Regent's Canal, London


Explore the peaceful English countryside is by Narrowboat along the British Canal system for a truly peaceful English holiday. A boating holiday allows you to stop in tons of historic towns and meet plenty of new people in quaint country pubs. Guide yourself up and down the lock and canal system–which once was used as a freight transport system–with the tips outlined below.

Drive with confidence

Taking a boating holiday is simple enough for beginners; you can learn all of the controls you need when you arrive to pick up your boat. It may seem overwhelming at first, but most tourists quickly get the hang of it and enjoy every minute. The canal routes come in a variety of types: there are easy routes (ones that require less lock work) and hard routes (ones that may send you into lock-work overload). No matter your skill level or which route you choose, be aware that you may occasionally play bumper boats with other boats or with other objects along the canal. When this happens, don’t fret; the boats are made for this.

Pack for the whole trip

While staying in a hotel, laundry service is a convenient amenity, but while travelling by boat you won’t have that option. While you can always do laundry in a town along the way, you probably won’t want to take time away from your adventures to do the wash. Rather than spending your free time taking care of chores, do some pre-planning. Pack enough clothes for the time you’ll spend on the boat and make sure to pack wet weather gear for manning the boat. English weather can change in an instant and you won’t want to be stuck steering the boat in a downpour without the appropriate gear.

Also be sure to grab groceries from a local market so you can have meals on board. Boats are often equipped with a refrigerator, oven, sink, so you can make meals.

Look alive

When headed down a canal that is only two meters wide, it can be difficult to get turned around if you miss your stop for gas. Your boating company should have maps available to show you where to stop for water and gas. You will want to make sure you plan where to stop so that you don’t run out of gas or water. It could take an extra hour to get turned around if you need to.

Tweak occupancy numbers

When booking your boat, it may report that it can occupy six people. Yeah, right. Usually, seasoned boaters suggest subtracting two people for a comfortable journey. Often times, two beds are made by pullouts and dining chairs, and aren’t necessarily the most enjoyable. Six occupants may be fine if you’re travelling with small children, but six full-sized adults will probably be cramped.

Go in with an open mind and a sense of humour

No matter how great you listen to instructions, no matter how many guidebooks you study, mistakes can happen and unforeseen events can arise. As long as you keep an open mind about each town and a sense of humour about each problem, you will have a great time.

A boating holiday along the British Canal system is one of the most unconventional ways to explore the country. Whether you’re out exploring an historic town or out on the water, keep yourself and your belongings protected by adding travel insurance to your holiday plan.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ed Webster; cropped from original