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A houseboat rental - the perfect family vacation

Updated on December 20, 2012

A houseboat rental - a different type of vacation

My very significant other and I just took a 4 day houseboat rental vacation in Pennsylvania, and we're way the better for it. Even though it rained every single day of our houseboat rental, it didn't bother us a bit as we still had all the comforts of home. In fact, the rain was quite soothing on the roof of the houseboat and, after all, we didn't expect to stay dry during the vacation anyway so we just adapted our plans to the changing weather - we even bummed some more cocktails from another houseboat whose occupants took pity on our poor souls.

A houseboat rental is a very different type of vacation though, and, if you're the type of person who prefers to have in-room massages, fancy dinners and trips to the local mall, well, you might just move along little doggie (although the first two are definitely doable on a houseboat....) - this lens is not about that type of vacation at all. A houseboat rental vacation will fit the bill if you prefer a laid back vacation where you can do exactly what you want; just our type of thing.

My houseboat had a gorgeous captain

My houseboat had a gorgeous captain
My houseboat had a gorgeous captain

Our houseboat rental

John and I were going alone so we didn't need a very big houseboat. In fact, we chose the smallest houseboat rented on Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania. Sort of sadly, it was named the Crappie which I thought was a bit crappy. John then informed me that crappie (pronounced croppie) is a type of fish (none of which we saw...).

Anyway, our houseboat slept 4 people but they'd have to have been very very close friends. The sleeping arrangements were just 1 bedroom with queen bunk beds - a very interesting arrangement. The bottom bunk had only about a foot clearance once we were in it and the top bunk had an equal clearance from the ceiling. Let's just say that this boat was not a good one for a honeymoon...

Regardless of the sleeping arrangements, The Crappie was a perfect houseboat for the two of us. With a full kitchen, a bathroom with a shower, kitchen table, comfortable sofa and lounge chairs on the back and front outside decks, we were enchanted. Most houseboats are two story and ours had a great roof for entertaining - it was open for all 34 feet and came with a few lounge chairs. Just the right place for cheese and crackers and a nice bottle of wine. We also fished of the roof area as we both love to be up high.

Note: my houseboat came with a pretty nice looking captain and waiter....

Houseboat books on Amazon

This Squidoo lens gives you a basic idea of what to expect from a houseboat rental but, if you're even more interested, here's some books about houseboats on

Now, THIS is a houseboat!

I'd love to live in a houseboat but I'd prefer the type that one can travel in rather than just live aboard. Regardless, this book has some beautiful houseboats inside.

Things you should know before you consider a houseboat rental

There are a few things of which you should be aware if you're considering a houseboat rental vacation. The below are some of the things I considered (and maybe learned the hard way) on our houseboat vacation.

  1. A houseboat rental doesn't come with the captain so someone in your party will learn how to run the boat. Actually, all members in your party over the age of 18 should sit in on the short 15 minute tutorial given on each houseboat rental by the houseboat renting company. The tutorial goes over how to beach the boat at night (houseboats are just simply run up on shore to "anchor" which is a bit strange), a tour of the systems of the houseboat such as the generator, hot water heater, how to use the toilet, and where the safety equipment is located. You'll also see where the life vests are and, very importantly for us, how to run the refrigerator (we needed chilled wine...).

    Don't be alarmed though - even those with no boating experience can easily pilot a houseboat.

  2. You might have to take a safe boating course before you can rent a houseboat. I had to become certified in Pennsylvania with a safe boating course before I could take the wheel of our houseboat rental. You can easily find courses online like I did if they are needed. Always check with the houseboat rental agency to see exactly what you need before you go to take out your houseboat. You may be sorely disappointed if you're not prepared to pilot the boat.
  3. Houseboats are designed with flat bottom hulls so they won't be rented on the open ocean. Houseboats are fairly stable though on calm water so you may just feel a gentle rocking. Since you can't take a houseboat in the ocean or a bay with waves, you'll have to plan your houseboat rental vacation around a scenic lake or river for the most enjoyment.

    If you're prone to seasickness, you might want to stock up on dramamine and other seasickness prevention items but you really might not have a problem. For one thing, the rocking motion of a houseboat is gentle (even in the wake of a boat going by) and you can see out through numerous windows and doors so focus on the horizon and you might find your seasickness goes away. Also, drink a coke and eat some saltines if you do get queazy.

  4. If you're taking small children, a houseboat rental may not be for you. It might be a whole lot more work to keep life preservers on little ones and keep your eye on them. It's quite easy to move around a houseboat or slip outside an open sliding door onto the open deck.
  5. When you rent a houseboat, you'll have to specify how many adults and children will be on board so that there are enough personal floatation devices (PDFs). However, if you have small children, I strongly recommend that you purchase the best PFDs you can find in your child's size for added security. It makes NO sense to me to scrimp on PFDs for children. And, don't expect those blow up arm things to be good enough!
  6. There are some "hidden" costs associated with a houseboat rental - namely, gasoline for the engine and the generator. For a guestimate, we traveled around 30 miles when we had our houseboat rental, our gas bill for the engine was $204 and, for the generator, it was $100. We ran the generator (which runs the air conditioning) about 10 hours a day.

    Be aware when calculating your houseboat gas costs: marine gas is more expensive than the land gas. Our gas cost $4.50 a gallon while gas here in MD to fill up my car is around $2.75. So, budget accordingly.

  7. Dogs are frequently a welcome member of a houseboating family but check with the houseboat rental company before you load up Fido. And, just like children, dogs should wear life preservers if they're on the open deck or atop the boat on the roof to join in star watching at night.

About 15 years ago, my family rented a houseboat on Lake Powell in Arizona/Utah.

About 15 years ago, my family rented a houseboat on Lake Powell in Arizona/Utah.
About 15 years ago, my family rented a houseboat on Lake Powell in Arizona/Utah.

Marine fuel pricing

Marine fuel is a lot more expensive than car fuel but, as far as I can tell, there's not much of a reason except supply and demand. Most houseboat rental companies will not allow you to bring about 10 gallons of fuel (that's just not safe) so you're sort of at the mercy of the fuel God at the marina. seems to be a good resource to check fuel prices on a current basis. Before you rent, ask the houseboat rental company what the average fuel use is for the size houseboat you're renting. Now, you can expect them to say "That depends on how fast you go." Tell them that Lori said to give you a range that you can expect to use. Tell them you plan on either a slow trip or, if you've got a lead foot, be honest so you can get a true estimate of how much that credit card is going to have to take on at the end of your vacation.

Note: Most houseboats operate around 7 knots at top speed and you'll use the most gas there - in fact, you can expect to use probably triple the fuel at 7 knots that you'd use at 3 - that's a good reason if you ask me to slow down and smell the roses (or the fish....).

For a leisurely ramble up a lazy river, you can move at 3 to 4 knots and conserve a whole lot of gas.

Floatation devices for children on - Highly recommended for any houseboat rental where kids are along.

In my opinion, one can't be too careful when it comes to being around water, even for me and I'm a pretty strong swimmer. But, especially if you have younger children on board, buy the very best PFDs you can find. The below are some good (and, hence, airly expensive) ones, but, you'll still pay less than shopping for floatation devices at a West Marine or BoatersUs store.

Do not buy floatation devices at Walmart or Toys R Us. Pay the extra for the best you can get. Also, as a tip, buy yellow or orange floatation devices so that your child can be easily seen. Blue floatation devices are just dumb. Also, look for floatation devices which automatically flip the child onto their back to protect against drowning.

Floatation devices for dogs - Bring your dog along on a houseboat. He is, after all, a part of your family.

Click on any picture to enlarge it so you can see more details. My dogs have the Outward Hound life jackets. My 3-legged dog, Hops, hates water - he's missing a front leg and can only swim in circles so he's always protected. Read more about Hops by clicking the blue link: Hops, my 3-legged wonder dog.

Are you considering a houseboat rental?

As mentioned above, a houseboat rental vacation is more of a laid back vacation and is probably not for everyone although, for the life of me, I don't know why anyone wouldn't like it. Sitting on the roof of the houseboat with a plate of cheese and crackers and a bottle of good wine while watching the sunset over the mountains just appeals to me. Does it appeal to you?

Would you consider a houseboat rental for a vacation?

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Did you learn anything about houseboat rentals? - I'd love to hear your comments.

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    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      A great way to travel!

    • gottaloveit2 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks, Peggy. It truly wasn't a marital bed...sad, but true.

    • gottaloveit2 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Namaste12: We are not trading in anything, mister...

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This sounds like a blast! Your description of the clearance on the bed was hilarious, Lori!!!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wonderful vacation. Can't wait to do it again...Wonder if I can trade in my sailboat??

    • gottaloveit2 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @katt61: Miss Lowe: very soon! It really was great and is easily something "the girls" can do.

    • gottaloveit2 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: As always, you're too funny! I have another lens planned for "planning your houseboat vacation" which talks about what to take, how to prepare foods, etc! I was ahead of you for once!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Sounds like a wonderful time! Can't wait to try this type of vacation - when are we leaving?!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Was the galley area big enough for much cooking or did you need to use mostly convenience foods? Is it sort of like RVing? I've done that.


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