If you’re planning a cottage vacation this summer, get started on the planning early. Believe it or not, many cottages have been fully booked for the entire summer for several weeks now.
The planning is part of the fun – get the kids involved and have regular family meetings to talk about what you should take with you, what you plan on doing when you get there and who has responsibility for what. Here’s a few tips to get you started:
1. Read the Contract and the Terms and Conditions thoroughly
Make sure you know when check-in and check-out times are. Don’t plan on arriving earlier than the appointed time. Owners have only a short amount of time to changeover a cottage between guests and often have a lot of work and general maintenance to do. Arriving early does not mean you will gain access to the cottage or the waterfront and you may have to leave and come back again and check-in time.
2. Taking your Pet
Taking a pet to the cottage is a privilege and not a right. Often, owners will not permit pets in their property because their children have allergies or they simply do not like cats or dogs. Please respect that and dont put the owner in the embarrassing position of having to ask you to have and find alternative accommodation for your pet.
3. Buy a Good Map of the Area and Plan your Route and an Alternative
The main cottage country roads get very congested at the weekends in summer. Buy the MapArt book that covers the area you are visiting and plan your route well in advance. Make sure the directions you have from the owner or agency can be followed from the map. Put the directions, address of the cottage and access instructions in a clearly labelled plastic folder. This should be the first thing you put in the car and the last thing you check!
4. Write a Packing List and get the Family to Add in their Lists
When you arrive at the cottage late at night, 15 kilometers down a cottage road, it’s not the time to realize you forgot to pack the toilet paper. Most cottages will have a supply so that perhaps is an extreme example, but good packing lists are vital to remembering all those little things that make self-catering more comfortable.
5. Check what Time the Store in the area Shuts
Cottage country stores do stay open a bit later in the summer, however, not as late as in the city. It maybe better to stop earlier rather than later if you’re planning on picking up groceries along the way.
6. Buy Water Shoes
Zebra mussels are commonplace in many lakes now, despite all efforts of lake associations to prevent them. They’re razor sharp and can cause quite painful cuts. I’d recommend taking water shoes wherever you go, particularly for the children. They are also useful if you’re in an area where the lake bed is soft and squishy, unless you like it squidging between your toes!
7. Find out if Life Jackets are provided and Check the Sizes
It is the law that life jackets or Personal Flotation Devices (PDFs) of appropriate sizes for the occupants, are carried in any watercraft. Of course it is far safer and more sensible to wear them! Some cottage owners will supply a selection of PDFs but you need to be sure they fit correctly or you may find yourself subject to a hefty fine. If in doubt, purchase your own.
8. Purchase a Fishing License
If you plan on fishing, even off the dock, buy a fishing license. Go to the Fish Ontario website for more details. Lakes are patrolled by the OPP in summer, just as the roads are, so make sure you have the correct license to show.
9. Know the Size of the Beds at the Property
If your cottage rental does not supply linens for the bed, check the sizes before you go. Struggling to stretch full size sheets onto a queen size bed is not what you want to be doing on your first night. Most owners will supply linens for king beds but it’s best to check on that too. If you are planning on using sofa beds or pullout couches at the cottage, ask the owner if they supply comforters, blankets and pillows for those too.
10. Establishing Ground Rules for Vacations with Friends
This is the subject of another article so for now, plan on a couple of get-togethers with your friends to discuss how you plan on making the vacation work for you all. Talk about your expectations and be realistic and honest about anything you may not be prepared to compromise on. Bedtimes for the kids and eating patterns are often the issues that become cause for disharmony.
Good planning will pay dividends in creating a stress free and enjoyable vacation. Start well in advance and you’ll have a great time.