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What to pack for lifelong memories at your first family cottage rental

So you’ve found and booked the perfect vacation rental on Vrbo. Before you check in at the cottage and check out all the great amenities, it’s important to know what you might need to pack for your next family getaway. And beyond those basic cottage essentials, now’s the perfect time to consider how you want to spend your “together” time to make memories that last a lifetime.

Here are nine things to pack that can help make your family’s first cottage trip extra special.

A cozy sweater for chilly nights

We all hope for a sunny weekend at the cottage, but even if you get your wish, you’re going to be contending with chilly evenings. Be sure to pack cozy blankets or your favourite wool sweater. There’s no better place to wear it than under the stars on the deck at night.

A book you wouldn’t have time to read anywhere else

Even if you find time to read during your busy weeks in the city, there are certain books that require a special kind of immersion. With its slower pace and lazy days in the hammock (or even rainy days without wifi), the cottage is the perfect place to break out that extra-long read that’s been collecting dust on your nightstand.

The perfect cottage playlist

A different environment calls for different music, and you may find that your tastes change when you’re in nature. Be careful about blasting tunes on the dock—sound travels over water a lot better than people realize—but preparing a cottage playlist for the drive to the lake is the perfect way to prep you and your family for the memories to come.

Binoculars (or a telescope)

Depending on where you rent, you’ll likely see wildlife that you’d never see back in the city. When you’re sitting on the dock at dusk, watching beavers ferry harvested shoots across the placid lake, you’ll be thankful you brought binoculars. And if you have a telescope you rarely use, it’s worth making space in your trunk. There’s no better place to embrace the stars than a remote cottage that’s void of city light pollution.

A birding guide

Speaking of binoculars, you’ll be seeing (and hearing) plenty of Canada’s incredible bird species at the cottage, and many a cottaging family has fallen in love with the art of birding while at the lake. A simple birding guide can help you identify the species you and your family spot.

Broken-in hiking footwear

You’ve picked an amazing rental location, you researched the local trails, and you’ve even upgraded your hiking boots in anticipation of time in the woods. Trust us on this one: you’ll want to break them in long before you lace up for that family hike. Wear them to the grocery store or whenever you walk your dog back in the city so your cottage memories won’t be blemished by blisters.

A tree-friendly hammock 

In a perfect world, every cottage rental would have a hammock placed in a just-right spot—ample shade, a breeze off the lake, and far enough from the deck that friendly chatter won’t disturb your afternoon nap. But don’t let the lack of a hammock deter you from an otherwise rental. There are plenty of tree-safe options that are simple to pack and easy to hang once you arrive.

A nostalgic board game

Plenty of cottages will have well-stocked games cupboards featuring the cottage classics, from Jenga to the oh-so-Canadian Sorry! But if there’s a game on your shelf that you haven’t played in years—or even a new board game you’ve been eager to try—you won’t find a better place to embrace it with your family.

Water shoes for pain-free swimming

If you’re renting a lakefront cottage—or a rental property near a beach—it goes without saying that you’ll be packing swimwear for the whole family. But you never know what to expect from a lakebed, whether it’s a carpet of jagged zebra mussel shells beneath a cottage-country lake or the rough, pebbly bottom of Lake Huron, so water shoes could be crucial—especially for the kids in your crew.

Customized s’mores kits

Many of us have great memories of roasting s’mores over campfires as kids, but even though the standard recipe—graham crackers, melted chocolate, and golden-toasted marshmallows—has stuck around for a reason, many cottaging families have built summer memories around their own variations. If you’re feeling fancy, candied bacon or berries can liven up the classic treat, while salted caramel is a quick fix for non-chocoholics. And if you don’t dig graham crackers, store-bought chocolate-glazed wafers are a Scout-perfected cheat code for simple s’mores.

Want to embrace the ultimate “together” experience this season? Learn more about renting a cottage with the help of Vrbo.