A trip to the cottage is a great opportunity to spend time away from the bustling city, and take advantage of some quality time with friends and family. Staycation has been extremely popular especially since it's more cost effective and convenient for big groups.
Many people tend to over pack when they plan a cottage trip because of the mentality that they think they have so much more room in the car. However, you’ll quickly find that the trunk of your car will not hold as much as you would like. Hopefully, this cottage packing list will give you some guidelines on what you need to bring to your local weekend getaway.
Here's what we're covering:
- Cottage Packing List
- Cottage Packing Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
Cottage Packing List
Whether this is your first time going to the cottage or you're an expert, having a cottage packing list is going to save you time and stress.
Make sure you have all of your important documents with you before you leave your house.
- Driver’s license
- Health card
- Contact information of cottage owner / management
- Cottage reservation information
- Fishing / boating permits
- Travel insurance if out-of-province
- Credit cards
- Some cash for local purchases such as firewood or worms for fishing
- Laptop + charger
- Phone + charger
- Powerbank – This could be useful for day trips from the cottage or when a plug isn't convenient in your bedroom and allows you to charge overnight by the bed. This Anker powerbank is handy to have both for trips like this and other vacations.
- Camera + batteries + charger
- Portable Bluetooth speaker – The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ is excellent.
- Extra batteries – These are AA or AAA batteries that could be for your headlamp or flashlight.
- Portable car starter – This should just be in your car at all times.
- Portable power bar – This shouldn't be a problem but many older houses just don't have enough outlets so bring one of these with you.
These are easy to forget in a cottage packing list but here are a few reminders of cleaning supplies you need if you want to do extra cleaning yourself.
For COVID-19 concerns around cottaging, most properties have their own standards for cleaning but if you want to be extra safe, make sure to do a pass with disinfectant on high-touch areas and all the dishes, cutlery, pots, and pans you'll be using.
What we do with cutlery, plates, cups, and bowls is that we'll wash a subset of what we'll actually need and keep them in a drawer and cabinet that we designate as “cleaned” and we only use these during our stay.
- Cleaning cloth
- Scrubbing brushes/sponges
- Disinfectant / all-purpose cleaner
- Anti-bacterial wipes/
- Hand soaps for bathrooms – Depending on your comfort level, you might want to bring your own. Also, cottages might not have enough of these so it's always good to have a few of your own.
- Laundry detergent
- Pillows and pillowcases
- Trail quilts – Also known as camping quilts, this is useful for cold nights outdoors or as an extra layer for the bed. If it's the summer, the Kammok Bobcat is a great option. If the weather is colder, think about either the Kammok Firebelly or Arctos trail quilt.
- Camping chairs – Helinox makes lightweight and portable camping chairs that I swear by. These are good to bring as sometimes cottages don't have enough chairs for around the campfire or are just too heavy to be moving around all the time.
- Hammock – We use a versatile Kammok hammock because we can hang it in between trees, or use it with their stand.
- Hammock stand – Kammok makes the lightest hammock stand on the market. Even if the cottage doesn't have one, you can have your own. This is great on the lawn, on the deck, or even on the dock.
- Lantern / Flashlight + batteries
- External cell phone battery pack
- Headlamp + batteries – BioLite 330 is great all-around at the cottage or on other outdoor trips.
- Citronella candles – If you attract mosquitoes, this will come in handy.
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Every cottage kitchen has different supplies. If you're renting a cottage for your vacation, the first and most useful thing to do is to contact the cottage owner or the property manager on what items are included in the cottage. You could also ask them to take some photos of what's in their kitchen drawers and cabinets.
Basic supplies for all trips
If basic kitchen supplies are provided in the kitchen, then you only need to add these items to your cottage packing list.
- Aluminum foil
- Saran wrap / Beeswax wraps – We try to use our Abeego beeswax wraps to keep our food fresh as much as we can instead of cling wrap.
- Ziplock bags
- Food containers
- Kitchen towels
- Dish cloths – We love the Ten and Co. sponge cloths which are absorbent, durable and eco-friendly.
- Drying mat – Surprisingly a lot of cottages don't have this and if you're a large group, you'll have a ton of dishes to dry after each meal so this is super handy.
- Kitchen scissors
- Chef’s knife – The worst is going to a cottage and having really bad blunt knives. A quality Santoku knife is a staple in our household and we highly recommend it as something you can pack for your cottage trip.
- BBQ tool kit including flippers and tongs
- Wine openers
- Beer openers
- Ice cube tray
- Dish soap
- Hand soap
- Garage bags
- Compost bags
- Insulated water bottle for hot/cold beverage
- Cool packs or pre-made bag of ice – Re-usable cool packs or your own ice cubes to keep food cold on the trip to the cottage. This isn't an absolute necessity though because if your door-to-door travel time is short, you'll be able to put it in the fridge once you arrive.
If basic kitchen tools are not included, you may need these additional supplies
- Frying pans – Lodge pans are great for cooking on traditional stovetops, and even over the fire pit.
- Potato peeler
- Can opener
- Cheese grater
- Cutting board
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Oven mitt
- Dishwasher pods
Food & Drinks
Every grocery list will be different, so buy according to your preference and what you plan on making. You probably have some items at home that you can bring along with you.
If you forget something, don't fret, most of the time, there will be a grocery store or corner store back in town where you can just do some re-stocking on your trip.
- S’mores including graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows – Buy more than you think you need. 1 box is never enough! There are a ton of different kits you can buy but you can save money by picking up the supplies individually as well.
- Water – Many cottages pump in water from a nearby well, lake, or other source which means the water may not be suitable for drinking. That's why you'll have to rely on bringing your own water. Always ask the owner about the water situation before going.
- Hot chocolate
- Cream / milk
- Cooking oil / butter
- Salt + pepper
- Spices + condiments
- Alcoholic beverages
- Sunblock – The best sunscreen on the market is the Sun Bum. Use 50 SPF for your face and 50 SPF for body. I recommend different ones because the ones for your face are less oily.
- After-sun aloe vera
- Insect repellent – The spring and summer is when mosquitoes thrive so make sure you have the right protection. These days, you also have to think about ticks. Here's what I recommend: In the US, use Repel. In Canada, use Deep Woods.
- Ointment for bug bites – Mosquitoes love me and have found that After-Bite helps with the itchiness.
- Lip balm with SPF
- Hair dryer
- Hair shampoo and conditioner
- Shower gel or soaps
- Toothbrush + toothpaste + floss + mouthwash
- Face wash + face cream
- Body/hand lotion – If it's anything like up in northern Ontario, it's insanely dry in cottage country.
- Quick dry towel – A regular bath towel is fine but if you are tight on space, a travel towel is good to have.
- Nail clipper
- Razor and shaving cream
- Eye shades + ear plugs
- Pocket knife – The most reliable pocket knife has got to be the Camper Swiss Army – perfect for fishing by the docks or on a boat.
- Toilet paper
- Q-tips + cotton pads
- Feminine products – If you're far from a town, these will not be that easy to buy last minute or at night.
- Prescription glasses / contact lenses + case + solution
- Eye drops
- Poo-pourri – The most awkward thing about cottaging with family and/or friends is the #2. You know what I'm talking about. Tell everyone to put 2 drops of this before you do your business and everyone's nose will thank you.
First Aid Gear
Your cottage most likely has a few of these items but it's always better to be on the safe side of things. You know which medication works for you. Don't forget to check the expiration dates.
- Antibacterial ointment
- Medicine for common cold
- Medicine for common cough
- Medicine for upset stomach
- Medicine for nausea
- Allergy pills
- Your prescription medication
Fire Pit Gear
Not all cottages are equipped with a fire pit, if you'd like one, make sure you add that to the filter when you're searching for a cottage. We usually use firewood for fire pits but if you plan to cook food over the fire, consider using charcoal for better heat distribution.
- Axe / saw – A chopping axe is useful to split firewood to create smaller logs or kindling.
- Lighter / matches
- Firewood + kindling + fire starter
- Charcoal + lighter fluid (kerosene)
- Tarp – To keep firewood dry.
- Fan / air blower – For ventilating the fire pit like one of these pocket fire billows.
- Skewers – These telescoping roasting sticks are super handy for marshmallows and s'mores.
- Grilling rack over the fire
- Water jug – This is just handy to have to rinse stuff off or at the end of the night to put out the fire. We usually just bring something like an empty 2L Tropicana jug.
- Baby wipes – Any kind of cleaning wipes or wet naps will do. Marshmallows = sticky fingers so it's nice to have these by your side while making s'mores.
General Recreational Items
- Board games – Here are a few of our favourites: Code Names, Jenga, Love Letter, and Bears vs Babies.
- Deck of cards
- Sketchbook + pen / pencil – You have to keep score right?
- Sport balls – Think volleyball, football, spike ball, and soccer.
- Yoga mat – When we travel, we opt for a foldable yoga mat that is compact and lightweight.
- Dry bag – It's handy to have a dry bag on your boat or canoe to keep your phone, camera and wallet dry.
- Day backpack – An alternative to dry bag if you're doing more extensive sports on the water.
- Hiking sticks
- Fishing gear + bait
Spring/ Summer Recreational Items
Not all cottages include these items so it's best to check with the owners or the resort to find out whether these are available. If not, you'll have to pack your own.
- Life jackets
- Water toys
- Bicycles + helmets
- Rope – Sometimes water craft don't come with rope to tie down onto the deck so it's handy to have your own so you don't have to pull them back on land every time.
Winter Recreational Items
- Toboggan sleds
Every cottage trip is different, but these are a good place to start for your cottage packing list.
- Short and long sleeve shirts
- Short and long pants
- Underwear – ExOfficio makes the best travel underwear on the market.
- Sunglasses – I've recently fallen in love with Maui Jim for their best-in-class optical clarity and style.
- Swimsuit + goggles – For swimming in the lake and hot tubs.
For spring and summer, your cottage packing list should include clothing that are quick drying. I would still recommend at least a set of long sleeve shirt and pants for cool nights, or if you want to avoid mosquitoes.
- Running Shoes
- Hiking shoes
- Water shoes
- Flip flops
- Hat – For the best sun cover, wide brim hats are a good investment such as the Tilley LTM6.
- Buff Headwear – There's a reason why every trip needs a Buff. Read my review to understand why.
- Rain jacket + rain boots
- Warm clothes – Things cool down considerably in the evening and cold fronts can come in when you least expect it so always make sure you pack a few sweaters and light jacket in case.
For fall and winter, it's all about the layers. You may under-estimate the cold and wind chill, especially if your cottage is by the water or more north, so pack the base layers!
- Toque – Yes, that's what we call them ;)
- Wool socks
- Base layer tops
- Base layer bottoms
- Fleece sweater
- Winter boots
- Crampons – These ice cleats slip onto your boots to create better traction on icy trails.
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Cottage Packing Tips
Once you have all of the things you need for your upcoming cottage trip, the fun part is figuring out a way to load it into your car.
While this won't cover ever single case because every trip is different, the number of vehicles you'll be driving to your cottage, and the size of your car, here are a couple of generalized tips to go along with your cottage packing list.
- Use cardboard boxes – Save money by making use of cardboard boxes (*hint* Amazon) you have at home to make the moving of things easier.
- Invest in collapsible boxes – CleverMade has awesome bins (depicted in the photo) that can be collapsed to a thin footprint when not in use.
- More plastic bins – Collapsible boxes are expensive but those large plastic bins are super handy not only for stacking and organizing in the car but also for moving a large number of things from inside the cottage to say the BBQ or the fire pit. This way, you don't have to try to juggle everything in your arms.
- Stay organized – As best as you can, try to keep common-themed items together so you can find things easily when you arrive at the cottage.
- Pack clothes like you would for a trip – Make use of smart minimalist packing tips and put your clothes in a suitcase, duffle bag, or backpack.
- Heavy things on the bottom – As you're loading the car, make a point to put the heavy stuff first so they don't crush anything else.
- Pretend it's Tetris – You may not get it right the first time but if you rearrange a few things, you might be able to fit more.
- Remember the ice – Depending on how far your cottage is, you may want to make sure refrigerated food stays cold. Prepare ice cubes at home or bring cool packs.
- Pack less than you think you need – I know this is counter-intuitive but you're always going to want to bring EVERYTHING. As you get more experienced, you'll learn that there are certain things that you really don't need because the cottage will typically have them already such as kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, coffee, etc..
- Ask the cottage owner what they have – To add to the above, what frustrates me the most about cottage listings is that they never really show you exactly what they have. I know it'll be impossible for the owner to give you a full inventory of everything in the house, it's worth asking them about specific things so you don't have to bring them such a cheese grater, peeler, fly swatter, porcelain pot for casserole, or anything else that seems small enough for you to bring but you really shouldn't to save packing space.
- Do you need a fan/heater? – Not all cottages have air condition or a central air furnace. If so, think about whether you need these. Sometimes cottage owners don't explicitly mention how their set up of portable fans and heaters are so again, make sure to ask.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may want to open all the windows once you get to the cottage to get some fresh air in and let it circulate while you bring in your cleaning supplies. Use hot water and a cleaning agent to clean high touch places such as light switches, door knobs and handles. Make sure you have hand soap by all sinks.
Some cottage owners do not allow pets on their property, so be sure that when you book the cottage you find ones that are pet friendly. On Airbnb and VRBO, you can turn on a filter that searches only pet-friendly properties. You may want to find a cottage that has a fenced backyard area.
Day visitors are usually acceptable as long as they are not staying overnight, but just be honest and communicate with owners to make sure that is ok.
During popular summer months especially in July and August, some cottages may require a full week booking. Cottage owners may request booking start dates on a specific day of the week.
Every province and state has different fishing rules and limits. Permit prices will vary for residents and non-residents, adults and seniors, freshwater and tidal water. Visit your local fishing and wildlife website to get more information on how to obtain a fishing license (i.e. Ontario, British Columbia, and United States).
– When are the check in and check out times?
– Does the property have filtered water for drinking and is tap water safe to drink?
– Are there extra portable fans or space heaters?
– Is there an extra propane tank for the BBQ grill?
– Where is the closest local store to purchase extra firewood or worms for fishing?
– Do I need to dispose of the garbage, recyclables, and compost items in a depot yourself?
– When is the garbage pick up date to leave it on the curb?
– Is internet usage included and free of charge? What is the password?
– Are there life jackets for water activities on the property, including children's life jackets? If so, how many are there?
– Is there a hair dryer available?
– Is there laundry detergent available?
– Are there dishwasher pods/detergent available?
– Is firewood provided?
Some cottages include some firewood to start but make sure to ask before you heads up. In general, buying firewood makes more sense closer to the cottage because your car will most likely be full. After you unload your car, you can make a separate trip to buy firewood. Local convenient stores, farms, and neighbours sell firewood.
It depends on the property. During the pandemic, most cottages are recommending that you bring your own sheets and pillowcases.
I hope you found this cottage packing list useful. If there's anything I've missed, don't hesitate to drop a comment down below. Happy cottaging!
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