If you go on a self-catering holiday or stay in self-catering accommodation, you take your vacation in a place where you have to make your meals. This is quite different from staying at a hotel where you no longer have responsibility for daily chores. Instead, you may still do some tasks like cooking and cleaning. I know you’re wondering if it’s a holiday if you have to do any work, but there are benefits to taking a self-catering holiday.
- Location: Unlike hotels which are traditionally set up in defined locations, you have the liberty to choose a destination to suit your travel plans. You can stay at a farm, chase sunrises over the ocean, live in the middle of a national park, enjoy a getaway in the middle of the desert or throw parties in the middle of the city. Self-catering accommodation caters for diverse needs and helps you get as close to the action as you want to.
- It’s comfortable: A house or apartment of your own feels like a home away from home. You can unpack, settle in and enjoy having more space to lounge. It’s often a chance to enjoy your own outdoor space too.
- It’s fantastic for cooks: Self-catered accommodation is a perfect choice if you love to cook. Whilst I like eating out as much as the next person, there’s so much fun in shopping at local markets and trying new ingredients when you’re away. Having a kitchen of your own lets you experiment with new cuisines and whip up home comforts if needed. It’s also helpful having a space to prepare packed lunches and picnics if you’re on an active break and spending time out and about.
- It’s budget-friendly: Self-catering can be an incredibly budget-friendly way to travel. Sharing a house or apartment with friends and family can be substantially cheaper than booking a hotel. Plus, staying in rather than going out can be a much more affordable way to feed a crowd. Preparing breakfast at your home away from home is cheaper than buying breakfast for everyone.
If you’re considering giving self-catering options a chance, there’s one basic principle to set store by before you book your first stay: not every self-catered property is the same. Some properties will have only the basic supplies, while others come with everything you might find at home and a luxurious welcome basket waiting on the table.
Don’t let the price fool you into thinking that you’ll have everything you want. Ask questions to avoid nasty surprises and know what to pack as different property owners have different approaches. From my experience, I’ve found apartments in resort locations are always very sparsely equipped. However, AirBnBs, especially when the owners are local, are often thoughtfully packed with tools and supplies that make cooking a delight. We’ve even arrived to bottles of wine and freshly baked goodies.
Before you book your stay, ensure you know what is available at your home away from home. Sometimes the answers will be covered in the booking information, but if not, contact the owners or agents. They’re usually pleased that you thought to ask and are willing to help. Some important questions to ask are covered below.
What amenities are available at the location?
Kitchen appliances and utensils, furniture, bathtubs, jacuzzis and swimming pools are some of the amenities you should confirm before you pay for the accommodation. Knowing what is available lets you know what to pack but also what activities are available.
What other facilities are nearby?
In addition to the sites, check out restaurants, supermarkets, grocery stores, butchers, and fruit and vegetable sellers in addition to sightseeing and eating out options. You don’t have to carry everything if there are grocery stores near your home away from home but you probably need to stock up en route if you’re staying in the middle of the national park.
What linens will I find in the house/apartment?
Bed linen and towels are commonplace, but it’s best to be sure. I still occasionally find quirky places that ask you to bring bath towels. It’s also worth remembering that you’ll need to bring your beach towels as they usually aren’t included if you want to head to the coast or pool during your stay. Another thing to consider is how often the linens will be changed. Some self-catering options do not clean or change linens for the duration of the visit. Check if they offer cleaning at an additional price.
Do I need to clean before I leave?
Most properties won’t ask you to clean but will ask for a small fee for a cleaning service at the end of your stay. However, it used to be quite common to expect guests to clean before departing. It’s best to avoid surprises and know before you go. The general rule of thumb is always to leave the place neat, whether cleaning is included or not.
Do they have a chef?
Sometimes you really don’t want to do the cooking and you can get a chef to come in and take care of the meals. This doesn’t work for all destinations but if you really don’t want to cook this could be an option.
What are the check-in and check-out times?
While self-catering accommodation is less strict compared to hotels, you’d like to avoid arriving too early or paying for an extra day because you left too late. Speak to your host to understand and align on the timings. Also, ensure you are clear on how you access the accommodation. Some hosts will meet you at the location, others will not.
Do you need a security deposit?
Some hosts will ask for a security deposit refundable once you check out. It is not very common but it happens. Before you book the accommodation, ensure you are clear on what the security deposit covers, what it would cover and how you get the deposit back. Report any damages yourself as it shows goodwill.
Armed with the answers to the questions above, you’re ready to go. I always advise doing a little prep to make your stay easier and more enjoyable. Create a self-catering packing list, determine what you will carry from home and what you’ll buy. Of course, this is determined by how you get to your destination. If you’ve got room to bring a few essential supplies from home to supplement those in your new home, you can get on with enjoying your trip. No getting lost in the cleaning aisle of an unfamiliar supermarket. You might also be surprised to see how much money you save, as buying basics can quickly add up.