What is self-catering?Maybe you remember going away to a "bungalow colony", renting a cabin or a house at the beach for a couple of weeks. If you grew up in grander circumstances, your family might have called it a cottage, or even a family camp.
All these are variations on self-catering - essentially a vacation home rental - a house or apartment you rent in a vacation destination, where you cook and clean for yourself, come and go as you please.
Self-catering accommodations come in all shapes and sizes: tiny cottages or apartments for two, family homes, substantial houses for larger groups of friends. They might be purpose-built; converted barns, byres and stable blocks; or self-contained areas of stately homes.
What to expect from a UK vacation home rentalSelf-catering accommodations have come a long way from the days when people had to bring all their own linens and pots and pans, and expected to eat off an assortment of mismatched plastic dishes.
British and European vacation home rentals today are often the owner's weekend place or summer house, rented out only part of the year. Or they might be houses on a large estate or farm.
They are generally nicely furnished, often to quite a high standard and are usually equipped with everything you might need. That includes:
- a well supplied kitchen with, pots, utensils, an electric kettle and such extras as microwave ovens, blenders or food processors, and enough matching dishes, glassware and cutlery for the number of people that the house can sleep.
- television and often DVD players or video recorders
- CD players, radios and alarm clocks
- washer, dryer and dishwasher
- comfortable outdoor furniture, if it's appropriate
- towels, blankets and linens.
What you won't find in self-catering accommodationTelephones and internet access are uncommon, though wifi hotspots are beginning to appear here and there.
And don't expect a swimming pool as you might find with self-catering accommodations on the Continent. The climate just doesn't suit.
What's the upside of self-catering in the UK?
- It's usually cheaper than hotels and B&Bs of a comparable standard.
- You can cook for yourself and your fussy eaters, saving your dining out budget for a few really special meals. And mealtimes are whenever you want them - not always the case in some parts of the UK.
- You can take part in the local life - meeting people in the village shops and so forth. Afterall, without a handy hotel bar, you'll just have to drop in at the local pub.
- Accommodations can be in particularly scenic or desireable locations.
- You have a base for exploring an area or a region in depth.
And the down side?
- You are tied to one area for your vacation. You can get around this by taking a two center vacation. And some self-catering is available for shorter weekend and mid-week breaks.
- You may need a car to get around.
- You have to clean up after yourself and make your own beds.
- You'll probably have to pay in advance and if the lodgings don't meet your expectations, you're stuck. So make sure you look at a few pictures and ask as many questions as you have to before you book.
A few last tips about vacation home rentalDon't forget to ask how the house is heated: The temperature can drop at any time of year and, even in summer, you may need to warm things up a bit. Avoid storage heating or bottled gas heaters if you can.
Storage heaters contain a heat retaining material that warms up overnight, when electricity rates are lowest. Then they release heat slowly throughout the day. If you are on vacation, you'll probably be out most of the day. By the time you return for the evening the heaters will have cooled off.
Bottled gas in the UK has a slight odor added to it, for safety. And when it burns, it releases moisture, giving even heated rooms a damp chill. Not very nice.
If there is an open fire or a woodburning stove, find out if the landlord provides firewood or coal for burning. These fuels should be included in the price if they are essential for heating the house or the hot water.