A place in the sun

Gotta get away? Here's how to find the cottage of your dreams — if only for a week or two!

Summer rental

Cottage rentals run the gamut from rustic woodsy cabins to beautiful lakefront beach houses. Use these tips to make sure you’re not stuck with a dud.

Start early. If you want to get the best selection, the sooner you book the better. Try to get a jump on planning for next summer in January or February.

Think it through. Compile a list of must-have amenities and conveniences, such as proximity to stores and gas stations. Do you want a fancy retreat or a back-to-nature cabin? Also consider whether you want a lakefront property (is the shoreline safe?), whether the place is childproof and whether a TV and telephone are mandatory.

See it first-hand. This is the easiest way to assess what you’re getting. If the cottage resort is hours away and a drive-by isn’t possible, ask if it has a CAA or Canada Select rating, which ranks the quality of the property and its amenities. Or scope out your dream retreat via the online photos on these recommended listings sites: cottagesincanada.com; cottagerentals.com; and spiritofthenorth.com.

Fuss-free fare

It’s time to kick back and relax, so simplify supper with these tasty tips:

• Hit a farmers’ market on the way. Pick up fresh corn, peas and berries, and don’t forget a home-baked pie for dessert.

• Stock up on dippable veggies and fruit for instant healthy snacks or fun supper side dishes.

• Get your grill on. Lunches couldn’t be easier with a mini-grill (a portable barbecue); it’s great for making quick lunchtime burgers or toasted sandwiches.

• Whip up some make-ahead meals so you’re not on cooking and cleanup duty all the time. Making a pasta or potato salad? Double up and you’ll have instant lunches or side dishes the next day.

What to bring

• bed linens (some rentals include them, though)
• bath and beach towels
• life jackets, water wings and water shoes
• fishing poles and minnow nets
• board games (classics such as Monopoly and Scrabble)
• bug repellent
• first-aid kit and sunscreen
• candles
• waterproof matches
• clean drinking water (check first if the cottage water is drinkable)
• flashlight
• favourite storybooks
• stuffed animals and blankies
• basic craft supplies — crayons, paper, colouring books, glue

Rock, paper, scissors

Being outdoors all day inspires kids’ curiosity. Sticks, rocks and leaves become things of wonder. Take a break from the beach and go on a nature walk so the kids can search for treasure. Acorns, pebbles and pine cones are great for crafts. Glue them onto some paper or make a pretty shadow box. Be sure to bring along craft supplies such as white glue, Popsicle sticks and yarn for weaving God’s Eyes.

Watermark

Everyone loves a cottage on the water — just looking at the lapping waves can be relaxing. But for a fun, worry-free holiday, keep safety in mind. Things to consider? Before you book, ask what kind of lake it is (does it have weeds, rocks or zebra mussels?), how deep it is and whether there’s a lot of watercraft traffic in the area. For little kids, a sandy shoreline is safer.

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