Ontario Cottage Travel Tips

As the temperatures heat up, many urbanites flock to cottages and campsites to escape the steamy confines of the city. Before you head off to your own lakeside Shangri-la, it’s best to take a few steps of preparation and potentially avoid a massive headache.

The first question you need to ask yourself is, where are you going?

Do you want to rent a cottage on the lake, maybe stay in a resort where all of your needs are catered to, or perhaps you’d prefer to rough it and set up a tent in a provincial or private campground?

If it’s a cottage you’re after (and you’re not lucky enough to own one yourself) there are many reputable online sites to find a rental. Airbnb offers both cottage rentals and local experiences, which is especially helpful if you’re exploring a new town, as tour guides usually come armed with “locals-only” tips and stories about the region.  If you’re hoping to haggle on pricing, you may have better luck with Kijiji, as owners are free to converse about pricing freely without penalty (Airbnb blocks all messages it perceives as email address’s and phone numbers within private chat areas to discourage booking owner-direct since they are only able to collect their service fee when accommodations are  booked through the Airbnb platform).  Speaking of cost – rentals can vary wildly, depending on what you want or where you want it, but typically you can find decent accommodations around $150 per night.  Less if you’re open to something shared (which can be a lot of fun with the right host).

Cottages in areas like the Okanagan, Laurentians or Muskoka are going to run you a pretty penny. However, if you’re willing and able to travel for an hour or two outside of those regions you can find cheaper prices and much less congested lakes.  Lakefront and beachfront is always priced at a premium, but many of these properties come with free use of sport items, like paddle boards, kayaks, bikes and other equipment, so it may make sense to pay more for a place with lots of “toys” that you wont have to pay to rent elsewhere anyway.

Likewise, some of the more famous campgrounds across the country can fill up quickly, but there are plenty of private campgrounds that can offer a similar experience. It’s crucial to do the legwork online beforehand to make sure any private campground has a track record of happy campers.

Consider what you want to do when you’re there as well. If it’s restaurants and live entertainment that you’re after then an interior site at Algonquin Park is likely not what you’re after. There are many resorts, both historic and new, that offer guests access to the best of the surrounding natural environment, with all of the amenities you could find in a city centre.

Make sure you find out what you need to bring before you go. If you’re renting a cottage, it could be equipped with the works, or the bare bones. It’s your job to get in touch with the owner and find out what they have on hand, and when packing your suitcase, make sure you bring along all of the toiletries you’ll need. Some rentals come equipped with “essentials” (typically bath items and condiments other travelers have left behind) but you’ll never know what to expect until you arrive, so assume you need to bring everything unless it’s listed in the rental agreement.

Oh, and don’t forget the little things you might take for granted – pepper and salt, cream and sugar for your coffee, and your phone charger.  Also, bring some fun things to do inside in case it storms (cards, board games, books) and some fun things to do outside (Frisbee, boccie ball, flippers and a snorkel).

Make sure to pack plenty of bug spray,  sunscreen and rain gear just in case. And above all, remember to relax and have fun – after all, you’re on vacation!

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