Last weekend I had a chance to clean around the cottage and found items guest had left behind for, well I don’t know how long. Over time, I have been sent requests to repost this blog and asked for suggestions on how to address issues that have occured. And so with an update done. Here is the updated version of this post. I hope this is helpful.
How to be a Good Guest at The Cottage
- When you’re invited to come to the cottage, realize that space is limited. That means a few things. A) We all have busy lives and Summer goes by fast. The cottage owner probably has a list of family and friends they’re trying to share the cottage weekends with. A quick response is required. B) Pack the essentials for how long you’re going to be there. Storage space will be limited. You can leave the extra bag of just-in-case you might need it, in the car. C) Space is limited, you should check with your invitee before bringing extra people along. Remember that space to sleep is limited, but so are supplies, and your cottage owner probably has planned for each meal. Keep in mind the nearest grocery store could be kilometers or hours away.
- Which brings us to food. Check with your invitee what to bring. If you have promised to bring an item of food, again, your invitee has planned it as part of a meal. If there’s a change, let them know as soon as possible so they can make alternative plans. It’s also best to let them know if you have food allergies or foods you simply don’t eat for personal or religious reasons. Don’t bring large items that are not planned for. Refrigerator space and ice for coolers are both limited. Baked good, snacks, alcohol, pop and water are always needed at the cottage. These items don’t need to be refrigerated and can be stored if not used.
- Plan your clothes, sunscreen, insect repentant and bath products. The weather can change quickly by the water or in the woods. A hot day can turn into a cool night. Your host will have their own products but probably will differ from what you usually use. Plan for and pack these items.
- Water use. Like the food, water may have to be brought in and maybe restricted on delivery dates. Find out how they use the toilets, shower and running water. That does not mean, leaving the dishes to do for your host. It means, asking your host how to use the system.
- Children. When being invited up to the cottage, don’t assume it’s OK to bring your children unless the invitee said, “bring your kids or bring your family”. It never hurts to ask, they may have not thought about it and be fine with it. On the other hand, they may have other people coming or plans for an adult-only experience. Check first. Once it was agreed on, remember that you are responsible for your children, their clean up, messes or damages they make. You’re also responsible to entertain them, which includes bringing items to entertain them.
- Pets. Not all owners of cottages want you to bring your pets. Ask them first. Also, remember if they say yes, you’re required to clean after them and watch them. Animal bi-laws don’t change at the cottage. Leash laws and barking dog rules are still in effect. There is nothing more annoying to fellow cottagers than a dog running loose or barking, interfering with their relaxation, guest or meals.
- Be self-entertaining. When up to relax for the weekend or the week, plan that you will have quiet time. Bring your favorite book, your childs favorite movie, beach toys, fishing poles, and even your own lounge chair. They have invited you up to enjoy the cottage, but no one can entertain someone all the time.
- Campfires. Everyone loves campfires. The crackle of the wood, the warmth from the fire, and roasting marshmallows. Plan clothes to sit by the fire that can get the smell of smoke on them. The wind will shift, and smoke will get on your clothes. Don’t bring your favor jacket that is Dry Clean Only. Think about the size of the fire when you’re building it. The nearest fire-station could be miles away. Watch your children and pets near the fire. Medical attention will also be miles away. Firewood can also get costly. You’ll drive by many places along the way selling firewood. Spend the few dollars and pick up a bundle to contribute to the evening fire.
- You’re at the Cottage, not a Five Star Hotel. Your invitee is a family member or friend, not the maid or cook. Offer to help with meal prep and clean up. Make your own bed. Pick up your children’s toys. Hang up your own towels. Replace the roll of toilet paper. AND don’t complain, it’s not a Five Star, it’s a Cottage. It won’t be perfect, you knew that before you accepted the invitation. But most of all please remember you are a guest and treat your host with the respect that is their home. They want you to be comfortable but not at the expense of them not being comfortable in thier own home.
- Mind your manors. If you see something a neighbor does and you don’t like, speak to your hostess in a private manor. You may not like the neighbor, but your hostess may have a relationship with them and they also will be there long after you are gone.
- When leaving. Take home your personal items. The cottage usually does not have an attic or basement to store your personal items. There is usually very limited dresser and closet space and will be used by the next guest coming to stay. Your hostess may be agreeable to store some items, but remember anything left behind, may get used while you’re not there and you should not hold your hostess responsible for it. If it’s important or personal, take it with you. What else can you take with you? Check to see when the garbage pick up and recycling is. Some places have regular pick up, some have carried in carrying out. Check with the hostess before leaving food items behind. If they’re also leaving when you do, don’t expect them to take the extra home with them, ask them first if they would like it. If they say no, take it with you. On that note, it is also bad manners to take the dessert you brought, after they have supplied you with a place to stay and have fed you.
- Sleeping time. This issue has come up in many of my emails. We all have different sleeping patterns. If you’re an early riser. Plan for it. Pack yourself a snack to have with your coffee out on the deck or stay in your room and read, but do not start banging around in the kitchen and wake up the other’s still sleeping. Cottage time is relaxing time. People tend to stay up later watching a moive, sitting by the fire or reading and then, they tend to sleep in. On that note, your friends did not invite you up to sleep the whole day. People are at the cottage to soicalize. If you are too tired to socialize, you probably should have booked a hotel alone somewhere, not come to a social setting. Naps are good, but having to be quiet on a sunny day does not work for the others at the cottage. These two things are the number one reason for not getting invite back.
- Barrowing the cottage and being a guest are not the same thing. If you ask to barrow your friends cottage or they offer to loan it you, you’re no longer a guest, you are using it when they are not there. This adds rules. Live in it as they do. If they don’t smoke in their home or allow pets, the rules remain the same. You are responsible to clean it before you leave. Please make the beds, clean the dishes and sweep up the floors and clean the bathroom. Put the garbage out or take it home with you. Leave the cottage as if you were not there. If they are not asking to be paid for the use, remember you being there is costing them for hydro, water and fuel, and other cottage costs. There are many other kind gestures to say thank you that you can come up with for their kindness. Following these rules and kind gestures is what gets a re-offer of use.
- Enjoy the time. You have been invited to you spend time at a place that your family or friend considers special. They have invited you because they want to share that space and time with you. Being a good guest will get you invited back many time over the years to come.