Looking for a fun, relaxing family vacation on water? Consider a houseboat rental.
Houseboating provides a boatful of memories and you don’t even need to be a seasoned deckhand to take the wheel of one of these floating abodes. For kids, a houseboat vacation is the equivalent of a multi-day sleep over party. For adults, it can be a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway where the pace is slow and easy.
What to Expect From a Lake Mead Houseboat
One of the country's most popular houseboat destinations is Lake Mead, Nevada. Much like Las Vegas, its neighbor to the west, much about Lake Mead is artificial. Formed as part of the Hoover Dam project, this 112-mile body of water is unnaturally set in the desert.
The boats, which can sleep 4 to 12 people, start at 44 feet but can go as large as 70 feet. These are not your typical pontoon models, but boats equipped with everything you can think of to keep both mom and dad, as well as the children, happy for your days on the water: a waterslide off of the back of the boat that drops the swimmer into the water; a complete kitchen that's fully stocked with everything you need to cook; a TV with VCR/DVD player; air conditioning throughout; onboard gas grill; range and oven; built-in ice chests; toaster; blender; bed linens, coffee maker and more.
The three-bedroom boat we rented even had a flying bridge, basically a second story where the boat could be steered or controlled. On the expansive flying bridge, there was also a bar area and separate refrigerator/freezer so you didn’t have to walk downstairs to enjoy a drink or snack.
To sum it up, your houseboat rental is basically a small floating condo. All you need to bring is your food and drinks.
No Worries If You're Not a Deckhand
No special license is necessary to operate a houseboat on Lake Mead, but be prepared to attend a mandatory training session before heading out. For those who are not real familiar with houseboats or boats of any type, it is not hard to operate the large boats.
If you're worried about maneuvering your houseboat in and out of a marina, the folks at Forever Houseboats have that covered. If you like, a pilot can take your houseboat in and out of the slip. Other than that, it’s just like operating any other boat or almost like driving a car. One thing that you won’t be doing is setting any speed records. The top speed is around 8 to 12 knots, which translates to 9 to 13 mph. It takes about a half an hour to get out of the no-wake zone and then you just need to find a place you like to make your own.
The most difficult part of the experience is finding a cove and beaching it. Basically, you run the houseboat right up on a non-rocky stretch of shore just as if it was a Navy amphibious craft like you might see in the old WW II movies. Then you must properly secure your floating home on the beach before you can sit back and enjoy.
Although you have the option to "pull anchor" any time you want, this is just a euphemism, as there is actually no actual anchor on the boat. Instead, there are a number of steel spikes that you drive into the ground with a sledgehammer and attach mooring ropes.
We took the recommendation of the folks at the marina who helpfully suggested coves, and we hunkered down in the same spot for all four nights near a famous Lake Mead geological formation known as Mushroom Rock.
Life on a Houseboat Rental
Days on Lake Mead are spent swimming in the cool lake water, riding jet skis (which are often towed by houseboats), while at night families return to days gone by the entire family actually sits down and eats a meal together. The rest of the time on the boat is quality time with the family, where you can reconnect relationships by playing board games, watching movies and other activities onboard or onshore. Finally, there's nature’s evening light show; the absence of light pollution on isolated Lake Mead means fine opportunities to see the heavens including numerous shootings stars.
Disclaimer: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher