Houseboating is an excellent way to go to experience the benefits of nature without actual camping. When you ride down a river in a houseboat, there’s no escape from the relaxing tide and wave of wonderful sights to take in. Houseboats can be used on lakes, oceans, and every body of water in between. Take them exploring or just dock on a sandy beach and watch the stars at night. Whatever you choose, it doesn’t matter. There’s no stress on a houseboat. Just relaxing fun
What to Pack for a Houseboat Trip – 17 Essentials
1. Quick Dry Travel Towel
Houseboats are always on water, which typically means things get wet. To be more specific, you will be wet. If you decide to take your houseboat trip in the heat of summer, then you will likely be getting wet a lot. That’s where a quick dry towel comes in handy. Sure, beach towels are great, but if you plan on doing more than one water activity a day, this type of towel will serve you better. Especially for evening swimming, which can get cool, even in the summer.
2. First Aid Kit
Accidents happen. It’s a fact of life and there’s no way of getting around that. But what we can do as humans, is to be prepared for any possible issues that could arise. When you’re traveling through a marsh on a houseboat, and someone cuts their finger, you’re going to need supplies to help that person. Nothing says security like a first aid kit. The concept has been around for more than a century and for a good reason. If an accident happens, you’ll be happy you have a first aid kit.
3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
For those not aware, a VPN is a virtual private network. It provides protection for your internet connection and privacy. This is essential when you’re traveling because you never know who can tap into a public network. A VPN will hide your IP address and allow you to use the public WIFI hotspots you’ll likely find during your trip. This keeps you safe while you’re checking your emails or researching online.
4. Cooling Towel
While quick dry towels are great for water sports, cooling towels are great for hiking. It’s fun to park the boat and hike around if you’re near a large body of land or an island in the middle of a river. But, when the sun is beating down on you, and you’re running out of water, it’s important to keep your body temperature down. A cooling towel will do that for you. Houseboat trips are far from civilization, so be prepared.
There’s so much to see when hiking, boating, or hanging around nature. Birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and other animals that we might not want to get close to. This is where a good set of binoculars will come in handy. Bears are dangerous, but we all would like to see one in the wild if we could, which is possible with a strong set like these. Trust me, when you hear a woodpecker out in the distance, this is the only way you’ll find it.
6. Packing Cubes
Houseboats only come with so much storage space inside. Everything else will need to be kept outside on the deck, which can get messy. Packing cubes are a perfect solution. They are neat and orderly, which will help you and your houseboat partners find things when you need them. You can store anything from water toys, ski ropes, arm floaties, dry goods, towels, linens, and anything else you might deem essential to your trip.
7. Rain Poncho
I can say, from personal experience, that sitting on the deck of the houseboat, while it’s raining, is a wonderful experience. You don’t want to be out there when there’s lightning or heavy winds, but a sun shower can add a touch of beauty to the surroundings. Keep yourself and your loved ones dry with a stack of rain ponchos, which will also come in handy if you find yourself away from the boat when it begins to rain.
8. Travel Umbrella
There will also be times when you’re hiking the land and it starts to rain. While a poncho is handy, a travel umbrella will add that extra layer of protection. You can only pack so much clothing for a houseboat trip and you don’t it all to be wet. There isn’t a clothes dryer on the boat and the sun can only do so much. Keeping your clothes dry is an essential part of having a comfortable time while traveling via houseboat.
9. Portable Charger
We all like to stay connected and posting photos of our surroundings is an everyday thing for many people. Especially when on vacation. Keeping your devices charged while hiking or if you take the john boat out on a little excursion is also a matter of safety. That’s why external chargers are fantastic and can save you when you need it. If you’re phone goes dead, all you have to do is plug it in one of these, and you’ll be up and running in no time.
If I haven’t said it yet, houseboats only have so much room. If you want to keep plenty of cold beverages around for your party, bring a cooler. This one is nice because it can fit a lot and it’s collapsible. That means you can fill it when you set up and leave it that way, but it won’t take up a lot of room when you pack. This cooler can fit 40 cans of soft drinks, or other items that you want to keep cold and doesn’t fit in the fridge.
11. Life Straw Water Bottle
Water is the stuff of life, and you never know how much you need it until you don’t have access. When you’re out hiking, a Life Straw water bottle is a fantastic tool to bring. It allows you to drink water from any source, including lakes and rivers. This capability is a wonderful thing when those sources are all you have. The Life Straw water bottle is so marvelous they can be used every day.
12. Swimming Suits
Lakes and rivers don’t only supply water for drinking. It’s also there for playing. Whether your swimming, skiing, tubing, or just floating, you and the rest of your group will need swimsuits. This is an essential item when traveling via houseboat in the summer. So much so, I’d say you should bring at least two if not several. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly comfortable to put on a wet swimming suit. This can be avoided by bringing more than one.
13. Universal Waterproof Phone Case
Not all smartphones are waterproof, and if there’s one thing there will be plenty of on a houseboat are ways to get your phone wet. Protect your smartphone now and thank yourself later. There’s nothing more annoying than having to get a new phone when you aren’t ready. They’re expensive and a hassle to replace, so do yourself a favor and check out this waterproof case. Accidents happen and prevention is the way to go.
Exploring the outdoors is risky in some areas, some more than others. Being prepared is an important step toward a relaxing good time. A headlamp is a must if you plan on camping overnight or exploring any caves in your area. The GearLight has an LED bulb with an extended battery life, so you know you can depend on it. It also comes in a 2 pack, which means you can share it with the members of your group.
15. Hanging Toiletry Bag
The limited space on a houseboat is another reason to keep your belongings organized and compacted as best you can. The Mossio hanging toiletry bag is sturdy and comes with a hook for easy hanging. It’s made from durable polyester and large enough to fit everything you need for the trip. What I like about this bag is it also packs into a smaller case for easy packing. All you do is pull it out and hang it when you use the bathroom, and then carry it all back to your gear when you leave the bathroom. Houseboat bathrooms are small, so leaving toiletries in there can get cluttered.
Several times in this article I’ve mentioned hiking trips. Houseboat enthusiasts have been known to hike into the wilderness and spend a night inland. A daypack is just what you need if this is the type of adventure you’re looking for. The Maelstrom is waterproof and lightweight plus the design is ergonomic, which makes it comfortable to carry. And you can put a great deal of supplies in there, like snacks and sandwiches, if you plan on being gone for a while.
17. Travel Insurance for a Houseboat
I’ve preached the importance of preparation in several paragraphs so far. There’s a reason for that. There’s nothing better than being prepared in case something goes wrong, and travel insurance is essential. A lot can happen when you’re driving a boat down a river you don’t know. Travelinsurance.com is a wonderful provider with affordable rates. Stay ahead of issues and unwanted costs with travel insurance.
What to Wear While on a Houseboat
When it’s hot, you might not wear any more than your bathing suit and sunscreen. But, if the temperature drops, you’ll want to add on some more clothing. We call that, adding layers. Even if you’re going in the summer, it wouldn’t hurt to have a pair of warm pants and a hoodie or light jacket. Don’t forget to bring something waterproof so you can keep those clothes dry. If you’re taking a Spring or Autumn trip, don’t forget a hat, gloves, and heavy sweater.
Houseboating as a woman is pretty much the same as a man. The only difference is they have some needs that are unique. Bras are a great example. If you wear a bra, we suggest you bring a sport one for this type of trip. Wire pushup bras are just going to dig into your side while you’re trying to relax by the campfire. In no way are we saying that you have to wear a bra. But if you’re the type that likes to, make sure it’s comfortable.
Casual attire is the way to go on a houseboat trip as well. If you’re in a hot climate, you will likely stay in a bathing suit with a little cover up. Flip flops are another great decision when it comes to houseboat trips, but make sure they’re slip resistant. This goes for all your shoes. Slipping on a wet deck can take the fun out of a trip.
If women plan to hike and explore, make sure to have the right shoes and clothing to go with that activity. You don’t want to be caught with only flip flops when you need a great pair of hiking shoes.
Casual attire is key. Just like women, men will spend their time in a bathing suit for most of the day. But, as we’ve mentioned, temps can drop so make sure to bring some long pants and a sweater or hoodie for those cool evenings. For the most part though, you’ll find that all you need is a couple pair of cargo shorts, t-shirts, a light jacket, and a hoodie. You might want to bring a long sleeve shirt and a button up like a flannel will work fine.
If you’re an adventurer, you want a pair of long pants for those times you hike through some sharp bushes. Don’t forget the hiking boots, daypack, and filtered water bottle we mentioned earlier. If you’re going in the Autumn, bring a hat, gloves, and sweater. Most houseboat trips are in the summer, which means you can leave those things home.
Try to buy reputable brands when it comes to things like shoes because you’ll feel it in your feet later if you don’t. This also goes for outwear that is designed to protect you from the elements.
Packing for the Seasons
There are some locations where the temps drop when the sun goes down so make sure to research that. If your destination is like that, don’t forget some long pants, socks, and a hoodie or pullover shirt for nights around the fire.
Riding on a houseboat in the fall is a completely different experience but one that should not be missed. You can swim if you like freezing water, but I think it’s safe to say that you won’t be spending as much time in the water as you would on an 85˚-degree day. Fall temps tend to fluctuate from hot to cold, and it still depends on the location. Fall in Florida is still pretty hot, which means you can follow the summer packing list.
But for cooler climates you can bring a suit, some shorts or skirts, a few short sleeve shirts, a few long sleeve, hoodies or pullovers, and a warm jacket. If you’ll be in an area that will get cold, don’t forget the hats, gloves, and socks. Fall isn’t typically a season when we wear flip flops all day long.
The only places you’ll be able to ride a houseboat in the winter are in areas with warmer climates. If you’re traveling somewhere warm during the winter to enjoy a houseboat, check the weather and pack accordingly. Our Summer, Fall, and Spring suggestions are perfect for any climate around the world.
Fishing: The best fishing happens early in the morning. If you’re wading in the water, you’ll need some waterproof pants. But, if you’re casting your line off the deck of the boat, shorts and a t-shirt are fine. You don’t even have to wear shoes. We do suggest a hat for sunny days and plenty of sunscreen.
Hiking: Hiking requires more gear. You want good shoes and supplies, which requires a day pack. If you plan on going off a trail into the woods, don’t rule out wearing long pants to save you from low branches. It would be smart to bring a poncho, your Life Straw water bottle, and a compass so you can find your way back to the boat.
Campfires/Stargazing: Sitting out by a campfire while watching the stars is one of my favorite houseboating activities. When you find the right beach, all you need is to dock, build a campfire, and relax. For this you may need socks, pants, and a hoodie if the temperatures drop.
Sandcastles: All you need to wear when building sandcastles is a swimsuit, sunscreen, and a good imagination. You can use buckets, cups, and other things found on the boat to create a castle that is fit for the Queen of England.
What NOT to Bring on a Houseboat
1.DON'T Bring Inappropriate Clothing for the Season
If you know it’s never going to drop below 60˚ degrees, you can leave the heavy jacket at home. What are you going to do with a hoodie when you’re visiting a tropical climate that never drops below 75˚ degrees? Make sure to research the temperatures and pack accordingly. Otherwise, you bring a lot of clothing you don’t need and won’t use.
2.DON'T Bring Unnecessary Valuables
You aren’t going to be wearing your favorite diamond earrings while swimming in a bog. Leave them at home. That diamond choker your husband bought you should be left behind too. That also goes for computers you won’t use and Italian leather shoes.
3.DON'T Pack Heavy Books
Get a Kindle or another reader for your trip. I love books and how they smell and feel, but they’re heavy and devices like Kindle make bringing reading material on a trip much easier. If you must have a real book, keep it down to one.
4.DON'T Wear High heeled/Uncomfortable Shoes
Footwear on a boat should be non-slip and comfortable. That could be flip flops in the summer and some sturdy athletic shoes in the fall. There is no need for a healed shoe or fun leather boots. They’ll only get ruined with water and you won’t wear them.
5.DON'T Pack Unnecessary Electronics
If you can, leave the laptop at home. When you travel on a houseboat the fun is looking around you. You may be in a part of the world you’ll only have this one time to see. Don’t miss it by checking in on emails or doing work that can wait until you get home.
6.DON'T Pack White Clothing
White shorts and pants are hard to keep clean. Let’s face it, all white clothing is difficult. Skip annoying cleaning regimens and leave the white clothes at home. Houseboats get dirty and so will your clothes. Light colors are fine but skip the white if you can.
FAQs about Houseboats
1. Will I get wet?
Yes. There is no other way to say it but yes. When you go on a boat, you’re likely to get wet. And houseboats are not used for a quick ride or a day. When you plan a trip, you’re going to be on that boat for several days to weeks. The odds that you’ll get wet are in favor of the water. So, keep this in mind and take our suggestions seriously when packing. As I’ve said, many houseboats don’t come with a clothes dryer. So be prepared.
2. Will I get seasick?
You might. While a houseboat on a river may be calm, but they’ve been known to take on some waves. If you, or anyone in your party fears motion sickness, have them talk to their healthcare professional. There are over the counter remedies for this type of illness, and you can pack it with you. You may have noticed we always recommend prevention as a state of mind. Motion sickness preparedness is no different.
3. Do we need to hire a captain?
This all depends on where you’re taking the houseboat. If you’re going down a little river, then you can likely do it on your own. But if you’re going through rugged terrain then you might want someone with experience on board. It’s worth noting that there are only so many beds on a houseboat and a captain will take up space. Some houseboats don’t even offer the option. We do recommend learning how to drive one before leaving. You have to be able to know how to recognize shallow water.
4. Is houseboating dangerous?
It can be if you don’t know what you’re doing. While rivers look calm and peaceful in some areas, there are areas that have white water rapids, which is no place for a houseboat. Like anything else, you need to be educated on the dos and don’ts of houseboating, which can vary depending on the location. We recommend contacting the provider of the houseboat you’re renting for a guidance.
5. Will I get internet service?
This depends on where you’ll be. There are areas where reception is wonderful and others where you can’t get a bar to save your life. The best defense in this case is preparation. Make sure you plan on having bad service for that time and get any impending work completed before you go. Trust me, when you’re on the houseboat, you won’t want to be dealing with needy clients. Plan to go off the grid and let important people know. There’s more to see than a screen on a houseboat.
6. Will a houseboat trip cost a lot?
It’s not cheap, that’s for sure. The biggest expense is the rental of the houseboat. Other than that, there’s the cost of supplies, which you may have lying around your home or purchase in bulk to save a few dollars. Houseboating can be done cheaply or expensively. It all depends on your needs and the type of experience you want to have.
7. Do I need to know how to drive a boat?
Yes. You and several other people should know how to drive a boat when going on this trip. It’s easy and the rental company can teach you. It’s also important to have enough life jackets and supplies that will get you to the next stop. There are cute stores on water where you can find ice and gas. They also sell beverages and food items, but it’s always cheaper to buy that in bulk and bringing it with you.