Sharing your cottage with friends and family can be a wonderful way to enjoy the summer.

Whether your guests are looking for a low-key vacation to chill out and relax, or a more active trip with boating, wake-boarding and other outdoor activities, it’s important to plan and manage everyone’s expectations before – and after – they arrive.

If you’re planning on hosting this summer, here are seven tips to create a memorable and safe experience for your guests.

1. Send your guests a packing list. Prep your guests on what to bring to get the most out of their visit. Maybe your cottage is completely shaded, or maybe you have no trees. Maybe your cottage is on a hill and gets a lot of wind; you know the environment and what you’ll be providing better than your guests. Your list could include items such as sunscreen, towels, warm night clothing, bug spray, etc.

I like to put together a small welcome basket for our guests that includes some often 'forgotten' items such as sunscreen, toothpaste and bug spray as well as some thoughtful additions such as a bottle of water and even a personalized welcome note. – HGTV Canada's Sarah Baeumler

There is nothing worse than being the guest who shows up thinking they’re good with a hoodie and bathing suit, only to find out they needed something much nicer for an event! Cottage events are common in certain areas, so let your guests know what’s on the agenda. Your cottage may be super casual or not so casual – make sure you prepare your guests.

2. Establish pet rules. Do you allow pets at your cottage? Don’t assume people know, and don’t expect people to ask. Just be up front. While there may be special circumstances where you allow pets, what if there’s another guest who is afraid of dogs, or highly allergic to them? Or if you have a pet that doesn’t play well with others, let guests know ahead of time.

3. Give them the grand tour. This is a great opportunity to make your guests feel at home and, more important, educate them about your cottage. In the washroom, for example, do you need to mention a sensitive septic system that can be damaged with over-flushing? Or that can only handle biodegradable soaps? This is also a good time to lay out expectations around using your equipment (stand-up paddle boards, canoes, paddleboats, etc.) and safety precautions you want your guests to be mindful of.

If there are fun cottage traditions your family has, share them with your guests along the way. It could be something as simple as having coffee on the dock every morning, an annual pilgrimage to a local brewery or making s’mores by the fire each night. If there are games your family loves, invite guests to join.

4. Be aware of allergies and aversions. In advance of your guests’ arrival, ask about any food or environmental allergies they may have. Part of your “welcome tour” could be information on what to do in an emergency, including where the nearest hospital is, should an allergic reaction occur. It can also be helpful to find out if there are any extreme food dislikes in order to avoid anyone going hungry at dinner!

5. Practice water safety. If you’re allowing guests to drive your boat or jet ski, ensure they have the required license to operate your watercraft, and they know how to properly use safety equipment. Before you allow them to sail away, show them around the lake to point out dangerous areas or potential hazards. And because every craft is different, providing instruction is always a good idea. You could even do an impromptu test to make sure they really get it before they take the wheel.

Before handing over the key, make sure you have insurance that covers someone borrowing your boat or jet ski.

6. Keep kids safe. There are other unique safety concerns at a cottage, but in general, active supervision may be the best way to prevent accidents from ruining your time. For example, designating one adult to keep an eye on the kids in bed while everyone else sits out by the fire can help everyone feel more relaxed.

When on the water, make at least one adult responsible for supervising children, and not texting, drinking or fishing. Some guests may be surprised if you ask their children (or adults if they aren’t strong swimmers) to wear a life jacket when they’re near the water – but accidents can happen. Nobody wants to be a spoilsport, so rules like this should be discussed in advance to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable visit.

7. Prepare them for the ride up. Many cottages are on winding backroads that may not register on Google Maps. To ensure a stress-free ride up, provide your guests with a map with clearly labelled landmarks so they can easily navigate without getting lost. You could even provide GPS coordinates if you have them.

Do you have to take a boat to reach your cottage? Make sure your guests know so they can prepare, and they understand the parking arrangements, including any daily parking fees, for their vehicle.

Giving your guests an amazing summer cottage experience can be a great pleasure that builds lasting memories and stronger relationships. With hope, these tips will get you on your way to being the best cottage host!

Speak to an advisor to ensure that you have the right coverage for your cottage.


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