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‘I know what I want, and I bet you do too’- My too personal, traveller’s guide to self-catering acco

I love getting away to a different place, and I love self-catering accommodation. At first it was because I had small children, and it was the simplest way of making sure I would have everything I needed for food storage and feeding, bottle prep and washing, bath time etc etc. And then it was because it just simply ticked more boxes for me, both with the kids and without.

So, I’ve stayed in quite a few. And I can definitively say I am absolutely clear on what I want when I book one. And this meant that when I decided to renovate the cottage and turn it into holiday accommodation I knew exactly what I wanted for my guests.

So here’s my ‘go to’ check list for what I want in a holiday let.

1. Quality of Life – my ‘Worse Than Home’ philosophy:

I don’t want to stay somewhere that significantly reduces my quality of life from what it is at home. I realise I will have to do without some of the stuff which makes my home ‘home’, and that’s perfectly ok with me. It’s absolutely right that it can be different, because it’s fun to stay somewhere that gives you a completely different kind of experience from home, which in turn adds to your trip. I mean, I’d like to stay in a beach hut, and that would be a much simpler living experience than home, but I still want it to be a ‘cared for’ beach hut. To try and predict this I look really closely at the online photos, because in general this is the best the place is going to look, ever! If the furnishings look decidedly grubby and randomly put together (best tip, take a particularly close look at the bed clothes, and if they look like something your Granny had in the 80s, well....nope), like something the owner has cast out of their own home, or picked up without thinking about how they go together, sorry, but don’t hurt my eyes, I ain’t going. For me that goes in the box ‘Worse Than Home’. So essentially, my cottage is a place I’d want to live in myself if I had less people, and less stuff in my attic. I dream of living in a pretty cottage, with fun, comfortable décor, but I also want it to have the things I like, good heating, a dishwasher etc etc. It’s very different from my home, which is why I love it, but not worse than my own home.

2. The Essentials:

I stayed somewhere in Italy last year, and pretty much everything about this place was great! BUT, they did not even leave me a solitary tea towel for a 2 week stay. They didn’t leave me a container or bin bags for their, I suggest overly, complicated waste sorting instructions. And when I asked for some, I was given a solitary bag and instructed on where to purchase more. There was no salt, no oil to cook with, no cleaning cloths to even just wipe a table after breakfast. So my very first task on my first day there was to go and do a massive grocery shop to buy a lot of very basic things I knew I would never end up using. I am very happy with the 'self' bit of the term ‘self-catering’, and I am also very happy to buy most things I need, but I do expect there to be some essentials in residence to make things a little smoother for the first couple of days when you don’t really know where the shops are etc. So in my cottage I supply a welcome basket to all guests, with tea, coffee, some milk, bread, eggs, butter, and usually some other goodies (because that’s fun for me). I also provide shower gel, washing up liquid, dishwasher tabs etc. It sounds obvious, but it really makes things just a bit simpler and more pleasurable if you’re only there a couple of days or need to find your feet.

3. The Real Number 1:

In the early days I have ended up in places where I couldn’t even think of unpacking a bag until I had scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom. These are usually the places where the work surfaces are crowded with old bottles of oils, herbs and tubs of salt (the opposite of number two – but the bottles have clearly never been wiped since the last person cooking grabbed them with the hands they’d just handled the raw chicken with!!) Clean is the most important thing of all for most people. It’s amazing how just one solitary hair belonging to a stranger can bring on a jolt of nausea. And we can accept that there’s bits of our own house where we may not get into every crevice, but that’s ‘our own dirt’, and it’s just not the same. There’s just zero tolerance on this one in a holiday let. Zero.

4. Do you hate people?:

Most parents will tell you the worst bit of having babies is the sleep deprivation. It’s a shock. And no one can ever really explain to you what it is like, you have to get there yourself. Simply put, I never want to go back to that place. I’ve recently had an experience where the beds were so squeaky they kept you awake at night. Where I was so focused on not moving because it may waken the children, I barely slept at all, and I almost tearfully begged my husband to ‘please, just be still’ at about 5 am in the hope I could get at least even 2 hours sleep before I had to get up. It took me almost a week to recover enough sleep after that trip. So unless you hate people, giving them a good bed is just being fair, I reckon.

5. Decent WIFI!!!:

I have a teenager and a tween, and I am a woman of the 21st Century with a husband who lives his life through email. No more explanation needed as far as I’m concerned. I recently saw a meme which said, ‘I could parent my children without screen time. I could also churn my own butter. But let’s not get crazy here.’ That just about sums it up for me. If I have to balance on one leg in the corner of the kitchen, on a stool, to get wifi, which you’re sharing with your neighbour, you can’t judge me if I have a holiday glass of wine at 11am, whilst I cry a bit.

And, I don’t want to boast or anything, but my cottage TV remote also has a Netflix button. I mean, enough said, why haven’t you booked yet???? You can even do it right here on this site:

And I promise, I may be rubbish at ironing fitted sheets (I do try, but who isn’t?), but it will definitely be clean and the welcome will be friendly!

I can also say that there were many fantastic things about most of the above places I have stayed in which are mentioned above (not all, sadly), and I am mostly just picking out the bits which taught me lessons. And over time 2 things have happened. Firstly, the quality of self-catering accommodation has in general become much, much better in the last 10 years, and, secondly, I have become much more savvy in my selections and making sure they are what I want. But I am still learning. Like in my recent experience, from which I now know sofa beds are ALWAYS pants.

So travel safely, travel well, and, most importantly, travel often!

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