Contributed photo/Aaron Shepard

Contributed photo/Aaron Shepard

Washington State Ferries summer reservations increase

Three years after the introduction of the Washington State Ferries reservation system, bookings have rocketed.

Drivers nearly doubled the number of spots booked in the opening hours of the local summer ferry schedule, compared to two years prior.

In the first three hours that summer reservations opened on April 24, roughly 21,100 spots were booked on the routes for Port Townsend and Coupeville; Anacortes and the San Juan Islands; and Anacortes and Sidney, British Columbia. That’s 8,300 more than last year and 10,200 more than the year before.

The WSF summer schedule runs from June 24 through Sept. 29.

Reservations made at least a month in advance are increasing too.

The summer bookings made through the morning of May 8 are at about 75 percent of the number of reservations made at least 30 days prior to sailing dates, last summer, over the entire season. And that’s just for the San Juan and Anacortes routes.

“People are making a lot of reservations a lot farther in advance as opposed to the last minute,” said Justin Fujioka, with ferries communications.

Deborah Hopkins Buchanan, executive director of the San Juan Islands Vistors Bureau, noted the ongoing local efforts to promote advanced ferry bookings.

“We, the three chambers of commerce and the tourism industry have gotten better and better over the years at communicating the importance, and peace of mind, of making reservations,” she said.

For those who haven’t booked their ferry spots, there’s still time. For the Anacortes and San Juans route, 30 percent of reservation space is released at 7 a.m., two months prior to sailings; then 30 percent of space at 7 a.m., two weeks before sailings; and 30 percent of the final space at 7 a.m., two days before sailing dates.

According to a survey, conducted last summer as part of a draft visitor’s study for the county, almost 40 percent of respondents said they were visiting San Juan Island for the time time. However, Hopkins Buchanan speculated that returning guests have learned the importance of ferry bookings.

“I’m guessing that more and more … visitors have realized the advantages of making ferry reservations as soon as possible in order to make their trip planning easier and more predictable,” she said.

To make a reservation, call WSF customer service at 1-888-808-7977 or 206-464-6400, from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., weekdays, or visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries.