Final checks: before taking charge of your canal boat, make sure you haven't forgotten anything, even though there will be plenty of stop-offs at villages for shopping, whether for pleasure or necessities, on your barge cruise.
What do you need to pack for a trip on a self-drive boat ? The first joy of canal boat holidays is that you can swap your formal clothes and shoes for a comfortable pair of jeans, a light dress, a warm jumper and your old trainers ... preferably the non-slip type. That's because safety tip Number 1 is about making sure you don't slip, even though a dip in the water (when voluntary!) is another pleasure of barge cruises. There are lots of opportunities for diving in, whether it's along the Canal du Midi, on the lakes of Mecklenburg or Masuria, so you need to take swim-suits, sun-cream, everything you would take to the beach, in other words; you can still use it in fresh water. But you don’t need to weigh yourself down with towels and sheets: they are supplied on board.
Essential items for a barge cruise : a lighter, clothes pegs and … gardening gloves: so that you can cultivate your skills at mooring and steering without wrecking your hands. There is a first-aid box on board so you don’t need to worry about that; just bring any of your own medications that you need.
Other essentials: cables and chargers for phones and computers, although you may find they just gather dust while you enjoy playing cards or board games, reading a good novel or browsing through a travel guide, all of which you will need to bring with you as well. But if there’s anything you find you’ve forgotten, you'll get the chance to make some last-minute purchases at the little shop at the base, and you might even come across a few local specialities and souvenirs.
A useful tip: it’s better to go for a collapsible travel-bag rather than a hard suitcase that takes up too much room and that you would have to leave in your car boot or at the base. Fortunately, Locaboat’s canal barges ("pénichettes") are fitted with cupboards and drawers which means you can store your personal items and quickly feel at home. One very last check before you get on board: make sure you have proof of identity, a few banknotes or a credit card for your stop-offs in towns and for day-to-day purchases.
When it comes to cooking, you can buy food before you set off or bring your own provisions. Preparing meals will be very straightforward: the boats are equipped with an oven, fridge, crockery and all the kitchen tools you’ll need. You'll find that bikes are indispensable for trips around the local area. Locaboat bases offer cycles for hire and they are even included in the hirer’s "No-worries Deal" (“Forfait Sérénité”). You’ll have no problem storing them while you’re cruising: the boats are equipped with cycle-carriers.
Ready to go aboard? Weigh the anchor, bosun!