Cottage country 101: How to be a great cottage guest

If you’re one of the many people who aren’t lucky enough to have a cottage in the family, you may be crossing your fingers this summer hoping that you’ll be invited on a friend’s trip to cottage country. Perhaps you’re worrying whether or not you’ve racked up enough friend points to be part of the select few. You wouldn’t hesitate to even brag about your cooking skills or party tricks in hopes of scoring an invite. Stay strong, you’re sure to get it. If not, some people take matters into their own hands, round up a few friends and save enough dough to rent a cottage.

If you’re about to go to a cottage for the first time, you’re in for a real treat. Whether it’s Muskoka, Ontario or Kelowna, British Columbia, cottage country in Canada is breathtakingly beautiful. Luckily, we’ve got all the tips you need to ensure you have a great time while also being a gracious cottage guest so you keep getting those invites!

Going to a friend’s cottage

So a friend or member of your extended family has decided to allow you a coveted spot at their cottage for the long weekend. Now don’t mess this up because if you play your cards right, you could make it onto the permanent annual guest list! Keep these tips in mind and you’re well on your way there:

  • Ask the host if you can bring anything specific to make the weekend a success
  • Ask the host if you can show off your culinary skills and cook a meal for everyone (and you should be the one paying for all the ingredients to show your gratitude)
  • If everyone is buying food and drinks together, contribute your fair portion of the cost
  • Bring along any fun indoor or outdoor games you have (interactive games are the best for helping everyone get to know each other)
  • And perhaps the most important tip: clean up after yourself and help clean the whole place before you leave!
  • Bonus: It’s always a nice touch to bring a gift for the host

Renting a cottage

Many people who are lucky enough to own highly sought-after properties in cottage country are also smart enough to rent them out when they’re not using them. Some use sites like AirBnB, Kijiji, or others  specifically made for facilitating cottage rentals. Deciding where to rent can be a little daunting, especially when you consider that Ontario has thousands of lakes all lined with cottages along their shores. If you need ideas, you can check out this list of some hot cottage country destinations in Canada.

Once you find a cottage to rent, you’ll want to be sure you follow the owner’s guidelines when you’re there. Thankfully, many owners post their guidelines clearly inside the cottage and also make sure you have them before you arrive. Things to look out for:

  • What time is check-in and check-out?
  • Do you need to bring items like bedding, toilet paper, kitchen utensils or other essential supplies?
  • Where can you park your car?
  • Are you allowed to use everything at the cottage, such as boats or other water sports accessories (or should you bring your own)?
  • Are you responsible for cleaning up after yourself or is a cleaning service included?
  • What are the garbage and recycling regulations in the area?

General cottage country tips

Aside from the things you can bring to show your gratitude for staying in someone else’s cottage, you’ll also want to bring a few essentials for your own comfort. Here’s a good start:

  • Bug spray (those cottage country bugs can be really pesky!)
  • Sunscreen (for laying by the lake)
  • Your favourite snacks, treats and drinks
  • A good book

Keep all these tips in mind and you’ll be a cottage pro in no time!

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