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10 things to do before heading to your rental house

If you are planning a cottage vacation this summer, start planning early. It's all part of the fun – get the kids involved and hold regular family meetings to discuss what you should bring with you, what you plan to do when you get there, and who is responsible for what. Here are some tips to get you started.

1 Read the agreement and the Terms carefully

Be sure to let us know when checking out. Do not plan to arrive earlier than the scheduled time. Owners have little time to change the cottage between guests and often have a lot of work and general upkeep. Arriving early does not mean that you will gain access to the cottage or the waterfront and may have to leave and return again upon arrival

2 If you plan to take your pet, make sure the pet is approved by the owner

Taking a pet to a cottage is a privilege, not a right. Often, owners will not allow pets in their property because their children have allergies or simply do not like dogs or cats. Please respect this and do not embarrass the owner to ask you to leave and find alternative accommodation for your pet.

3 Buy a good map of the area, plan a route and offer an alternative

The main summer cottages get crowded on weekends. Buy a MapArt book that covers the area you visit and plan your route well in advance. Make sure you follow the instructions from the owner or agency. Put directions, cottage address and access details in a clearly labeled plastic folder. This should be the first thing you put in your car and the last thing you check!

4 Write a pack list and call all the family to add it to your list

When you arrive at the cottage late at night, 15 kilometers down the country road, it is not time to realize that you have forgotten to pack toilet paper. Most cottages will have supplies so this may be an extreme example, but good packaging lists are vital to remembering all the little things that make self-catering more comfortable.

5. Check how many stores are closing in the area

The cottage stores remain open later in the summer season, but not as late as the city. It might be better to stop earlier rather than later if you plan to pick up groceries along the way.

6 Buy water shoes

Zebra mussels are common in many lakes despite all efforts by the lake to prevent them. They are sharp razors and can cause quite painful cuts. I would recommend wearing water shoes wherever you go, especially for children. They are also useful if you are in an area where the lake bed is soft and shiny, unless you like to peek between your toes!

7 Find out if life jackets have been delivered and check the sizes

Legal lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFDs) are the right size for passengers in each ship. Of course it is far safer and more reasonable to wear them! Some cottage owners will supply a choice of PFDs, but you need to be sure they fit correctly or you may be subject to a heavy penalty. If in doubt, buy yours.

8 Purchasing a fishing license

If you plan to fish, even at the dock, buy a fishing permit. Visit the Fish Ontario website for more details. In summer, the Lakes patrol the OPP just like the roads, so make sure you have the correct display permit. http://www.fishinontario.com/regs.html

9 Make sure you know the size of the bed

If your cottage doesn't deliver bedding, check the sizes before you go. Trying to get full size sheets on the queen bed is not what you want to do the first night. Most owners will supply bedding for large beds, but it is best to check that as well. And if you are planning to use a sofa bed or a sofa bed in the cottage, ask the owner if she is getting overalls, blankets and pillows for these items.

10 If you are going on holiday with friends, decide on the basic rules before you go

This is the topic of another article, so for now, plan a few get-togethers with your friends to discuss how you plan to make the holiday for all of you. Talk about your expectations and be realistic and honest about anything you might not be willing to compromise on. Sleeping time for children and eating patterns are often problems that become incongruous.

Good planning will pay dividends in creating a stress-free vacation. Start well in advance and have a great time.