In this article I’m going to share what it’s really like to go on a boat holiday with kids. Hopefully it will convince you to take the plunge and give it a go.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of our six weeks summer holidays was a week boating holiday in France with Le Boat. I’ve raved about our week cruising along the rivers and canals in Brittany and shared a video tour of our temporary floating home in this post – Boating holiday in France: Our incredible week with Le Boat.
A boat holiday with young kids… Crazy idea or the best family holiday you will ever have?
I’ll be honest, some of our friends thought we were absolutely bonkers to take our young energetic boys boating in France. Especially as our youngest son, age 4, is unable to swim. Other friends and readers have been keen to hear how we got on. They’ve asked loads of questions since we’ve returned, as a river boat holiday is something they’ve considered with their own children.
Whilst I can appreciate that seven days living onboard a boat with no kids’ clubs, no TV* or video games, limited Wi-Fi and only basic French speaking skills is not everyone’s idea of a fun and relaxing family holiday. I can hand on heart say that it was one of the best weeks we’ve ever spent together as a family. My boys went into school last week buzzing about our boat holiday in France. They couldn’t wait to tell their teachers and friends all about steering the boat under bridges, helping with locks, exploring castles on river banks, fishing in marinas and sleeping together in their shared cabin. (* It was our choice to have no TV, some of the Le Boat boats do have TV’s).
If you’re looking for family holiday ideas for adventure holidays with kids I can thoroughly recommend you check out French boating holidays with Le Boat. Disclaimer – We were invited to review a boating holiday in France by Le Boat however I wouldn’t hesitate in paying for the experience next time as we were thoroughly impressed and we’re all well and truly hooked (pun intended!) on boating holidays.
The first home my husband, Richard, and I bought together was a narrow boat which we lived onboard for two years, prior to having kids. Introducing our boys to a life onboard boats is something we’ve wanted to do for years. With our youngest son now 4 and our eldest 7 we felt it was the perfect summer to go for it. I’m so glad we did because they both absolutely loved it and I just know that boating is going to play a huge part in our family life from now on. As you can see from this video taken on our first day they were VERY excited to be onboard…
The initial excitement never did fade if I’m honest. Every morning they would rush outside to feed the ducks and fish their breakfast. They would then have their own breakfast up on the top deck whilst excitedly discussing plans for the day. Each day included a stop to play at playgrounds along the canal banks, time ashore exploring local villages and of course they were always very excited to go in search of local shops selling ice cream and croissants.
They loved taking it in turns to steer the boat and really enjoyed greeting every person, (and I mean EVERY person) we passed. They never seemed to tire of shouting bonjour at the top of their voices and giving enthusiastic waves. Much to the amusement of fellow boaters, walkers, bikers and fishermen!
Boat holiday with kids – Our normal day onboard
We quickly got into the boating way of life. Our day generally started around 8/9am, a little later than normal (always a bonus on holiday!) as my boys were tired from late nights and lots of fresh air. We would enjoy breakfast on the top deck or munch on croissants whilst strolling around the marina or village we had stayed overnight.
After filling the boat with water and having a quick tidy up we would untie the ropes and set off down the rivers and canals at a leisurely 6 knots.
My boys loved to sit on the front of the boat with me, searching for wildlife with their binoculars and writing down all the birds, insects and animals they spotted. We saw so much wildlife during the week particularly cranes, herons, dragonflies, kingfishers and lots of flying fish jumping out of the water. Chugging along past cornfields, villages, chateaus and cattle in fields was relaxing for myself and hubby and yet very exciting for our boys.
We tended to cruise for five-ish hours a day. The aspect we enjoyed the most of our river / canal boat holiday was the freedom it gave us. There was no set timetable. We had an end location and a date/time we needed to be there but apart from that, and the locks being closed at lunch time, we could literally do as we pleased. When we spotted a village or mooring in a pretty location we would just moor up, jump off and explore. My boys loved playing with local kids in playgrounds and fishing from our boat or mooring.
After lunch and a couple of hours of exploring we would untie our ropes and be off again, this time in search of a mooring to spend the night. We were very fortunate with the weather; it was mid 30’s throughout our week in Brittany with very little rain. When it got a little too hot for my boys outside they would go indoors to play in their shared cabin. From the top deck we could hear them through the sun roof so always knew they were safe. From day one our rule was they had to put lifejackets on before going outside, they needed to be reminded a couple of times but it soon became routine.
We deliberately chose not to take our iPad or a games console onboard and I’m really pleased that we did. Like most kids they love chilling out in front of a TV screen at home and we thought it would do them good to have a break. They played beautifully together in their cabin, making dens, reading, filling in sticker books and talking to each other via radios. If they ever got tired of each others company we would play a game like a scavenger hunt, or pull the boat over so we could hop out for a scooter ride along the canal bank.
My boys found every aspect of boating fun from the ‘loud sucky toilets’, to exploring new places, talking to other boaters, watching the sunsets and taking it in turns to be captain.
Even the aspects of boating that can be a tad tedious, like filling the water tank, resulted in fits of laughter on the canal bank and a mini water fight. My eldest son even loved the job of taking the recycling. I think walking across the marina on his own made him feel very grown up!
Locks in Brittany, France
During our week onboard we passed through 18 locks. All of them either manned or automated as is common in Brittany. They were so easy to navigate and a real adventure for us all. We loved watching the water levels dramatically change whilst we held onto the ropes to prevent our boat from bumping into the lock walls. It was fun to chat along to the lock keepers and practise our French. (Some of the conversations between my boys and lock keepers were very amusing!)
We think this four minute time lapse video sums up our seven days cruising the Brittany waterways perfectly. (Don’t my kids look they’ve got ants in their pants for the whole week! And how catchy is the soundtrack!)…
Highlights of our boat holiday France with kids
My favourite memory of our boat holiday was sat with my boys on the front of the boat singing The Greatest Showman, (for about the millionth time!), at the top of our voices. It was 30+ degrees, a gorgeous sunny day with a bright blue sky and I just remember thinking that life truly doesn’t get much better than this. My hubby, who was steering the boat with a huge grin on his face, clearly felt the same way. Not surprisingly we didn’t see much wildlife that afternoon, our singing scared everything away, but we did have an absolute blast!
If you’re considering a family activity holiday I can thoroughly recommend a boat holiday with kids. Our week in Brittany is an adventure we will all remember for a lifetime. If you are tempted but wondering how you would entertain your kids onboard a boat check out our ideas for fun activities when boating with kids.
For a full review of our boat holiday France check out – Boating holiday in France: Our incredible week with Le Boat. As always if you have any questions pop them below, I am very happy to help.
Pricing Details – A boat holiday in France (Brittany) with Le Boat
The Dukes of Brittany Cruise – One-way from Nort-sur-Erdre to Messac, via La Roche Bernard
A seven-night self-drive cruise on board premier boat Caprice which sleeps up to 6 people departing Saturday 20 April 2019 is priced from £1,193. Price includes boat rental, fully-equipped kitchen, towels and linen for all passengers, boat handling demo, technical support, on-board cruising information and locks fee. Price excludes boat damage waiver, fuel, travel to/from the base, mooring fees and insurance.
Le Boat (023 9280 9124, www.leboat.co.uk)
Disclaimer – We were kindly invited to review a boat holiday in France by Le Boat. All words and opinions are, as always, our own. All images copyright Travel Loving Family.
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