Being a Good Cottage Guest

Everyone enjoys being asked to spend a weekend at a cottage, but many people don’t know how to be good cottage guests.  The following considerations will help you impress your hosts, and ensure that your invitation gets repeated.

Before You Go To The Cottage

How do you prepare for a cottage weekend?
What you do before you head to the cottage is just as important as how you act when you are at the lake. As with most situations when you visit friends, common sense goes a long way at the cottage and guests who are thoughtful usually get asked back first.

Who Are You Bringing To The Cottage?
Confirm the number of people that are expected to be with you. Cottage visits tend to be overnight affairs.  Arriving with an extra guest or two may embarrass the hosts if there is not enough space for the surprise visitor.

This not only causes grief for sleeping arrangements, but it may also be problematic if you bring an extra vehicle. Parking spaces are often limited, especially when the owners have a water-access property and park at the marina.

Transportation in the boat may also be a problem if you turn up with an extra couple of bodies. When the property is located a long way from the marina, an extra trip to accommodate unexpected guests is both time consuming and expensive.

Supplies and Personal Care Products
Check with the hosts about the availability of toiletries. Many cottages are located a long way from the nearest town or store. Make sure that you bring all the basics you need unless the owners tell you otherwise.

Toilet paper, gasoline, bug repellent, sunblock, fishing lures, and even bath products are thoughtful things to bring with you and leave behind when you are a guest at a cabin.

There are a number of practical gifts you can bring for the cottage owner. Organic soap products are always a good idea. The traditional bottle of wine is always appreciated as a cottage gift, but other simple items will also put a smile on your host’s face. Use your imagination and throw together a cottage gift basket full of useful goodies.

Permits and Licences
Get the proper permits and licences you will need for your cottage holiday. The fine for not having a fishing permit or a boat operator license is expensive. Your hosts may forget to inform you about the need to have them, or they may even assume that you have already purchased your fishing license or taken your boating permit course. Getting caught without them will be embarrassing for everyone.

Get the proper travel insurance. If you are crossing the border or heading to another province you may need to have extra health insurance. Accidents can happen at a cottage or on the way to the lake. Be sure to give specific details to the insurance company about where you are going and for how long.

Traveling With Pets
Leave the pet at home. A cottage can be a dangerous place for a dog or cat. Wild animals, ticks, and nasty fungi can all turn the trip into a disaster. The hosts will feel bad if Fido crosses paths with a porcupine or a skunk, or runs off after a squirrel and never makes it back.

If you must take your pet to the cottage, be prepared. Get a tick collar, keep the pet on a leash, and make sure you have the directions and phone number for the nearest vet.

Driving To The Cottage
Get very specific directions for the trip. Make sure you know exactly how to get to your friend’s cottage and plan the drive carefully.  Highway traffic, pit stops, weather, and  unpaved or damaged side roads will add time to the trip. It is better to be early than late.

If your trip is a long one, say more than three hours, you should call the hosts to give them an update about half-way into the trip and again before you turn off the main highway. Cell phone signals are often weak or non existent once you get onto the rural side roads. This way, your hosts will have an idea of where to come look for you if you don’t show up after the last call.

When You Arrive At The Cottage

What should a guest do when visiting a cottage? Now that you have properly prepared for your trip to the lake and your cottage hosts are eagerly awaiting your visit, it is important to consider how to behave once you get there.

Arrive On Time
Many cottages are water-access and you will be required to meet the owner at a marina. Sometimes cabins are located on a secluded private road and you will have to meet your friends at the highway turn off. It is inconvenient if the cottage owners have to wait for you and boating at night in some areas is dangerous.

Be Helpful
Offer to help around the cottage. Many cottage owners only have the weekend to work on cottage maintenance.  Lending a hand with yard work, cleaning dishes, and bonfire preparations will enrich your cottage experience and take some pressure off the host. Just make sure that you are actually helping, rather than making things more stressful for the cottage owner by getting in the way. Don’t offer to cut the firewood if you have never used an ax or a chainsaw.

Relax And Enjoy The Lifestyle
Go with the flow when you arrive at the lake. Different food, games, and outdoor activities are all a part of the cottage experience. Cottage owners tend to be a different crowd, and your friends from the city may show you a whole different side of their personality when they are at the lake. Relax, have fun, and take it all in with a positive approach. There is nothing wrong with learning a new card game, eating a strange fish, or paddling a canoe for the first time.

Stay In Control
Cottage communities are generally quiet places. In the evening, especially when there isn’t much wind, noise travels much farther than you would expect. Follow the lead of your hosts. If they suggest a sing-along or get into loud boisterous conversations, then by all means, join in. Otherwise, keep the alcohol consumption and your party animal instinct under control.

Cottages also have very thin walls. Keep this in mind when embracing the romantic spirit of the woods.

Before You Leave The Cottage To Go Home

Leaving a cottage graciously is just as important as behaving yourself while you are visiting. Preparations for leaving on Sunday afternoon are sometimes hectic. Be patient.

Clean Up After Yourself
Your hosts may have treated you like a king but it is expected that you will help clean up before you head out. Leave the guest room in better condition than you found it.

Respect The Schedule
Be ready to go at the agreed time. As much as you like being there, it is important to stick to the departure plan. The hosts may have a lot to do once they get back to the city and you don’t want to have them sitting in the boat or on the back deck waiting for you to find a lost sock.

Take The Rubbish
Offer to take the garbage with you. This is a thoughtful gesture that will be greatly appreciated. The garbage can’t stay at the cabin and most cottages don’t have a pick-up service. The hosts often have a full car load of other things to take back, especially if they had to bring extra supplies to accommodate your visit.

With a bit of forethought, planning and common courtesy you can be the perfect cottage guest.

Need More Cottage Guest Tips?
Go to the Gift Ideas page.
Go to the Cottage Clothing Advice page.
Go to the Cottage Games page.
Go to the Pets At The Cabin page.
Go to the Being A Cottage Neighbour page.