Survival tips for first-time cottage guests


You’ve done it: you’ve finally scored an invitation to someone’s cottage. Start dreaming about leaving the smog and swelter of the city behind. But to ensure a return invitation, follow these tips. You don’t want your first time at the cottage to be your last.

Don’t complain

Cottages are idiosyncratic places. The plumbing will be odd, with rules that rival the US tax code in complexity. The water may be undrinkable. It will rain, be too hot, or be exceptionally buggy. None of that matters. Your hosts know their cottage’s craziness, and they love it anyway. If you complain, not only are you making yourself unpleasant to be with, but you’re insulting your hosts. You wouldn’t call their dog ugly—so don’t crank about their cottage.

Join in

You should also realize that it’s not enough not to complain. Do your best to join in with the potentially strange cottage activities, and you’ll ingratiate yourself endlessly to your hosts. Go fishing, even though scales make you squeamish. Grin and bear the questionable homemade wine. Be quiet during afternoon nap time. Play charades. Sing a song around the bonfire. You just might enjoy yourself.

Follow the rules

You can work around those aforementioned cottage-y idiosyncrasies by asking about—and following—any rules. These might extend from not flushing any toilet paper to never, ever leaving food outside. Your hosts know what it takes to keep the cottage’s systems running smoothly—ask about what you need to know as soon as you get there.

Don’t arrive empty-handed

Bring a bottle of wine, some gourmet jam or—better yet—bring an entire meal and offer to cook it. If you’d prefer not to subject your hosts to your cooking, and you’re close enough to civilization, offer to take them out to dinner. Also offer to chip in money for gas for the boat.

But don’t bring anything breathing

Never, ever bring a pet or extra guests without clearing it with your hosts first—and do your best not to ask. Children and pets take up more room than you think, and many cottages are short on space. Chances are, your hosts are working at maximum capacity, because part of the joy of cottaging is hosting guests.

Give your hosts some quiet time

Go play golf, go for a hike, or go antiquing for an afternoon—without your hosts. Yes, the point of visiting the cottage is to visit, but a little separate time is never a bad idea. Plus, it gives you something to talk about during happy hour.

Ask what you should bring

Towels, sheets, sunscreen—some or all of these things may not be available in large supply, so ask what you need to pack before you leave. Remember, depending where you go, it may not be easy to simply duck out and pick up what you need—unless you fancy a boat ride.

Help out

Cottages are a lot of work. You don’t need to spend your entire weekend stripping, sanding, and painting the deck, but ask your hosts if you can take care of the dishes. It’s not hard to be a good guest—just go into your visit relaxed and open to new experiences. And let your hosts know you love their cottage as much as they do.