Boat shows can be one of the most enjoyable events we attend as boaters, but they can also be a drag if you go at them the wrong way. Here are some tips to help you avoid standing in line, missing a seminar, or having to nurse your tired feed at the end of the day.

The U.S. Sailboat Show kicks off this week in Annapolis, MD. Are you ready for fall boat show season?

The U.S. Sailboat Show kicks off this week in Annapolis, MD. Are you ready for fall boat show season?

Ditch the Cowboy Boots and High Heels
While those heels or snakeskin boots may go great with a certain pair of jeans you’re planning on wearing to the show, they’re also not going to be very comfortable for a day’s worth of walking, especially on floating docks. You’ll probably be walking at least a few miles over the course of the day, so think sneakers, not stilettos.

And your shoe selection is not just about comfort. Many boat show exhibitors don’t allow show goers to wear shoes on the boats they're displaying–even “proper” boat shoes, such as Docksiders. So your ideal show footwear should also be easy to kick off and put back on again.

Pace Yourself
Trying to cover large shows in a single day is a recipe for disaster. Set realistic expectations about what you want to see and what you really need to see, because you’ll never see everything. (And if you try, you’ll either be wiped out by noon, arguing with your better half, or both.) It’s easy to get distracted by everything going on around you, but if you plan out your day to focus in on the important things, there’s no reason any of it should be stressful.

Plan Ahead
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with deciding to check out a major show on a whim. But if you've got a concrete goal (buying a boat, learning about a range of models, researching an assortment of products and services, or all of the above), just "showing up” is a good way to make your boat show experience a miserable one.

Your best planning tool is always the boat show program; it’s more than just glossy advertisements and boat loan pitches. The program will generally contain a map of the show layout, a list of vendors, a schedule of paid and free seminars, and a ton of other information that will be helpful for planning your day. Figuring out where things are beforehand will save a lot of time and aggravation.

Tickets, Please
Sure, you can buy your boat show tickets onsite when you arrive, but true boat show pros buy them online ahead of time. Buying your tickets in advance not only saves you time at the boat show venue; it can also be a great way to save some coin since show promoters generally offer a discount for early ticket purchases.

See you at the show!