Girls enjoying croissants aboard their hire boat

Take to the water in October… Really?

As much as we like to think that summer extends as far as October, even in France the temperature becomes a little cooler. But that really doesn’t impact the opportunity to take a boating holiday, just pack an extra layer.

Autumn is beautiful in France, especially from the waterways because of your unique proximity to the countryside, flora and fauna. We could ramble on about the glorious autumnal colours for a paragraph or two, but you know what autumn looks like generally. We’re just saying that it’s particularly spectacular close-up and with the light bouncing off the river or canal as it does.

But we’re also saying that a self drive hire boating holiday with the kids for October half term would be an easy and relatively low cost way to have a holiday at that time of year and the setting would be spectacular.

Another bonus of an autumnal boating holiday is it’s just a little quieter, slightly less touristy, on the waterways. So you get that little bit more river (or canal) all to yourself! But will the kids enjoy it? We hear you ask. What’s not to enjoy…

A holiday that moves that you can move with too

Don’t worry about being stuck on a boat for a week with your brood. When you hire a self-drive boat, you’re captain of your own ship. Once you leave your departure mooring, where you go, how far you cruise and where you stop are largely your choice. Most boats also come with bikes (or you can request to have them), so the more energetic amongst you can cycle the towpath alongside the boat and meet the boat and its designated captain at the next lock.

A little bit of elbow grease, or science, still makes for a good holiday

That brings us nicely to working the locks. All kids like to think they know it all at some point (go on admit it, you did too way back when). Let them prove it and help you navigate the locks successfully. While most locks in France are automatic now rather than manual and others are manned by lock keepers, there’s still plenty of opportunity for knowing, learning or understanding how locks work. The power of water is one thing, the taming of it is a whole other ingenuity. We’re still fascinated by them now and we’ve been through a few hundred in our time. They learn something new, they can hop off the boat to see how it all happens and you progress on your way with a story to tell.

Discovering the real France without going on the French exchange

Kids either love or loathe the prospect (or reality) of the school French exchange trip. Either way no family holiday should be anything like it. But what a hire boat holiday offers for you and the kids is the opportunity to stop at some of the prettiest towns and villages, often those least-tapped by tourists, in the depths of France’s beautiful countryside. The challenge that will most likely stir as a result of this delight is how little English is spoken by the locals, but how friendly they are. This isn’t about your GCSE oral exam. This is about experiencing local life as the locals live it and you can only do that by giving it a go, whether you speak the lingo or not. But we bet you’ll have a tale or two to tell at the end of it.

Gems, memories and funny moments

We go on holiday to relax and forget about everyday life. But we also go to make memories and add to our life stories. A hire boat holiday, if you do it just once, will tick a box because you’ve ‘done’ that type of holiday, but it will also give the kids plenty of content for their ‘what I did this holiday’ homework. That might be the highs and lows of sleeping in close proximity to the rest of the family or the many Instagram opportunities abounding each day. If you do it every year, you’ll probably cruise a different waterway on a different type of boat discovering different places, sites and foods each time you do it. So the experiences and the moments just grow and grow.

There’s a boat to fit most families

Most boats are bigger than people think. Even those six foot plus in the vertical stakes praise boating holidays. If it’s just you and one child, there are boats for two (don’t be put off by the ‘couples’ categorisation), boats for the average 2.4 children family (sleeping four to six) and boats for large families (sleeping eight to 10+). If there are lots of you, how about hiring two boats to cruise together.

If you’ve ever even allowed the thought of a hire boat vacation to cross your mind, do everyone a favour and seriously explore it as a half term holiday option. You won’t regret it!