If you think a family houseboat vacation is out of reach for your budget, think again. It’s more affordable than you might think. You just need to get creative with your resources and travel plans.
Reserve During the Off-Season
Off-season rates usually run in the spring and fall. For example, at Shasta Marina, the off-season goes from March to May and from September to October. Because of the lower demand for houseboats during these months, houseboats can be rented for almost half the price of in-season rates! And if you rent houseboats in sunny locations, such as Shasta Lake, the weather might still be kind to you. Temperatures in September and October, especially, can still get up to the 70s and 80s.
Avoid Extra Fees
Lock in your houseboat plans early and avoid expensive cancellation and change fees. Avoid holiday weekends too. Usually, those weekends are higher-priced. Plus, the lake will likely be more busy too.
Do your best to get the full deposit back. Take good care of the houseboat and clean it thoroughly before returning it to the marina. Make sure that your toddler doesn’t scribble on the walls and that the muddy footprints from your last hiking trip don’t stay on the houseboat deck. Make sure, too, that you don’t inadvertently take something with you that belongs on the boat. And return the boat to the marina with a full tank of gas—just like you would a rental car.
Take Some Other Folks Along
Houseboats are made for groups. Share the fun by inviting the grandparents or other members of your extended family. (Just make sure it’s the family members that you can actually enjoy reasonably well for three or more days.) Or you could invite another family or two. This will split your costs for the houseboat and fuel in half or even in thirds. Plus, your kids will have someone their own size to join them for fun in the lake
Let’s say you’re splitting the cost with two other families for five nights at a price of $2,500. The price for your family will come to $167 per night. That’s roughly the equivalent of the nightly price for a hotel room. But a hotel room won’t have a fully-stocked kitchen. With a houseboat, you can save on eating expenses by bringing all (or most) of your own food, which brings us to the next tip.
Bring All Your Own Food
Eating out can add up in a hurry. The beauty of houseboat vacations is that you can have gourmet meals in the middle of the lake without it blowing your budget. If you want the cooking to be easier while you’re on the boat, you can do some food prep ahead of time by slicing, dicing, and squaring fruits, vegetables, and meat. Better yet, buy fresh vegetables from a farmer’s market beside the lake or catch your own fish on the lake to grill up for your dinners or to add to a delicious fish chowder.
Save On Your Way There
Driving is usually the cheapest way for a family to get somewhere. If you’re a long drive away and need to stay somewhere for the night, you can scour online travel sites to score deals on hotels. If you want even better rates, you can rent a room or two through Airbnb or even rent a camping site for one night. The kids will be excited to start their vacation early by camping along the way. And you’ll be happy because a campsite will generally only cost you between $15 to $35 per night.
Houseboat vacations are one of the best things you can do with your family. You can swim, fish, eat delicious steak, and explore unusual trails—all on one vacation. And with the right planning, you can do it on a budget too.