It’s summertime, which means it’s prime time for cottaging! If you’re lucky, you may find yourself invited up to a friends cottage for a weekend getaway – a fun, carefree, relaxing time spent socializing and kicking back with your friends, having some drinks and making s’mores over an open campfire. It all sounds great, doesn’t it? And it is! I’ve been fortunate to grow up with a family who owns their own cottage, a beautiful property right on the lake. Over the years I’ve had my fair share of friends up, which means I’ve also been privy to seeing how absolutely terrible cottage guests can behave. So, to gear you up for your next getaway, here’s a list of things you should consider to ensure you don’t tick off your host if you want to get invited back next summer.
1. Don’t Litter
This should really go without saying but you’d be amazed how many times I’ve had to tell people to use a garbage bin and stop throwing bottle caps on the ground. This isn’t just a problem for the host who undoubtedly will have to run around the property cleaning up after you, but remember – there is a lot of wildlife in cottage country, and something as small as an empty chip bag is enough to lure them out of the woods and onto the deck. If your host has pets, this is an even bigger concern, because a hungry bear dissatisfied with its’ findings is going to catch the scent of their furry companion and that can be enough to keep them coming back for dinner.
2. If you bring something, leave it there.
Pretty basic party rule that you should be well versed in by the time you’re 20, but I’ve seen people as old as 40 foul this one. If you bring a case of beer and find you have a couple bottles left when you’re leaving, just leave them there. Heck, I’ve seen people bring home booze that only has two ounces left in it. It’s incredibly rude to take the rest of what you’ve brought, particularly because you’ve been enjoying the use of someone else’s property for the entire weekend. You might not think your host will notice, but they will, and it’s a surefire way to make them reconsider your attendance next time.
3. Pitch in for gas
If you’re fortunate enough that your host owns a boat, whether it’s for fishing, general boating, or water activities, chances are they’ll be taking you out for a spin. They might not outright ask you for gas money, but you really, really should pitch in. A quick spin around the lake can eat through an entire tank of gas, and that’s without towing a tube or skier – and nevermind the maintenance costs, winterization fees, and trailer towing that’s required every year. I’m willing to bet they’re not charging you a “rental fee” like you would at a public camping site, so just give them a couple bucks for gas, would ya?
4. Contribute! In some way, shape, or form.
We’re all at the cottage to kick back and relax, but we still have to keep the cottage tidy, cook meals and prepare snacks while we’re there – and I’ll tell you, it’s a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone if the same two people aren’t doing all the work. If you’re a good cook, offer to barbeque, or for those less savvy on the grill, help clear the table and do the dishes after the meal. If that’s already covered, see if your host wants a hand collecting twigs for the evening campfire. It’s tedious, but you need a lot of kindling and sticks to get a really good fire going, and it takes a lot less time to prep with more hands on deck.
5. Bring a beach towel
Chances are your host is going to have some extra towels in case you forget (there’s always at least one person who does!) and while they won’t hesitate to offer one to you, there’s a hidden catch you might not be aware of. After you’ve long gone home and left your soaked towel out on the deck to dry, your host is going to be going around picking up every towel that was used that weekend and taking it home to wash for the next trip up. It might not seem like a big deal, it’s just a towel, right? Wrong. A lot of things have to be hauled back and forth from a cottage (including those bed sheets you were sleeping on), so if you can save your host the hassle of another load of laundry, they’ll be very pleased – trust me.
6. Bring a gift for your host
No, the drinks you brought to sip on in the sun don’t count. Something just for your host, a bottle of wine perhaps. Remember, they’re inviting you into what is effectively their second home, giving you a place to sleep, eat, and bathe – the least you can do is bring them something nice to show them you appreciate their offer.