Tag Archives: vehicle reservations

How Does the Steamship Authority Work?

Matha's Vineyard Steamship Authority Ferry

For those of you that have been to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, you know that the process of bringing a vehicle along on your Vineyard vacation can be very trying if you don’t know the process!  Our island population goes from around 15,000 year round residents to 100,000 August visitors.  You really do need to take a ferry to and from the island.  It is a 45 minute ferry ride from the Cape.

Oak Bluffs Beach Front Rental

Once you have booked your Vineyard vacation rental, you will need to work on making arrangements for getting here.  The Steamship Authority does not take reservations for the summer season until sometime in January.  This year they open reservations online and via mail on January 20th.  Mark your calendars!  They will open the phone lines up on January 27, 2009.

Sometimes it feels like you have won the lottery when you get just the right times for your reservations for your August vacation.   The process can seem unbearable much of the time but following are some tips that might help:

  • Go online to the Steamship Authority and sign up for your profile number and pin prior to making your reservation.
  • Go online as soon as you can on January 20, be patient as you may get bumped off the site due to high volume.
  • Book any time you can on the day of travel or as close to the day of travel and request to be wait listed for your preferred times.

You should know that the wait list system does seem to work out for most travelers that are reserving their tickets this far in advance.   The steamship has represented in the past that they do not completely book all of the boats so they will have some flexibility.  Things do shift around but you may not know for sure right up until travel time.  They do also have a day of sail number you can call to try to change your reservation while you are on the road.

I once had a customer call and book a house one Saturday in August, drive down and get right on the boat and arrive at my office to pay for their vacation home and pick up their key, all in the same day.  This is not the norm and I do not recommend you wait to see if this works but, please realize that some of the systems that may seem very flawed can work well in the end!

Which Should You Book First? Your Vacation Home or Your Ferry Reservations?


It is a frequently asked question!  Most renters that make the Vineyard an annual vacation destination are now in the decision making process of when, where and how.  Because The Steamship Authority will be opening up vehicle ferry reservations for the summer months soon, many regulars are now trying to fit together the puzzle pieces.


Historically the primary turnover day for weekly rentals has been Saturday.  We now see almost half of our owners use Sunday as the turnover day.  This has occurred for a couple of reasons.  The steamship authority is no longer able to handle the volume of cars being brought back and forth on Saturdays alone and owners have also been having difficulty finding a cleaning crew that can turn over that number of rental houses in one day.


We also now see a few owners consider mid week turn over days for the same reasons.  Many of our tenants tend to like this as it gives them a full weekend on the island instead of having to pack and leave on one of the busy Saturday or Sundays.

When making your Martha’s Vineyard vacation plans you should try to book your rental home in advance of your ferry reservation so you know what days you will need to travel on.  If this is done far enough in advance you should not have a problem come travel time!  Many of our owners will try to be flexible on the turn over day as it gets closer to season if they can.  Many of their weeks will be boxed in with prior bookings.


It always pays to plan ahead for your Vineyard vacation!