No mode of transportation can compare with being on water, and unless you’re landlocked, plan at least a small part of your journey on a boat, ship, catamaran, dinghy, long-tail boat, or skiff. (I suggest skipping the lifeboat.)
The necessity to book tickets for in-state, in-country, and inter-country ferry systems varies. Washington State has a vast route of ferries in which no advanced purchase is necessary for most sailings (as a matter of fact, it’s first come, first served).For ferries in general, however, tickets are normally required in advance for longer-distance sailings (when you will want a private sleeping berth) and shorter sailings when you need a confirmed seat.
Major ferry systems often allow online booking. The FAQ sections on each ferry system’s website should answer your questions as to whether it’s possible to book in advance, whether you can book online, and what your chances are of getting tickets if you plan to purchase just prior to departure.
Unless you’re traveling during high season, you’ll find it easy to book your tickets for short-distance boat rides just days in advance (if not the same day). Of course, if you must be in a city for a specific event, the farther ahead you book, the more you can rest easy that you’ll arrive on time. Purchase your tickets directly from the ferry company, as travel and booking agents will tack on additional charges to cover their services. However, there are times when it may be well worth having someone else handle ticketing on your behalf,especially if you don’t speak the language.