Saving Money on Your Yacht Charter

save money sailing vacationSailing vacations cost less than most people think, but they are ways to save on yacht charters. Here are tips and advice from charter management companies and avid yacht charterers. Whether your are a sailor yourself looking fo-r a bareboat charter or a landlubber with an interest in sailing looking for a great deal on a charter yacht vacation, these tips will help you navigate the many decisions you make to get the best deals on a sailing vacation.

Save Before Booking Your Yacht Charter

The decisions you make about where, when, and the yacht charter company you book with affect the pricing drastically. Here's how to ask the right questions and explore the right cruising grounds for your sailing vacation.

The Cruising Grounds

Where you will charter your boat is usually the first thing you decide. The key factors in this decision when the focus is to get the biggest bang for your buck is going to be the yacht charter company and the airline because those will be your 2 biggest expenses for your cruising vacation.

 

While south Pacific destinations like Tahiti or the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean sound exotic, and they are, you must consider that the airfare will be pricier than a Caribbean destination (from the US). Plus, it takes 2-3 days to get to faraway locales so you have to incur more expenses before and after your charter, will spend up to 1/3 of your vacation days travelling rather than cruising, and may find you need another vacation after returning! Chartering closer to home usually means that you save money or splurge on extras for your charter rather than blowing your budget on flights and longer travel times. Here are some things to consider for picking your charter company and flights for less.

The Charter Company

Just like airlines, yacht charter companies offer deals on destinations where bookings are low. Pricing can change frequently especially on longer charter durations. Visit yacht charter companies' websites or talk with a charter company representative directly, as yacht charter brokers may not share this helpful information with you.

No matter where you decide to charter, also check on “2nd tier” yacht charter companies. These companies rarely offer the later model boats, but you can read reviews to determine how well they maintain their fleet and often, you can get substantial discounts going with the smaller companies with older boats.

If you have chartered before with a company, inquire about a discount for subsequent charters. Staying with the same company can net you an average 5% savings.

Ask about early booking discounts. Some charter companies offer such discounts for booking well in advance. Deals are to be had for booking late within a week of sailing, also, but usually result in expensive airfare and other expenses because of lack of ability to plan other aspects of the vacation well in advance.

Another extreme saving tip is to avoid the charter company altogether and book directly with the boat owner. You can get savings up to 50% off! Search online for buying charters with “owners time” from boat owners who have placed their yachts in a charter yacht fleet. This is completely safe to do and once you have made your deal with the yacht owner to purchase their personal owners’ time the charter companies give boat owners, then you will deal with the yacht charter company for all details such as provisioning, itinerary, and charter base arrival. If you have questions about this method of booking, give us a call!

airplane landing in bviThe Airline

Airline rates can be very confusing, changing frequently. Many online tools like skyscanner and kayak have made keeping track of airline pricing trends on your destinations of interest easier. Be sure to start looking early and set alerts so you can get notice of the best deals for your destination. Saving on flights can be substantial especially if you are paying for several people.

A little know tip is that large first-tier charter companies like Dream Yacht Charter, Moorings, and Sunsail have full-time staffed travel assistance resources that offer discounted rates on some airlines that you will not find anywhere else. So before spending time researching flights yourself, check with the charter companies you are considering using.

Another tip for getting the best rates on flights is to fly mid-week. Especially for the Caribbean, it is usually cheaper. Plus, as veteran charterers know, you can avoid the masses that jam the airports during the weekends from cruise ship passengers headed to Caribbean destinations. And your charter base will be more relaxed and have time to spend with you as weekend charter starts are the most common. Charter base managers tells us that Tuesday or Wednesday departures are best.

Once you get a feel for the pricing for charter locales and flights, you should have a good idea of the best destinations for your savings goals. From there, you can dig into getting deals like through purchasing owners time, varying season, etc. More tips ahead.

The Season

Cruising the “Med” in July or the Caribbean in December are ideal, the “perfect” cruising weather is the precise reason that these are called the “high season” for yacht chartering. And, you guessed it, “high” does not just mean the crowds are up…it means prices are, too. You can save a lot by picking a shoulder season (just on either side of the high season) or save even more by picking an off-season charter. You will experience the same great destinations and if you are into underwater life, they don’t pay much attention to the seasons…but you may find it hotter or colder or perhaps, wetter, than ideal, but know you are saving big so it may be worth the small inconvenience.

In addition to saving by booking outside of high season, you will save more on flights and even restaurants and other activities. Talk with charterers and charter companies to get the scoop on the best time to go to your chosen destination. While you risk vacation cancellation due to hurricanes in June and July in the Caribbean, most seasons do not have these tropical menaces until August so you can save big by meditteranean yacht charter seasons averagepricing differencestaking the small risk.

Examples of High and Low Seasons fo Caribbean and Med

Caribbean:

  • High Season ($$$): late December through January
  • Medium Season ($$): November through mid-December and February-April 
  • Low Season ($): June through October.

Mediterranean:

  • High Season ($$$): July and August
  • Medium Season ($$): May through June and September
  • Low Season ($): April and October.

Cruise Length

While most take a 7-day charter, if you can and will enjoy it, you can get discounted rates for 14-day charters, or longer. Expect a 5% savings off the usual rate for a 14-day, and 10% off longer cruise durations. Note that short than 7-days will often result in a surcharge.

The Boat

This can be the most confusing area because there are so many choices of boat model and year as well as varied pricing between yacht charter companies on the same model. Plus, you have to research a bit on the berth and head counts to ensure the configuration suits your group. For example, If 3 couples are chartering, one couple would likely be disappointed to discover that their berths were twin beds.

Selecting the size boat is really less important than selecting the configuration of beds and heads. You might can save with a shared head between 2 cabins, but is this savings worth it if the couples sharing it are not close friends? Only you and your group can decide, but these are vital questions to ask while weighing the pros and cons of saving versus having a comfortable and enjoyable vacation experience. Check out our detailed advice and things to consider when choosing your yacht size and model to charter.

The same general range of boats may have widely differing rates among charter companies. So spend time looking for the right boats and layouts that fit your group, then hone in on pricing.

The best advice is to get the smallest boat that will suit your needs. Unless you find an exceptional deal on the next size up, getting the smallest boat will net you the best price per person. Bigger is not necessarily better, especially if you are bareboating and sailing the vessel yourself.

The Extras

Different charter companies offer radically different “included” amenities and necessities. Ask about insurance, local cruising permits, cleaning fees, transportation to and from the base, mobile phone and Internet connectivity, onboard entertainment options, fuel, water, ice, dinghy, water toys, snorkel gear, hand held GPS and other equipment, etc. Especially if you are chartering in a new area to you like Europe, read the fine print and ask a lot of questions. For example, in the Med, a lot of rates are boat only and do not include things you are accustomed to being a part of the price in the Caribbean like linens, towels, and outboard (yes!).

A charter that seems inexpensive can dramatically increase as you add all the things you need and want. So, ask lots of questions and be sure if you are comparing charters between companies that you are comparing vacations with the same scope. See “Provisioning” below for more areas where extras can add up.

The Hotels

For saving and convenience, try giving up the hotel altogether. Some charter companies offer sleep aboard or "evening starts". Here are a few reasons to inquire about using these charter options as an alternative to hotel rooms:

  • Especially if your charter group includes 2 or 3 couples, staying aboard or booking an evening start is cheaper than a hotel. Expect to pay about 50% of the day rate for a sleep aboard.
  • You really get an early start on your vacation being able to unpack, store your provisions (and get a second chance to pick up a missed item), and become familiar with the equipment. You may be able to get your briefing the evening before enabling you to get under way early giving you more time for your sailing itinerary. This can be big as when staying in a hotel, by the time you get everyone up, fed, and headed to the boat, then do the briefing it is almost midday.

Provisioning

yacht charter provisioningIt can be tempting and charter companies entice you to buy their provisioning packages. It is convenient and, if money is no object, then go for it. But since you are reading this post, we assume that money is a big object for you so you should “object” to the provisioning packages. Typical provisioning packages can cost up to $25 per person/per day plus about $20 per person per week for the "staples" such as paper towels, notebooks, salt, pepper, etc. And this is without beverages in some cases.

On a 6-guest/7-day charter, this will add up to $1200+ and you still don’t have beverages! While less convenient, you can probably envision it worth your while to make your own run to the grocery and liquor stores. Even with the higher prices you find in most exotic locales, you will save significantly and can benefit from noticing well-priced items in the stores to use instead of pricier versions or substitutes.

Self-provisioning does introduce some challenges such as how to get it all to the boat and how to save time doing it so you can get on with your vacation. Here are some tips: Shop at home for pricier items including canned goods. This will give you good prices and your favorite brands which are not always (rarely?) available at charter bases. Plus, you only buy what you need. Use your charter company’s provisioning list to ensure you get all the basics including paper towels, salt, pepper, etc. Spread the weight of your provisioning amongst guests putting items in various suitcases. Or use a large rolling duffel bag or a large rolling cooler, maybe two, check as baggage with the airline. For refrigerated items, freeze them for a week or more for safe travels for a few hours in an ice chest. Buy heavy items like beverages and perishable items like fresh produce at local stores near the base, or order from the base.

Another bonus of self-provisioning Is that zipping over to the grocery store yourself can be fun. Imagine the fruits you have never seen, foods you have never tried, or even enjoying the “different” way that business is conducted. So let yourself enjoy the process!

During Your Yacht Charter Cruise

Arranging transfers to the charter base from the airport on your own through a taxi or bus service is almost always cheaper than using the charter company’s transfer service.

Having dinner or cocktails ashore can get expensive very fast. Avoid tourist traps asking locals or your captain or even online sailing forums for suggestions. Have cocktails before you leave the ship or plan to come back for nightcaps instead of buying pricy drinks in bars and restaurants.

Anchoring out instead of paying for a mooring ball can save you money in some locations. But, keep in mind, that if you are bareboating that you must get up 2-3 times a night to check anchor so a mooring may be worth it. But, if in the Med…it can save you thousands avoiding to dock overnight. So ask lots of questions!

Bring your own snorkel mask for a better fit and more hygienic experience. If travelling with kids bring a few blowup beach toys and buckets with shovels to save big as well as having them when you need them.

One of the biggest ways to save money and improve your sailing vacation is to conduct a thorough yacht charter crew briefing. Ensuring everyone knows how to operate the head and what acceptable water usage is will assure everyone has a better experience and does not break things costing you money. Plus, it will be a safer trip. 

Take along our DIY fixes aboard your yacht charter to try before calling the tech. These tips could save you time, money, and frustration.

Use our charter boat checklist to ensure that you are prepared and have everything you need before casting off.

Ready to cruise? Read our tips for getting the most out of your crewed charter experience.

 

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