Skip to main content

The charity making life better by water

Information for first-time holiday boaters

Imagine being able to take your house and park it in some of the most inspiring and beautiful parts of England and Wales. This is what life on a boat holiday is like.

Three people stand on the back of a narrowboat with a drink each

On a boat you'll never get bored of looking out of the window, because you can change your view every day.

With over 2,000 miles of our canals and rivers for you to cruise, the sheer choice of holiday routes can seem daunting at first, but it's really just a case of deciding what you want to get out of your holiday.

How do I choose where to go?

First choose a location, either a place that you've previously fallen in love with or an area that you've always wanted to explore. Your chosen hire boat company can explain the routes available within the area.

Plan your journey based around how you and your family or friends want to spend your days. If you love visiting attractions and eating out, go for a route that passes through a major city like Birmingham or Manchester. But if you prefer peaceful surroundings and spotting wildlife, there's a huge choice of rural waterways.

Your skill level and confidence in driving the boat may also play a part in your route decision. If you're new to boating, you may want to avoid areas with lots of locks. However, if you have energetic children, then locks will help to keep them entertained.

How far can I travel?

During the summer months you can expect to cruise for anywhere between four and seven hours a day.

Travelling at 3-4mph for four hours a day will mean you cover around 80 to 100 miles in a week. This will still provide plenty of time for lazy lunches and energetic exploring.

You should also make sure you allow extra time in your schedule to go through locks. It will take you at least 15 minutes to get through each one and there might be a queue of boats at peak times.

How much will it cost?

When you're comparing the cost of a canal boat holiday to other types of holiday, it's important to remember what's included. Being on the boat each day is enjoyable enough in itself, so you'll probably find you spend much less on activities and outings than you normally would. Also, with so many canals around the country, you're unlikely to need to book flights or long rail journeys to get to your start point. Most hire boat companies offer free parking at their base for the duration of your holiday.

The price of a canal holiday can vary widely and depends on a number of factors, including how many people are in your group, what time of year you're going, the length of your break and the quality of boat you choose.

  • A couple can expect to pay around £350 upwards for a short break (3-4 nights) and £500 upwards for a week-long break
  • A group of four can expect to pay around £450 upwards for a short break and £850 upwards for a week-long break

Sharing your holiday with a larger group of friends and family can make it much more affordable. For example, a short break on a boat for up to 12 people can cost as little as £800, which is around £65 per person.

Check whether fuel is included in your quote and if there are any extra costs, such as a damage waiver.

Prices are higher during peak times, such as around Christmas and during the summer months.

Last Edited: 19 November 2021

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration