What makes a narrowboat holiday the ideal summer holiday?   We talk to the people that matter – the kids – and find out why a holiday on the water makes the ideal family getaway.

1) Camping on water

A canal boat family summer holiday is a bit like camping on water. And what child doesn’t love the idea of an overnight adventure, camping out under the stars, exploring the elements?

The thought of sleeping anywhere that isn’t their own bed is usually exciting enough, but to be out experiencing a whole different way of life on the water is going to be exhilarating.

The benefit of a summer holiday on the waterways is that of course in July and August the temperatures overnight are much milder. All boats come equipped with central heating, but it’s good to know that you won’t be dependent on it during the summer months.

If your child is anxious then, as you probably know, preparing him or her for your new adventure is the best way to a successful holiday. Watch our videos, check out other narrowboat holiday videos on YouTube (other video sharing content sites are also available!), talk to people who may have also have done the trip.

If you live near to a Black Prince base then you are welcome to come and have a look round and get a feel for the boat so you know exactly what it is like (probably a good idea to call us first to ensure that we have boats in though).

family narrowboat holiday

2)  The excitement of a second home
Of course, the benefit of a canal boat over camping is that the boats come extremely well equipped with plenty of home comforts. There’s a toilet and shower on board, first of all. A relief to the mums and dads more than the kids probably, no midnight hikes to the toilet blocks!

Black Prince narrowboats are built with separate bedroom areas that can be separated by doors. You can choose from a two, three and even a four-bedroom boat, with the beds set up as either doubles or singles.  You can view our collection of narrowboats here.

It’s fun to watch your child explore the boat for the first time, to hear the ‘ooo’s’ and the ‘ahhh’s’ when discovering all the bits and pieces on board. They will enjoy choosing their own space and making it their own. There is a plenty of novelty value in unpacking clothes into a space-saving wardrobe, arranging toys on the beds…and plugging in gadgets to all the plug sockets in each room.

3) Your own space
A tent or hotel room can have certain limitations on a family holiday, with everyone being forced to share the same living space. However, on a canal boat, there is the room to escape to be on your own if you need some time to yourself.

If you have older children then they will appreciate the different areas of the boat where they can hang out by themselves should they feel so inclined. With the grown-ups at the tiller, they can be chilling in their bedroom, cooking in the kitchen, lounging in the living room or relaxing at at the front of the boat, simply watching the world go by.

Of course this applies to the mums and dads as well. It’s nice to have a bit of space sometimes…

4) Teamwork
Most kids on holiday love trying doing something new and they tend to love doing new things with their family. There’s a great feeling of camaraderie when setting off on your first boat trip, everyone slightly nervous of being in control of this rather large vessel, but at the same time exhilarated at the freedom of this type of escape.

There’s quite a lot involved in a narrowboat holiday. From the first moment of starting up the engine, untying the ropes, ensuring everyone is on board, to setting off and gently chugging your way along the canal or river. The kids can be fully involved in the responsibility of getting underway – ensuring the ropes are coiled up neatly, the equipment is stowed away and – under adult guidance of course – having a go at steering using the tiller.
It’s a group activity, everyone working together to set off on a daily new adventure.

family canal boat holiday uk

5) The locks

Let’s face it, locks are fascinating, and continue to be so for even the most seasoned boaters. So when the kids come across them for the first time on their holiday – and go through them on board a canal boat – it can be the highlight of the trip.

Safety first, of course. The locks have steep sides and water moves very quickly in and out of the chamber when the paddles are open, so it’s important that children are watched at all times and kept well out of any potential danger. It’s sensible to explain how the locks work before you approach one for the first time (if you’re not sure then read our article on locks here) so all members of the group are prepared as to what to expect.

Then comes the fun bit. Raising the paddles (a kind of sliding door on the lock gates) to release the water in or out the chamber, pushing open the lock gates, watching the boat chug through and closing the gates again.

It’s old fashioned engineering at it’s most fascinating.

6) Cooking up a new adventure
The kitchens on a narrowboat are small and compact, but come equipped with a four-ring gas hob, oven, fridge, sink, draining board and a small work top area. The staple food for narrowboating tends to be simple affairs like bacon sandwiches, soup and a roll with the odd pork pie (or is that just us?).

The kids always enjoy the novelty of cooking up food and eating in a new space, free from the confines of eating properly – after all, that’s what holidays are for, aren’t they?

One of the highlights of cruising the canals is the location of the waterside pubs and there tends to be plenty to choose from on a evening.

7) Fresh air and exercise
Of course, your kids won’t admit it, but fresh air and exercise is exhilarating and holidays are the best time to get out and enjoy the open air.

A narrowboat holiday along the waterways of the UK is the perfect mix of outdoor adventure on a summer holiday with the space to relax indoors when needed. There is always a towpath running along side the canal and it’s easy to hop on and off the boat if you fancy stretching your legs. The speed limit for a canal boat is 4 miles per hour, so it’s very easy to walk and keep up with boat as it’s cruising along.

One of the favourite sayings of canal boaters is that by the end of the day you feel tired – in a good way – and with the aid of a good pub meal and a glass of beer or two, you can enjoy the best night’s sleep you’ll have had for a long time.

8) Dog-friendly holidays
If you have a pet then the children will love this type of family holiday as the dog can come too! Selected Black Prince boats are dog friendly, allowing up to two dogs per boat.

You can find out more about our pet-friendly holidays here, but it’s good to know that you don’t have to leave a key member of the family at home or in kennels for your holiday.

Every day is a new walk for your pet. With footpaths running alongside all the canals then it’s easy to get on and off the boat to allow time for you and your pet to stretch your legs.

Dog friendly canal boat holiday

9) Attractions close to the canals
If you are taking a longer summer holiday of a week or more, then you may wish to break up the cruising with a stop off at some of the attractions on route. There are some fantastic places to visit right next to the canals that the kids will love.

Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory for example is based on the Birmingham and Worcestershire Canal, near our Stoke Prior base. Visit this amazing factory and learn how Cadbury’s chocolate is made and even play in chocolate rain. There are 14 zones to explore so be sure to leave plenty of time to see everything.

Also from our Stoke Prior base you can sail right past Warwick Castle. This family tourist attraction puts on a great range of entertainment, from live actor experiences to bird shows, archery displays and jousting.

If you fancy something more in keeping with the theme of the holiday, then visit one of the great pottery factories in Stoke on Trent, near our Peak District base. You can take a tour in some of the most famous names in pottery such as Wedgwood or Emma Bridgewater, plus have a go at decorating pottery yourself.

pottery painting on the canals

10) Gadget free…
Let’s face it, it’s great for all of us to have time away from our gadgets, interacting with the real world and the people around them.

Not convinced? Well, the kids will be pleased to know that Black Prince boats do come with a TV and DVD player on board so they can enjoy a bit of time out when they need to.

Interested in giving a canal boat holiday a go? Try a short break or longer holiday from any of our nine canal bases across the UK. You will receive a full induction on your arrival, life jackets are provided if required, and you’ll be talked through how to operate a lock. If you want to read our new to narrowboating article click here or start a holiday search to find out availability and cost of a family canal boat holiday with Black Prince.


Take a look at our LOCATIONS page to start planning your narrowboat holiday.

Search now

Or if you would like help planning your adventure then call on +44 (0)1527 575 115 and a Black Prince team member will be happy to help!