Lake Powell Houseboat Adventure: 10 Lessons Learned

*This post contains an affiliate link to a product I used.

Lake Powell is a massive reservoir on the Utah/Arizona border.  There aren’t many roads in this sparsely populated desert region, so this man-made lake makes the perfect highway to explore canyon country! There is no better way to experience the surreal beauty of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area than a Lake Powell houseboat vacation!Lake Powell Houseboat

Lake Powell is HUGE! It stretches 186 miles in length and has approximately 1960 miles of shoreline! Lake Powell was formed by the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1966 and took 17 years to fill!

If you boat regularly on Lake Powell, then you may know some or all of these things. However, as this was our first Lake Powell houseboat adventure, we learned several lessons:

  1. Communication is difficult. During much of our trip, we had no means of communication. Cell phone signal was extremely spotty (at best). The houseboat had a marine radio, but it did not work everywhere (including places we anchored overnight).  I had anticipated this issue and rented a satellite phone for this trip in case of emergency.

    Lake Powell Houseboat
    I tested satellite phone in an area where we had no other form of communication. It worked.
  2. A paper map is a MUST! Because of the issues mentioned in #1, don’t leave the marina without a detailed paper map! We used the waterproof and tear resistant map by National Geographic. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Utah / Arizona, USA (Trails Illustrated Map 213) Also, keep in mind that when your down in the lake, those rocks will all start to look alike. It is a good idea to keep up with where you are on the paper map as you move along through the lake.

    Lake Powell Houseboat Map
    National Geographic Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Map
  3. The wind can be fierce. Pay close attention to the weather before you leave. Unfortunately, a lake wind advisory was issued after we left the marina, and we had no knowledge of it until we returned. In retrospect, we should have found a place to anchor as soon as we noticed the winds picking up.

    Lake Powell Houseboat-5 trip
    The Lake Powell Wind
  4. It was easier to anchor in the morning.  During our visit, we found the winds to be calmer in the morning, and thus, it was easier to anchor the boat at that time of day. After night one, we moved the boat first thing and anchored before noon. Again, check the weather and with the locals at the time of your trip.

    Lake Powell Houseboat
    Moving the Houseboat in the Morning
  5. Lake Powell has lots of underwater obstacles. I recommend talking with someone with recent experience on the lake to warn you of those areas that are extra rocky. Make notes on that paper map you’re bringing with you.Lake Powell Rock Formations
  6. Anchoring takes physical strength. Keep in mind that you’ll have to dig 2 or more fairly deep holes to anchor the houseboat securely. Make sure at least one or two people in your party have the strength to do this. This would be a significant problem for someone with a mechanical injury.

    Lake Powell Houseboat Anchor
    The Houseboat Anchor
  7. Seriously consider the extra insurance. Lake Powell is in a canyon filled with those same types of monoliths and rock formations you see all over this area. But, these are under water and difficult to see. Another potential hazard in narrow channels is the wind. It can blow your boat against the rock. (This happened to us, fortunately, the damage was minimal.)  It pays to be careful and get the extra insurance.Lake Powell Houseboat
  8. Check and recheck supplies.  It is important to have all the needed supplies before launch. You do not want to have to go back to get something.  It is too far and just not practical.

    Lake Powell the cut trips
    Passing Through the Cut
  9. It took us longer to get back to the marina than expected.  We were concerned that we’d be late for drop off time.  There are 2 reasons for this: houseboats are slow (we knew this) and Lake Powell is humongous (we knew but couldn’t fully appreciate this). We made it just under the wire!Lake Powell Houseboat Marina
  10. It is completely amazing.  There is absolutely nothing else like a Lake Powell houseboat adventure. This was such a completely awesome experience that I can’t even begin to describe it adequately.

    Lake Powell Houseboat
    The Night Sky over Lake Powell

A Lake Powell houseboat trip was a bucket list experience for us. It exceeded all expectations. I’d love to return and stay longer, of course!  We did learn some lessons from this adventure, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Lake Powell is nothing short of magical!Lake Powell Houseboat

Page, Arizona sits on the shores of Lake Powell. Check out this other information:  Lake Powell Bathtub RingHorseshoe Bend: 5 Things to Know BEFORE You GoGlen Canyon Dam TourYou CAN Tour Antelope Canyon, and Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon.

You CAN Tour Antelope Canyon!

Antelope Canyon is located near Page, Arizona and Lake Powell in the north central portion of the state.  This iconic canyon is a photographers dream with ribbons of sandstone curving in many directions and light streaming in magically from above.  I’d seen many eye-catching photos of this amazing canyon and knew I’d LOVE to see it in person.   Initially, I assumed that this hidden wonder was only accessible to those adventurers who are willing to don special climbing gear.

When planning our spring vacation to the Page, Arizona, I was thrilled to discover that I could actually tour the world’s most famous slot canyon without wearing a helmet or dangling from a rope!  Talk about excitement!

Taking pictures in Antelope Canyon.
I’m on cloud 9 here in Antelope Canyon!

Approximately 5 miles from Page, AZ, Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo Tribal Lands.  Therefore, you are not allowed to go through the canyon on your own.  You must be accompanied by a licensed Navajo guide.

There are two sections of Antelope Canyon that you can tour:  Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Which did I choose?  Why, both of course!  Several Navajo tour companies offer the experience, so I used travel review sites to select companies for each tour. Most tour companies offer a general tour and a photography tour.  We selected the general tour – no tripods were allowed on this tour.  (The rules on the photography tour stated that family cannot participate along with the photographer.)

Upper Antelope Slot Canyon

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are completely amazing and share many similarities.  However, there are distinct differences which might influence your choice if you only have time to see one.  In my next post, I’ll share our experiences touring both sections of the canyon.

7 Secrets to Stretch Your Vacation Budget Without Sacrificing Fun!

For most of us, considering the budget is just part of going on vacation.  And while it would be nice to travel and not think about the costs, that isn’t the reality for most of us.  I hold out hope that maybe someday…

As we all wait patiently for our ship to come in, consider these 7 secrets to stretch the travel budget without sacrificing any of the fun:

  1. Pack a Picnic:  Packing a picnic is my favorite way to stretch the budget.  Why? Because it is fun!  We started doing this several years ago when traveling with a toddler.  We found it was easier and much more enjoyable to have breakfast or lunch outside somewhere rather than in a crowded restaurant.  Saving money was an unplanned bonus! We’ve continued to pack picnics because it gives us more time in our destination – which is frequently a National or State Park.  But, this tip works in a city as well.  It was a blast eating breakfast in front of the Bean in Chicago!

    A Picnic by the Bean in Chicago
    A picnic by the Bean in Chicago made for a perfect breakfast experience!
  2. Embrace the Roadtrip:  It is a no-brainer that driving is often significantly cheaper than flying.  Our trips are usually to destinations where we’d have to rent a car anyway.  So, when we drive instead of fly, we avoid the cost of airfare AND rental car! This savings means we can either travel more or stay gone longer! WIN!  And, the drive itself can be fun!  Just view the roadtrip as part of your vacation!The road trip
  3. Be Flexible: While I love the idea of traveling during the shoulder season or during the school year, that just doesn’t work for our family at this time.  Even with the traditional school schedule, you can visit places during their less busy time – during that destination’s off season.  That means doing things like going to a ski resort in the summer!

    Ski Lift in Big Sky Montana
    Riding the ski lift in Big Sky, Montana was only 1 of the many fun summer activities!
  4. Consider Similar Destinations:  The popular spots are typically popular for a reason. But sometimes, a nearby but lesser known destination can offer a very similar experience without all the people or the cost! We used this strategy on our recent visit to Maine. Rather than spending a week in Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park), we spent a couple of days in Acadia and the rest of the time in another beautiful coastal town, Boothbay Harbor.  Guess what?  You can go whale watching, eat lobster, and sea kayak in both places, but the cost of lodging was less in Boothbay!  As a bonus, there was less traffic!

    Lighthouse in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
    Boothbay Harbor, Maine had all the elements of a coastal town in Maine without the traffic associated with a National Park in Bar Harbor.
  5. Select Budget Friendly Activities: National and State Parks offer many budget friendly vacation activities.  Enjoying outdoor activities like hiking or fishing costs very little or no money.  Some of the most fun we’ve had on vacation was doing things that didn’t cost a dime.  Even when we aren’t near a park, there are things to do that don’t cost much.  For example, hunting for sea glass in Maine was a blast. And, the free tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Ft. Worth was fantastic! Chances are that you’ll be able to find plenty of fun low or no cost activities wherever you go.

    Rocky Shoreline at Monterey Bay in California
    The shoreline in Monterey, California is a great place to kick back and enjoy the outdoors… for FREE!
  6. Watch Prices: Do you have a list of places you’d like to visit? We do, and I periodically glance at prices for those destinations.  That way, when a good deal comes along, I know it.  We have used this strategy in selecting our vacation destination for years.  And, it works!

    Lake Powell
    We found a great deal for a hotel in Page, AZ (Lake Powell).  It was high on the list, so we decided to go!
  7. Plan Ahead:  Planning your activities and meals before you leave not only helps you budget, but also keeps you from wasting time with the what-do-we-do-next conversation.  With a little prep work, you can not only avoid wasting time, you have a better chance of keeping your group happy with your meal choices.  To top it all off, when you plan your activities ahead of time, you can use your budget more strategically.

    Hamburger at Crave in Colorado Springs
    During pre-trip Internet research, I discovered Crave, a Colorado based restaurant in Colorado Springs.  I knew this hamburger restaurant would be a big hit with my family.  It was TASTY! (and now I’m just hungry)

Travel can be expensive.  But, I never have regretted spending money on these vacation experiences.  Using these strategies, it is  possible to plan an awesome trip without breaking the bank!

5 Unique Spring Break Trip Ideas

Looking for somewhere different to go on spring break?  Consider someplace other than your typical beach or ski trip.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE both the beach and the mountains.  But, sometimes it is fun to experience something new.  Here are 5 ideas that are a bit outside the box but won’t break the bank.

  1. Zion National Park:  Zion is nothing short of breathtaking and there are so many family-friendly hikes which are perfect for taking it all in.  As a cherry on top, the town of Springdale is right outside the park entrance and has restaurants to please even the foodie in your family along with amazing views in every direction.  From a weather standpoint, spring is the perfect time of year to visit Zion!
    Sunset at Zion National Park
    Zion National Park at Sunset

    zion-national-park-1-3-trips

  2. Chicago, IL:  While the windy city may still be a little chilly in spring, there are so many amazing museums in Chicago where you can stay warm and occupied.  You’ll have such a great time inside, you might not even miss that bike ride along Lake Michigan.  While Chicago can be an expensive city to visit, there are various options for passes offering admission into these museums, so your entertainment doesn’t have to break the bank.
    chicago-museums-4-trip
    U Boat at the Museum of Science and Industry
    chicago-museums-3-trip
    The Shedd Aquarium
    chicago-museums-2
    The Field Museum

    dinosaur at the Field Museum
    Sue the T Rex at the Field Museum
  3. Buffalo National River:  The Buffalo National River is located in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.  The mild Arkansas weather means spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoor fun!  The Buffalo River is perfect for family floats, and you can explore beautiful hiking trails and caves in the area.  Local outfitters like Buffalo River Outfitters keep close watch on river conditions and can advise you on which section of the river is best for floating during the time of your visit.
    Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River

    Hiking Trail overlooking the the Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River Hiking Trail
  4. Savannah, Georgia: Savannah is a beautiful and historic town located near the coast and on the Savannah River.  The city’s architecture and history combine to make it a unique and scenic destination.  The river is lined with shops and restaurants and the city is full of inviting squares and parks.  While you’re there, don’t miss Fort Pulaski – a civil war era fort in remarkable condition.  savannah-trip-3-tripssavannah-trip-2-trips
    Fort Pulaski National Monument
    Fort Pulaski National Monument was struck with canon balls.

    savannah-trip-4-trips

  5. Page, Arizona:  Page is a little town in Northern Arizona which makes a great base for exploring Lake Powell and the surrounding area.  Lake Powell is a huge man-made lake that stretches across the Utah/Arizona border.  Renting a boat is easy and exploring a canyon by lake is certainly unique. (Check out Lake Powell Houseboat Adventure: 10 Lessons Learned) Beyond the lake, there is so much to do in this area:  tour Antelope Canyon, check out Glen Canyon Dam, hike in the Grand Staircase, and gaze at the iconic Horseshoe Bend.
    View of Lake Powell
    Lake Powell
    Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona
    Lower Antelope Canyon
    page-arizona-3-trip
    Horseshoe Bend

    page-arizona-4-trip
    The Colorado River

 

Spring break is a great time to take a trip.  Many wonderful destinations have great weather this time of year, so get out there and try something new!

Toadstools Trail in Southern Utah

A tall toadstool rock formation.
A towering toadstool rock formation against the Utah blue sky.

Toadstools Trail in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is remarkable and doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves.  The rock formations on the trail are astonishing and provide lots of eye candy for the nature lover or photographer.  For a trail so accessible and family-friendly, I’m surprised it isn’t more crowded.  It’s likely due to its location in Southern Utah – an area full of amazing rock formations and spectacular scenery which steal the limelight.

What to expect. No need to hike across the desert uphill for miles in order to take in these unique formations.  This family-friendly trail is only 1.5 miles round trip.  Even a non-hiker can enjoy these sites with minimal effort.  The trail begins with a hike along a dry wash.  Don’t let the dry wash fool you.  The entire trail isn’t this flat.  There are several places where one has to go up and over small hills and rocks.  It isn’t that strenuous, but it probably wouldn’t be a fit for someone with a mobility issue.

Toadstools trail wash.
A good portion of the Toadstools Trail is a dry wash.

The end of the trail almost looks like an amphitheater with small cliffs surrounding the main toadstool features.  Because there are so many interesting and unique rock formations, plan to spend some time here marveling at them.  This is not a place to rush. Rather, slow down and enjoy.

Toadstools trail amphitheater area.
At the end of the trail, are amphitheater shaped cliffs surrounding a variety of “toadstools.”

What you’ll see. I immediately noticed the painted-desert-style striated rocks along the trail. I’d seen many while driving through the area.  However, this trail provided a good opportunity to enjoy a closer view and take some photographs.  The color variation makes for an incredible sight.

lake-powell-toadstool-trail-trip

Once we reached the area containing the toadstools, I noticed the color of the cliff walls – almost white with a yellow cast.  It makes a nice backdrop for the toadstools. My kiddo enjoyed playing in the sand here which afforded us the opportunity to just enjoy the scenery.  The toadstools come in various shapes, sizes, and colors.  Some of the formations are quite large.  On many, the top appears to be purposefully balanced on the base.

Rock toadstool formations.
Toadstool rock formations can be seen in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Overall, this hike was a win for my family.  If you are near the area, it is worth a stop. While I had seen some information about this trail before our trip, I certainly wasn’t expecting a trail which was so accessible to be so amazing.

Be Authentic. Be Personal.

Attracting More Guests to Your Vacation Rental

This is me. Heather. When I’m relaxing, I love to wear crew socks. (Very stylish, I know!) I must have water, tea, or coffee with me at all times. (Tea is my favorite.) And, I wore a life jacket on a house boat.  (I’m a rule follower.)  Why am I telling you this?

Being authentic and personal is on trend particularly with millennial audiences.  But, it isn’t just limited to millennials.  Why?  That old saying people do business with who they know and who they trust still holds true in the digital world. Knowing someone just looks different today.

The owner’s info or about section in your vacation listing is an opportunity for your guests to relate to you which helps them feel more comfortable.  I always look at this section when considering a property.  I want to rent from a real person (with a picture), so I avoid listings that look too sterile.

Likely, the reason you bought a vacation rental was more about your love for the destination and less about making money.  Consider things that make that place enjoyable: the smell of the mountain air; the sound of the foghorns near the sea; the sound of the elks bugling…  Make a list of these experiences and how they make you feel. Have you communicated that in your listing?

Of course, all those facts about your property are important.  But guess what?  Emotions tend to push people to make a purchase decision much faster than logic.  So, make it easy for potential guests to feel comfortable renting from you and picture themselves at your property.  Be authentic.  Be personal.

The Glen Canyon Dam Tour

I love a good tour! What is even better than a regular tour? Why, a dam tour of course! I absolutely loved the Hoover Dam tour.  So, I was not going to miss the less famous but no less amazing Glen Canyon Dam in Page, AZ.

Part of the Colorado River Storage Project, Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963 in Page, AZ and is the 2nd tallest dam in the U.S.  It took 17 years to fill Lake Powell completely for the first time!  The power generated from the dam serves communities in WY, UT, NE, CO, AZ, NM and NV.

The journey begins at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at Glen Canyon Dam where you sign up for the tour led by the Glen Canyon Natural History Association.

Trip Tip:  Most of Arizona does not participate in Daylight Savings Time.  Be sure to check the time at the visitor center when you arrive and when booking your tour.  If you are traveling from Utah, you might actually be in a different time zone depending on the time of year. Otherwise, you might be like me and have a panic moment thinking you missed your tour!

There is plenty to keep you occupied as you wait for your tour to begin.  You can take in the engaging exhibits showcasing the vast Colorado River System.  There is a large scale model of the river system that helps put things into perspective.  This is great for families!  My kiddo really liked the exhibits which, of course, made me happy!  There is also an amazing view of the dam and Lake Powell from the visitor’s center.

Glen Canyon Dam

An elevator in the visitor center takes you to the top of the dam.  Unfortunately, you don’t get to go down inside the dam due to security reasons.  But, you can walk along the top of the dam and learn about its construction and function.  Yes, I find this very exciting!  You will hear all about how the dam was built along with the town of Page.  It certainly isn’t every town that can claim such a unique origin!

If I had to use 1 word to describe the dam… MASSIVE!  It was fascinating to get to drink in the enormous size of such a structure.  On top of the dam are several exhibits such as a concrete dump bucket (left) and one of the original turbines from the dam’s power plant (top right).

If you are in the area, be sure to take time to visit Glen Canyon Dam.  Even if you don’t love dam tours quite as much as me, you’ll still likely be amazed at the structure, its construction, and the significant impact it has on the surrounding landscape.