Packing for Your First Houseboat Stay

February 2022 Rent Annie Carbutt

Renting a houseboat for the first time can bring a lot of unknowns (aka stress). With so much to do before you go, where do you even start? Should you pack like you’re going on a camping trip or like you’re staying in a hotel? To help you keep your mind free for planning your adventure, we’ve brought you our top ideas on packing for your houseboat stay. Here’s to a bon voyage!

What Not to Pack

While it may seem counterintuitive, our first tip is to actually direct you to the houseboat rental website to see what they already have onboard so you know what not to pack. You’d be surprised at the number of items they’ve already considered for you. While it varies, know that the basics will be covered. 

Amenities you can expect include kitchen standards such as a sink with hot and cold water, refrigerator, stove and cooking appliances, pots and pans, dishes and utensils, etc. You will also likely find that the houseboat is stocked with basics such as toilet paper and soap, cleaning supplies, trash cans and garbage bags, etc. 

Your houseboat will most likely include a television and DVD player as well as an outdoor grill for good food and good times. It’s also standard for most houseboats to come ready with clean sheets and blankets on the beds along with pillows, but this is one to double check on just to be safe, because it varies from company to company. Some houseboats are set up much like a hotel and even offer shampoo and personal bar soap. They may even have items such as hair dryers onboard. 

While your houseboat should also come stocked with standard safety gear and equipment such as flares and flotation devices, it’s always a good idea to pack enough so that every member of your party has their own life vest. Also, bringing your own first aid kit with non-expired items is always important, just in case. Anticipate that, overall, you will be comfortable and have many, if not most, of the things you need already onboard.

How to Plan

While you’re looking at the houseboat rental website for a list of what’s included, look for a list of suggested items to bring as well. The houseboat rental company should have a good idea of local weather patterns and shoreside activities that might influence what you want to pack. Being prepared for anything that could happen is never a bad idea, but it doesn’t hurt to know what most people experience in the particular area you are visiting.

Jotting down a few specifics to bring is definitely helpful, but we believe the best way to really get your packing started is with a categorized list. Rather than just randomly writing down every item you can think of, this helps you focus on one area at a time so you save brainpower and are less likely to miss something important. We suggest planning the following categories:

  • Kitchen / Food
  • Clothes and Gear
  • Toiletries and Medicine Cabinet / Emergency Supplies
  • Babies and Infants
  • Towels / Linens / Bedding
  • Games and Entertainment
  • Pets (if applicable and allowed)
  • Maps / Itinerary / Notepads and Pens

Once you’ve got your categories listed out, you can brainstorm everything that comes to mind and compare it to your list of what’s already included on the boat, crossing off anything you won’t need to bring. Everyone has a different planning style, but just remember that a messy list is a totally legitimate way to start. You can clean it up and even start a new one as you narrow down what to bring.

What to Pack

Because items included on your houseboat will vary, we won’t give you an exhaustive list of what to pack. You should be able to come up with a pretty good idea after you’ve brainstormed under each of your categories and crossed off the items already onboard. But just in case you do forget something, here are some suggestions for each category to consider.

Kitchen / Food

  • Low-prep meals with as few refrigerated items as possible
  • Disposable servingware
  • Ziploc bags
  • Seasonings and condiments
  • Drinking water / beverages (again, non-refrigerated if possible)
  • Paper towels
  • Grilling items (skewers / hot dog roasting sticks, foil, etc.)
  • Coolers and ice
  • Good chef’s knife or two, steak knives 
  • Hand sanitizer and antibacterial Wipes
  • Extra garbage bags

Clothes and Gear

  • Clothing for both sunny and cold/windy weather
  • Pajamas and underwear
  • Swimming gear
  • sandals/water shoes for hiking
  • Extra socks
  • Hat / visor
  • Sunglasses
  • Gloves for handling firewood
  • Waterproof jacket, sweatshirt, and other layered clothing 

Toiletries / Medicine Cabinet / Emergency Supplies

  • Personal basics (toothpaste and toothbrush, shampoo, shaving cream, facewash, etc.)
  • Sunscreen and bug repellent
  • Prescription Medications
  • First Aid Kit with basic medicine cabinet drugs (painkillers, allergy medicines, etc.)
  • Flashlights and Batteries
  • Flares
  • Life Jackets for every person onboard
  • Compass, emergency whistle, etc.

Infants and Babies

  • Diapers and wipes
  • Formula and bottles
  • Blankets and burp cloths
  • Extra clothes
  • Books and toys
  • White noise maker
  • Baby monitor and extra batteries
  • Baby sleep tent
  • Playpen 
  • Baby gate
  • High chair
  • Baby seat / swing

Towels / Linens / Bedding

  • Sheets, blankets, and pillows (if not included)
  • Extra towels for swimming and playing in water (helps if there are different colors for each person)

Games / Entertainment

  • Books to read
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Water toys / towables
  • Movies
  • Music


  • Food and water bowls
  • Pet food
  • Pet waste bags and scoop
  • Litter box
  • Leash
  • Pet bed / pillow
  • Pet medications
  • Pet life vest

Maps / Itinerary / Notepads and Pens

  • Maps of area (plan your route!)
  • Things to write on/with
  • Planned itinerary
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