When it comes to a vacation home, smaller can be better. This cabin’s diminuitive size means it takes only about 30 minutes to surface-clean and close up shop after a visit. (Emily Heil/for The Washington Post)

New to vacation homeownership? Here are a few ways to maximize your time away.

Build for long absences: When it comes to vacation homes, disasters can be magnified by the length of time that passes between visits. When we had the roof redone, we opted to rip out the skylights, which we worried could leak, and instead had a window cut into the wall to let in light and the view. And we removed part of a tree that was hanging just over the cabin, so that I wouldn’t spend stormy nights in the city imagining its branches crashing down into the living room.

Max your vacation hours: The last way you want to spend your precious escape is on drudgery. Smaller can be better: Our cabin’s diminuitive size means it takes us only about 30 minutes to surface-clean and close up shop after a visit. And as much as I love puttering in a garden, there’s no bed to weed and no lawn to mow. To cut down on grocery runs, I keep supplies on hand for quick pantry meals. (Pasta and a jar of good sauce are perfect if heavy traffic on Interstate 66 wipes out our plans for a leisurely dinner on the grill.) And it won’t make my Pinterest board, but we sometimes use paper plates and plastic cutlery to minimize dish duty.


The living room gets plenty of light, thanks to an extra window added to replace the skylight, which the owners worried would leak while they were away. (Allison Cooke/for The Washington Post)

Keep a list: I keep a note on my smartphone listing every item in the cabin’s pantry and fridge. It sounds a tad obsessive, but it wasn’t hard once I got going. That way, when I’m grocery-shopping in the city for a weekend trip, I don’t have to wonder whether we’ve got, say, tarragon. Otherwise, we’d probably wind up with four bottles of random herbs but no olive oil.

Make chores feel special: There’s no washing machine at the cabin, but I’ve made the job of shuttling linens back and forth from the city a bit less dreary by buying a cute tote to carry them. And at our weekend place, we use the expensive, organic cleaning supplies we’ve deemed too pricey for everyday use. Is this logical? Probably not. But little indulgences make even wiping down the counters feel different in the country than in the city.