Be a great lake guest (and get invited back!)
One of the best ways to enjoy summer is to spend some time beside one of our country’s beautiful lakes. Fresh air, sunshine, easy access to water – these are all ingredients for a fabulous summer holiday. When you add in campfires, hikes, and getting dirty…well, you know summer memories are being made.
But reality sets in at some point – many of us don’t own cabins where we can spend every weekend. And who wants to constantly invite themselves to other people’s cabins all summer long? Well, there are ways to not only get more lake time in your summer, but also to ensure you aren’t wearing out your welcome if you are a guest at someone else’s cottage retreat.
First, make your own vacation plans. Rent a cabin, plan some camping weekends, and do what you can with your own resources to spend time by the water. Doing this will help remind you how much work it is to pack for the cabin; to organize meals, shopping, bedding, and all the other details. Once you’ve had to do it, you’ll have more respect for future hosts.
Second, wait to be invited! Not every weekend should be open season for every cabin owner. Let people decide when they want to be social and when they might want just a few days of quiet, without entertaining. If you are invited, be sure to let people know if you are coming, and if your plans change, get in touch as soon as you can. You may not know other people are making plans to accommodate you, but they certainly are. Assume you should bring something, even if bringing a prepared meal is too tricky due to driving or refrigerator space. Extra groceries, ice, mix, treats, or supplies for campfire s’mores might all be welcome. Certainly bringing your own alcohol or other beverages, plus extra to share is thoughtful. Remember that your hosts may not be able to accommodate dietary restrictions as easily as they might have done in the past, so bring what you need. Grocery stores or lakeside shops are often small and limited in their selection. If you aren’t sure what to bring, don’t be shy! Your hosts would probably love you to ask ahead of time so you bring what you need, rather than feel awkward later on. Don’t forget a host/hostess gift just for them to express your thanks!
Last, pitch in! Remember that lake life is a different than city life, and you are joining someone in their holiday zone. Don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot. Help cook if you can, set the table, wash dishes, and offer to take things down to the beach or run out for missing ingredients. If all of these things seem taken care of, play bartender! Make sure your host has a drink, offer to serve the other guests, clear empties, and stock up on ice and glasses. If you aren’t sure how to help, taking all the kids out for a nature hike or scavenger hunt can give your hosts time and space to do what they need. Even just deciding you’ll be on clean up duty all weekend when needed can be a relief – jump up and hang towels, clear garbage, tuck away beach toys, fold and stash lawn chairs at the end of the night. Often an extra set of willing hands is enough to be sure your hosts aren’t working too hard during your stay.
If you want to go one step further, think of things you can do to make your stay even easier on your hosts. Perhaps you could invest in a few items so your hosts don’t need to keep so many multiples on hand. Lifejackets are a great example. Your hosts likely have enough for their own family, or for whatever number of people are allowed in the boat, but may not have specific sizes for your children, or enough to go around if people also want them for swimming, dockside play, or canoeing during a busy entertaining weekend. You can find affordable used life jackets so why not pick up what you need for your family so you can arrive with your own? You can do the same with wetsuits if you know your family will be skiing or tubing, fishing rods and tackle and absolutely do it with lawn chairs and beach towels.
And don’t stop there if you really want to make yourself a welcome repeat guest. Pick up something fun like this inflatable beach boat, or some other large toy for the kids and help keep them entertained in the water. Or, if your hosts are supplying a cabin you’ll be using often, why not use some of the money you’re saving to buy a larger item that you can all enjoy? You can find used canoes and kayaks easily enough for much less than what a single cottage rental would cost you.
What a great contribution this could be to the group’s memories!
If you want to be a great lake guest, and be invited back, just try to imagine what your host is doing behind the scenes, and do what you can do reduce their effort and expense. If you can achieve that, you’ll have fun and keep your name on the guest list for next time!