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!