I admit I was confused when I was first asked the question, Why are canalboat holidays so expensive?

During the operation of our hire boat business, I’ve spent many hours buried in cashflow forecasts and budgets. This enables us to set the prices of our holidays and therefore, to me, the answer to the question of why our holidays are priced the way they are, is basically maths.

However I’m pretty sure this is not what people mean when they ask this. Perhaps what people really mean is, “Where does our money go when we buy a holiday?”

Behind the maths is a business plan that aims to keep us afloat. It needs to withstand rocky patches (Ahem. 2020.) And enable us to care for the boats, repairing and replacing when necessary.

why are canalboat holidays so expensive?

A narrowboat is similar to a treehouse, a yurt or a log cabin, in that it offers something of a quirky minibreak. But there are some important differences.

why are canal boat holidays so expensive? At Harborough we have luxury boats

Running costs

These include fuel (diesel and gas), insurance and licence fees to the waterways authorities.To keep things simple, we include these costs in the price of your holiday but of course, running costs still need to be paid.


Maintenance costs are high because we are essentially looking after a fleet of vehicles. Not only are bits of these vehicles submerged in water, they also boast additional plumbing, electric, gas and battery systems as well as a range of domestic appliances. Boats are notoriously expensive to maintain, particularly when you take into account the fact that each one is regularly buffeted by water, weather and well-meaning novices 🙂


“You don’t drive your average yurt into a bridge three times a week.”

So said Aaran the other day as we contemplated the wisdom of our life choices.


Canal boat going through bridge

Boats get damaged and we repair them. That’s the deal and happily we love canal boats more than yurts so really it’s an easy deal to make. However. It ain’t cheap.



Like a human body cell and Dr Who,  a canal boat replaces itself every now and again. Eventually, a hire boat becomes impractical or too expensive to maintain and a new version will need to be bought. In our case, we fit out our own Boutique Narrowboats as our design ethos is so unique.

interior of a Boutique Narrowboat

You can imagine that this is an expensive junction and one that has to be factored into our prices because…


Narrowboats are expensive

To buy a canal boat you are looking at quite an investment; more than a treehouse, less than a Cornish holiday cottage. Unlike the cottage, we must contend with points 1, 2, 3 and 4 above .


Staff costs

I’ve written elsewhere about why our housekeeping staff spend so long on each boat in between hires. This is a special team of folk, the lifeblood of our holiday business and they need looking after.

On top of that, each holiday includes training so that you have the skills to operate your boat. An engineer is also on standby if you get into difficulty during your holiday.


Cheap canal boat holiday?

So, all this being said, is there any such thing as a cheap canalboat holiday? Well, yes. Sometimes.

Firstly, the prices come right down in the winter. The shorter daylight hours and the fact that the canal often undergoes maintenance at this time, mean that we are happy to offer our narrowboat holidays at a much reduced price.

Many holiday companies close entirely from November to March but somehow there is nothing sadder than seeing a fleet of boats cold and empty, when they could be filled with warmth and adventure.

a narrowboat holiday in winter

Secondly, many people find that overall, the cost of their narrowboat break is much less than the equivalent airbnb/yurt/gypsy caravan holiday. The journey is the holiday.

Beautiful view of canal near Market Harborough

You don’t need much (any?) spending money. Entertainment can be as cheap as you like. Ha! I’ve just remembered that one lovely couple brought their karaoke machine on board! There are lots of other ideas here.


Just know that with a bit of creativity, a canalboat holiday is not so expensive after all.

You can check out our prices by clicking below.

Prices of canal boat holidays