Have you just booked your first houseboat vacation? Or just wondering if a houseboat trip is right for you? Don’t feel in the least bit intimidated; if you can drive a car, you can operate a houseboat. As with any vacation, some preparation — especially if you are traveling with youngsters — will make your experience even smoother. To help you put together a houseboat trip as if this were your tenth trip rather than your first, we asked a special group of experts — our own Bridge Bay colleagues who themselves enjoy houseboating — to offer their best advice to you. Scroll along or jump around this page to view their top tips.
Make checklists of what you want to bring in different categories — such as clothes, toys/games and kitchen staples/groceries — and review it with everyone who is going. Don’t forget to include the kids; someone’s favorite toy can’t be left behind!
If you are traveling with another family or others who do not live in your household, coordinate with them about sharing certain essentials, such as a hairdryer, shampoo, sun block, etc. This can be a huge space saver for everyone, both in the luggage and onboard. Confirm who is bringing what of these items.
If bringing the family dog (they are welcome aboard), list those needed supplies, including food, bowls, collar/harness, leash, and canine life preserver. (Dogs can swim but they could fall overboard, get injured or become too tired.) Consult your vet and be sure all your dog’s shots are up to date. License and ID tags are a must.
Consider stopping at a warehouse or club store en route. Don’t forget the dollar stores and outlet malls. Check the internet for locations of your favorites along your route. If you don’t already have an extra bathing suit, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, etc., these are economical sources. (You might find some bargains to use back home, too!)
Consider reserving one of Bridge Bay’s small boats to tow along with your houseboat. They are great for fishing, skiing, making quick runs into marinas for ice or other supplies, and for allowing your group to split off and do different things. They also are great for scouting the next cove for the following night’s stop.
Get a map of the lake or waterway to plot your route and overnight locations.
Read up on your destination and all its features and attractions. We’ve provided some handy links to various official information resources for all Bridge Bay Resorts locations. To access the list, click here.
Remember that you are setting up a house(boat). Bridge Bays’ vessels are
well-equipped, but there are some things just too personal to provide. And, depending on your passenger list, you might want extras of some items. Review the list of what is provided, (there is an inventory list on the same webpage as each houseboat description), so you will know what to bring.
Consider having a different color or style of towel/washcloth for each person
Bring extra hand towels and keep a few on deck for wiping wet or dirty feet.
Don’t forget special pillows and favorite “blankies” to make kids feel at home.
Fitted sheets work best
Bring a favorite air freshener (spray, solid or plug-in)
Extra batteries for flashlight, electronics, etc.
First Aid Kit and a sufficient supply of all prescription medicines
Butane lighter for grills, etc. (Matches are provided onboard)
Extra paper towels and toilet paper
Zip-style plastic bags — quart and gallon sizes work great for leftovers, snacks ashore, wet clothes, game parts, etc.
Your favorite chef’s knife if you plan on doing some serious cooking
Clothes pins to secure towels/clothing over the railings while air drying
Bring water shoes that are suitable for light hiking – they will protect your toes better than sandals. (Further tip – remind everyone to take off their water shoes or water socks when onboard so their pruned-up toes can recover!)
Bring two — or three — bathing suits, shorts and tee-shirts. One set can be worn while one is drying.
Bring a lightweight waterproof jacket and pants, plus a sweatshirt and sweatpants. It can get cool at night, any season.
A waterproof fanny pack is a better place for your wallet than a purse or pocket.
Bridge Bay provides 6 to 20 hangers, depending on the vessel; you may want to bring more. But remember — you won’t need any fancy clothes on this trip!
Bring sunglasses for everyone, including children.
Hats or visors also provide valuable sun protection for eyes and face.
Food and Drink
Again, remember that you are moving into a house(boat), so don’t forget necessities that you take for granted at home:
salt, pepper and spices
sugar and sweeteners
cooking oil and salad dressing
condiments (start saving those extras from your fast food purchases!)
coffee, tea, creamer
Fun and Games
There’s lots to do outside, especially during the day, but you also should plan for after-dinner hours and the occasional rainy day. Here are some items you might want to bring along:
Water toys and games
Binoculars for bird-watching
Telescope for star-gazing
A karaoke machine and song sheets
Horseshoes set for onshore contest
Inflatable beach balls
Rope for a tug-of-war ashore
Waterproof disposable cameras or your digital or snapshot camera and extra film
Paper kites to fly ashore (Paper is better than plastic if they get loose.)
Towable inflatables are a great alternative to wakeboards and waterskis on breezy days
Each child’s favorite toy or plush animal. Let them select.
Paper, pens, crayons — good for leaving notes, keeping score, drawing, playing games, etc.
A blank notebook can be turned into a journal to which everyone can contribute. Use a standard spiral or a bound sketch book without lines that would allow guests to draw as well as write.
Set up a “watch” schedule, just like on major vessels; in this case, make one adult responsible for watching youngsters for a certain period, say, three hours, before being relieved by the next person on watch. This gives everyone peace of mind and there are no false assumptions as to who is watching whom. If there are many young children, consider a two-person watch shift during the day.
If you have a small boat, such as a ski boat, you can use it to stop by the marina daily to drop off trash and pick up gas, ice and ice cream.
If you like variety, select a different destination on the lake to visit each day.
Decide how much you want to cook and how much you want to dine at the various marina snack bars and restaurants. Cooking aboard can be fun and fuss-free with a little planning.
In hot weather, bring “no cook” breakfasts and lunches, with ingredients that do not quickly spoil in the heat.
In cooler weather, use the oven to bake muffins, brownies and main dishes. Buy ready to bake items in pouches and boxes that do not require refrigeration to save room for those things that do need to be kept cool.
Depending on how far you will travel, you can purchase your meat in advance, divide into lunch and dinner portions (even pre-season) and freeze. Keep it frozen with dry and regular ice en route. You can use frozen foods to keep other items cold.
Divide food into two coolers. Keep one to be opened only later in the trip. Layer your food in the ice chest, according to which day you are going to eat it, so you don’t always have to be going through everything.
Bring a small cooler for beverages, so you don’t have to open the refrigerator so often, especially in hot weather.
Split the kitchen chores, perhaps making two-person teams each responsible for one or two meals.