How do I find a holiday? (Using the Drifters search)

Choose a location:

This allows you to narrow down the results to the principle area that you wish to visit.

All available:
Choose this option if you want to see the full range of our current availability.

UK Canals and Waterways:

In England and Wales, we have narrowboats and barges on the canals, rivers and most of the inland navigations.

In Scotland, we have Narrowboats on the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal

Size of boat:

This refers to the number of beds and hence the size of your party.

Straight forward enough, however there are times when there is a shortage of boats available, so although you may only require say, a two berth boat, it might be best to select ‘All available’ as this will bring up everything that we have and you may then find that there is a larger boat available at a suitable price.

Period Start:

Select the period in which you want your holiday to start. You should bear in mind that if the search comes back with lots of pages of results, they will be listed in date order so you can skip to your ideal dates quickly.

Week, Midweek or Weekend short break:

Very straightforward choice here. As always though, you can select ‘All available’ to widen the options.

Once the results of your search have been displayed (in date order), you can click on any of the column titles to re-sort the results by price, location or type.

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How do I make a booking?

We absolutely recommend that you telephone us as soon as you see the boat you want. 0344 984 0322 (Overseas +44 1252 796404)
We take countless calls a day for boat bookings so don’t delay! This also saves you the anxiety of sending an e-mail and then wondering if we received it (many of the people who e-mail a booking call us anyway within twenty minutes to make sure we got their message!).

Office Hours:
Mon – Fri:      0900 hrs to 1700 hrs
Sat & Sun:    1000 hrs to 1700 hrs.

Phone:  0344 984 0322 (Overseas +44 1252 796404)

We will discuss your reservation over the phone and when you are completely happy on the detail we will process your booking, so there are no security issues with using your credit card etc over the internet. A confirmation will then be sent to you.

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What happens when I reserve a boat?

When you click on the “Reserve” button, a form appears with the details of the selected boat, dates etc.
Complete the form with as much information as possible, the more the boat operator knows of your requirements the easier it will be for everyone!
Ask questions in the “Message” box”.
Click Send.
Details of your reservation are then forwarded to the Drifters Central reservations team. On receipt of your request, we will verify that the requested dates and boat are still available and will then contact you (normally within the same or following day) directly by phone or email to confirm your booking with you.

Please note that your booking is not finalised until a confirmation has been received directly from the Drifters holiday operator and a deposit has been paid in accordance with the operators’ booking terms and conditions. (These are available on the boat details for each boat on the search results page or supplied by the holiday operator when confirming your booking request.)
Your provisional booking is made directly with the Drifters holiday operator. Drifters accept no liability on behalf of any hire operators for any bookings, changes of availability or any costs incurred directly or indirectly in the use of this service.

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How safe is my money?

We will take the booking details and payment (have your credit card handy) over the phone so there are no security issues using your credit card etc. over the Internet. You will be contacted shortly afterwards by the Drifters member company you have booked with, so that they can confirm all the minor details and issue your paperwork etc.

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What types of boat are available?

All of the Drifters Self-drive boats are modern purpose built Narrowboats. Full details of each boat are available by clicking on the camera icon  in the Availability search results.

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What areas does Drifters cover?

Canals, rivers and Inland waterways of England, Wales, and Scotland.

Click here to check availability.

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What is a boating holiday like?

Boating holidays appeal to a wide variety of interests. You can get away from it all on the tranquil backwaters of the rural canals with their quaint waterside pubs, or explore the normally hidden channels through major towns and cities with a wealth of architectural and industrial history only accessible by water. Your boating holiday offers many places of interest to stop along the way for the whole family.

There is also plenty to do on the water itself, including piloting your own boat, operating locks, exploring backwaters, and maybe taking in a little fishing or soaking up the sun! The slow pace of the waterways is one of the main attractions to many and because you travel only as far as you wish each day, your holiday can be as relaxing or as energetic as you choose.

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Do I need any previous experience?

No. It is not necessary to have any previous boating experience to hire a self-drive boat. Your Drifters holiday hire operator will provide you with training on arrival at your selected hire base.
This will include how to steer your boat, daily boat checks, operating locks and safety instructions.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure that you are completely confident and can get the most enjoyment from being captain of your own vessel.

All Drifters boatyards place great emphasis on providing good, thorough handovers, so you will be in safe hands!

Click here for more information

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Do I need a licence?

No “driving” licence is required for a hire boat on the inland waterways.
Your boat will however be licenced to use the waterways managed by British Waterways and this will be included within your holiday cost.
If you wish to use other waterways, you should check with the operator if a separate licence is required. This is the case if you wish to spend part of your holiday on the canals and a few days on either the River Thames or the River Avon, as they are all managed by different licencing authorities.

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What is included in the price?

Your holiday hire cost will include the self-drive hire of your chosen boat for the rental period. This includes gas used, car parking, bedding, life jackets and VAT. Some companies also include the cost of fuel, whilst others simply charge you for the fuel used and this is reflected in a lower initial hire price.

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Can I take pets?

Well behaved pets are welcome on almost all of our self-drive boats.
When booking, we will be able to confirm the conditions that apply to the different companies. Please include details on the holiday reservation form.

A small charge may be applicable.

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What do I need to take?

Your boat will be very well equipped with all necessary cooking utensils, crockery etc. In addition, wet weather overalls are generally provided for the helmsman (although hopefully not used too much!). Life jackets are always available on request, especially for young children. Bedding is provided.

Additional specific items you may want to bring include towels, tea towels, a torch, camera, binoculars, a good waterways guide (such as Nicholson’s), enough food supplies for a couple of days cruising (check the location of convenient shops along the waterway with your hire operator), non-slip soft deck shoes and protective gloves (for working locks).
Remember also that the sun’s rays are much more powerful when you are on the water, so sunglasses, protective cream and a sun hat are recommended to avoid burning.

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Where can I stop at night?

On the UK canals, you can stop overnight anywhere along the towpath side without charge. You must however avoid mooring overnight within 50 metres of a lock or other navigation landmark to allow other boats to pass unhindered.

On most other navigations, there will be clearly marked places where you can moor for the night or during the day. On some main Rivers this may involve a small mooring charge.

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How far can I travel?

On most of the inland waterways the maximum speed is around 4mph (a brisk walking pace) however the average speed is closer to 3mph. In calculating how far you can to travel in a day, you should work on the basis of “lock miles” .

To do this count each lock as one mile and add the distance in actual miles to make “lock miles”. Divide this by 3(mph) to give the total time in hours to cover the required distance including locks.

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How do the Locks work?

Locks are used to lift or lower boats from one level to another and can be found on almost all canals and many rivers.

On major rivers and waterways such as the River Thames and River Severn, the locks are manned and operated for you during the summer.
On the canals, the locks are much smaller and are operated by you and your crew.

Operating locks is very simple and part of the fun of a boating holiday. Care must however be taken around locks and your hire operator will brief you fully when you collect your boat.
The lock consists of a chamber into which your boat passes, plus a gate or gates at either end. The lock has openings (paddles or sluices) at the top and bottom to allow water in and out of the chamber to raise or lower the water level and the boat. These paddles are opened and closed by the crew using a lock handle on the winding gear at the top and bottom of each lock. It sounds a little complicated, but you will soon find that operating locks is very easy and great fun.

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Can I drink and drive?

The same rules apply as for driving cars.

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How large a party can I bring?

Our largest boats can accommodate up to twelve people on one boat, or if you have a large party you could hire two boats and travel together, mooring up together at night.

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Who can be in charge of a boat?

Older children will enjoy a spell at steering, as long as they are supervised.

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What if I have other questions?

Ring the Helpline 0344 984 0322 (Overseas +44 1252 796404) for help or advice – open seven days a week.

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Can I see some photos?

Click here to visit our photographic library.