Canal Boat Holidays
Choose where you want to visit. Plan your route out and back. Most boating holidays generally last for a week, although you can also hire a boat for short breaks. Hire companies will often offer a range of canal guides and maps to help you plan, navigate, explore, locate pubs, shops, places of interest, and so forth. Bear in mind weather conditions can occasionally affect your route, so having a backup plan is a good idea. You will probably average at around 3mph on the canals, plus extra time will be required for each lock you negotiate. Cruising will only take place during the day (it is not often permitted by hire companies during the night). You could either go out and return on the same route, or choose a cruising ring (comprised of several canals). Depending upon your hire company, you can also sometimes have the option of starting in one location and finishing in another. The style of the canal you decide upon can also vary. From canals with lots of locks, to simple canals with lots of walking opportunities in its surrounding areas, to canals with winding contours and beautiful scenery, and so on.
You need to consider who will be going on the holiday. 2 fit adults are sufficient for handling a narrowboat. Only one person is needed to steer the boat, however when you reach a lock, or when you moor, one person will need to stay on the boat to steer, and at least one person needs to disembark the boat to work the lock mechanism. A route with few locks to operate could be best suited to a couple. For larger parties, larger boats can often accommodate up to a dozen people. A party of 12 might also enjoy the challenge of a canal with more locks on it. Hire companies often allow pets onboard their boats, sometimes free sometimes at a charge, you should always ring to check the details.
Once you have chosen your area and decided upon the number of holiday participants, decide what sort of boat you would like to hire and check its availability for your holiday dates with the hire company.
Figure out what to take. For a start, the essentials, food and drink. Boats often have kitchen facilities such as an oven, hob, fridge, and so on. Check with the hire company. Remember, local shops and pubs on your route will also be able to provide you with some of this. Many boats have ratings, one to five star (just like hotels/B&Bs), reflecting the accommodation quality and facilities offered onboard.
If you are hiring a boat for a canal boat holiday, formal qualifications or boating experience isn't generally necessary. Many hire companies accept no previous experience, and will provide free tuition at the start of the holiday. It is often stated that operation is easy and quick to learn. You will need to know how to moor the boat, cruise the boat, and probably operate locks. Manuals are also often provided onboard the boat and/or details sent out with the holiday information.
Whilst You're On The Boat
Most hire bases provide parking facilities for customer cars.
The hire company will usually send you out with a full tank of fuel. Boats use very little fuel so you could be unlikely to need to refill enroute. You will however regularly need to fill up with water - for this purpose there are water taps along the canals at regular intervals.
Mooring is free on many canals. You can usually stop and tie up most places along the towpath for the night. The more popular locations can sometimes have specially designated visitor moorings.