The best way to maximize any experience is to have a goal, prepare ahead and come organized to accomplish a lot when time is short. Going to a boat show for the first time is no exception, so let’s explore five boat show prep basics.
The key thing to think about before a boat show is what you intend to accomplish. Are you looking to buy a new boat, perhaps buy a charter boat? Are you looking to get a deal on a charter sailing vacation? Are you looking for educational opportunities like seminars or hands-on boating opportunities?
If you don’t know why you’re attending a boat show, it’ll be easy to get distracted and get little done. Set an objective to guide you from your initial research to an actual purchase.
The best way to prepare for a boat show is to go online. Visit the show’s website to find a list of exhibitors so you can locate that boat builder or charter company quickly. Some shows are large so you can download a map or a locator app. You’ll also learn about seminars (for free or fee), kid activities to keep youngsters engaged, parking (including paying ahead via an app), food and drink options, and shuttles between locations. The less time you waste with the logistics, the more time you’ll have to explore the show and enjoy it.
If you’re looking to learn about multiple vacation companies or boats, make a list of the organizations and builder names and make sure they’ll have a display onsite. Mark them down on your map to find them quickly. Contact the companies ahead of time to set an appointment if possible or establish a rapport with a company rep (boat broker or charter agent) right as you walk into the booth. They’ll be able to guide you with more information or schedule a private discussion/showing.
If you’re trying to see multiple boats or aim to accomplish more than one task, create a timeline with an estimate of how much time you’ll have to spend at each location. If one boat or activity catches your attention for longer, you can return for more later or shuffle the rest of the targets on your schedule. Don’t forget to build in breaks because if you’re hungry and tired, you won’t make good decisions. Weary boat show-goers are easily sold so come to the process well-rested and thinking clearly.
If you’re searching for a few things, plan to attend a show on multiple days. The first and last days of a show are the least crowded and you’ll get more attention. Being first at the gate in the morning also means smaller crowds so plan to get up early.
Come informed with the basics because then you’ll be able to ask smarter questions onsite. For example, ask about the features of a boat you’re considering, ask to speak to other owners of the same model, and ask about delivery times (some builders are delivering over a year out these days). Ask who is the broker or representative in your area if you’re not local to the boat show. Ask what differentiates the charter company you’re considering and also inquire about show specials (discounts or extra options/perks) and how long they’re in effect because you may be able to save a bundle on that sailboat, gear, or charter vacation. Visit the competition and ask the same questions to see how their answers differ.
Above all, boat shows are about having fun. It’s unlikely you’ll ever enjoy a shopping experience more than at a boat show which is like a giant toy store with cocktails. You can bring kids and let them try boating hands-on. You can test equipment and learn about safety products. You can go for a sail or check out new locations where to charter that you’ve never considered before.
Boat shows are portals to dreams so bring comfortable shoes (slip-ons are best for boarding boats), a notebook with your checklists (or a phone with all your organization), and plenty of sunscreens (and maybe a hat). Then just settle in and have fun because if you did it right, all the hard work has already been done.