a frame cabin in forest

Heaven knows we’ve already had a rough start to the winter, and any respite from the doldrums of the commute-work-gym-repeat routine is always welcome. The day-to-day also doesn’t allow enough time for deep, contemplative chats with close friends, especially ones fireside, nor does it allow time for shared enjoyment preparing a meal with loved ones, so an escape via a cabin rental is long overdue for most of us.

Here are six personal touches and ideas that can help make your next cabin rental experience even more fun and cozy!

1. Build a fire, tend to it, and relax.

Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Part and parcel to having a winter cabin experience is having a fireplace. Fires have a hypnotizing effect, and whether building them indoors or out, they can set the tone for a warm, “hygge” evening.

Building a fire and tending to it is also a really gratifying experience. It isn’t often that our efforts provide such immediate results, nonetheless, one that is so comforting. There are countless ways to build a fire, but first make sure that the damper in the fireplace is open when you start the fire. The damper is the device that seals the fireplace shut when it’s not in use. If it’s closed, smoke won’t be able to escape and will instead fill the room and house. Next, lay the tinder in a lattice pattern, putting the smaller kindling at the bottom and the larger logs at the top. The smaller tinder and kindling will catch on fire easier and more quickly, and give time for the larger logs to burn.

2. Make heavy, substantive food.

smoked chili

Smoked Chili by Chowhound

Cabin trips are no place for light, delicate meals. They’re meant for full, unadulterated comfort, and giving your mind, body, and soul what it really craves. They’re the place for heavy soups, stews, pot pies, casseroles, and the like.

A good place to start, and a great way to meal prep if you have a long weekend in the cabin, is to make chili. Chili is easy to make (and in large amounts), so anyone can easily grab some for themselves for the entire duration of the trip. For a great recipe, try our Smoked Chili recipe, and for some additional cabin food ideas, check out these cold weather recipes.

Read More: Easy Meals You Can Make On Vacation

3. Bring throw blankets for everyone.

Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash

There isn’t a single moment during a winter cabin retreat that you can’t make use of a good throw blanket—eating breakfast, sitting by the fire, reading a book, eating lunch, drinking hot cocoa–really, the list is endless. They’re a symbol that there’s no pretense; no need to show off your latest handbags, clothes, or accessories, and that everyone’s there for the same thing, to relax. Although, it’s very possible for someone to have the biggest, softest, and most comfy throw blanket, to rule them all. And in that case, it’s completely okay to show off.

4. Let the wine, beer, and cocktails flow.

hot buttered rum with cinnamon stick

Hot Buttered Rum by Chowhound

I’d say if you aren’t planning to bring wine or beer, or make some cocktails, then you must have a different idea for what a weekend cabin trip is for. Instead, you must be planning to discuss your five and 10-year career plans, and the tangible steps that you need to execute to get there. But if that isn’t you, I recommend bringing enough wine (preferably red) to please the Greek god Dionysus, enough cases of beer so that you don’t have to make multiple trips to the store, and all the ingredients for your favorite cocktail.

If you need a cocktail that is part fun and alcoholic and also part warm and comfort-inducing, then try hot buttered rum. I liken it to what Harry Potter’s Butterbeer should taste like—sweet, warm, and filling. Get our Hot Buttered Rum recipe. (And if that’s not for you, see more warm drinks to keep you cozy.)

5. Set aside time for yoga, meditation, and peace and quiet.

Isaiah Ransom via Unsplash

A portion of cabin retreats should always be to ease the body and mind. Allocate time to sit and just be quiet, and let your mind wander wherever it wants, or make a concerted effort to free up some share of mind and meditate.

If you have a lot of creaks in your body, knots, or just tense muscles, bring a yoga mat on the trip and broadcast my personal favorite, Yoga with Adrienne. She’ll show you some “yummy” stretches, and has videos catered for specific goals, problems, or stresses; i.e., yoga for runners, yoga for depression, yoga for migraines, etc.

6. Put down your phone.

This last one is the most obvious but maybe even the hardest. Try to put down your phone, and simply be. Smartphones are our everyday ball and chain, and putting it away means that much more time for catching up with your friends, loved ones, and yourself.

If you can’t completely disconnect, check out our favorite food shows on Netflix, and the best cooking shows on Hulu too—not to mention the best food podcasts to listen to, whether you’re gazing out at the forest or commuting to work.

Header image courtesy of Travis Grossen on Unsplash.

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