Whether you’re planning to buy your first cottage or have already purchased one and are ready to open it, there are a number of things you’ll need to do each time you open. 

Some things on this list that may be unique to your first time at the cottage, so here’s a checklist to help you along the way!

Create a packing list

Make a list of items to pack as you think of them. (If you’re going with family and friends, a shared Google doc might be useful because numerous individuals can contribute to the list.) Write down everything you need: food, drink (if required), clothing, devices chargers, and libations of your choice. Trust us when we say that you’ll forget things that seem obvious at home.

Perform a visual inspection

Many brand-new cottages, like many of those sold by Muskoka Real Estate, are built with quality and efficiently in mind. However, purchasing older cottages may not be as pristine as this, which is by a visual inspection is important, especially the first time you arrive to the cottage.

Look for rodent damage to window screens, doors, or the roof. Check for shingles that are out of position, eaves troughs that have fallen loose, foundation cracks, and loose boards and railings. Make a note of any branches that are in potentially hazardous areas, as well as any downed electrical wires. If you’re on a lake, check the coastline to determine if there are any sections that are eroding or if your dock needs to be repaired. Add repairs to your ongoing to-do list—and keep track of what has to be done first.

Consider foods that are simple to prepare. Don’t over think it when it comes to gourmet dinners for your first weekend at the cabin. You’ll be busy and working over a hot burner will not be pleasurable. Pack items that can be tossed together quickly—and don’t forget the marshmallows. Make a note of everything you need to replenish the pantry once you’ve arrived and settled in, and plan to conduct a major food run in town or before your next trip up.

Check your insurance policy

Check your insurances. That includes a cottage, a boat, a trailer, and anything else that may be required. Check that it is up to date and includes all you require. For example, your boat may not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance unless it is damaged on your property—which is useless if your boat is sideswiped on the way to the cottage or strikes a small rock while fishing.

Be a good neighbour

Remember that sound goes large distances across water, so avoid playing loud music outside and turn speakers away from the lake. Avoid using power tools early in the morning or late at night and notify your neighbours if you will be performing noisy work (or throwing a party). When it’s acceptable, offer to assist—there are always cottage tasks that require more than one hand, and the best way to acquire aid with your large work is to assist your neighbours with theirs.

Examine the septic tank

If you’re unsure when your septic tank was last emptied, hire a professional to check it and ask to be added to their regular service schedule. Call the servicing provider right away if the area surrounding the tank is moist or smells bad.

Relax and enjoy yourself

You have a cottage! Take some time on your first weekend to relax on the porch or around the fire and truly absorb in why you’re there—the peace, quiet, connection to nature, and time with family and friends. It’s a vacation spot that rapidly becomes a way of life.

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