VICTORIA -- BC Ferries is adding 171 extra sailings to accommodate extra traffic between Vancouver Island and the mainland this holiday season.

From Dec. 19 to Jan. 1, the ferry service will add 128 additional sailings on (to?) the Victoria to Vancouver (Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen) route. The added sailings include 6 a.m. departures from both sides of the route on Dec. 23, 26 and 27, as well as a 10 p.m. departure from Tsawwassen on Dec. 21.

BC Ferries is also adding 37 extra sailings between West Vancouver and Nanaimo (Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay), and six additional sailings between West Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast (Horseshoe Bay to Langdale).

The ferry service says that historically the most popular holiday travel times are between Dec. 20 and 23 for traffic from the Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay terminals to Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. The most popular travel days are expected to be Dec. 26 and 27 for traffic returning from Departure Bay, Swartz Bay and Langdale.

As always, BC Ferries advises travellers to book in advance, arrive early and be prepared for sailing waits.

The ferry service also issued a special reminder for customers travelling between Swartz Bay and Salt Spring Island. Between Dec. 20 and Jan. 1, the 60-vehicle Bowen Queen will replace the 90-vehicle Skeena Queen, which is undergoing mid-life upgrades.

Because of the change, the Bowen Queen will do two extra round trips per day to accommodate as many customers as possible. However, the change may mean longer waits for passengers travelling on buses and those travelling in vehicles from Fulford Harbour.