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Sharing the Cabin

Keep a calendar and keep the peace
By Andy Bennett
Published: February 1, 2012
Maybe Grandma and Grandpa gifted the cabin to your extended family, or maybe you and your siblings pooled your cash to buy a place. Whatever the reason you’re sharing, you can avoid a few headaches if you pay close attention to a simple detail: the schedule.

Acknowledge the problem
Having tons of loved ones isn’t what we’d call a problem … until they all try to descend upon the cabin in the same weekend. Unless you and your extended family have lots of spots to sleep and don’t mind unexpected drop-bys and emergency trips to the market for more burgers to slap on the grill, you’re going to need a way to ensure that everyone gets time to themselves at the cabin.
    Without a scheduling system in place, you could end up with conflicts. “Double-bookings are everyone’s biggest fear,” says Christine Karpinski, author of How to Rent Vacation Properties By Owner. She notes that when people plan to be at the cabin, they may be taking time off work, and they’re also spending money on travel.

Choose the shared calendar that works best for you
You have two options for the cabin calendar: hard copy or digital. If you go with the hard copy, consider having two people maintain it to cut down on oversights.  
    If you opt to use Google Calendar, you just need to sign up for a free Google account to start scheduling. You can choose who has the ability to make changes and who can see the schedule.

Fairly divvy up the year
For some families, it works to honor tradition. Angela Jackson, a third-generation cabin-sharer, says one family normally takes Labor Day weekend, another sister traditionally claimed the Fourth of July, and the
guys usually take the fishing opener.
    If you haven’t yet established traditions, Karpinski recommends using a lottery system.
    To ensure that everyone gets a fair shot at the good weeks, break the year into sections, and draw names for each section as a mini-lottery. For example, first draw to see who gets which peak summer weeks. Then draw for holidays, then for fall weeks, etc.

Plan maintenance weekends
As magical as cabin living is, remember that the boat lift isn’t going to hoist itself into the water, the rain barrels aren’t going to attach themselves to the downspouts, and the squirrels aren’t going to harvest your gutters. So dedicate some weekends for maintenance so the rest of cabin time can be devoted to other kinds of fun.

Leave wiggle room for spontaneity
Consider keeping some weekends unscheduled. You never know who might need some R & R or what mix of family and friends might end up at the cabin together. This summer’s unexpected get-togethers are often the best fodder for next summer’s campfire storytelling. ■

Andy Bennett uses Google Calendar for everything.
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