There's no arguing it has been a damp and rainy spring, offset by the occasional glimpse of summer. And hopefully, given the recent forecast for June and July, the warm weather is coming. However, I've learned over the past few years that preparing my cottage for rainy weather is just as important as making sure the water toys are in good order, and the patio furniture is attractive and ready for a summer's worth of use.
I recall my first experience in a rental cottage. It was a water access cottage and was idyllically located on a rocky outcrop, with fabulous waterfront and westerly views. It was clear the cottage had seen better days, but the weather was great and we spent all our time outside, at least for the first few days. Then the rain set in, along with the wind and thunderstorms which curtailed any thought of piling the family into the boat and heading for the mainland. We spent three long days inside that cottage, and the experience was almost enough to drive us away from the idea of renting a cottage ever again. The positive side was the insight into a user's perspective of a rental cottage and what we felt should be provided, and what is often neglected by owners.
Make it super-clean!
It's amazing what you notice when you are confined to the inside of a cottage for several days. That idyllic cottagey look you loved when you arrived has morphed into a grubby, well-worn and not so well-maintained interior. It was such a disappointment to realize that our cottage was not so idyllic as that first impression had given.
Learning point #1
Don't give your renters any chance of finding something to complain about in terms of cleanliness or interior maintenance. Clean cupboards and drawers at the start of the season; regularly check under beds and behind dressers, and keep floors thoroughly vacuumed. Regardless of the age of a cottage there is no excuse for dirty or neglected areas.
Take a look at the Cottage Audit which is a complete checklist for owners.
Board games and cards
We are a resourceful family and over many years of camping when the kids were young, developed a repertoire of games and activities to keep them occupied. However, we had a bunch of teens with us who were less than eager to play I-Spy or charades. We found some board games and jigsaw puzzles at the back of a cupboard but they were mostly incomplete and without instructions. The dog-eared packs of playing cards were useless and since many of them were missing we quickly gave that up as an option too.
Learning point #2
Check all your games and puzzles; make sure they are intact, with dice, pieces and score cards in place. This needs doing after each rental. If you are buying new games, stick to the traditional ones – Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble etc. Most renters want to play something they are familiar with and can immediately get on with, rather than trying to learn new rules. Trivial Pursuit is a popular one too. Create an area for games and cards – in a cabinet or cupboard – and ask your rental guests to make sure they are returned there before they leave.
Buy new packs of cards at the beginning of each season – they are inexpensive and it is always nice to have a fresh pack to play with.
Books, Video and DVD library
I usually take a whole stack of books on vacation with me, but on this occasion only had one or two which I'd finished by the early part of the week. There was nothing in the cottage to read apart from some very out-of-date tourist leaflets and a Sears catalog. We decided to watch a video from the collection in the cottage. Two of the three were very graphic ‘R' rated movies and the other was an obscure foreign film with subtitles. In fact, there was so little in the advertised ‘entertainment library' that it just wasn't worth the effort.
Learning point #3
It is so easy to build a good collection of paperbacks, videos and/or DVDs that there isn't really an excuse not to have one. This is the only area that I would ever suggest is acceptable to buy from yard sales as there are often great bargains to be had. Our own book library has around 100 paperback books appealing to all tastes; there are over 30 DVDs and as many CDs. Since our cottage is quite a distance from a DVD rental outlet, it is important to have many options available. We don't expect our DVDs to leave the property when the rental ends, but do suggest that renters take any book they may be reading as long as they leave one in its place.
A Rainy Day Book
Finally, take some time to prepare a list of things that guests can do in the area if the weather is bad. Go to your local tourist office and collect leaflets on rainy day activities. We include a list of 10 things to do in the rain, which includes local art galleries, museums, a driving tour of craft and artisan studios. Geocaching is a neat outdoor activity and we also leave information on caches in the area, along with a handheld GPS unit.
The bottom line to all this is, if you can contribute to your guest satisfaction when the weather may be inducing frustration and irritation, you'll save yourself from potential complaints and negative comment. Do yourselves and your renters a favor, and anticipate their experience, and cater for it accordingly.
Photo by Lions Mane on Flickr