11 Tips to Find the Perfect Summer Cottage

Summer is coming! Jayne weighs in on how to find the perfect cottage for you and your family.

1. Well Water Or Lake Water?
First of all, well water does not mean you will be pumping your water directly out of a well. Many cottage owners prefer to have water enter their cottage through a well system, rather than out of the lake. That’s because well water is naturally filtered through the earth and is therefore, cleaner than lake water. Lake water often has traces of grit and pesticides, depending on the location of the cottage. Most importantly, lake water is not appropriate to cook with, even after boiling it, since solid grit doesn’t evaporate.

2. Surrounding Stores?
There’s always a chance you might run out of food while you’re enjoying the outdoors. Renters should find out ahead of time where the closest stores are so they can stock up on what’s needed. Keep in mind though that food isn’t the only thing you may run out of. You may also run out of booze (or forget to bring some in the first place), so it’s important to know where the closest liquor and beer stores are. Other items you may need to purchase are ice and bait. Bait shops are common in popular cottage destinations and they are a necessity if you hope to do some fishing.

3. Road Or Water Access?
Asking if the cottage is accessible from a main road may seem like a silly question, but the reality is quite the opposite. This isn’t a regular residential development; this is cottage country. Many cottages aren’t accessible from a main road and renters should know what their path will entail (and if your vehicle can survive it) before you embark on your adventure. Another common cottage feature is to be on an island and that means no road access at all. If you have to take a boat over to the cottage, you not only need to make sure you have access to a boat, but also a valid boating license.

4. Scope out the Neighbourhood
Even if you’re set on a region — you’ve heard about the clear water, the nearby vineyards, the place with the best baked bread — don’t take anything for granted. Once you’ve narrowed down some options, start scrutinizing Google Maps. Read online reviews of the area. Ask the owner about what’s close by, such as grocery stores, beaches and boat rentals. “If you’re a family with young kids, ask if there is a sandy beach. That’s more important than a deep dock dive,” says Rayson. If you’re travelling with grandparents, she adds, think about accessibility. Are the paths well maintained? Are there steep stairs or hills? “The messages we see most frequently back and forth are more about the geography than about the property.”

5. Pet Friendly?
Dogs will love the idea of running around in the outdoors and taking a swim in the lake but before bringing them along, make sure the cottage owner allows pets. Better yet, ask if they have a dog as well. That way, they ought to be equipped with a water bowl, food bowl, and anything else your pet may need.

6. Rocky Or Sandy Beach?
Most cottages are on or around water, but that doesn’t mean the shores are automatically barefoot-friendly. You should find out if the cottage is on a rocky or sandy beach. Though many vacation-goers prefer a sandy beach, a quick fix to a rocky beach is water shoes. You can purchase them at most grocery and department stores and they will protect your feet from cuts and scrapes you may experience while walking in or out to the water.

7. Internet/Phone Access?
Yes, the idea of a getaway is to stay away from your phone and laptop. However, you should always know if you have phone or internet access while at the cottage. Many cottages are in areas with poor cell phone reception and if there’s an emergency, you’ll want to make sure you have a method to dial out.

8. Communal Amenities?
If you’re renting a cottage in a ritzier area, you may have access to nearby country clubs, golf courses, pools, tennis courts and more. Talk to the owner about the amenities in the area and find out if you’ll have access. Other attractions you might be interested in could include water parks or playgrounds that may appeal more to the kids.

9. What are your must-have amenities?

Think of everything. Do you want a coffee maker, air conditioning and a TV? “Wi-Fi is pretty important these days, especially if you have kids coming,” says Rayson. “They need it more than the adults at this point.” Make a list of necessities. Also look for outdoor perks: Rayson points out that many owners have kayaks, canoes and other water-sports gear available to use. “The barbecue is almost always there and in good working condition. Some of them have fire pits, and hot tubs are often available to guests.” Lastly, if you’re bringing the whole family — four-legged members included — find out if pets are welcome.

10. Where To Look?
When looking for the perfect rental, rather than renting from classified sites, such as Kijiji or Craigslist, seek out trusted vacation rental platforms like Jayne’s Cottage. Platforms that encourage two-way communication, offer clearly written contracts and payments by credit card can typically be trusted. Pick websites that are targeted specifically for cottage rentals; these sites will have more information about rental properties and ensure your rental experience is as seamless as possible. Further, by working with a private rental company you can tap into local expertise and other services, such as Jayne’s Concierge Services.

11. Insured?

If renting in Ontario, ensure that the rental platform is registered with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO). When you purchase your travel services from a TICO registered travel agency (like Jayne’s Cottages) you are protected by an industry financed Travel Compensation Fund.