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Hosting Visitors in a Cottage

Updated on June 30, 2016
A welcome sign or door mat sets the tone for the visit.
A welcome sign or door mat sets the tone for the visit. | Source

Get a Vacation Home Ready for Guests

If you have a summer home, a weekend cottage or rent a place for a vacation, chances are you like to entertain visitors there. I have some tips to help you prepare for house guests.

It's time to get ready. You've invited friends or family to join you in your getaway place. Chances are it's a small cottage, cabin or vacation home, so there are some logistics to work out when you add extra people. You want to make them comfortable and show them a good time in your vacation cottage.

Photo by Virginia Allain

Examples of My Homemade Postcards

Source

In the Weeks Before Your Visitors Arrive, Tempt Them with Personalized Postcards

I turn my photos of local scenes into postcards and mail them to visitors ahead of their planned visit. On each one, I write a short message like "Can't wait until your are here. We'll take a long walk in the woods (or beach) and talk about old times." Take a photo of your deck and put a message like "Just think, in 2 weeks you'll be lounging here with a good book to read & a chilled margarita in hand."

This gives your guest clues on activities for their visit and helps build anticipation. All my visitors love getting the postcards.

It's easy to make your own postcards using a site like Zazzle or Shutterfly. Just send them your photos and order the cards. Actually, I make my own by printing out my photos from my computer. Then I cut off the front of used greeting cards or Christmas cards. I paste my photo over the greeting card graphic, trim it down to the photo size, and write the address and message on the blank side. Easy and inexpensive.

I use the Duck easy-stick double sided roller tape, but you can glue the photos onto the cardstock if you want.

Clean and Tidy the Cottage - before guests arrive

  1. Take care of in-depth cleaning well ahead of the visit. For me, that means cleaning mildew off the mini-blinds, taking the throw rugs to the laundry and some other housekeeping that I'd been postponing.
  2. Clear away clutter. Stash away some things that won't be used during the guests' visit. I'm lucky to have a loft area where we can store items that we aren't using frequently.
  3. Check your sheets, towels and other things needed for the guest. Does anything need freshened up? Wash any items that seem musty from storage or hang them out in the sun. Make sure you have adequate supplies of toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins on hand. Cottages seldom have enough storage space to stockpile much.
  4. Catch up on the laundry, so you won't be bothered by that chore while you have visitors.
  5. The day before the guests arrive, do the final cleaning like clearing all the pine needles off the carpet, shaking out the door mats, wiping down the sinks, etc.

Welcome Your Guests with a Loon Floor Mat

Loon Lake Welcome Medium 20 Oz Loop Floor Mat
Loon Lake Welcome Medium 20 Oz Loop Floor Mat

I love loons and this mat looks so welcoming. With more people tracking in and out of the house, a door mat helps keeps some of the natural debris outside.

 

Ready the Bikes, Kayaks and Other Things Guests Might Use

Check that all the recreational gear is in good working condition. Air up the bicycle tires, brush off the bike helmets and the life jackets. Having the bicycles ready to go, means the guests can head out for a ride whenever they feel the whim.

You want to keep everything simple and ready so as the host you can relax and enjoy your visitors. Check that all the items function properly and are clean and accessible.

It's important to have various sizes of life jackets to fit bigger or smaller guests. If a life vest is too large, in an emergency situation, the wearer might slip out of it and be at risk of drowning.

Let the guest know if they should bring their bathing suits or golf clubs depending on activities you think they might enjoy. If you need additional gear to accommodate more people, check with a neighbor to see if you can borrow their canoe or whatever you need. Some items can be rented, so check the availability of that kind of service.

The bike rack by the lake. It's just a short ride from the cottage to go for a swim or sit on the dock.
The bike rack by the lake. It's just a short ride from the cottage to go for a swim or sit on the dock. | Source

Boating Requires Special Gear

Here I Am with a Guest Enjoying the Lake

Source
Old Town 10-Feet 6-Inch Dirigo 106 Recreational Kayak (Sunrise)
Old Town 10-Feet 6-Inch Dirigo 106 Recreational Kayak (Sunrise)

We have Old Town kayaks. They are highly-recommended.

What I liked about these is they aren't easy to tip over. That was important to me as I'm a little phobic about deep water.

 
Here I am, enjoying a cool day on the lake in New Hampshire.
Here I am, enjoying a cool day on the lake in New Hampshire. | Source

Dual Purpose Paddles

Intex Dual Purpose Kayak Paddle/Boat Oars, 1 Pair, 96"
Intex Dual Purpose Kayak Paddle/Boat Oars, 1 Pair, 96"

These come apart for more compact storage. Great idea, then they will fit in a deck box and not be outside exposed to the weather.

 

Sailing, Kayaking or Boating - Have Plenty of Life Jackets

Here's my brother-in-law setting out to explore the lake in our kayak. Since we only have 2 kayaks, we took turns. The guys went out first and then my sister and I went out.
Here's my brother-in-law setting out to explore the lake in our kayak. Since we only have 2 kayaks, we took turns. The guys went out first and then my sister and I went out. | Source
Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest
Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

You'll want a variety of sizes. Possibly you can borrow from neighbors, but I prefer having a selection of sizes on hand so everyone has one that fits right.

 

Food for the Guests

Serve the Guests the Local Specialties

No one ever overdosed on blueberries. They love blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry pie...
No one ever overdosed on blueberries. They love blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry pie... | Source
Source
Source
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Stock Up on Food

  1. Plan out the meals for the time your visitors will be there. Decide how many meals will be eaten at the cottage and how many will be eaten at restaurants while out sightseeing. Keep in mind the limitations of your storage, especially if the fridge is small. Be flexible, as the guests may bring food and drinks as hostess gifts or for their special dietary needs. It's wise to ask them ahead of time if they have any special food needs (diabetic, gluten intolerance, etc.).
  2. Shop for the groceries, but not too far ahead. You'll want the meat and fruits and vegetables to be as fresh as possible. Rinsing the fruit in a mixture of vinegar and water helps it keep longer without getting moldy. You can also get those green bags which help keep the fruits and vegetables fresh. You can plan an outing to pick blueberries when they are in season or to go crabbing. Factor those plans in when you make up your grocery list.
  3. Stock up on beverage needs such as wine, soft drinks and juices. I recommend having a small beverage fridge if your electrical system can handle it. That takes a lot of pressure off the regular refrigerator. We don't normally keep diet soft drinks on hand, so I check with my guests ahead of time to see if they have a preference. You can stock up on lemonade instead as most people drink that. We have wonderful spring-fed well water, so we don't bother with filtering our water or stocking in bottled water.
  4. Try to work the local specialties into the meal planning. If you are in New England, the guests will love a lobster feed. Check out my page with the details for steaming your lobsters. It makes a really special occasion to have lobster or to put on a clam bake.

Handy Foods to Stock into the Pantry for Guests

Since it's quite a drive to a supermarket from where our cottage is, I keep back-ups on hand in the cupboard for our most used foods.

  • shelf-stable milk or powdered milk
  • jars of pickled beets and also 5-bean salad
  • canned soup for a lunch on a chilly or rainy day, also crackers
  • canned fruit like pears or pineapple chunks in case you run short of fresh fruit
  • raisins, a variety of nuts and seeds to make a trail mix for snacking
  • large bags of chips (I look for ones that are baked or made from various healthy seeds or sweet potatoes)
  • muffin mix or cookie mix to fix quickly for breakfast or snacking
  • onions, red skinned potatoes for making potato salad
  • pasta and cans of black olives for a pasta salad
  • cans of baked beans

Beverage Refrigerator - for wine, beer, soft drinks and bottles of water

Avanti 3.1 Cubic Foot Beverage Cooler / Sylish Black Cabinet With Stainess Steel Framed Double-Pane Tempered Glass Door
Avanti 3.1 Cubic Foot Beverage Cooler / Sylish Black Cabinet With Stainess Steel Framed Double-Pane Tempered Glass Door

Our refrigerator at our cottage is small. Having one of these eases the crowding in the fridge by removing all the drinks from the main fridge. Check your space and your power capability. I think you'll be glad to have one of these on hand.

 

Beverages That I Stock In

This is my shopping list and I try to keep these drinks on hand for having neighbors over for an evening around the firepit or for a weeklong houseguest.

  • soft drinks (Coke, Ginger Ale, maybe diet soda)
  • fruit juices (cranberry juice, V-8 spicy & regular, apple juice, maybe orange juice)
  • beer (Sam Adams or a similar beer, also a light beer like Coors Lite)
  • red and white wine (it's nice to stock in one local winery label to share with a guest, along with other favorite wines)
  • alcohol (gin, whiskey, rum, etc. depending on your taste in mixed drinks, don't forget olives for the martinis)

Make the Guests Comfortable

Useful Things to Have When a House Guest Arrives

Sleep Better Ultimate Memory Foam Queen Mattress Topper with Removable Cover
Sleep Better Ultimate Memory Foam Queen Mattress Topper with Removable Cover

If the guest is sleeping on a fold-out sofa, sofa bed or other potentially uncomfortable bed, get one of these. They'll be as comfortable as they would be sleeping in their own bed. We roll ours up, tie it and store it in the loft when the guests are gone.

 

Another Option for a Hidden Guest Bed

A Sturdy Clothes Rack Comes in Handy

Honey-Can-Do GAR-01120 Heavy Duty Rolling Garment Rack
Honey-Can-Do GAR-01120 Heavy Duty Rolling Garment Rack

This garment rack gives the guest a place to put their shoes and hang their clothes if the guest room has no closet. In a small cottage, it comes in handy at other times to hang your jackets or for drying laundry on hangers.

If your space is really tiny, get a wall rack that allows for hanging clothes on hangers.

 

A Murphy Bed Is a Space Saver

Murphy beds fold up into a cabinet. This is one way to accommodate guests.
Murphy beds fold up into a cabinet. This is one way to accommodate guests. | Source
Whitmor Hanging Sweater & Accessory Shelf Organizer, Java
Whitmor Hanging Sweater & Accessory Shelf Organizer, Java

Attach this to the rod on the rolling garment rack. It gives the guest a place to stash their belongings so they don't have to keep rummaging around in the suitcase. You can have an extra set of towels for back up should the guest need dry ones.

I put out a beach towel for them too, so when we head to the lake, there's no need to hunt for one in the back of the linen closet.

 

Towel Drying Options

If you don't have enough towel bars for everyong, hang your own towels on a hanger with clothes pins. Hang the hanger on your closet door or somewhere out-of-the-way so the towels can dry after use. That leaves the bathroom towel bars for guest use.

Towel Rack Shortage When You Have Guests?

Make sure you have plenty of towels and a place to hang them. Aren't these bear towels perfect for a cottage in the woods. You can find ones with seashells too for the beach cottage.
Make sure you have plenty of towels and a place to hang them. Aren't these bear towels perfect for a cottage in the woods. You can find ones with seashells too for the beach cottage. | Source

Folding Luggage Rack

Wooden Mallet WallSaver Luggage Rack, Mahogany, Tapestry Straps
Wooden Mallet WallSaver Luggage Rack, Mahogany, Tapestry Straps

You don't need much space to set this luggage rack up and it gives the guest a convenient place to put their suitcase. This folds up pretty flat to store behind the sofa or some other out-of-the-way place.

I have 2 of these at home and 1 at the cottage.

 

Plan Activities for the Visit

  1. Check the newspaper, online and around the community for events that might appeal to your guests.
  2. Keep a folder of places that make good day trips. Pick up brochures for future planning.
  3. After browsing your day trip folder and considering events available, rough out a schedule of relaxing days and active days depending on the tastes of your guests. Some prefer to just rusticate in the woods or at the lake. If so, give them plenty of unscheduled time to stroll in the woods or read a book in the hammock. Others might want to take a vintage train ride, visit museums and trek to every covered bridge within driving distance.

Check for Local Activities to Entertain Visitors

The bulletin board at City Hall, the library, the grocery store, even the post office may have events to attend. Know what activities are coming up.
The bulletin board at City Hall, the library, the grocery store, even the post office may have events to attend. Know what activities are coming up. | Source

Have Plenty of Relaxing Outdoor Spaces - for guests to use

The hammock stores compactly for the winter. You'll need two sturdy trees to support it. There are some that are free-standing too. Adirondack chairs are classics and very durable. The chair swing is a relaxing place for guests to hang out in the shade.

Taking It Easy in the Hammock

Texsport Seaview Hammock
Texsport Seaview Hammock

Check your guests for their preferred activity level. They might just want to lounge about during their visit.

Take them to see the sights or get them biking and boating, but allow some down time too when they can stretch out in the hammock to read a book or take an afternoon nap in the shade of the tree.

 

Guests Will Want to Relax and Just Gaze at the Water

If you have water or woods or some pretty plantings, put some seating there for anyone who wants to relax outside.
If you have water or woods or some pretty plantings, put some seating there for anyone who wants to relax outside. | Source

How Many Guests Can You Accommodate at Your Cottage?

Vote in the Poll

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The Old-Fashioned Porch Swing Is Still Popular Today

5 Foot Handmade Cypress Porch Swing with Cupholders
5 Foot Handmade Cypress Porch Swing with Cupholders

If you have a porch at your cottage, then this will be dandy there. If not, look for a good-sized tree to support it.

The cup holders built into the arms makes a useful update to this old favorite. Guests can sit in the shade and chat while they feel their stress melt away.

A solo guest might retreat to this spot to read while gently rocking in the swing.

 

Have Some Games, Puzzles and Reading Material on Hand

A stack of magazines, some light reading, games suitable for all ages and you are ready for visitors.
A stack of magazines, some light reading, games suitable for all ages and you are ready for visitors. | Source

Have a Guestbook for Guests - to Record Their Feelings about the Visit

At The Beach House: A Guest Book
At The Beach House: A Guest Book

Over the years the book will fill with memories and you will enjoy browsing through it to remember all the fun times you had with your house guests.

When visitors return for a visit the next year, they'll have fun looking back to see what they wrote about in previous years.

 

More Tips for Hosting Guests

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Share Your Tips on Preparing for House Guests

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    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 22 months ago from Red Hook, NY

      How lucky your house guests are to visit your cabin with everything so well prepared!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      My sister and her husband just sold their home in the city and moved out into their summer cabin. What a nice way to retire.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      No doubt your guests will enjoy their visit while vacationing in your home as you have thought of and prepared for just about everything to make them feel welcome.

      I had no idea a vinegar and water mix would aid in keeping fruits and vegetables fresh. I learned something new today thanks to you!

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 4 years ago

      Yes, we'd like lobster, please.

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @Frischy: A squidoo gathering... what a fun time we would have. Does everyone want lobster with that?

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Party at Ginger's! Let's set a date!

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @Scarlettohairy: OK, let's set a date. What fun we would have exchanging Squidoo tips.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I want to come rusticate in your cabin. Oh well, it sounds like your house guests will be welcome and well taken care of!

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 4 years ago

      A lot of great tips here, I need more tips than I can offer:-) Thanks!

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