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Top Tips for Self-Catered Holidaying

The Drum Gatelodge, a fine example of unique Northern Irish self-catering.

With self-catering holidays growing in popularity, many holidaymakers are looking to experience the freedom of self-catering and the authenticity of truly living where they are holidaying, even if it is for a short time, as opposed to the more restrictive package holidays out there. While these all inclusive packages leave you with little to worry about; they also reduce your choice as to how you spend your days, what you eat and more. Staying in a self-catering cottage, or another self-catering property, allows you to do what you want and live more closely to how those in the local area live. It is definitely a much more rewarding experience.

What is self-catering? Self-catering holidays are not much different from a regular holiday only that you are catering for yourself. This means you will be supplying your own food and drink throughout your stay but you’ll always have a fully equipped kitchen and other facilities. This means you can cook as and how you want or eat out wherever takes your fancy. When renting a self-catering property, you are just renting the building itself and its use (though linen, towels and some toiletries are usually included).

Location. The location of a self-catered property is pretty important and choosing where to stay depends on your own preferences. When coming to Northern Ireland, for example, do you want to be in a town or city? Or would you prefer somewhere more rural or coastal? Is there something in particular bringing you here, like the Giant’s Causeway, which you would like to be near? These are the sorts of questions you should ask yourself when deciding where to visit on your self-catered holiday. Also, ensure you can get to the property with ease; don’t pick somewhere that you may struggle with trying to get i.e. if you're a non-driver, a self-catering property in a rural setting may not be for you.

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When? When it's best for you to go on your self-catered holiday, as well as when you book, can vary depending on a number of factors. For booking, do this well in advance to guarantee the accommodation is available and in a way which leaves the provider with plenty of time to reply to your enquiry (i.e. avoid trying to book accommodation for the next day). Try and book outside of summer and the Christmas period ready for these times; most self-caterers are very busy around Christmas and during the summer holidays and so it’s best to catch them when it’s a bit quieter. Booking during these self-catering off-seasons can lead to some good deals.

Facilities. What facilities you’ll need in the accommodation you book depends wholly on your preferences and plans. For example, if you plan to stay longer than a week; accommodation with a washing machine may be a good idea as would a property with toys and a stair-gate if you're planning to bring an infant. Be thorough and make sure that you'll have everything you need.

Pets. Another advantage to self-catering is that many properties are dog, and other animal, friendly. Instead of locking your prized pet up in kennels or leaving them with a friend or relative, why not bring them along for a holiday too? Ask the owner before booking the property and do double-check before bringing any pets with you just to be sure.

Shopping. As you have to cater for yourself when self-catering, knowing where to pick up food and other supplies nearby is essential. A quick search online may help you find what you’re looking for but you can always ask the property’s owner beforehand as they’ll be able to give you the inside scoop on where’s best for what. Before you do your shop, double-check with the owner to find out what’s provided; you don’t want to go buying something which is already going to be supplied for you.

Check-In and Check-Out. Especially during peak seasons, self-caters can be very busy with changeovers from one customer to another. To ensure that you get the best possible experience and make things as easy as possible for the owner; keep to the stated check-in times. Arriving early or leaving late can have a knock-on effect for the owner and any other guests.

Bearing these things in mind, your self-catering holiday experience will run as smoothly as possible.

Words by John Temke.

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