When you think of a self-catering holiday, you probably think of camping or caravans, the type of holidays when you need to pack the car with everything, including most of the kitchen, but self-catering holidays have so much more to offer from hotels, B&B’s, guest houses, villas, Air BnB’s, glamping, tree houses, or even an apartment with a sea view there has never been a better time to consider a self-catering holiday in the UK but what can you expect if you’ve never been to the UK or you’ve always left the UK. During this article, let’s help you answer some of those nagging questions.
What is self-catering accommodation?
Self-catering accommodation has long been a property providing facilities for guests to cater for themselves. It is usually self-contained with a kitchen, bathroom, seating area and bedrooms. In recent years, especially in hotels, families have increasingly needed to use kitchenettes to prepare small meals or store food in fridges.
Whatever the size and nature of the property, self-catering accommodation means you have options to cook and prepare food on the property or if your budget allows eating out. This offers guests flexibility with meal times, activities and budgets.
What to expect
As a family, self-catering holidays in the UK have been our top priority; even before having children, we’d pack up the car and head to Cornwall for a long weekend in Millendreath. Self-catering is nothing new, especially if you’ve ever been aboard in the 90s and did the £200 a week self-catering holiday (we all know you have), but the quality and choice is very different and has improved considerably in recent years. Especially with the post-covid staycation boom, we are currently experiencing.
As I mentioned, it was once viewed as the cheap holiday alternative, where you just had a room, bed, bathroom and maybe a kettle. There has never been more choice thanks to the holiday buy-to-let market in the last two years. With owners offering more luxury types of accommodation in exchange for a higher price tag, however, without the need to overpack the car.
So what can you expect from the bare minimum of what you’d find at home?
- Kitchen and dining space
- Bedrooms or sofa with pull-out bed
- Bathroom (sometimes extra toilet or shower room)
- Outdoor space (could be a terrace, shared area)
- On-site or nearby parking
Self-catering holiday home kitchens usually include the bare essentials, crockery, cutlery, glasses, cooking utensils, a kettle, toaster, microwave, fridge (maybe freezer), oven and hob, and some include dishwashers, coffee machines, large style fridge-freezers and even washing machines.
Like hotels, beds are typically made up and ready on arrival with fresh, clean linen, with most owners now providing towels (please check when booking), but this saves room in the suitcase! However, please remember you are not staying in a hotel, so it is unlikely you will have linen or towels changed during your stay, but most self-catering holiday homes have washing facilities should you need to wash clothes or bedding during your stay.
I don’t know about you; I often value our stay based on the bathroom. I appreciate a clean, crisp bathroom with ample room to shower or bath, and we always appreciate an ensuite bathroom or extra shower room. Also, remember that not all bathrooms will be suitable for guests with disabilities, so you would need to check before booking if you need adaptive baths or showers.
Most self-catering holiday homes provide free wifi, televisions and a device to play music, which is a must for most families with teenagers who need to keep up with their socials; however, it may be that outdoor space is much more critical.
Outside space and parking
If outdoor space is essential to you, then you need to make this your priority before making any bookings, as self-catering holiday homes differ depending on where you are staying. A city apartment will likely offer a small balcony or patio, while a country cottage could provide tables, chairs, and BBQs.
If your budget allows, hot tubs, swimming pools and tennis courts are becoming increasingly popular for private or shared use or for the adventurers in the family; some nearby services could offer surfboards, bikes, kayaks or other outdoor equipment for hire.
Parking spaces aren’t always guaranteed, but most self-catering holiday homes in the UK have parking nearby; this is definitely worth checking on booking.
What else do they provide?
When we began our self-catering holiday journey in 2000, you didn’t get much for your money. You didn’t even get a bin bag or toilet roll; however, things have changed, and most (not all) include their guests with welcome packs (some charge), but most hosts are accommodating and include mini packs of essentials, including washing-up liquid, dishwasher tablets, and toilet rolls.
However, please don’t take this for granted; check out what they offer before arriving. If initial provisions are provided, and you run out of anything during your stay, you will be expected to top up your own supplies. Holiday homeowners will not be popping around to top up your supply of toilet rolls halfway through your holiday.
In recent years, some owners will provide a welcome basket with essentials like tea, coffee, sugar, and biscuits; some even go as far as providing breakfast items like bacon and eggs or pastries (I appreciate it when they are sourced locally). If you are staying somewhere in a holiday park like Haven Perran Sands, you can purchase welcome packs before arrival. It is a nice touch but shouldn’t be expected.
What do owners expect from you?
On arriving at your accommodation (check-in times will differ), you should find it clean and tidy, and the owners will expect you to leave it in a similar condition you found it. Taking out bins, cleaning down worktops, and sweeping the floors are just a few things you should do during your stay.
While you aren’t expected to leave it sparkling, you are expected to have washed up, emptied the fridge and make sure you don’t leave any uneaten food behind, emptying bins as you go. You may also be expected to strip the beds and place linen in a bag.
The booking process
There are several ways to search for and book your self-catering holiday in the UK. The most accessible options are an internet search, directly with booking sites like Booking.com, Hoseasons, Air BnB, using a local travel agent, an OTA (Online Travel Agency) or through websites like Holiday Cottages or Haven Holidays. You even have the option now (thanks to the internet or word of mouth) to book directly with the owner, which means you can get a better rate but also having direct contact with the owner means you can ask the owner questions directly; most owners even offer recommendations for local services, activities or restaurants.
Please be wary of any owner who asks for cash on arrival or bank transfer without using a booking system. Although payment methods vary, most self-catering holidays in the UK accept credit or debit card payments, PayPal, or a booking system. If you are unsure of the details, contact the owner directly and double-check the bank details before making any payments. You want to ensure that your holiday accommodation is safeguarded, especially if you pay months in advance.
Most guests will be asked to pay a deposit to secure the booking, with the balance around 6 – 12 weeks before arrival. Some owners will also require a security deposit to cover damages, breakages or excessive cleaning; they will return this once you have checked out and the owner has confirmed that it has been left in reasonable condition. I know through some booking sites, there can be fees to be aware of, they will be included at the time of booking but can consist of cleaning fees, service fees, parking charges, and I have seen fees to use swimming pools or hot tubs, so it is something to consider if booking through vacation rental property providers like Air BnB or Vrbo.
Self-catering holidays in the UK are popular right now.
Two years ago, the coronavirus pandemic hit the world and changed how we socialised, worked, shopped, parented, and, more importantly, travelled. So it’s hardly surprising that self-catering holidays in the UK are so popular, with many of us looking to stay closer to home until travel restrictions end, airports can cope with the influx of travellers, and the world is ready to welcome us back.
However, staying within the UK and using self-catered accommodation can provide space and flexibility and be precisely what we need right now. There is something to suit all budgets, spread across the UK and beyond (if you fancy somewhere a little further afield). You will find the perfect location for your self-catering holiday in the UK.
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