The Reason Why Houseboats Are A Unique Vacation Experience

Curious about houseboats? You love to travel, but you also love the familiar comforts of your own bed and kitchen. Who doesn’t?  Unwinding on your own sofa with a book after a long day of exploring a fabulous new vacation spot, relaxing in your own tub after a hike.  No checking in or out of a hotel room by certain times of day. Swimming or fishing all afternoon in a previously undiscovered location along a lazy care-free river, and having your home base right there with you so you can squeeze every moment of enjoyment out of the day before the sun sets. No need to be worrying about having to head home, because you’re already there!


How can I bring my “home” with me?

How do you take your home base and all of its creature comforts with you when you want to explore? Maybe you need access to an office or workspace you can call your own while you travel.  How exactly do you bring your own home on a holiday?  The answer may be waiting for you on a houseboat vacation.  Houseboats offer an extraordinary vacation experience!

  1. The cost of a houseboat rental can be an affordable alternative to hotels, especially if you are splitting the costs with several family members or friends

    Bring your home on a holiday

    Bring your home on a holiday

  2. Traveling at your own pace can be a rewarding and much more relaxing experience
  3. Bring your family, your friends, even your pets along with you!
  4. Work from home, even while you’re on holiday
  5. Enjoy being able to lounge at “home” if you aren’t feeling up to participating in the day’s activities or need a little rest


What exactly is a houseboat?

Houseboats come in all shapes and sizes, from modest one bedrooms to luxurious multi-level floating mansions. They are, quite simply, houses that float on water!  Houseboats can be privately owned, or rented out to vacationers who long for the experience of taking their home along with them as they enjoy their vacation. They can have one bedroom or more, multiple bathrooms, and a seemingly endless amount of amenities and entertainment, depending on your needs and your budget.

Houseboats are used primarily for pleasure. There are “cruising” and “non-cruising” houseboats.

  • Cruising houseboats: Cruising houseboats will have an engine and take you out on the water from destination to destination. They are the vacation houseboat you can rent or own, to use as your home base while vacationing on water.
  • Non-cruising houseboats: Non-cruising houseboats are mainly stationary homes on the water where a resident lives permanently. They are typically moored and do not move.

Some houseboats come equipped with hot tubs, water slides, barbecues, even fire places. They can have satellite television and internet access, a full kitchen, and a wet bar. Most houseboats are expected to have the basics:

  • A living area
  • A sleeping area
  • A bathroom area
  • A cockpit area where the boat is steered


Do I need a special permit or license to operate a house boat?

One of the great things about houseboats is how user friendly they are to control. Houseboats do not require any special permit or previously acquired license to operate, other than a valid drivers license. Usually, the rental agency will issue a license good for the duration of your rental agreement. The rental agency will also be happy to give you a hands-on crash course in operating the houseboat you will be taking on your vacation. You will be shown the basics and have a clear idea of how to handle the boat. Some rental agencies will bring your houseboat in and out of the harbour for you, at no additional fee.


Can anyone operate a houseboat?

The typical age limit required to operate houseboats is 19, but make sure to check with the rental agency.  You will also require to have a valid drivers license with you at the time of rental. Other than these key requirements, houseboat operation is open to anyone.


Where can a houseboat travel?

Houseboats can travel any rivers, lakes, even the coasts of oceans where pleasure craft are legal to operate. The majority of houseboats can’t handle coastal waters however, and are much happier floating to and from riverside destinations.


Importance of safety aboard and around your houseboat:

Houseboats are exactly what they sound like – houses on water – and pose similar risks you would have in your own home as well as a few others. To ensure a pleasant vacation for all, take the time to minimize risks as much as possible.


  1. Fire prevention – just like in your “real” home, make sure there are no flammable materials left around stoves or barbecues. Keep the barbecue clear, and don’t leave electrical space heaters running, and have a working fire extinguisher.
  2. Keeping houseboats dry – prevent slips and falls by keeping the deck dry. Repair any small leaks before they cause major problems.
  3. First aid – a well stocked first aid kit should always be available, and everyone on board should know where to locate it.
  4. Communication – a phone or radio is essential in case of emergency.
  5. GPS – knowing your exact location can be a big help if there is any emergency.
  6. Life jackets – personal floatation devices are a must for everyone on board
  7. Alcohol – limiting alcohol intake is a good idea, to minimize risks. Also the driver of the boat should never operate the houseboat while intoxicated.
  8. Comply with all the regulations in your region, including fishing.



Important things to consider when deciding on a houseboat rental:

Deciding on the type and size of houseboat you are looking to rent for your vacation is much like deciding on the size of apartment to rent or house to buy. There are several important factors to consider when choosing what types of houseboats suit your needs:

  • How many people will be living together onboard?

    Houseboat kitchen

    Houseboat kitchen

  • How many bathrooms will be necessary?
  • How much living space do you need to enjoy yourself?
  • How much kitchen space do you require to prepare meals?

Bedrooms: Knowing how many people will be living on board will give you an idea of how many bedrooms you’ll want to have.  Alternative sleeping arrangements can always be taken care of with makeshift beds and sleeping bags if necessary, but it is essential to have a good idea of the number of bedrooms you’ll want to have.

Bathrooms: Most find that one bathroom is enough, however there are options for more.  For a price, you can opt for having more bathroom space, especially if you are sharing your houseboat vacation with many friends and family members.

Living space: The amount of living space is crucial to how comfortable everyone will feel.  Are there enough seating areas to keep everyone content and not cramped?

Kitchen: Last but not least, the amount of kitchen space will be determined by how comfortable you want to be while you cook.  A full kitchen will give you many more options when it comes to preparing meals, but some find they get along just fine with a barbecue on the deck and just the bare essentials in the galley!

Unlike traditional houses and apartments, the best part about houseboats is not having to worry about your neighbourhood! You don’t like your noisy neighbour or the view outside your window? Pull up anchor! A brand new view is just up the river.


Extraordinary houseboating activities:

Bringing along a smaller boat allows for more freedom to explore the water. Houseboats are a great home base, and can remain stationary while its inhabitants board a smaller craft for faster trips.

Just about anything you can think of doing along the riverside, you can do on your houseboat vacation. The plentiful swimming and fishing opportunities aside, there are so many more activities that await:

  • Hiking
  • Snorkling
  • Any activity offered at your destination such as horseback riding
  • Bicycle trips if you bring your bike
  • Trips into local town markets
  • Sight-seeing
  • Participation in local festivals and events
  • Indoor activities such as card and boardgames


What should I bring?

Knowing what to take with you on your houseboat vacation will save you from making multiple emergency trips into town once you’re trying to settle in. It will also save you from overpacking unnecessary items that take up precious space! Here is a list of considerations to make while planning your own houseboat holiday:

  1. Make sure you have a supply of water – whether the boat supplies its own drinking water or not could mean you end up having to stock up on bottled water before you leave
  2. Ensure that you have a steady supply of sunscreen
  3. Pack enough clothing to last several days between washings, but don’t overpack clothing. You’ll find that several outfits is enough to get you through until you can clean your clothes
  4. Bring along a comfortable pair of hiking shoes for when you want to spend some time on dry land, and make sure you have a couple pairs of sandals for life on the water
  5. Pack enough ice to keep essentials cold in case you can’t use a freezer – often there isn’t enough room in a typical houseboat freezer to hold everything you need to keep frozen. Bring a cooler.
  6. Make sure you have your camera, any devices, charger, and enough memory on your devices
  7. Make sure you have water bottles to take along for walks or hiking
  8. Equip yourself with a wide-rimmed hat to keep the sun off your face
  9. Some houseboats have docking stations for iPods, so if you’re in the mood for music make sure you bring your iPod along!
  10. Always make sure a well stocked emergency first aid kit is available
  11. Bug spray can be helpful when the winds die down
  12. An extra pillow as well as a sleeping bag can offer more flexibility when it comes to sleeping on board
  13. A jacket or sweater will be a necessity for cooler nights
  14. A light rain poncho will be helpful if work needs to be done outside during wet weather
  15. A Swiss Army knife is always a good item to have around
  16. Bring along extra lengths of rope as well as a roll or two of duct tape. There are so many ways these helpful items can get you out of a jam!
  17. A headlamp and/or flashlight is necessary if any work needs to be done around the boat after dark
  18. Bring your own common sense! You will always need plenty of it.


Where can I rent a houseboat for my vacation?

Research rental agencies for houseboats in your area (or in the area you plan on beginning your houseboat vacation) and compare prices and availability. There will be peak seasons in the summer, and rental fees will typically drop in the off-season.

Contact the rental agencies of your choice and if possible, make plans to visit before you make your rental decision. Since houseboats vary in size and capabilities, the rental agency will be glad to answer any questions you have about their houseboats.

For more ways to prepare your vacation, visit the Travel Planning category.