The Ultimate River Trip Checklist

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Welcome to Texas! Spring is here and summer basically starts tomorrow, so that means camping, grilling, lake days, bluebonnets and a favorite pastime of any true Texan… floating the river!

It seems simple enough, right? Park the car, strip to your bathing suit, grab a tube and go.

But wait, there’s more!

Sorry my friend, that’s not all. Not if you’re gonna do it right, anyway. River trips take planning and coordination, but the work is worth the mellow hours in the sunshine, sipping a beer.

Don’t fret. I’ve got you covered! This checklist is designed to help you plan a stress-free river trip and avoid those last-minute purchases because you forgot something.

The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of trip you’re trying to have:

  • A long stay (such as spring break), a weekend adventure, or just an afternoon escape?
  • Will it be a family adventure with little ones, or is everyone old enough to drink?
  • How many people are going?
  • Are you camping, renting a cabin, or staying in a nearby hotel?
  • How are you getting to the river? Carpooling? Is everyone driving separately?
  • Will you cook for yourselves, or will you be eating out most the trip?
  • Will you be staying put to party or enjoying the nightlife wherever you end up?

Once you’ve settled on these questions, you can estimate your budget for the trip.

This will include:

  • Where you’re going to stay, and everyone’s share of the total cost
  • An estimate of how much money you’ll need for food and beverages
  • The cost of fuel and snacks for the drive (some can take up to 8 hours)

On Eating and Drinking

What menu you decide on is really a matter of personal preference. This list is intended to give you a place to start from if you’re cooking. Plan carefully so you don’t miss anything! Mix and match ingredients to save space and money.

The Basics

This is a simple starting point for your trip. It’ll give you things to snack and drink on during the ride, and munchies for the duration of your trip.

  • Non-perishable snacks – chips, trail mixes, popcorn, snack bars, beef jerky, dried fruit, etc.
  • Bottled Water – take big bottles so you can reuse them for river drinking!
  • Sodas
  • Tea
  • Cooler
  • Ice


This is my favorite meal of the day, hands down. There are a ton of inexpensive options to choose from. Eggs are my favorite because they’re cheap and super versatile, but you could also make pancakes, French toast, or biscuits and gravy. The possibilities are endless!

  • Eggs
  • Milk/Juice
  • Coffee
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Bacon/Sausage
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Cinnamon Rolls/Biscuits
  • Tortillas/Bread
  • Gravy Mix
  • Pancake Mix

Sandwich Fixins

Sandwiches make for quick, cheap, no-fuss meals. They can be made ahead for the ride down or packed for the float itself.

  • Lunch Meat
  • Cheese
  • Pickles
  • Lettuce
  • Sliced Onions
  • Sliced Tomatoes
  • Condiments such as mayo and mustard
  • Bread/Rolls/Tortillas


There’s nothing quite like the smell of a grill on a summer night. Set the kids loose to play in the twilight, throw some beer on ice, and enjoy! Freeze the meat ahead of time and let it thaw in the bottom of your cooler to save ice cost and space.

  • Charcoal
  • Lighter Fluid
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Burgers
  • Hot Dogs
  • Sausages
  • Steaks
  • Chops
  • Vegetable Kabobs
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Potatoes
  • Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, or relish
  • Fixins such as cheese, onions, lettuce & tomato


Especially in campers or cabins, having casseroles pre-made can save a ton of time and cover most of your meals. They also feed a crowd and are reasonably inexpensive to make. Use store bought aluminum pans to make cleanup a breeze. They even come with lids!

Roasts or Brisket

Pork or beef prepared ahead of time makes for super convenient, crowd-pleasing nibbles that your crew can pick at throughout the day. Pair with bread, tortillas or sides like mashed potatoes and rice to cover both lunch and dinner.

Sides and Extras

Quick and easy side dishes, such as packaged potatoes, mac and cheese, instant rice/noodles, store bought potato salad or coleslaw will simplify your meal planning. Canned beans and vegetables are also easy to transport, store, and prepare.

For Designated Drinking

A word to the wise, I don’t recommend underage vacationers drinking on the river. There are plenty of law enforcement officers keeping an eye out! Don’t test your luck. Also, be sure everything you take on the water is plastic or metal! Glass is not allowed on the river and its use comes with a hefty fine.

  • Mixers of your choice – Margarita mix, Bloody Mary mix, Red Bull, juices, sodas, etc
  • Liquor/Wine
  • Plastic liter bottles or insulated cups for mixing drinks to take on the river
  • Jello shots in plastic cups or mixed shots in plastic liter bottles for sharing
  • CANNED beer
  • Waterproof cooler
  • Ice for your drinks and the cooler

Skivvies and Such

For the better part of your trip, you’ll probably get by in a swimsuit and flipflops, but you’ll also want cozy pajamas, comfy clothes for car rides, and things for going out if you plan on shopping or taking in the nightlife.

  • Cover-up/shirt for swimming
  • Bathing suits/swimming trunks
  • Shorts
  • Hats/ball caps
  • Beach shoes or flip flops – something you don’t mind getting wet
  • Tennis shoes
  • Clothes/shoes for “going out”
    • Dresses
    • Jeans
    • Nice shirts
    • Heels
    • Boots
  • Enough undies and socks for each day, plus extras
  • Accessories
    • Jewelry
    • Headbands
    • Belts
    • Sunglasses
  • Pajamas
  • Jackets/Hoodies


  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Ibuprofen
  • Heart Burn Relief
  • Pepto Tablets
  • Gas-X or Beano
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Body Wash/Soap
  • Washcloth/Pouf
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste
  • Razors/Shaving Cream
  • Makeup/Face Wash
  • Hair Products/Styling Tools
  • A First Aid Kit (alcohol + outdoors = random accidents!)

The Extras

Past food, drink, and clothing, there are still a few things you’ll probably like to have on your trip. If your group enjoys sports or drinking games, you’ll want to bring entertainment.

  • Phone chargers/cell phone boosters. Check your cell service area! (For example, Verizon doesn’t get service on the Frio, but AT&T does)
  • Volleyballs, basketballs, etc
  • Movies
  • Cards/Drinking Games
  • Dominoes
  • Board Games
  • Consoles/Controllers (for the gamers in your group)
  • A waterproof radio (for your float)
  • A length of study cord, to tie your tubes together
  • A travel seasoning kit (for cooking)

Many cabins come furnished, but in the instance that your lodgings aren’t, don’t forget the basics. Swing for disposables unless you want to do dishes your entire trip.

  • Plates/Bowls
  • Utensils
  • Cups
  • Dish Soap
  • Sponges
  • Paper Towels
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Clothes Hangers
  • Towels

I hope this list was helpful! Do you have something to add? Leave it in the comments, and happy floating!



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