1. Value for money. Don’t flock to the traditional holiday destinations – beat the crowds and save money simply by choosing somewhere less obvious. e.g. a five star luxury farm cottage in Wales for 4 costs under £10 per person per night off-peak to around £20 per person per night in peak season. With an entire farm to enjoy in with the price, it is astonishingly cheap. When friends boasted how they rented a tiny Thai beach hut for £12 a night, I thought it was a rip off!
2. Food. Usually cottages are self catering, so check with the owner where the nearest shops are so that you can stock up on arrival. Your rural holiday cottage may be only a couple of minutes from a 24 hour supermarket! The super-organised could even order an online delivery to arrive when you do! Some cottage owners provide a small welcome pack including a few essentials like milk and bread.Treat the food shopping trip as the holiday’s first adventure – listen to the local accents and discover the local specialities. Again, the owners should know where you can source free range eggs and prize winning butcher’s sausages as well as being able to point you in the direction of good restaurants. Otherwise, if you really don’t fancy venturing out – stock up before you leave home and remember to ask the owner if the cottage has a freezer.
3. Heating. Check out the heating situation. Make sure the owner turns it on before you arrive in the winter. Is there a real fire or wood burner, can you buy extra fuel, and what is the cost?
4. Sneaky Extra Charges. Always be sure to ask the cottage owner if there are any extra charges upon arrival. Always make sure that electricity, linen, heating, use of the washing machine and internet is included in the price.
5. Washing Machine. Is this in the kitchen and free of charge or is it coin operated and outside in a shed?
6. WIFI. Does your accommodation offer wireless internet? A quality holiday cottage operator should offer this free of charge.
7. Tourist Information. When you arrive in a new area, it can take quite a while to get your bearings. Is the tourist information provided in an easy to read folder or has the owner just dumped a few hundred leaflets into a box on the windowsill? Remember to take your Sat Nav with you on holiday. Much easier to find those attractions.
8. Weather. In the UK, it has been known to rain from time to time. This needn’t spoil a cottage holiday. Pack your waterproofs and ask the owner if there are any good attractions nearby that are suited to inclement weather – there may be caves, museums, waterfalls or theme pools nearby which are all great for a rainy day. Maybe the cottage has a collection of DVDs if you fancy a cosy afternoon in?
9. Bathroom. Is there a bath or shower or both? When on holiday it can be nice to have a bath.
10. Activities. Are there plenty of activities in the area? Are they easily accessible from the cottage?
11. Cleanliness. Arguably the most important thing of all! All cottage owners will claim their cottages are clean, but the best way to check this out is to look at their website’s testimonial page or visitor book. The comments of previous holiday makers are as good an indicator as any.
12. Accessibility. Make sure there is adequate parking and where it is – is there a car parking spot outside the cottage or is parking restricted? It can also be helpful to know the cottage is easy to find, especially when you arrive in the dark, late at night.
13. Green Credentials. If you are concerned about the environment, it is always worth checking out the green credentials of the cottage you are interested in e.g. do they use eco-friendly cleaning products, is there any carbon-offsetting scheme, and is recycling encouraged? Example of eco-friendly holiday cottages in Wales.
14. Accreditation. Accreditation by the national tourist board (e.g. in Wales, Visit Wales) is a sign of quality. Star ratings are not easy to get and they are assessed on a yearly basis.
15. Awards. If an establishment has a history of winning industry awards, that is a very good indication of quality. The holiday cottage industry is very competitive and awards are very difficult to win.
16. Pet Friendly or not. If you intend taking pets, make sure you book them in to a pet-friendly establishment. If you have allergies, you may wish to double check with the cottage owner that their pet-free cottage has always been pet-free.
17. Size of cottage. If there are only 2 of you in your party, it is worth asking for a discount as most cottages will sleep 4 people. Small cottages are hard to come by. If you have a large party, why not look for a complex of cottages on a farm rather than one huge cottage? This can give you more options.
18. Short Breaks in Peak Season. Many cottage operators will not allow short breaks during peak season (or if they do allow them, you must pay for the whole week). It’s always worth asking the owner if they would get in touch if any short periods come up in their booking schedule (e.g. someone may book two and a half weeks, leaving a few days spare which may be available as a short break).
19. Emergency number. Do you have a contact number to call if there are any problems with the cottage or simply to ask for local advice? e.g. where is the nearest garage.
20. If you have found a cottage that ticks all these boxes then go ahead and book it!