06/22/2012 05:36 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT

How to Be the Perfect Cottage Guest


Hot Tip: The perfect cottage guest gets invited back.

Why do some people get invited back to the cottage year after year and others never make the list? Simply put, some people are just better cottage guests than others. While most guests are an absolute pleasure, there are some that are memorable for all the wrong reasons. If you are fortunate enough to be invited to a cottage this summer here are eight tips that could help put you on the top of the "invite back" list.

No extras, no surprises.

Regardless of how well you may know the owners or how big the cottage, don't show up with extra people in tow. The invitation is strictly for those who are invited, and doesn't include a horde of friends and relatives. Refrain from bringing your pet unless the host offers. While you may think that Muffy is adorable and no trouble, these sentiments may be yours alone.

Offer to help with the meals

Offer to help with the meal preparation, the setting of the table and cleaning up. While some hosts like to cook on their own, others appreciate some help in the kitchen. It's a thoughtful gesture to offer to prepare a meal if you are staying beyond a few days. It gives the host a break in the meal preparation. If you have children you might want to bring along their favorite snacks and beverages. If they are finicky eaters or have dietary restrictions you should make their meals and not expect the host to cater to their needs.

Bring your own alcoholic beverages

Bring what you plan to drink during the visit, plus a few bottles of wine for the host. No one is impressed with a guest who arrives with a six pack and cleans out the liquor cabinet. A good guest doesn't pack up and take home any booze that is left over! If you have a special drink that you like to make, offer to bring along the ingredients and make special drinks for everyone one evening.

No complaining

Cottage life comes with its own set of challenges; the bugs may be unbearable, the bed uncomfortable, sweltering nights with no air conditioning, little or no water pressure and no TV or Internet. Realize that you probably will not have all the comforts of home or a hotel. My advice is that whatever surprises you may encounter, go with the flow and refrain from complaining to your host. It's downright annoying to have a guest, be it adult or child, who whines and complains the entire weekend.

When at the cottage do as the cottagers do

As a guest, be respectful of the rules of the cottage. While some of these rules may seem silly, there is usually a good reason for them. Many cottages have rules regarding the septic system and the flushing of the toilet, smoking, shoe removal and closing the screen door. If you have children make sure they are aware of what is expected of them when visiting another person's home. Cottagers normally go to their cottage to relax and unwind and as an invited guest you should be prepared to do the same. Remember the owners are also on holiday, so don't expect them to wait on you, be your personal chef or tour guide. While most hosts go out of their way to ensure that their guests have a pleasurable experience, guest have to be able to adapt to a slower cottage life style and the household routine.

Make yourself at home, but don't take over

There's a fine line between making yourself at home and taking over. Relax, help yourself to food and drinks, but don't act like you own the place. What you normally do at home may be improper in someone else's cottage. Others might not appreciate having to listen to your favorite music or TV programs all weekend long, picking up after you, and having you keep them awake as you party till the wee hours of the morning.

Don't overstay your welcome

A sure fire way of never getting another invitation is to overstay your welcome. Every cottage owner has been faced with the awkward situation of having guests and relatives that simply won't leave. I recall a time that I had a couple who wouldn't leave and I resorted to packing a suitcase and pretending to leave. No matter how enjoyable the visit, it is very gauche to ask to stay longer. While your hosts may be enjoying your company, be mindful that they may have other plans or appreciate some private time without company. Don't be presumptuous and think that you can stay as long as the owners. I cringe when I'm asked, "When are you going back to the city?" because I know this will be followed by, "I'll go back when you do."

Express your gratitude

During your stay let your hosts know that you appreciate the invitation. When arriving or departing it is always nice to bring a small hostess gift. Nothing expensive, but a thoughtful gift such as a perennial for the garden, a newly released recipe book, summer table linens or a kitchen gadget. After your stay remember to say thank you. While an email may suffice, a written note is the memory that lasts. Of all the guests that I have entertained over the years, the ones I remember the most fondly are the ones who take the time to send a handwritten note of appreciation.

The perfect cottage guest is the person who is "no trouble," the person who is non-demanding, the person who helps out, the person who is respectful, the person who says thank you. This is the person who gets invited back year after year.