While it’s easy to blame a bad cottage experience on the weather or heavy traffic, there are really only two main things that can make a cottage weekend go awry—bad hosts and bad guests.
But it’s easy to avoid becoming the latter. If you’re a first-time—or even a repeat—cottage guest, here are some tips that will ensure you’re invited back next year.
1. Whatever you do, don’t arrive empty-handed. While there may be a beer store and grocery store nearby, don’t wait until Saturday morning to buy food or liquor. Pick up any essentials before you even leave the city. For bonus points, give your hosts a call to see if they’ve forgotten anything that you might be able to pick up. And if supplies run low during the weekend, be the first to volunteer to go into town. You’ll be a hero for sacrificing an hour on the lake to restrock.
2. Don’t complain if there is no cellphone reception. You’re there to enjoy the company of others, not to refresh Facebook. On that note, even if there is cellphone reception, put your phone away during meals and social activities. There is absolutely no reason that you need to be checking how your fantasy sports league is doing while everyone is playing Euchre.
3. Actually, just don’t complain. You’re at a cottage. Nobody cares if you’re scared of spiders, have a mosquito bite/sunburn/hangover or aren’t used to sleeping without air-conditioning. Incessant whining won’t earn you an invite back.
4. Volunteer to cook at least one meal. This meal doesn’t need to be the finest choice cut of beef, but it should probably be more than hot dogs. Ask if any of the guests have dietary restrictions in order to ensure that everyone can enjoy the feast. Finally, even if your hosts insist that cooking isn’t necessary, bring a homemade snack or two. Cookies, a pre-made dip, or even something as simple as watermelon slices will go a long way between meals and will be much appreciated.
5. Be sure to let your guests know of any dietary restrictions—and volunteer to bring your own food. If you have any food requirements (yes, that includes you picky eaters), don’t expect your hosts to whip up special meals. Be prepared and bring your own ingredients (especially since the local store might not have the same selection you’ll find in the city).
6. Remember the lessons you learned in preschool; treat others as you expect to be treated and don’t forget to share. While everyone should come prepared, there is always one mooch in the crowd. Be prepared to share your drinks, your sunscreen, your magazines, and your cell phone charger. Remember that you’re sharing space, too—don’t hog the best lounge chair, monopolize the paddle boat or spend hours in the bathroom.
7. If you’re bringing your dog to the cottage, figure out the house rules in advance. This includes asking where your dog can “do his business” and the best place to dispose of doggie bags. The same logic applies to babies and kids. Don’t make assumptions and ask your guests where you can best dispose of diapers.
8. If you’re annoyed with other guests, make sure you air your grievances well away from the cottage—or well after the cottage weekend is over. Sound travels through thin cottage walls and across water. If you really need to rant, go for a walk away from the cottage property, or better yet, wait until the car ride home.
9. Help clean up. Again, even if your hosts don’t ask for help, insist on offering it. Volunteer to take recycling back to the city, sweep up after dinner, or dry the dishes—it’s as simple as that.
10. Send a thank you letter. Verbalizing your gratitude sometimes isn’t enough, especially for first-time cottage guests. In fact, “letter” is the key word here. A letter is not a text message. While a sincere and heartfelt email will do the trick, putting pen to paper is a good way to demonstrate your gratitude. Don’t forget to mention your favourite parts of the week, the food, and most importantly, their company.