Self-catering family holidays

It might seem an obvious thing to say, but when you’re planning a family holiday, it’s really important to get the accommodation right. So while the idea of booking a hotel, with your cooking, cleaning and shopping all done for you may seem a tempting idea, there can be some downsides.

Chances are, unless you are very rich, you will all be sharing a room. Which is fine until it comes to bedtime and your baby won’t sleep unless you and your partner either a) sit in total silence in the dark b) hide out in the bathroom (OK that can be fun now and again) or c) have had the foresight to book a hotel with a baby-listening service you feel comfortable using.

The other issue with hotels is that you have to fit in with their timetable, which can be a real pain when you have a baby or small children who get up and go to bed early, especially in parts of mainland Europe.

When our children were smaller we were invariably the first at breakfast in hotels in countries such as Spain and Italy where they may not start serving till 8am while our children had been bouncing around the room since six. Similarly we might often find that the only place open at 5pm to feed the children locally was a ropey-looking burger bar.

If you take self-catering or villa holidays, all these problems can be avoided. The children can have their own room. You can eat when you like and serve food you know your children will eat. You can enjoy a relaxed evening once the children are in bed with them still in earshot.

There is a vast range of self-catering accommodation available so it’s worth taking time to find the kind of thing which suits you. Good starting points include Baby Friendly Boltholes and Tots to Travel, both of which specialise in child-friendly accommodation and detail the baby and children’s facilities available at each of its properties.

There is no reason not to book through a more mainstream operator – just check carefully what facilities are available (will they provide a high chair or cot? If there is a pool, is it fenced?) Think about what you want from your holiday before you book – does your family want to be all alone in a remote cottage or would you rather be in a holiday complex where there is entertainment for the children? If you want a break from the cooking and cleaning, are home cooked meals or a maid service an option? Some operators will even provide a nanny. There are more tips to help you choose in my book.

Whether you want a basic place to stay or a lazy and indulgent stay, self-catering is the way ahead.

This is a sponsored post.

About catherinecooper

Journalist and author specialising in travel with children. I write for several national publications and am author of Travelling with Children: A Parent's Guide. You can see some of my articles at
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7 Responses to Self-catering family holidays

  1. Catherine:

    Also important is that the family considers the category of hotel they usually stay at, and book the same category when staying at a self-catering property. If they are used to Four Seasons service, they will not be happy at a 3-star apartment or villa, and if they are accustomed to Holiday Inns, they may not want to go the luxury apartment/villa route, especially with children along.

  2. I am surprised you have not heard of Away with the Kids – features a diverse selection of family friendly holidays – not just top end!
    Run by 2 mums with 3 kids each – all UK holiday places listed are visited and approved by the dedicated team.

    • Hi Helen, I’m surprised I haven’t too – are they new? I’ve had a quick look at the site and it looks pretty good – I will add it to my useful sites list. Many thanks for pointing it out.

  3. I have been offered to go on holiday with friends but I’m not sure if we can afford the spending money as we would be going at the end of may, so only two pay days to save money. Its main land spain not sure of the exact location but the nearest airport is Alicante. It would be myself, my husband & our 3yr old daughter in a self catering villa(with poole) with 4 other adults and another little girl. We’re not big drinkers and will probably eat out a couple of nights & maybe a couple of lunch’s if we do go exploring. Its our chance to get away so wont be much sight seeing and not doing souvenirs. We will also be needing to get a taxi to and from the airport which is about 45mins away. Any advice?

  4. Hi – it sounds like you have already booked the villa – is that right? In that case I’d suggest that you and the other family get together informally at some point between now and then to talk about your expectations for the holiday – eg how are the chores/shopping going to be shared? Maybe you can take it in turns to babysit at night/sort out the children’s breakfasts to allow you all to have some time off? This might sound boring but going on holiday with friends can actually be quite stressful or even spoil friendships – it’s best to discuss these things first if you can. The great thing, though, about going with friends is that you can share the chores and childcare. Have fun!

  5. Sian says:

    Great article! Worth me mentioning that we now offer a match-making style shortlist service to help parents find the villa, gite, cottage or hotel that suits them and their budget best.

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