Take a Houseboat Vacation

A houseboat is a large RV that runs on water instead of the highway. You move in, set up housekeeping and use the houseboat to get around. A houseboat vacation is relaxing, with little to do all day but swim, cruise around exploring lakes, picnic on an island, read, play games or take a nap. I’m a nice change of pace if you want to slow down for a while.

What’s Included

Most houseboats will have a generator and heater. Some have an air conditioner or evaporation cooler. You’ll find taps for hot and cold lake water as well as freshwater. You’ll often find a gas-powered barbecue on deck and deck chairs.

Most houseboats have fully-stocked kitchens with a refrigerator/freezer, gas stove, microwave, oven, blender, coffee maker and toaster, along with dishes, silverware and plenty of pots and pans. They even provide dish soap. If you need extra storage for cold foods, make sure there\’s a supplementary ice chest.

Sometimes you can find restaurants at marinas around the lake, but it’s more fun to eat on the boat. Plan simple meals that everyone can help prepare, or make them ahead at home and freeze them. Bring ready-to-bake cookies or a cake mix, especially in cooler weather.

Things to Bring on a Houseboat Vacation

Know what’s provided. You probably won’t need to bring your flyswatter or toilet paper, but you will need to bring your own bedding. Don’t make any assumptions. Ask if you have any questions about what the rental company does and does not provide, ask.

Think through what you’ll be doing and what you’ll need to do it and make a list. Check with each person who’s going along to see what they might want to bring. These are some of the things everyone will need:

  • Towels: Bath towels, hand towel for bathroom
  • Bath mat
  • Bathroom air freshener
  • Bath soap
  • Sheets and blankets for the beds or sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Earplugs (to block noise for better sleep)
  • Games, cards, books
  • Slippers to wear inside or warm socks (in cooler weather)
  • Paper and pens, so you can leave each other notes
  • Binoculars
  • When you go on shore, you\’ll pick up a lot of mud on your feet that\’s easy to track inside. Bring a doormat or an extra pair of shoes to wear inside.
  • Bring a cell phone, or even better two phones that use different service providers. They’ll come in especially handy if you forget something or get in trouble.
  • If you own them, walkie-talkies can be very handy when trying to maneuver or anchor.
  • The on-board refrigerator runs on propane and has only eight cubic feet of capacity. If you’re taking a lot of food, you’ll need ice for the auxiliary ice chest.
  • Butane match (the kind you might use to light a barbecue), cigarette lighter or kitchen matches
  • Wood for a bonfire.

The clothing you might not think of:

  • Waterproof fanny pack for your wallet
  • Warm clothing for the evening. It can get quite cool on the lake any time of year
  • Water shoes are also suitable for light hiking. Closed-toed ones are better than sandals.


Orientation will take about an hour. Pay close attention, ask questions, take notes. It all sounds easy until you\’re in the middle of the lake and forget how something works.

  • If you have a digital camera along, take pictures to help you remember
  • Don’t stop at listening to instructions about how to drive the boat. Ask if you can back it out, go in a short circle and come back in with your instructors. It’s harder than it seems, and you may be able to avoid what happened to us when we ended up stuck against the dock going the wrong way.
  • Practice tying and untying the boat with your instructor.

Boating Tips

Try to keep track of where you are by matching the landmarks you pass such as marinas and boat ramps to the map.

Before you try tasks that require a lot of coordination like tight maneuvers or anchoring, appoint one person to be the only one who makes decisions. Discuss every step in detail before you start, and once started, obey your leader.





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