On a bit of a whim, I booked a week’s holiday at a cottage with a friend and her family. I found it on www.cottagelink.com, and it looked beautiful. One of the features that sold me instantly was that it was owned by a family with young children, so everything we needed was already provided: highchair, crib, change table, toys, toys and more toys, picnic table, wagon, playstructure etc. Also the water was only a foot deep off the dock, so despite not having a beach, it was shallow enough to enjoy with my 1 year old.
This was my first experience renting a cottage with kids. I’ve been lucky to have friends with cottages and have enjoyed many summer holidays by the lake since I was a teenager. But this time was different. It was great to see the kids enjoying the water and playing outside, but it wasn’t what I would call a relaxation vacation. Someone still has to cook, clean and get the kids in bed so it’s not exactly a break for the parents.
That being said, I definitely think I’ll try it again next summer, and I’ll be better prepared for it with this list of tips on how to survive a week at the cottage with kids.
- Portable DVD player – your best friend. If you don’t have a built in DVD player in your car, this is the next best thing. Throw a movie on, with headphones, and you’re guaranteed a quiet trip. Also this is great for a bit of quiet time in the afternoon if the cottage has no TV or cable.
- Plan your meals ahead of time. Make a quick menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and pack food items you already have at home. Make a grocery list and pick up what you need before you go or in the closest town if that’s possible (or if space in your car is limited). You don’t need to stick to the menu per say, but when kids are hungry you won’t be running around trying to figure out what to cook for lunch.
- Do not over pack clothes. I brought WAY too much for the kids – a different outfit for every day, plus extras. What happened was that my son stayed in his bathing suit all day long with a pair of crocs. Shirts can be rung out and hung to dry, and most cottage towns have a Laundromat for emergencies (like being thrown up on, twice!)
- Bring long-legged PJs for evenings. Cottages can be sweltering during the day, but get cool at night.
- Swimming tires kids out! If you are trying to get a nap out of your kids, get them into the lake just before nap or bed time. If you can also give them a bath in the lake, you’ll speed up the bedtime process (speaking of which can anyone recommend a good biodegradable baby shampoo or soap?)
- Bring a box of activities to keep them busy. I brought colouring books, activity books and paints which were all used. Why not try making a nature scavenger hunt that you can work on during the week?
- If you are cottaging with friends, it helps to have similar aged kids so they can play together. My 3 year old got bored quickly with the 3 babies he had as playmates.
- Explore the nature! There are so many learning opportunities around that will keep kids busy – go for nature walks, look for frogs, or feed the fish bread off the dock.
- Expect that normal routines may not be easy to follow when you’re away. Bed times may be later in a new environment, middle of the night wake ups will happen, and all this can make for cranky kids during the day. I would say try to go with the flow, and once the kids are in bed crack open a beer or a cooler and relax.
- One more thing, if you are going to a cottage this summer with your kids, or thinking about it, please be water wise!
What are your tips for an enjoyable cottage vacation?