What to Bring on Your Next Boating Trip

The United States Coast Guard responded to 5,265 boating accidents in 2020. One of the key aspects to avoiding accidents on your boating trip is preparation, which is something newbie boaters tend to undervalue.

Building a reliable boat trip planner can not only help ensure you have a great boat trip, but it can also help keep you, your passengers, and other boaters safe. Continue reading to learn how to prepare for the best boating trip possible.

Make Sure Your Boat Is Legal

One of the most important aspects of your boating trip is making sure your boat is legal. This means having everything required by law ready and easily accessible.

This can be a challenge with fractional boat ownership, which is why a detailed boat trip planner is helpful. Start your checklist with everything you must have before adding anything you only want to have with you. 

Bring Identification

If approached by the Coast Guard or Fish and Game, you'll want to have the proper identification within reach. Before taking your boat out collect the necessary licenses such as a driver's license or a boater's license.

Some states require the latter, which often involves completing a boater's safety course. Even if your state doesn't require this, we highly recommend completing a safety course so you know how to keep yourself and your passengers from harm.

If you plan on fishing, don't forget to pack your fishing license with the proper endorsements. Check with your local Department of Fish and Wildlife to find out what you need for your boating trip. 

Bring Proof of Registration

Registration is required for boats 16 feet in length and longer. You'll want to have your registration on board in case you need to present it to authorities such as the Coast Guard or Fish and Game. 

Bring Proof of Insurance

While many states don't require boaters to purchase insurance for their vessels, some marinas do. If you've invested a significant amount of money into your boat, or are part of fractional boat ownership, boaters insurance is important.

We recommend keeping your proof of insurance alongside your identification and registration information for quick and easy access such as a glove box or lockbox. You'll also want to keep it in a waterproof container.

Pack and Check Safety Equipment

Newbie boaters who haven't completed a safety course before their boat trip may be unaware of all of the safety equipment they need. Taking the time to include all the essentials can be a lifesaver if things go wrong.

Even if you've checked your boat trip planner and have everything you need, you can't stop there. You also need to check each item before disembarking on your boat trip to be sure everything is in good condition.

Any damaged or outdated equipment needs to be repaired or replaced. Equipment that doesn't work properly can sometimes be more harmful than not having it at all. 

Navigational Devices

Newbie boaters need to learn the 'rules of the road,' before going out on their first boating trip. These rules inform you of how to communicate effectively with other boaters to avoid accidents.

If your boat trip involves going out on the ocean, you'll also need a Global Positioning System (GPS). Even if you feel as though you know the area or body of water well, a change in weather can get you turned around and make it hard to navigate.

Be sure this device is well-charged or bring a charging method and/or extra batteries. Include this on your boat trip planner checklist. 

Communication Devices

A two-way communication system is a necessity, especially when traveling significant distances from shore. Newbie boaters tend to believe they don't need one since they have a cellphone or because they don't plan on going far from shore.

Plans change as does the weather and you can't count on cell service all of the time. Investing in a built-in or handheld radio for your boating trip is essential for your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the safety of other boaters.

Signaling Devices

Especially on busy waterways, your boat should be equipped with the proper signaling devices. These are important when utilizing the "Rule of the Road." The proper signaling devices include functioning navigation lights and sounds.

While many boats are equipped with these, you should be sure they're working properly before your boat trip. Regardless of whether they're working, consider storing backups on your boat.

These backups can include air horns, safety lights, flares, and reflectors. It's essential to have some way to grab the attention of other boaters or rescuers if your boat experiences issues or starts to take on water. 

Floatation Devices

There are multiple types of personal flotation devices numbered I through V. For most boat trips, we recommend keeping any of Types I through III onboard your boat. You should have at least one for each person onboard though extras are a good idea as well.

Boaters and passengers need to wear their personal flotation devices at all times, even when the boat is stopped. This is especially important for any children on board. You may be able to get them from boat rental facilities.

You should also equip your boat with a throwable personal flotation device. Throwable devices are classified as Type IV floatation devices. These are useful if someone falls overboard or in rescue situations. 

First Aid Kit

Regardless of the length or location of your boating trip, a first aid kit is important. Make sure you check it regularly to be sure all the supplies are non-expired and that it's well-stocked. 

Many boat recreation stores sell first aid kits designed for boaters, but you can also create your own. Include essentials such as bandages, cleaning agents, over-the-counter pain relievers, and splints. You can find more extensive lists online.

Fire Extinguishers

Boaters over 16-feet in length with fuel tanks and/or motors are required to have a fire extinguisher onboard. There are 6 different classes of fires as well as different types of fire extinguishers based on the type of fire.

While more expensive, marine fire extinguishers are the best option for boats. You'll need one that is designed for Type B fires. Type B fires are those caused by liquids such as oil and gas. 

Dry Bag

Don't forget a dry bag for your boat trip. Even on larger boats with enclosed cabins, there's always a risk of water damage to your belongings. A dry bag is a perfect place to store valuables, electronics, and important documents.

Dry bags come in a variety of sizes depending on the size and amount of equipment you need to store inside. You can also choose a dry box if you need something with more structure for protection. 

Dressing for the Weather

Don't forget to add attire to your boat trip planner. Being prepared for weather conditions as well as a change in weather can help you stay comfortable, especially on longer boating trips. 

If you have friends or family joining you for their first boat trip, you should pass a checklist around to them. Don't forget, as the boat operator you are responsible for the safety of your passengers and should help them prepare.

Sun Protection

Regardless of the type of boat you're taking on your boating trip, you'll need to bring sun protection or get some from boat rental facilities. A good quality sunscreen with SPF 30 or, preferably, higher. 

Newbie boaters may forget to include other essentials on their boat trip planner such as sunglasses, hats, and chapstick. Packing some aloe vera is also a good idea for sunburn relief if you forget to use your protective equipment.

Wind and Rain Protection

You never know how the weather may change during your boating trip. Planning for changes in the weather can help you remain comfortable and enjoy the ride. 

Those new to boating tend to forget the possibility of a cool breeze while the boat is in motion. They tend to focus on sitting in place at their final destination instead. Bringing a jacket for wind and rain protection will keep you warm and dry.

Appropriate Footwear

When you think of boats, you may think of sandals, flip-flops, or other beach-type shoes. You may even think it's best to be barefoot. However, choosing the appropriate shoes for your boating trip is important for safety.

While it may come as no shock that boat decks get wet, you may not expect them to become slippery and dangerous. When walking around onboard, you should expect to wear non-slip, comfortable shoes for maximum safety.

Swim Gear

If you're planning to take a dip in the water, don't forget to pack your swimsuit and water shoes. It's tempting to jump in without your swim shoes, especially since they don't tend to be the most flattering, but you should still wear them.

Exposing your feet to a rocky lake bottom or unknown sea creatures can be painful or even dangerous. Other types of shoes also run the risk of getting ruined in the water or falling off of your feet. 


It's hard to have too many towels while boating since passengers are always getting sprayed with water or going for a swim. They're also useful to keep on board in case cold weather sets in or after unexpected heavy rain. 

To prevent your towels from becoming cold and useless, we recommend storing them in a large dry bag until they're needed. You can also use them as padding around your electronic devices inside of the bag or box.

Preparing for Fun

The whole reason for your boating trip likely is to have a good time. When it comes to boating, even fun requires some preparation and should be added to your boat trip planner checklist. 

Water Toys and Games

One of the benefits of boating is the ability to go far out into the water away from other people. You and your friends and family can enjoy your own space to play with your water toys and enjoy some games.

Some fun water toys for the whole family include snorkeling masks, wakeboards, and towable float tubes. For the latter, be sure your boat is equipped for safe towing. 

You can also invest in some giant floating islands for children and adults. These include floating basketball hoops and lounge chairs for relaxing. The goal is to have fun, so bring whatever toys you enjoy (waterproofing is a plus).


Unless you're planning on fishing where a quiet atmosphere is important, music is a must on a boat trip. Some boats have sound systems built-in. You can either plug in your favorite tunes or enjoy whatever is on the radio.

If you don't have a built-in sound system, consider bringing a portable radio intended for boats. These types of devices are preferable to cellphones or other music players that might experience damage if exposed to water.

Favorite Foods and Drinks

If you're going to be out on the water all day or for multiple days, be sure to pack some food and drinks. Depending on your style of boat, you may be able to invest in an onboard grill if your boat doesn't come equipped with a cooking area.

Otherwise, you can plan on bringing coolers with things like sandwiches and snacks. When it comes to drinking, remember that you cannot consume alcohol while operating a boat. This includes when the boat is stopped. 

Fishing Gear

If you enjoy fishing, your boating trip is an excellent opportunity to cast a line. Bring your fishing pole, bait, and a well-stocked tackle box for an optimal experience. 

If you plan on keeping your catch, be sure to pack a stringer or bait box if your boat doesn't come equipped with a live well. 

Build a Checklist for Your Next Boating Trip

Use the above guide to build a checklist for your next boating trip. A well-organized boat trip planner helps ensure you're not missing the essentials out on the water. It also contributes to the safety of you, your passengers, and other boaters.

For a stress-free boating experience, sign-up for a membership today. 

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