Below you will find a series of questions and answers about canal boat tours. If you have additional questions or would like to book a trip please contact us at 218-409-2540 or via email at email@example.com.
Canal Boating Questions
Q: If I go on the canal boat trip will I get sea-sick?
A: Unlikely. The canals in France are narrow, calm, and flat and the pace we drive is around walking pace.
Q: Who drives the boat?
A: David and Sara will be the primary operators but you are welcome to take a turn at it too.
Q: Do I need to be athletic to go on a canal boat tour?
A: You need to be steady on your feet to navigate the small space and ladder style steps on the boat. You will need to be able to step on and off the boat, either by an 18-24 inch step up/down, or by walking on a 12-16 inch wide, 6 foot long gangplank (we all help each other by holding hands out or providing an arm). Walking one mile+ without sitting to rest is necessary if you feel like exploring any of the quaint villages along the route, and for going to restaurants, markets, wine caves, historic sites, etc. If you are up for it, you can also toss and catch the lines (ropes) when we are in the locks and when we park on the canal’s banks. Line handling is not required, but it is fun. And if all that is not enough exercise for you, you can explore the country side by walking (or jogging) along the canal’s tow path between towns. Yoga is offered depending on weather and it is optional to participate. In addition, to get to the boat you must take the train, which means hauling your luggage up and down flights of stairs, lifting it over your head to store while on the train, and managing to embark/debark within 2 minutes at your stop.
Q: I was wondering about the meals. Do we eat out along the way at the various stops? Do we cook on the boat? I’m just trying to figure out how much money I need to plan on for meals, etc.
A: Our boat, Relax Companion, will be stocked with food for all meals on board. In addition, we will be stocked with paper goods, cleaning products, general food supplies (food staples), coffee & tea, fruit, snacks, chocolate, wine, and more. Sara will plan, cook, and organize our picnics and family-style meals. Dave will plan several restaurant outings for the group, he will be in charge of bakery outings, and he will choose all the wine and spirits. All on-board meals are included in the price, and all restaurant meals that we attend as a group are also included in the price of the trip. You will be responsible for paying for any eating you do on your own (such as if you are touring around a town and decide you must buy something delicious at the bakery). Breakfast is on-board. We will always have plenty of coffee and will also have a variety of help-yourself-items such as pastries, fruit, bread, butter, boiled eggs, or yogurt & granola. Lunches and dinners will either be on land at a restaurant or on board (depends on where we are and what is available). Shopping for bakery items and groceries from either a local market or grocery store is often done together and can be quite a fun experience.
Q: I’m wondering what, specifically, your tour includes?
A: We’ve recently adopted the “All inclusive” model. You can find specifics on our “Tour Dates” page.
Q: How many hours a day are we on the boat and how much time daily in each stop over? Any description of what the days will be like would be appreciated.
A: Regarding on-board/off-board timing:
This is not your typical cruise. It is more like a family style adventure. We cruise most of the hours of the day that we are allowed to cruise (9am-12:30pm & 1:30pm-7pm) but we stop when we want, where we want, and you have a say in that. We try to end up close to a town over the lunch break and before parking for the night so folks can get their walks and exploration in. There will be some days where we spend many hours on land and other days where we don’t. We have a few bigger towns we plan to visit where we imagine people will want to stay longer and we have a few monuments/historical sites on route we will visit, and of course a few wineries too. We may also offer yoga on board depending on the weather.
Q: Do you know if the boat will allow us to plug in our CPAP (breathing machine for sleep apnea) at night?
A: Yes. In the Spring of 2023 we invested in a new battery bank and a new inverter that will be sufficient to supply power to each cabin. A CPAP draws a small amount of power and the Relax Companion can accommodate the use of a CPAP when we are out in the countryside camping (off grid). Plugs are standard French outlets, not 12 volt. We use an adapter which looks like this: Adafruit plug adapter. This is a nice, clear website example. But you could also look on Amazon. You will need this adapter everywhere in France, not just on board. Smartphones automatically convert the electricity to the correct current. Your CPAP might auto convert too and it should say right on your machine. Most newer devices automatically convert the power from 110 to 220. Here’s a link to a CPAP supply site where you can look for adapters if needed: CPAP Supply USA.
Q: Can I charge my smartphone, camera, etc. on board the boat?
A: Yes. As stated above, Relax Companion has just been upgraded with a new battery bank and a new inverter (Spring 2023). There is 1 outlet per cabin plus additional outlets and a power strip with USB and USB-C ports in the pilot house. We will have some European plug adapters on board for use, but we recommend that you also bring your own as you will need it at your hotel, in the airport, etc. (See question above for a link to an EU adapter.) Plug adapters do not convert electricity, they simply permit you to plug your device into a type of wall socket found in the EU. (British plug adapters are different from both the US and the EU.) Converters may still be needed to adapt current from 110 to 220 voltage, or vice versa. Check with the manufacturer of your device, appliance, or travel item. Most newer devices automatically convert the power from 110 to 220. (As an aside, hairdryers are not allowed on board. They use too much power for our boat’s system.)
Q: Should I bring my phone? How will I make calls?
A: Now days most people use their mobile phones extensively, including as a camera, and do not want to go without their device while they travel. Luckily, service providers are catching up with this and are offering a variety of overseas calling plans. For example, last time we went to France we used an AT&T plan which included “unlimited” data and calling. It was $10 a day for the first device and $5 a day for the second device on the same plan, with a max of $150 paid in a contiguous 30 day period (only 10 days are charged in a one month period). This allowed us to keep our regular phone numbers (easy to call home) while still being able to call French phone numbers without any extra charges. Some folks like to buy a local SIM card in France. This option will give you an in-country phone number plus data but will not help if you want to call home. Plans change all the time though so do check with your carrier for best options before we depart. Relax Companion does not have wi-fi or a hotspot. Some marinas do offer wi-fi.
Q: What should I do about credit cards and money?
A: Credit cards with the smart chip and PIN are preferable, and it is also good to carry a few different cards. You must have a smart chip card to use the automated ticket vending machines for the train station and metro. If you don’t have a smart chip card, there will usually be a ticket teller somewhere, but they are not always around and are not always easy to find.
Just like the US, not all cards are accepted at all establishments. American Express travelers checks are not used any more. Generally, it is easiest and cheapest to get Euros at an ATM using a debit card. Getting cash at an ATM with your credit card will be considered a “cash advance” and will usually incur hefty fees. Any card you use in Europe should say “no foreign transaction fees.” If it doesn’t, you will incur foreign transaction fees and that can really add up. If you pay your card off in full immediately upon your return you will reduce your overall fees.
You can also purchase Euros before you go but may not get the best rates. But maybe that is preferable to incurring foreign transaction fees. Just like in the US, only carry as much cash as you feel comfortable carrying. Money changing booths are no longer on every corner but ATM machines are easy to find.
There are 2 very important things to remember regarding using either your credit card or your debit card over seas:
- You must know your credit and debit card PIN numbers to get cash from the ATM’s.
- You must tell your bank and credit card company before you leave that you will be traveling in Europe. Otherwise, they may think your card has been stolen and your account will be frozen and unusable while traveling. (Some credit cards no longer require you to notify them. But local banks almost always require notification.)
You can familiarize yourself with ways to avoid ATM and credit card fees by reading these two articles:
- How to Avoid International ATM Fees by Experian
- Currency Conversion Fees by Investopedia
Q: Can I bring my kids?
A: It depends. In general, this is considered an adult trip. We specialize in wine appreciation which is not a child’s opportunity. Also, there are many days where we walk for miles. Most younger kids would not be suited for this type of day. Safety-wise, our boat does not have any rails on the bow and would be fairly easy to fall off of. All that said, if your kids are older (in their mid to late teens), and you are interested in introducing them to European culture, we are happy to talk about a cruise that would be suitable for the whole family.
Q: I don’t speak French. Is that ok?
A: It’s ok if you don’t speak French as long as you remember to always start with “Bonjour” (Good morning / good day) and end with “Merci” (thank-you). The French are formal, polite people. These two words are the magic gateway to pleasant interactions in France. We do recommend learning more than that if you want to feel a little more comfortable in-country. The Michel Thomas Language Learning App is our favorite.
Q: Should I buy locks for my suitcase?
A: If you do, they need to be TSA approved so airport security can get into your suitcase if they so desire. If your lock is not TSA approved it is possible that they will make their way into your bag by force.
Q: What should I pack? What clothes should I bring?
A: Of course it depends on what time of year and where in the country you will be, but here’s a general rule: bring what you are comfortable wearing, pack at least one nice outfit for fine dining, and don’t worry about looking “too American” – France has become much more casual in recent years, especially in the country side which is where most of the canal trips will be. DO bring a good pair of walking shoes. That said, in the past we walked many, mini-outings – to the bakery, winery, and quaint villages – just in our sandals and that was fine. Only pack what you can comfortably carry or lift. Even though you can unpack on the boat for the whole week, you still have to haul your bag around at the airport, to the train, to the hotel, and to the boat. For your reference, we have a complete guide to packing available as a PDF download: Travel Packing List 2023 is our most current. We also have a Travel Considerations / Best Practices document that is helpful. You should also consult the TSA What am I Allowed to Bring webpage and the FAA PackSafe webpage.
Q: Will this be a non-smoking cruise?
A: Yes, this is a non-smoking cruise. Of course if anyone is a smoker they can smoke off of the boat. But France in general has become less permissive about smoking. There is no indoor smoking any more in cafes and other public places. Outdoor smoking is permitted.
Q: What is your reservation and payment schedule like?
A: In general, we plan our trips 8-14 months ahead of the actual trip date. We request 1/2 down at the time you reserve your place. Checks or cash only. All payments are based on double occupancy (in the canal boat). If a single cabin is required for one individual, there will be an additional charge of $1150. About 9 months before the trip, we start purchasing airfare. Around 6 months before the trip we reserve hotel rooms. When we reserve hotel rooms we will also facilitate ordering museum passes and other extras. 3 months prior to leaving we purchase the train tickets to and from the boat basin (train tickets are not available before 3 months out). After all reservations, passes, and tickets are finalized, we will prepare a detailed itinerary for you with all of your reservation numbers, hotel address, directions to and from hotels, trains, and boats, and any extras you may have ordered. Once all add-ons are purchased or reserved, final payment will be invoiced with the remaining balance due upon receipt of invoice. For 2023 dates and prices, see our Alsace & Lorraine webpage.
Q: I’d like to talk to you in person. Can I call?
A: Of course! If you have additional questions please contact us at 1-218-409-2540 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.