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First Houseboating Trip with Our 18 Month Old Son, Help??

Hi, My husband and his family do an annual houseboat trip on Shasta and am very nervous about taking my very active 18 mth old for a week... We didn't go last year and know I really can't get out of it this year as well, so any advice you may have, I would appreciate so much. Typically we tie up on a small shore but my fear is that my son is going to have to wear a lifevest 24/7, which he's going to hate especially with the weather currently at 107. We just got back from a family reunion in Tahoe.. on the road for 10 days and staying in 6 different locations and it wasn't that easy but he finally got into the swing of things by the end of the trip. We leave in less then a month and are going to a dude ranch for 4 days and then out on this houseboat. If any of you have any suggestions on houseboating with a very very active 18 month old, I sure would appreciate it?!! Thanks!

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I think as long as they are on the boat or by the water there is no way getting around the life vest. The little ones are just too fast, and something can happen in a split second. We got a lifevest at costco for my daughter. It's stretchy (neoprene) and more comfortable. As long as it has the "flap" on the back that keeps their head a float and is coastguard approved i think you are good. My daughter finds this one pretty comfortable and doesn't complain that she has to wear it.

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I just wanted to make sure you knew that there are big fires burning in Northern Calif. I went out to Shasta Dam overlook and couldn't even see the dam from the observation pullout.

I'm sure the houseboat will be great. I find these situations are a lot better once you are in the situation. I would recommend bringing indoor activities for your son. The air quality was in the unhealthy range and with the current high heat (it was 113 yesterday) I'm sure it will get worse. Also the Lake is REALLY low already.

On a side note - I would call the houseboat rental and see if you can get a discount or some free gas. My cousin says that they were offering a week free next year if you rent a week this year or a free jet ski to use.

Last year, I kept my 18 month old in one of those swim suits with the built in life vest. You can also look for the Safety Turtle bracelet that screams if your child falls in the water. It called Safety Turtle (but it's $267). Just an extra precaution and peace of mind.

Have a great summer and it will be fun. I know it!

I think as long as they are on the boat or by the water there is no way getting around the life vest. The little ones are just too fast, and something can happen in a split second. We got a lifevest at costco for my daughter. It's stretchy (neoprene) and more comfortable. As long as it has the "flap" on the back that keeps their head a float and is coastguard approved i think you are good. My daughter finds this one pretty comfortable and doesn't complain that she has to wear it.

Hi P.
Been there...done that! I made sure that I took a baby gate along with us. Maybe your houseboat has AC but ours didn't so we kept doors open and placed baby gates in doorways. We just made a rule that if the kids were outside on the houseboat that they had to have their life jackets on. Takes a day or two for them to get it; but doesn't it always...

Have a great vacation and don't forget to enjoy it! Good luck!

3 things I would suggest -

1) Take a harness with a leash that he can wear so he can walk/run around while attached to you but not holding your hand (this worked well for our 16mo old at a wedding on a boat) - it's cooler than a lifejacket and will help you keep track of him without him wanting to squirm away.

2) be really careful about swimming when the boat is on - you can get carbon monoxide poisoning and die from it - even easier to get poisoned for the little ones, and not uncommon with houseboats

3) Neoprene lifejackets for infants are SO much more comfortable than the foam ones - they don't scratch them under the arms and at the neck. If you have a foam one already, I'd advise that he wear a swim shirt (or regular shirt) under it - but that won't be as cool. And the neck can still be scratchy.

Good luck! I bet it will be fun.


Do you have to stay on the houseboat? Could you camp nearby or stay in a hotel. Explaining to I am assuming family that your really worried about him on the boat 24/7 and this works better for you.

It sounds like your son will have a fun and exciting life of travel and adventure! I am not so sure how fun and exciting it will be for mom, because even if he wears a lifevest, you will have to be vigilant the entire time. You are right to be concerned, because nobody can predict what will happen in a split second. I used to come back from vacations so exhausted. My worry is that at this age they can get up in the night, open doors, climb. When my son was that age, I couldn't help the possible scenarios that would run thru my brain in risky situations. And my son could disappear in the blink of an eye, so scary.
Really work this out with your husband and family. Are they accommodating, & excited to have your son join the fun, or is it just on you? If it's just you, you are going to be stretched to the limit. If everyone is aware of the challenges and are willing to step up and help, then I think you will have a better chance of enjoying the trip.

I have no advice, but holy-cow... I'll be praying for you. This would be a complete nightmare for my son. Good luck.

Bad news about the life vest--except at night when you can use those baby gates to make sure he will stay in his sleeping quarters. I've seen some toddlers tied to the boat with life vests. But I think the alternative is unacceptable, don't you. Perhaps you can use this time to find a vest that meets some of your concerns?

Unless your child is a swimmer I would recommend the old fashioned orange life jackets that go around the neck and buckel around the waist. Not too comfy but most of these are designed to keep not swimmers or unconsious persons faces out of the water. My 5 yr old was 1 1/2 when we had one of those toddler ski type vests with a between the leg strap and she fell forward while in the water and sucked in water. That was scarey! We switched to the old fashioned kind afer that! I've heared that sometimes this happens with the ones with the large flap in back too. The best thing too do is put the life jacket on him and take him into shallow water to test it that way you know what to expect.Also make sure the jacket is coast guard approved. Have a fun and safe trip.
H. T.

He will be haing a blast in the water!!! How fun, just know that you will be in the water a lot too! So both of you lube up with a lot of sunscreen, bring a movie for him to watch in the middle of the day when the sun is most harmful, and a book for you (or whtever you two like to do) and make sure that you both drink pletny of water. It will be a diferent trip than you have done in the past for sure, but know it will be a new and fun different. Enjoy!!!

oh, and make sure you stress the rules early in the trip, like where he can and can't go or touch, an that he must wear a life vest when he is outside. (my daughter is well trained before we can go out side she knows that she needs sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and a coat and gloves, it took a few weeks for her to switch to summer wear from winter wear. And make sure you ask some one else to watch him so that you can relax for a few minutes too.

We went on a week long houseboating trip last summer when our son was 18 months old and I was very nervous too but it was great. (My 11 month old neice came along too and I was 4 months pregnant.) The boats really are more like houses than boats. The living areas have screen doors and sliding glass doors and the outdoor areas on the decks all have locking gates at the tops and bottoms of the stairs. There wasn't even any need to bring baby gates. I really wasted my time worrying and we all had a great time. We barely had to use a life jacket at all. The biggest issue was the mosquitos! We spent a lot of time "beached" so the kids could play in the sand and water on shore too. I now have a 6 month old son as well and would do the houseboat trip again in a heartbeat. the one thing that was helpful for us was bringing a playpen so we could set it up in a back bedroom for naps.

Sounds like you have already been given some great suggestions and thoughts, but I just wanted to add a few things. First, my parents have a boathouse(a little different, but similar concept) and we spent most of the 4th out there and my son wore his lifevest all day WITHOUT COMPLAINT. I tell you this not to brag, but to hopefully allay your fears - this might not be a complete disaster. We just have a very basic ($10) life jacket, CG approved, that even has a leg strap and he LOVES wearing it. In fact I took him inside and took it off to 'give him a break' and he insisted on putting it back on. For whatever reason, he likes it. To encourage this in your son, maybe buy it now and have him wear it around the house or in the yard to play - make some sort of game of it. Call it 'boat practice' or whatever, anyway, that will show you a) if maybe he might even like it (so you'll feel better) and b) that the style/model you have is comfortable for him, or conversely, does not work for him at all. Better to know these things BEFORE the trip, right?
Anyway, good luck! You will have to be diligent about keeping an eye on him, but I was SHOCKED by how comfy my son was in his jacket (he is only 22 months), so the trip might just go better than you expect!

There are some neat swim suit/ life vests out now that are fairly comfortable and you can get a cute design that he will like. They are kind of in the shape of a girl swim suit but definately come in boy prints. Make sure it has the coast guard approval on it. There are some immitations that are ment for fun and are not as safe. He can wear it all by itself so he is not so hot. W/ my kids we put the vest on and leave it on for as long as they are near water. if they take it off we have to leave ( go to a spot w/ nothing going on) until they are going to keep it on. The ones I use have like a barrel design for the floats so there is nothing on their neck. This keeps them floating comfortably and w/ full motion for their arms so they like to swim wearing these vests.

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