Floating on a houseboat makes for one unique vacation, but before you get on board, there are a few things you need to know.
Yes, it’s floating accommodation, but it’s not a cruise ship. Those fantastic last minute deals you can snap up for cruising don’t apply here. Houseboating is very popular, so to ensure your vacation goes smoothly, book in advance. Don’t expect to secure a houseboat by merely showing up and asking if one is available for rent.
Like a cruise ship, the sleeping quarters are not spacious. If you are concerned about privacy and how many bedrooms the vessel has, ask to see a detailed floor plan or get a boat tour before you commit. Space is prioritised for living/eating/entertaining. Sleeping space is at a premium but can be quite comfortable if you don’t mind sharing space. It’s like camping – but on the water.
Also keep in mind that while the beds include mattresses, and the kitchen will be stocked with dishes, glasses and cookware, you have to bring EVERYTHING else, including towels, bedding, deck chairs and of course, all your food. This packing list for vacation rentals gives you a good idea of what you’ll need to bring with one notable exception – soap and shampoo – as most rental companies will provide biodegradable soaps and detergents safe for use on the lake.
Ban the Booze
Drinking and Driving is illegal for a reason; drinking while driving a houseboat is no exception. You need to keep a sharp eye out for other boats, swimmers, and obstacles in the water. You need to stay sober and alert for the safety of yourself, your family, and other vacationers on the lake.
You can have a fun houseboat vacation with children! Many rental companies provide monitoring devices that will sound an alarm when they get wet. Other precautions include putting life jackets on little ones whenever they exit the cabin (to go on any of the decks), and making sure doors are locked and blocked at all times.
No Experience Needed
No experience? No problem! You’ll be given an orientation that will cover all aspect of safe houseboating. Pay attention – the instruction is for your best experience on the lake and will include valuable safety information. Don’t worry, though. Houseboats don’t move overly fast, and they are very easy to operate.
In most cases, you’ll be asked to beach your craft for the night on the lake’s shore. You’ll need to know how to exit the boat and securely anchor it to the beach. One person (that can operate the boat) should remain on board while the other secures it, in case the rope gets dragged back to the water. The last thing you want is for your family to be marooned while your boat drifts off on a three-hour tour without you!
Love Thy Neighbour
When you dock for the night, you are going to have neighbours. Be courteous. Loud parties, docking too close to other boats, wild drinking nights, blaring music – avoid the things that would upset your neighbours. If you are in the mood for a loud party night, check with your boat rental company about which beaches are for the party-goers, and which ones are more family-friendly.
Downtime on the Shore
You don’t have to dock only at night. You can secure the boat at different places around the lake, hop off, and enjoy hiking, cycling, shopping and sightseeing. Most popular houseboat locations also have mid-lake shops/restaurants that you can enjoy. Be sure to secure your valuables (and the boat) properly before you disembark.
Insure your fun
Accidents are unfortunate, but they do happen. A fire on board, a collision with another boat, an unsecured boat drifting or beaching during the night – these things can and do happen. Make sure you have personal travel insurance before your trip and take advantage of any houseboat insurance your rental host provides.
Watch out for Pirates
Houseboating is good clean fun, but you still need to be aware of whom you let on your boat. If you are hailed by another boat full of strangers that want to join your party, think twice and access the situation. A small houseboat can be a perilous place when you board guests that are aggressive or won’t leave.
With a few simple precautions, you can have the time of your life on a houseboat. Consider renting one for your next family vacation, honeymoon, time away from it all, or if you love camping but want to try it with a twist.