Imagine secluded coves, colorful sunsets and a variety of water activities combined with the comforts of home. That's exactly what you can expect when you book a relaxing trip on a houseboat. And splitting the cost of renting a boat with relatives, friends or neighbors makes it affordable.
Rates for houseboats vary depending upon your destination, the boat's size, the length of your rental and the time of the season, but be prepared for rental prices of $2,000-$3,000. Off-season and weekday discounts are available from most marinas. Reservations book far in advance.
First-time boaters needn't worry about handling the houseboat. Marinas offer instruction to drivers, are accessible for questions via the marine radios and typically have their personnel drive the boats out of the harbors and dock them upon your return. Pat Holmes of Lithia Springs Marina in Shelbyville, says its boats are equipped with an instructional video. "We are close enough to Chicago that people could drive down and take a look at our boats in advance of renting one," she says. Holmes likens houseboating to camping in a nice cove but on the water.
Like camping, you need to plan your meals in advance. Almost Home Houseboat Rentals in Hot Springs, Ark., has a grocery service. Fax your list to them in advance of your trip, and they will buy and stock your boat with food. Boats are equipped with a range of kitchen conveniences from microwaves and dishwashers to ice makers and outdoor grills.
Relaxing with children on vacation is possible when time slows down and your biggest decisions are whether to swim, fish, float on a raft or take a dip in the hot tub.
• Pat Holmes
Lithia Springs Marina
Located in Illinois