9 ways to save money on self-catering holidays

Updated on 17 March 2022 | 0 Comments

Self-catering holidays are more popular than ever, but don’t assume this means forking out obscene amounts of cash. We’ve put together our top tips for anyone keen to work out how to save money on self-catering breaks – with a little help from some well-placed experts.

Few holidays allow you the freedom of a self-catering break. From eating what you want, when you want, to giving you the chance to escape to somewhere more remote, it’s no surprise self-catering getaways continue to rise in popularity. 

So here are our 9 tips to make your self-catering stay your best holiday yet...

1. Don’t get obsessed with dates

Our top tip? Avoid peak season. “Book out of season if you can,” says Laura Moss, director of Luxury Coastal. “And consider staying mid-week instead of during a weekend, when prices are lower.” If you’ve got kids in your group, it can be harder to do this, but there are still savings to be had during peak periods.

The mid-week approach can still reap huge rewards, and booking stays at the beginning or end of school holidays (rather than in the middle) can save you huge amounts of cash.

Don’t get fixated on certain dates, either. Yes, your self-catering getaway might well be intended to mark a wedding anniversary or a friend’s birthday, but does it really matter if your stay takes place a week after the big day?

READ MORE: Unusual places to stay in the UK

2. Do your homework

In post-COVID times, travel agents have been a lifeline, helping us navigate booking processes and proffering invaluable advice relating to everything from the best locations for cheap self-catering breaks to insurance. But don’t slip into the habit of always relying on them for your self-catering holiday, even if it’s one in a foreign country.

Travel agents – even the online-only ones – make a commission, and often have allegiances to certain properties or regions. Always book direct if possible, especially if the property is one you’re likely to visit again.

Building a relationship with the owner minimises the risk of miscommunications and can open the possibility of potential future discounts, as well as various perks – even if it’s just a bottle of fizz on arrival.

Holiday lodges in the countryside (kryzhov/Shutterstock)kryzhov/Shutterstock

3. Know your acronyms

Self-catering properties don’t need certifications such as ABTA and ATOL, but there are still plenty of ways to check your property meets certain standards, and to make sure you’re getting the best value for money.

Websites such as Trustpilot have thousands of reviews of self-catering properties and are a wealth of information, and it’s also worth asking what organisations the property is affiliated to.

“The main accreditation bodies are the national Tourist Boards (VisitEngland, VisitWales, VisitScotland and VisitIreland) and The AA, which all use Common Standards, and Quality in Tourism,” says Beth Bailey at Premier Cottages. “All of these bodies physically inspect properties and give them a grading based on a fixed set of criteria. Properties accredited by VisitEngland and the AA are listed on ratedtrips.com.”

4. Be flexible – within reason

Although we’ve mentioned that being prepared to book outside of peak season or compromising on certain aspects can save huge amounts of money, it’s important to bear other key criteria in mind.

Self-catering breaks are intended to be enjoyable, relaxing getaways, so settling for second best might well be a false economy, especially if you spend the whole week buying takeaways because the kitchen is too small, or splurging on taxi fares because you tried to save money by opting for a property in the back of beyond.

Prior to booking, draw up a list of non-negotiables – whether they relate to location, room size or amenities – and stick to it.

5. Find a friend or two

We’re firm believers in the phrase “the more the merrier”, and so is Luxury Coastal’s Laura Moss. “Fill the property by booking with friends or several generations of family members, to bring down the cost per person,” says Laura.

While we’re not suggesting inviting total strangers on your self-catering getaway, finding a few additional friends of family members shouldn’t be hard – especially as the cost per person will be lower.

If you’re struggling to find extra people, ask friends and family members already on the trip if there’s anyone they’d like to bring, but do your homework. And no, we don’t mean hiring a private detective to scope out any potential extra guests. Instead, have a list of criteria for additional people. For example, if the self-catering holiday is a raucous girls’ weekend away, your best friend’s granny probably won’t be the ideal bed filler.

Friends eating (Image: DisobeyArt/Shutterstock)DisobeyArt/Shutterstock

READ MORE: 27 family travel tips to make your holiday smoother

6. Book ahead – sometimes

While booking at the last minute can often help you bag a bargain, if you, or members of the group, have specific requirements – whether it’s disabled access or connected family rooms – booking well ahead is usually the way to go.

Properties which meet niche demands are often few and far between, so consider booking well in advance. This approach applies to larger groups, too. Afterall, nothing’s worse than organising a huge getaway only to find out you’ll have to ditch granny/great Aunt Sally/the dog because the property you had your eye on has been snapped up.

READ MORE: The top 7 online travel agents for the best holiday deals

7. The C-word

There’s no denying it – COVID-19 has changed the way we travel, and this applies to self-catering holidays. Consider booking insurance plans which cover you if someone in your group gets COVID, or is unable to go because they’re a close contact.

The good news? Peak times are now less defined, due to the growing number of people working from home or who are employed under flexible contracts. Working holidays have also become more popular. In summary, although periods such as summer holidays will always be more expensive, don’t rule these periods out.

Similarly, don’t assume that self-catering properties in cities will be more expensive. This is no longer the case, simply because the pandemic has meant more people are booking self-catering properties in rural areas, such as farm stays, rather than built-up locations. Rates for larger properties are also at an all-time low, because many people are still wary of larger groups. 

8. Be season savvy

Although self-catering stays during peak periods are generally more expensive, this depends partly on the location. For example, self-catering options near the beach will typically experience the biggest price hikes during the summer months, while properties in cities can be cheaper, simply because their peak period will often be the winter – whether that’s due to guests booking pre-Christmas shopping trips or post-New Year detox breaks.

As weird as it sounds, we also recommend some weather-related research related to the area in question. July and August might be the most popular periods for a self-catering break, for example, but they’re not necessarily the sunniest. “In the UK, historically, May and June tend to get more sunlight hours than July and August, for example,” says Beth Bailey at Premier Cottages. “During May and June prices will actually be lower than in July and August, and beaches and visitor attractions less crowded.”

Norfolk beach huts out of season (Image: john mobbs/Shutterstock)john mobbs/Shutterstock

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about road tripping in Europe

9. Bigger is definitely better

Planning a getaway for a large group of friends or family members? Often, we subconsciously rule out larger properties because of the higher price tag, but when it comes to larger groups, it will almost always be cheaper to book one larger property than two smaller ones. “In general, larger cottages will be cheaper on a "per head" basis than smaller ones,” says Beth Bailey at Premier Cottages.

Lead image: tianalima/Shutterstock


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