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being a good host

Tips for Hosting Guests
from a Consortium of Seasoned Cottage Owners

One of the best parts of having a cottage is being able to share it with friends and family. Make the experience as enjoyable as possible - for both yourself and your guests - with a little planning and communication.

  • Once you have extended an invitation, be specific on arrival and departure time. Ask your guests to call or text when they are on their way so you know when to expect them. 
  • Provide cottage address and clear directions. While many use some form of GPS, it’s a good idea to provide details -- not all cottage roads appear on navigation apps. If necessary, warn them about your cottage road(s). Now is not the time for a low-slung sports car. This is especially true for first time visitors to cottage country. Make sure they know the best phone number(s) to reach you at.
  • Ask your guests to bring their own sheets and towels. While that may seem obvious, most cottages don’t have laundry or only limited capacity. It’s surprising how many city folks don’t understand septic systems. This will be your opportunity to enlighten them.
  • Eating is a major activity at any cottage. And let’s face it, while you want to be a generous host, food and beverages for a group over a few days gets expensive. Most guests will want to contribute anyway. Some hosts designate specific meals, others specific items – say appetizers or desserts. Whatever method you prefer, planning, co-ordination and communication are key. Discuss food likes and dislikes, allergies, etc.  An example - if you or your guests avoid gluten/dairy/meat, take that into consideration when planning the menus. If kids are coming, ask your guests to bring items for them especially if they are picky eaters. Co-ordinate menus to avoid duplication.
  • Still on the topic of food, fridge space is usually at a premium. Not everyone has a second fridge or freezer, so suggest to your guests that they bring their food up in a cooler with plenty of cold packs or ice. It can be frustrating when guests bring far too much food as not enough. No one wants food wastage. Again, co-ordinate to avoid duplication. Most hosts provide the basics (milk, coffee, etc.) and usually condiments. Let them know what you have on hand as bottles and jars take up valuable real estate in the fridge. 
  • Once your guests have arrived and are settled in, relax over a welcoming beverage and discuss some ‘ground rules’.  Yes, you want to be an accommodating host, but it’s your cottage and family and you have your way of doing things. For example, mealtimes and activities. Whether you like to have breakfast done and dusted by 9 am, prefer brunch, or like everyone do their own thing in the morning, discuss it. 
  • Give the tour, show your guests where everything is, especially the coffee/tea station if some are early risers, as well as things like fire extinguishers, brooms and dustpans. Discuss the nuances of your cottage, drinking water, septic system, use of boats, sports equipment, pets and the like. You know the drill. Again - communicate so you are on the same page (more or less). 
  • Tell your guests where they can hang their wet bathing suits and towels. After all, everybody appreciates a dry suit and towel when they head down to the lake, rather than a soaking wet suit retrieved from a pile on the floor. 

Activities. While you are not a camp activities director (or maybe you are), some folks just want to chill, read a book, whereas some are more active and prefer to swim, kayak, fish, etc. Then there are others who have been trapped behind a desk all week and need to release work tension - they are happy to chop wood, help fix a dock, paint (these people aren’t myths they actually exist). If so, take a few hours to do some chores, then play.

  • These days we can’t escape technology. Warn guests about your lack of or meagre Wi-Fi or cell phone reception. If they ask for the W-Fi password, be careful as you may be on a limited plan and a teenager eat through that in no time. Have a designated charging area for essential devices - often ac outlets are at a premium in older cottages. 
  • As host, you should aim to be well-stocked, with extra toothbrushes, first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, games, playing cards, and even extra clothing if the weather turns wet or chilly. Your pantry has lots of non-perishable snacks and cans and jars for easy appetizers, and plenty of rice and pasta (and sauce) when you need to stretch meals. It’s often a good idea to let your guests know that the closest grocery store is not around the corner.

Thanks to KLA member Rob Horsburgh for his photograph of Wallace Island used as the background photo throughout this site

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