If you're planning a cottage vacation this summer, get started on the planning early. It's all part of the fun - get the kids involved and have regular family meetings to talk about what you should take with you, what you plan on doing when you get there, and who has responsibility for what. Here's a few tips to get you started.
1 Read the contract and Terms and Conditions thoroughly
Make sure you know when check-in an check-out are. Don't plan on arriving earlier than the appointed time. Owners have only a short amount of time to changeover a cottage between guests and often have a lot of work and general maintenance to do. Arriving early does not mean you will gain access to the cottage or the waterfront and you may have to leave and come back again at check-in time
2 If you plan on taking your pet, make sure the owner has permitted pets
Taking a pet to the cottage is a privelige and not a right. Often, owners will not permit pets in their property because their children have allergies, or they simply do not like dogs or cats. Please respect that and don't put the owner in the embarrassing position of having to ask you to leave and find alternative accommodation for your pet.
3 Buy a good map of the area, Plan your route and have an alternative to hand
The main cottage country roads get very congested at the weekends in summer. Buy the MapArt book that covers the area you are visiting and plan your route well in advance. Make sure the directions you have from the owner or agency can be followed from the map. Put the directions, address of the cottage, and access details in a clearly labelled plastic folder. This should be the first thing you put in the car, and the last thing you check!
4 Write a packing list and get all the family to add in their lists
When you arrive at the cottage late at night, 15 kilometres down a cottage country road, it's not the time to realise you forgot to pack the toilet paper. Most cottages will have a supply so that is perhaps an extreme example, but good packing lists are vital to remembering all those little things that make self catering more comfortable.
5 Check what time the stores shut in the area
Cottage country stores stay open later in the summer season, but not as late as the city. It may be better to stop earlier rather than later if you are planning on picking up groceries on the way.
6 Buy water shoes
Zebra mussels are commonplace in many lakes now despite all efforts of lake associations to prevent them. They are razor sharp and can cause quite painfulcuts. I'd recommend taking water shoes wherever you go, particularly for the children. They are also useful if you're in an area where the lake bed is soft and squishy, unless you like it squidging between your toes!
7 Find out if life jackets are provided and check the sizes
It is the law that life jackets,or personal flotation devices (PFDs) of appropriate sizes for the occupants, are carried in any watercraft. Of course it is far safer and more sensible to wear them! Some cottage owners will supply a selection of PFDs but you need to be sure they fit correctly or you may find yourself subject to a hefty fine. If in doubt, purchase your own.
8 Purchase a fishing licence
If you plan on fishing, even off the dock, buy a fishing licence. Go to the Fish Ontario website for more details. Lakes are patrolled by the OPP in summer just as the roads are, so make sure you have the correct licence to show. http://www.fishinontario.com/regs.html
9 Check you know what size the beds are
If your cottage does not supply linens for the beds, check the sizes before you go. Struggling to stretch full size sheets onto a queen size bed is not what you want to be doing on your first night. Most owners will supply linens for king sized beds but it's best to check on that too. And if you are planning on using sofa beds or pullout couches at the cottage, ask the owner if she supplies comforters, blankets and pillows for those.
10 If you are going on vacation with friends, decide on the ground rules before you go
This is the subject of another article so for now, plan on a couple of get-togethers with your friends to discuss how you plan on making the vacation work for you all. Talk about your expectations and be realistic and honest about anything you may not be prepared to compromise on. Bedtimes for the kids and eating patterns are often the issues that become cause for disharmony.
Good planning will pay dividends in creating a stress free and enjoyable vacation. Start well in advance and you'll have a great time.