How to pick a holiday cottage

Photo by Peter J Dean on Flickr

HOLIDAY cottages make a great choice for families, writes Camilla Chafer, who shares her top tips for picking a holiday cottage.

Decide what you want

There are lots of different types of cottages? Do you want to try out a cottage on a farm or national park, a traditional Lakeland cottage or a picturesque beach cottage? Perhaps a listed building, thatch cottage or a new build?

What kind of space do you need? Most holiday cottage websites let you search by the number in your party, the amount of bedrooms you need, cottage facilities such as an enclosed garden or parking or how close they are to a pub, shop or beach. 

Where do you want to go?

The UK has plenty of vacation spots with thousands of cottages available year round. Some of the most popular areas in England are Cornwall, Devon, Lake District, Norfolk and the Isle of Wight. Plus there's plenty of options in Scotland which is renowned for its diverse islands and Wales for their beautiful beaches. Once you've narrowed down where you want to go, you can start to apply your criteria for what you want.

Tips on what to look for in a cottage

Once you've identified several cottages that interest you, take a look through the images available to get a better 'feel' for the quality of the accommodation. Do white carpets scare you? Is the furniture good quality? What mod-cons are in the kitchen? I've always found that a washing machine (and dryer) top my list of requirements – vital for cleaning my children's clothes after a day of ice cream and sand.

Parking also tops my list. Getting back to the cottage after a day trip and finding no where to park is no fun. I like to find a private parking space is included.

Of course, everyone's important criteria is different – why not let us know what tops yours in the comments?

What should I take?

Most holiday cottages are self-catering so you will need to take or buy your own food whilst you are there. Many supermarket delivery companies can be booked in advance to deliver groceries. You will need to check if bedding and towels are included. It's ideal if they are so you don't have to use up crucial space in the car or lug duvets on the train.

What shouldn't I take?

Families with young children won't generally need to take cots for babies or highchairs as these are often supplied via the holiday company for a small fee (around £15 per week). You won't need to take any crockery, cutlery or pans, as these are almost always supplied at the cottage.

When should I book?

More families than ever are taking their holidays within the UK which means more competition for cottages. I try and back around mid January-mid February for a week's cottage in August. At this time, I have lots of options. I've found that by Easter, most cottages will be booked, there will still be some, and there may be possibilities for last minute bookings, but don't rely on it.

How much should I pay?

That's a toughie. The size, the quality and the location of the cottage all bump up premiums. Naturally, and annoyingly, peak season when children are off school are also the most expensive.

As a ballpark figure, expect to pay in mid-August (peak rates) from £550 for a cottage sleeping 4-6 in the Lake District and from £650 for a cottage sleeping 5 in Cornwall.

Who should I book my holiday cottage with?

The best people to ask are family and friends. Where have they been lately, who did they book with and how did they find the experience? Was the booking company friendly and efficient? Was the cottage clean and as described. The internet is also your friend – take your time to search, explore and read online reviews.