How To Rent A Cottage: Let’s Do This Thing!

My latest obsession; trying to find the “perfect” cottage for our almost annual summer vacation.  A place to unplug, re-connect and make some memories.  My expectations are high and the possibilities are endless!  I’m excited to wade through the possibilities and book something.  Luckily I know where to start!  Would you? 

Here are my top tips for how to find the perfect cottage rental for your family!


*Know where you want to be.

I live in Ontario.  If you punch “Cottage Rental Ontario” into your favourite search engine you will get a gazillion hits.  You will help yourself if you know which region you want to be in, near which town, or even better which lake!


Not sure where you want to be? Then consider how far you are willing to drive.  With my girls getting a bit older I’m okay with a 41/2 – 5 hour drive.  My SassySis learned the hard way 5 hours is about 1 hour too long with a Toddler.  We are searching a bit closer to home this year so I can convince her to come up for a visit!

*Where to start the hunt

I prefer the tried and true.  The best way to rent a cottage?  From a friend!  Of course this is not always possible so here are some of my favourite websites.  Ontario Cottage Rental, Cottage Country, Cottage Portal, and Cottages in Canada.  Please keep in mind that these websites do not take any responsibility should something go wrong while renting!  When you rent protect yourself as best you can.  Never give a cash deposit.  Keep a record of all transactions between you and the owner, and trust your gut.  Try and get a feel for the owner before you rent.  Do they answer your enquires in a timely manner?  Are they polite, willing to share more photos of their property with you?  Are there reviews you can read?  Does the owner come across as  professional? In short, research the owner, not just the cottage. 


*Consider what “Cottaging” means to you!

Roughing it might be okay for some, but not for me.  I am a travel snob and  I own that!  I also know I rarely get summer vacations so when I do, I try and do it right! I want ample space with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.  Privacy, on a clean lake.  A view that takes my breath away AND a dishwasher.  Yup. A dishwasher!  Mama doesn’t want to spend her vacay in the kitchen. 

Note that even in the nicest of rentals you usually have to take your own linens and you are expected to clean the cottage before you leave. 



I want almost all of them.  Does the rental you are considering have a BBQ? A coffee maker? A place the kids can play?  How about some water toys?  Is there air conditioning?  Does that matter to you?  Access to a canoe, a rowboat and/or some kayaks can make a huge difference in your week.  Those little extras help create some memories.  *Note if you find the perfect rental without those extras you can always rent them from the nearest marina.  Be sure you check that list of amenities before you sign on the dotted line.

*If something goes wrong

You have rented a cottage to get away from it all.  Chances are internet is spotty and your cell phone only works from the end of the dock.  Be sure to ask the owner if there is a land line in the rental.  Also be sure the cottage owner leaves you not only their contact information but the contact numbers of their caretakers should something at the cottage require attention while you are there. 

*What to ask or confirm is addressed in the cottage write-up

Where is the nearest hospital?

How far is the nearest grocery store or market?  LCBO or Beer Store?

Is the water a shallow entry? Is the water a rocky or sandy entry? (Tip: I always pack water shoes for my girls from the Suburbs)

What is the cancellation policy?

Is the cottage non-smoking?

What time is check in/ check out?

Is the cottage pet friendly?  I won’t rent a pet friendly cottage as my Sister can’t stay there!  Allergies!

*When to rent!

Months ago!! In my experience the best time to rent in Cottage Country is in January and February.  Those family favourites go quickly, but don’t despair, with a little patience and a little luck you can still find the perfect cottage rental for your family.


*Know that nothing is perfect!

Renting a cottage is not like staying in a hotel or a resort,  There will be bumps, there will be imperfections, but there will also be the possibility to have the time of your life.  Get out there and find the best place that suits you and your love ones, enjoy the hunt and then make some memories!


  1. Cottaging is the BEST! So fun and relaxing. 🙂

  2. Can’t wait for summer to arrive to get out to the cottage. Good luck with the search! 🙂

  3. Lynda Cook says:

    when I was younger we used to go up north in the summer time, I remember such a beautiful cottage and the lake was awesome!!

  4. Stacie says:

    I used to love spending part of my summers up north with my parents. Don’t know why I have never considered it for a summer vacation for our family!

  5. I so love it, that would be an amazing get away! Oh one day!!

  6. I’m not participating in WW today but it’s become habit to visit on Wednesday. 🙂

    These are good tips. We’ve stayed in a cottages on the water before for vacay and that’s so so so much nicer (in most cases) than staying in a hotel.

  7. Victoria Ess says:

    Thanks for the links to the websites and the tips of what to think about. We have never rented a cottage before, although we have stayed in a cottage of a friend’s. Something to think about this summer! I remember your posts last summer about the R&R you got, and think that this is a wonderful annual tradition 🙂

  8. Treen Goodwin says:

    I love going to the cottage , its so relaxing and away from the real world , i look forward to going and getting away for it all 🙂

  9. Darlene Schuller says:

    I love cottaging! We haven’t done it in a few summers but I’m hoping we can this year. I cottage back where I grew up .. catch up w/friends and enjoy the beauty.

  10. Sounds like a game plan for a winner! Funny you mention the dishwasher–that is an essential in our beach rental. Dad doesn’t like to do dishes on vacation either.

  11. Best of luck to you….just saying the word cottage transports me to the calm!

  12. Judy C (Judy Cowan) says:

    We have an RV now so we no longer have to try and rent the “perfect cottage”. Hope you find one that works for the summer!

  13. Heidi C. says:

    We have done this a few times now and really enjoyed it!

  14. KAren E. HIll says:

    Thanks for the helpful tips. I miss going up to the cottage every summer and think its about time I returned.

  15. Michelle says:

    I would love to rent a cottage in Ontario one of these days.Ontario is just gorgeous.I used to camp with my sister and family there…

  16. What a beautiful cottage.

  17. Jay Miller says:

    Good post! I’m always worried I’m missing out on something better…research is key! Takes time, but it’s worth it! My husband’s grandmother recently sold her cottage (as she’s too old to take care of it, and we couldn’t afford to buy it) so we miss having somewhere to escape to…there are some great rentals out there!

  18. BobbiJo Pentney says:

    Thank you for the advice. I am so with you on wanting all of the extras and not roughing it.

  19. Some great tips, I am not interested in roughing it either.

  20. Good tips. We’ve been trying to find a place that is near where my husband’s grandmother’s cottage used to be. We spent a lot of time at her cottage by the ocean when we first met, but unfortunately she had to sell it (and we were in no position to buy it at the time)

    Aaaand I just read my comment from two years ago above 🙂 I guess I really miss that place!

    We’ve since done some winter rentals for skiing. I find it really helps if the owners have some sort of list of all of their kitchen stuff. Saves a lot of stress and who wants to pack up the kitchen on their vacation?!

  21. nicolthepickle says:

    I haven’t stayed in a cottage in ages, but we used to. Air conditioning is a big thing for me. There’s nothing like relaxing with a nice book in a cool place.

  22. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    I too would need a dishwasher and if I was staying for more than a week then I’d need a washing machine too. I used to enjoy going to a cottage for a weekend, not done it in years though. Might be nice to go again but with more luxury the next time.

  23. kathy downey says:

    I haven’t stayed in a cottage in years,we did it every weekend growing up and after Dad got sick we just never went back.Maybe sometime soon !

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