement distilled vinegar-like stuff) that usually cost you around a fiver. If you like the fizzy stuff or are throwing a party and wanted some welcome drinks you can get Prosecco for £4 a bottle, which is a saving of around £4-5 per bottle. So to cover our costs you would have buy a minimum of:

  • 33 Bottles of standard wine (Costing £66)
  • 25 Bottles of Prosecco (Costing £100)
  • Or any combination of the above

So, I guess you could say you need to be *fairly* heavy drinkers(?!) to make this kind of trip worth it.

I guess if said that you would also say that theFIREstarter’s are heavy drinkers 🙂

I think we ended up spending around £120 on a combination of wine and beer, which over here was worth around £250, this gives us total alcohol saving of £130 and an ROI of (£130 – £99) / £99 = 31%

You could also argue that you’ve either had a fun day out*** “for free”, or else you would have to take the money you spend on the food and drink off the expenses side of things as that was part of the fun and not really a hard expense of the trip. If you were really just going for the hard savings you could just take some food and drinks you made at home and knock that cost down to about a fiver in any case.

The First Rule of Booze Club…

There are ways to optimize this even further. If you get a group of friends or family that all put in an order, you could take it in turns to do the trip. If there were 4 groups in your club all spending around £50-£100 each, there are some obvious and also a bonus benefit of this:

  • You only have to make 1 in 4 trips, making the other 3 pure alcohol savings with no expenses.
  • You are saved the hassle of making the trip 3 in 4 times (although I still think it’s fun, despite the footnote below!)
  • If you spend over £250 at (not an affiliate link btw) they will pay for your next crossing for you!

So you can see if you get a group of you together, who are all trustworthy to stick to their word and actually do their trip, then the cost side of things dramatically falls off a cliff and your ROI gets a huge booze-t. Spreading the costs and savings over the course of four trips you are looking at something like the following, for each group member:

  • Alcohol Savings = £400 (average of £100 of savings per trip, a mild estimate from our experience)
  • Cost of Ferry = £28 / 4 = £7 (only need to pay this on the first trip, and you would obviously get the other group members to chip in for this)
  • Car Transport costs = £36
  • Food + Drink = £35

This gives a total ROI of (£400 – £77) / £77 = 413% ROI


The conclusions seem pretty obvious, if you drink more than about 1 bottle of wine per week (or even if you don’t actually, you can just space out your trips further!) then the Booze Cruise to France is well and truly alive and kicking as a way to save some dosh when stocking up your alcohol supplies.  Just remember the tips above to maximise your ROI and don’t fall into the trap of spending money on tat while you are there!

Have any of you tried this technique? Would you give it a go if you lived in the right area? Are there any other areas of the UK (or World) where this type of technique works? Let us hear them!


*Wetherspoons is a “budget” pub chain in the UK, for any non UK readers!

** Your Mileage May Vary considerably on this one, depending on how far you live from the ferry port, how much petrol your vehicle imbibes, and whether or not you drive like a total douchebag

***Please note the fun aspect of this is heavily weather dependant. We did one last February in the snow and I would definitely not describe sitting in a snow covered ferry car park for 3 hours, sitting on the boat at Dover on the way home for an extra 2 hours as they wouldn’t let anyone off the boat as the port roads were gridlocked, then driving home on backroads to avoid said gridlock at 1am and finally getting home at 3am fun 🙂

Take a lesson from our bad experience and make sure you check the weather forecast before you go, book as near to the travelling time as possible, and therefore be flexible on dates!