Canal boat holiday - anyone been on one?

(37 Posts)
Eulalia Wed 28-Feb-07 13:15:28

We are considering hiring a canal boat in England. Round about the end of June, probably just for a week (quite expensive). There are 5 of us, me, dh, ds1 who will be nearly 8, ds2, nearly 2 and dd 5.

Wondered what experiences others had of this type of holiday? Bit concered about my little one with regard to safety (he likes to climb!), keeping him amused and so on.

Are there plenty of places to stop at? What are they like (there seems to be English pubs) - child friendly? What about provisions, where would we get fresh stuff?

Is the living accommodation OK - beds comfortable etc?

Any advice/experiences welcomed. Thanks.

chocolatebirdy Wed 28-Feb-07 13:19:29

Sorry no, would love to do it though but am also worried about safety and my little climber!!

We went on these holidays when I was a child and parents became so addicted that they now spend half the year on a motor cruiser on the Continent.

DH and I are also thinking about getting a little boat for pottering ourselves.

Amusement should not be a problem, as you're moving along and there is a lot to see and a different place to explore every evening. There are lots of canalside pubs. Most canals go straight through the middle of towns so it's not too hard to get fresh food (and the boat will have a fridge anyway). Beds won't be luxury but will be comfortable enough. Cooking facilities and shower should be fine.

The safety issue is a big concern for the nearly 2-year old and I reckon it would depend on his personality. For instance: if you put him in a lifejacket will he stay in it or try to take it off? If you have a rule that he stays inside whenever you go through locks, will he obey that (perhaps with the help of the older children)?

There will be moments when the boat needs the attention of both of you, so if you can't keep him safe during those times you should perhaps wait a couple of years.

or find another adult to go to with you.

Eulalia Wed 28-Feb-07 13:56:01

I could take his pushchair and strap him in. How much room is there on the outside - doesn't look like much space on the 'deck' from the pictures I've seen.

Good idea, if he can't escape from the pushchair.

There is usually hardly any space at all at the back (just enough for the person who is steering and maybe one other person to stand) and a little space at the front with a couple of benches - you could put the pushchair there. Anyone else who wants to sunbathe etc would be up on the roof (sounds dangerous but quite safe really).

Have you looked at hiring a motor cruiser rather than an actual narrowboat? The designs of some of them might work out more child-friendly (eg bigger windows, so more of a view if the child is inside), more safe outside space.
That would affect where you went, though, as some canals are only wide enough for narrowboats.

Eulalia Wed 28-Feb-07 14:19:20

Thanks Kathy - I think we'd like to try the canalboat to give us plenty of options to travel about. We've been going to Spain for the past few years but I have found it exhausting chasing after the children on the beach. ds1 has SN and tends to wander off, dd can do this also and now ds2 is mobile we'd have to watch him too... not very relaxing! Small space may work better from that point of view. I like the idea of going somewhere different every day. Also the boat goes so slowly it is possible to walk along side as well in places I'd guess?

Eulalia Wed 28-Feb-07 14:20:30

I mean one of us walking along beside the boat while it is travelling.

Yes, they chug nicely along at walking pace.
Narrowboats are prettier, too, of course

laudaud Wed 28-Feb-07 14:56:34

haven't done it with children but went with some friends a few years ago - 8 adults. It was great - we stopped off at fields to play frisbee and football. The atmosphere was fantastically relaxed and everyone we met was friendly - chugging along at about 4 miles per hour (top speed!) seems to chill people out.

bakedpotato Wed 28-Feb-07 15:01:30

Sorry to put a downer on this one, but I lost half a finger on a family boating holiday

(I still remember the lockkeeper's wife putting a dishcloth over the bloody stump as we waited for the ambulance)

I can still make my mother cry when I bring it up


How did it happen? Was it lock machinery? How old were you?

bakedpotato Wed 28-Feb-07 15:31:08

I was about 10
All my fault, wasn't concentrating, was doing something with a rope and a bollard outside a lock
It was a good holiday, up til then

Songbird Wed 28-Feb-07 15:44:09

I'd go with what someone suggested above - if you can possibly take another adult (or 2!) it would be better, as you will both have your hands full. Canal boat holidays are fantastic fun, though I haven't tried it with kids, let alone toddlers!

Oh yes, I can see how that might happen, Baked Potato. Poor you, though.

Eulalia Wed 28-Feb-07 21:04:03

bakedpotato - rather a memorable holiday indeed. Thanks for letting me know though as it's something I will keep in mind.

Eulalia Thu 01-Mar-07 11:19:52

Bump - anyone else?

I am thinking that a danger point could be at the front with the benches as the children could climb on them and possibly fall off? I am also worrying about them getting up in the night and wandering outside although they don't do that at home, so may have to try and jam the inner doors shut somehow. Other than that I am practically sold on the idea, as is dh and am excited at the prospect!

miljee Thu 01-Mar-07 12:38:41

Mm. Personally I think your guys might be a bit young. I went on 2 canal boat trips aged 12 and 14. We had a fantastic time, there were 8 of us, (family)- 4 adults and 4 kids, me being the youngest. The big thing was we were old enough to be able to help steer the boat and to open and close locks (and, at 14, get served in a pub without question...!). On the longer, perhaps duller bits we were old enough to get a book and lie on the roof as the world drifted by. I have 2 DSs aged 5 and 7 and I think the issue would be first and foremost, safety. You can't be watching them ALL the time. Children can climb over the sides easily, or fall off the roof. Locks are all-hands-on-deck, and the boats we had would have been unsuitable even for a stationery stroller. Possibly boredom: Though walking alongside the boat is fun and gives you a bit of a leg stretch, frankly I think they go a bit fast for a toddler to keep up and canalside scenery though lovely for an adult may fail to capture the imagination of a fidgety child. The inside of the boats, though well laid out, are a bit cramped and could get a bit claustrophobic in wet weather. Oh, and on our first trip, we sank. My aunt woke me at 2am because the rear of the boat was literally sitting on the bottom of the canal and there was knee deep water throughout!! It was 76 and the water level was really low on the Llangollen so each time we moved to the side of the canal to let an oncoming boat pass, we were scraping bottom and eventually wore a hole in the boat! As a 12 year old, that was all a HUGE adventure though my mum still shudders...! I'd do it all again in a trice but we have to pick that window between DSs being too young and being world weary teenagers. Whatever you choose, good luck! Every family and every family's dynamic is different and of course it may work perfectly for you.

You should be able to lock the doors from inside - I wouldn't worry about the escaping thing too much. (Maybe you could ring the boatyard you are thinking of hiring from to check this.)

Miljee makes some good points.
Wet weather - yes would be boring if they were stuck inside - you need to have a full set of waterproofs and just ignore the fact that it's raining. Boats will have heating so you can dry off.

Falling in - someone will fall in at some point - you just have to prepare for that eventuality and make sure they are wearing lifejackets. My brother fell in off the roof aged around 5 and was teased for years about the fact that the first thing he said when pulled out was 'The water's too wet.'
Most of the time they won't come to much harm BUT locks are extremely dangerous so you have to keep them inside for locks unless you can trust them absolutely.
Speed - well you could always go slower if someone is walking!

From my own experience I think 5 and 7 are ideal to start boating (we were 7,8 and 4) - they can't really steer etc but can "help" - but the toddler would need more planning, I think.

Eulalia Fri 02-Mar-07 10:58:51

Thanks again folks! Yes I do agree they are still a bit on the young side.... but the fact that the children are contained within a boundary is a bonus believe me! The dimensions of the boat are bigger than the apartment we had in Spain and they were Ok with that up to a point. When they got bored we just went out. I see many of the boats have TV/video which we didn't have in Spain. Obv don't want them watching too much of that so if its raining we'll just find somewhere to moor and and get out. Got a map yesterday and there seems like plenty of nice pubs who are happy to take children and some have playparks too.

My toddler is the big concern but I am well used to watching him constantly. I have reins and am used to strapping him down. I may take his highchair seat which can be attached to an ordinary chair to tie him in when we get to a lock.

As for the roof - was just going to ban it completely and not go on it ourselves so the children won't know, unless they see others passing by on roofs? If the weather is really nice, again we can stop somewhere to enjoy it.

One question - we will be going at start of school hols which start 2/3 weeks earlier in Scotland. Would these family pubs be open in the day time out of term?

miljee Sat 03-Mar-07 11:42:28

I think the pubs would be open. An awful lot of people go canal boating all the time, so there'd always be passing trade. Where are you going? We did the Llangollen and the Warwick Ring. Anyway, from what you've said, you've obviously thought through the eventualities and have contingency plans, so why not go for it?!

bran Sat 03-Mar-07 12:03:21

Our family did a trip like this when I was a child, I think I was 7 or 8 and db was 2 or 3. I remember it as being a fab trip, it was a sort of a test for cruising holidays on the open sea, so in a way it was a pity that the river holiday went so well as I was doomed to sailing for a month or so every summer for years until I was old enough to refuse.

We were on a river (the Shannon) rather than a canal and we had a motorboat not a canal boat so there was more room for everyone to sit together inside or outside. A proper lifejacket is vital, and also a sailing harness which has a longish rope with a d-hook on the end so if your child falls overboard you can just pull them back in.

Surfermum Sat 03-Mar-07 12:16:15

I went on one with 10 friends pre-dd. I have never been so drunk, so consistently . We'd wake up each morning, choose a pub to stop at for lunch and another for the evening and off we'd set. It is so relaxing as you chug along just looking at the countryside and chilling.

I can't wait till dd (3.8) is able to swim better and we can go again. She's a good girl and generally does as she's asked, but in all honesty I still don't think I'd be able to relax with her on board and all that water around.

Eulalia Mon 05-Mar-07 13:35:40

Well we've takent the plunge (pardon the pun) and booked a week starting off in Leicestershire - still to plan our route! Yes won't be able to relax totally but can't anywhere really so may as well do it in nice surroundings. Like the idea of stopping off in different places - won't get bored that's for sure. Thanks for all the info and advice

vinhotinto Mon 05-Mar-07 13:49:59

Hi

i have a narrowboat and they are great for a change of scenery.

I regulary take my 5 month dd but thats fine as she doesn't move, you need to take more care with a toddler, making sure life jackets are on etc. That said I see lots of children on boats and they have a great time, good for learning too.

The locks are the most dangerous areas but that is also for adults as well as children. My advice would be to take everything at slow pace at a lock, open gates carefully a bit at a time. You will find that other boaters will help at locks in anycase if they are waiting to come through.

Don't know how the set up works inside a holiday boat but obviously space is tight. The amount of room outside depends on what sort it is.

have fun

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