Self-catering is generally far less expensive than staying in a hotel and offers greater flexibility and freedom. Even if you want to spend minimal time in the kitchen on family holidays, self-catering facilities will prove useful for the odd meal, especially breakfast, and for heating bottles and making baby food, snacks and picnics. Self-catering accommodation also allows you to take advantage of local produce you’ll see in markets and shops, and is especially useful if you’re holidaying with picky children in an area when familiar favourites are not readily available in restaurants.
Villas, cottages and gites generally also offer families far more space than one or even two hotel rooms. Another increasingly popular self-catering option is ‘apart-hotels’, where you’ll get the added space and kitchen facilities, plus some of the facilities of a hotel – perhaps a pool, a restaurant, a launderette, maid service, a kids’ club, and other amenities.
But self-catering is not limited to the above – other options worth checking out are farm-stays (whether in cottages in converted farm buildings or in pre-erected tents), camping (in your own tent or in ready set-up yurts, safari tents and the like) or in mobile homes in holiday parks. And then there are home-swaps, where you get to live in someone’s home and take advantage of their kitchen, toys, and so on.
Self-catering also offers benefits for those wishing to holiday with extended family or another family or families – you can club together for greater space and better facilities than you might afford individually, and can take turns sharing the chores and giving one another a break.
Scroll down for our tips for self-catering family holidays.
As you’ll often be dealing with independent providers when booking a self-catering holiday, do your research throughly. How far is the property from local shops and restaurants, from the beach or the ski slopes, for instance? Check for what websites might not be telling you, and make sure to ask the right questions before signing on the dotted line. Google Streetview is a good way of checking out your local surroundings in advance and making sure that a neighbourhood is well suited to you.
Find out if a property can provide all the equipment you need – these days, highchairs, travelcots and other equipment come as pretty standard, but do check. Similarly, some budget accommodation will expect you to bring your own towels and perhaps also your own bedlinen, although some will offer it for hire at extra charge.
If you’re self-catering in the UK or driving to the Continent, bear in mind that some properties, particularly those at the budget end of the spectrum, may not have some of the kit you take for granted at home, such as cafetières and corkscrews. It’s a good idea to make room in your car for a small box of such ‘essentials’, as well as items that you will need but might not have chance to get hold of before arriving – matches, loo roll, real coffee, and so on.
Find out if the owner can offer babysitting or can recommend a local firm or person who will, if this is something you’ll require.
Check whether any swimming pools on-site meet safety requirements in terms of self-locking gates and so on, should this be a concern.
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