It's Time to Renovate The Cottage Guide

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This is such a great time of year for planning.  We are scheduling in some renovations for the cottage – new kitchen flooring, deck remodelling – and a whole bunch of repairs. But while I leave that to the experts, I'm doing a renovation that can be planned and implemented from the comfort of my cosy in-front-of-the-fire position, and I only have to get up to refresh my mug of tea.  Now that sounds like a plan for a cold Sunday.

My Osprey Cottage guide is looking worn and tired and a bit dog eared. That means it's probably been read – at least twice – which is encouraging. But we also have strong evidence that it may be a tad uninteresting which is why some of our renters have chosen to ignore much of its contents. The part which says ‘don't put things down the toilet you shouldn't' which incidentally includes a long list of those things that shouldn't go down the toilet, is generally ignored. So, my mission is to create a wonderfully readable guide that is helpful, informative and above all, interesting.  I also want to make it less of a rule book and more of a coffee table manual that our guests will look at over and over again.

So, here's the plan:

  • Buy a really nice binder – not the cheap plastic variety, but one that will stand the test of time…..and more than two people reading it…. because that, after all, is the goal.
  • Buy a set of blank dividers so that it can be divided into sections easily, and a pack of plastic document protectors.
  • Divide into sections called, Welcome, Please Read, General Information, Appliances, Things to Do, Departure Checklist or whatever you want to call them
  • Write an index. For example my General Information section may be broken down into sub-sections like Hot Tub, On the Water, Secrets of the Septic etc.  With a separate page for each topic, guests have an easy method of finding what they might be looking for.
  • Write the ‘Please Read' section. This is all the important stuff they must know. Like what not to put down the toilet, departure times, what to do with garbage etc.  Keep it brief – ideally on one page – but with enough information so if this is the only page they read, they've got the important stuff to hand.  Another page should list who they should contact in case of an emergency.  You could also print and laminate the Please Read section and place it on your cottage notice board if you have one, as well as taping it in another strategic location.
  • The General Information section is for expanding on some of the topics. Put in a power outage section to let guests know what the procedure is and what they should do. If you supply watercraft, put in notes about safety on the water and ensure they have information on boating regulations. These are just some examples – I have quite a few pages in this section.
  • On the Appliance page list all the separate appliances you have and note down any quirks to using them.  Direct guests to where they can find the manuals for each appliance. If you don't have a manual, most companies now provide them online for printing out. Far better to have that than a phone call at midnight with a guest asking how the microwave works so they can make popcorn.
  • The Things to Do section is the fun one.  I am including driving tours of the area, a list of dog walks, information on geocaching, distances to Provincial Parks, where the best restaurants are, local canoe/kayak/boat rental outfitters etc.  Just a whole lot of information for guests to create a fun filled vacation.
  • Create a departure checklist because if you don't categorically tell your guests what to do before they leave, it may be taken as a licence to walk out without doing anything,or only making a gesture at tidying up.  Being clear and concise will generate the best results.

This is just a start – as you start building the cottage guide, other things will come to mind and before you know it there's a fact filled, bumper fun book that your guests will love to read.

Please share your thoughts on the Guest Guide. It's probably one of the most important documents you need to prepare and I am sure there are plenty of ideas I haven't thought of. Leave a comment and let us hear about them.