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Im Urlaub mit dem Hausboot den Fluß erkunden, Bild: Tyler Olson / shutterstock

Holidays on the houseboat – On the road and yet at home

For all those who are undecided whether they prefer to be accommodated flexibly or constantly comfortably on holiday, a houseboat is the ideal alternative. The convenience of having everything with you every day and not having to worry about luggage and transport all the time. A holiday on a houseboat combines this with the flexibility of an individual trip. The boundaries of this kind of vacation are fluid in the truest sense of the word. You can indulge in the wanderlust along the course of the river to your heart’s content, drift (a little) and let your soul dangle.

What conditions do I have to meet?

Depending on the area, agency and type of boat, an appropriate driver’s license must be available in order to be allowed to go on a long trip on the houseboat during your vacation. The relevant information can be found on the provider’s website. Competent on-site training is a must anyway, as is a trial round under expert guidance. Simple motorboats with a cabin can theoretically be operated by one person, as long as locks (whether manually or automatically) are not to be expected along the planned route. At that point, at the latest, it doesn’t work without a second person, ideally even a third person, who keeps track of everything. In addition, it must be clear to all parties involved before the start of the journey that an active holiday, not a club holiday, is imminent. Even if gliding through a picturesque landscape is an experience of a special kind, you still have to be attentive and focused. After all, no one wants to experience an accident on holiday.

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Which areas are recommended for a houseboat holiday?

Houseboat Germany
Exploring the German rivers by houseboat, Image: Bjoern Wylezich / shutterstock

Many countries and tourist regions have recognized the potential of their rivers for individual tourists and seized the opportunity. France, Holland, Ireland and Belgium are particularly popular with houseboat lovers. Italy, Hungary and Poland rank more as an insider tip for a different kind of river experience. If you are not afraid of harsh climates, you can also explore England and Scotland by water. Germany also offers beautiful river areas that allow you to explore the country from a completely new perspective. Within the country’s borders, there may be different regulations for houseboat tourists. For example, in Germany you need a driver’s license for some federal states, in others you don’t. Bathing from a boat is also regulated differently from region to region. It is therefore highly recommended to find out about the local conditions in advance. However, the choice of the desired destination will certainly also influence the available options for arrival and departure (by public transport).

What is the best time of year?

Since modern houseboats now have reliable heating, nothing stands in the way of a trip in the early and late season. Even when vacationing on the water, these times are much cheaper than the high season. In principle, the river cruise can be started from March to November, provided that the regional climate plays along.

What comforts and deprivations await me?

Don’t worry, houseboats have also successfully made the leap into the 21st century. There are certainly regional differences, and providers also have different models and designs present. As standard, however, you can expect at least the comfort of a 3-star hotel. Luxury versions are now also common practice for houseboats and serve the demanding luxury segment among individual holidaymakers. The maximum number of fellow travelers is usually limited to 12 people. If you plan such a group excursion over several days, precise planning in advance can avoid conflicts (about the wheel, for example…) and cabin fever is at least rudimentarily prevented. The daily driving time is individual, but you should not underestimate the necessary concentration behind the wheel and take more breaks on the shore rather than less. Incidentally, depending on the model, one tank of fuel is enough for 2 to 3 weeks, which allows additional flexibility in the route.

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Tips & tricks from the wealth of experience

By far the biggest challenges when holidaying on a houseboat are the locks along the route. Some of them can be operated manually, which, depending on the age (of the lock system, not of the people involved!), requires a good deal of effort and in any case an additional helmswoman. Automatic locks usually cause fewer problems if the systems are regularly maintained. What needs to be clarified before the start of the trip is the time and place of return of the floating domicile. Most providers are flexible in this regard and offer the return of the boat at the end of the trip (free of charge).
The rental price also includes fully comprehensive and liability insurance, similar to that of a car, sometimes with a deductible. Reading the fine print in the contract doesn’t hurt in advance anyway.

Holidays on the river – an experience for sure

For people who like to walk off the beaten track and want to make their daily routine on vacation flexible and location-independent, a trip on a houseboat is highly recommended. Having your accommodation and all your luggage with you every day saves you the hassle of looking for a hostel and avoids logistical stumbling blocks that can quickly turn a relaxing holiday into a gauntlet. However, if you are used to not having to worry about anything on holiday, you will quickly miss the desired relaxation effect on a houseboat. A little adventurous spirit is required, but the memory of this type of holiday will be an unforgettable one.