An invitation to a friend’s cottage is always exciting. It’s a rare opportunity to escape the city for a relatively inexpensive relaxing getaway with the perfect company. But that coveted invite is a privilege, not a right. Cottage owners only enjoy playing host to friends who impress them with their conscientious attitude and come fully prepared. Want to score a permanent spot on the guest list? Make sure you never show up without the following items.
Alcohol is the number one must-bring item. It’s non-negotiable. The worst kind of cottage guests are the ones who show up with no libations and still expect to get a good dock buzz. It’s likely that your hosts will be happy to share some of their own booze, but only if you add your own contributions to the mix. And if you’ve got very specific drinking needs, you can’t expect other people to accommodate. If you only drink lite beer, sip pink wine, or chug straight from the bottle, you’re on your own!
2. A towel (or two!)
You’re going to a lake. You will spend a lot of time wet and covered in sand. Consider it your responsibility to be clean and dry when you enter your friend’s cottage. If they don’t have enough towels to share with you, it’s going to get messy fast. And even if your host has an abundance of clean towels, they’ll be very grateful that you’re not adding to the laundry pile.
Don’t be that person who didn’t plan ahead for a weekend of baking in the hot sun – who sheepishly has to borrow the sunscreen bottle every few hours to reapply. Your friends will hand it over to save you from a nasty sunburn, but they won’t appreciate your lack of foresight. And if the lotion runs out before the end of the weekend, it won’t be pretty for anyone.
4. A folding chair
You never know what outdoor seating situation will be like. And whether you’re lounging down on the dock, relaxing around a roaring fire or sipping beers on the deck, you’ll want to be comfortable. For your own sake as much as your hosts, bring a back-up chair in case there aren’t enough seats for everyone.
It may seem harmless to rely on the existing insect repellent for just a few days. A spray here and there won’t make a difference, right? Maybe, but by the end of the summer—with numerous friendly and family to entertain—your hosts will have spent a small fortune helping their loved ones fend off mosquitos. They’ll be impressed if you show up prepared to battle the bugs on their own.
Your hosts will definitely want to feed you. They may even want to dazzle you with their cottage culinary skills. But you shouldn’t expect them to foot the entire food bill. Ideally you should offer to plan, shop for, and cook at least one meal, but if you’re truly kitchen challenged or your host insists on doing all the cooking, find out what they’ll need and offer to pick up a few things on the way.
Your friend’s cottage is not a hotel so don’t assume their bathroom comes with complimentary shampoo and toothpaste. It’s proper etiquette to pack a complete toiletry kit and let your friends save their supplies for future cottage weekends.
Bonus: A flashlight
This is a great one for those of you who have been invited to a more rustic place. If you have to use the facilities in the middle of the night you’ll need easy access to a flashlight—unless you’re weirdly fond of stumbling around in the dark over foreign terrain. Even if there are indoor bathrooms a flashlight will be very handy for trips to and from the cottage during a campfire, especially after a few beers.