Canal Holiday Tips for Families


All your questions answered with our canal holiday tips for families

It’s your first time considering a canal holiday and you feel like a narrowboat novice. But we’ve got your covered with our canal holiday tips for families. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about your narrowboat holiday.

“Brilliant, easy holiday for our family of five – boys of 14 and 16 and daughter of 11.  Great holiday to get teenagers off their screens a bit. The boys operated all the locks. We had no difficulties at all – I found it relaxing.”

The Napton family      


Expert tips for your first canal holiday

“Are my kids old enough to stay on a narrowboat?”

All ages are welcome on board our boats. However, so that you can relax on your break, we suggest you consider how likely your children are to stay safe if you lose sight of them? For example, locks require two people to operate, so if you have a boisterous youngster, a lock-filled route won’t be right for you.

If in doubt, give our team a call on 01527 575 115 and we’ll help you through.

“Do we need life jackets?”

We recommend that young children and non-swimmers wear life jackets whenever you are on deck. We’ll provide all the safety equipment you need.

“How old do they have to be to drive the boat?”

Children aged 12 and up can drive the boat but they have to be supervised by you when they’re at the wheel. 

“A enjoyable, relaxing and excellent way to spend 2 weeks.  Great for all ages (ours spanned 9 – 73).”

The Washington family      

“How do we choose a route?”

You can depart from any Black Prince base in the UK and the distance you travel depends on the duration of your break. Need help knowing where to start? We’ve recommended a variety of family-friendly routes which you can see.

“How do I work a lock?”

Locks work by opening or closing doors and paddles to let water in or out, depending on whether you are going up or down a hill. You need two people to operate the lock – one working the lock and the other driving the boat. Older kids are often happy to take control. Don’t worry though. We’ll cover locks in your free coaching session before you set off, and there is usually a lock-keepers or other holidaymakers on hand to help out.

“Where can we stop during the day?”

You can stop anywhere you like along the towpath, as long as you’re not restricting access to locks or bridges or causing a danger to other boats or people using the towpath.

“Where do we stop at night?”

You can moor almost anywhere along the canal towpath for free as long as you’re not restricting access to locks or bridges, or in the way of other boats or people using the towpath. Mooring spots near
popular pubs and restaurants can get busy at peak times. You can stop at private marinas, quays and harbours for a small charge.

“Can we bring our dog?”

Yes, most of our boats are pet friendly and one pet is included within the price of your holiday. We have a limit of two pets per boat.

“Can we fish in the canal?”

Yes, but you need a Rod Licence from the Environmental Agency (which you can buy from the Post Office) and a Waterway Wanderers permit from the Canal & River Trust.

“Can we leave the boat during the day?”

Absolutely, one of the joys of a canal holiday is walking along the towpath, exploring the countryside, stopping in a city centre or visiting one of the many fabulous attractions close to canals.
Narrowboats have a top speed of 4mph, which is a nice speed for anyone who wants to walk (or even run) alongside the boat.

“Can we bring our bikes?”

No, we don’t allow bikes on the boats as there’s a risk of damage when you go under low-hanging trees or through tunnels.

“Can we swim in the canal?”

No, it’s not safe to swim in the canals.

“Does the boat have enough power for appliances?”

Your boat has 240 volt sockets – the same as you have at home. That’s enough to charge your mobile phones and cameras, and for the kids to power their games consoles.

“Is there a TV on the boat?”

Yes, every boat has a TV with freeview, a DVD player and portable stereo.

“Boat was really well equipped and easy to use. All comfortable beds, excellent heating, excellent shower. fair space in the kitchen and fridge. We had no difficulties at all – I found it relaxing.”

The Woolley family      

“How hard is it to drive the boat?”

It feels strange at first but is easy to get used to, and travelling at just 4mph ensures there are no hairy moments. Our coaching session before you set off will bring you up to speed.

“Do we have to empty the toilet?”

No, you won’t need to empty the tank. All boats have flushes, just like home.

“How do we secure the boat?”

You simply tie up to the bollards or rings along the towpath, or use one of the stakes we provide. We’ll show you how to secure the boat during your coaching session.

“Is there a fridge on board?”

Yes, there’s a fridge with a freezer compartment. There’s also an oven and all the equipment you need for self catering.

“What if the boat breaks down?”

It is really unlikely that you’ll have a problem with the boat. But if anything does occur, you’ll have the details of your hire base team and they’ll be able to help.

“Where do we get water from?”

Narrowboats have toilets, showers and sinks that all use water. You’ll need to fill up with fresh water every couple of days. Water points are located on the side of the canal and the water is free.

“What happens if we crash?”

Narrowboats have steel hulls so it is highly unlikely you’ll do any damage, especially when you’re travelling at a maximum of just 4 mph. But, if a bump is unavoidable, shout to warn your family and the other crew, so they can all sit down or hold on during impact. If you have any problems or worries after a bump, call the team at your departure base and they’ll be able to help.

“Are our belongings safe when we’re not on the boat?”

Yes, your boat is fully lockable. Common sense applies – don’t leave valuables in view.

“What if we run out of food?”

You’re never too far from a canal shop or supermarket to stock up. One neat trick we’ve seen from other families is to order a food delivery from a local supermarket and ask them to drop off at your departure base. You’ll need to let us know in advance if you do this, and choose a delivery time that ties in to your planned arrival time.

“What do we do with rubbish?”

There are waste disposal points all along the canal.


Is there something we missed? If there’s anything else on your mind, simply pop over to our Facebook Page to post your question, or give our team a call on 01527 575 115.
And don’t forget, your holiday includes a free coaching session for all your family. So you’ll leave the base full of confidence. And raring to go.

Now that you’re a narrowboat know-it-all,

see our family-friendly routes

These routes are great for families