Self-catering holidays have become a specialty niche market in the ever-evolving world of travel and tourism. Increasingly, consumers have the ability (thanks to online Internet resources) of customizing their travel experiences.
This is especially true of local destinations that can now compete with the larger ones.
In part, it is a question of economy of scale.
(a) Choose your target destination according to your personal interests. If for example wildlife and birding interest you, or social history, choose a region in which you can create a day-trip itinerary to indulge those passions. En route you will discover much more.
(b) If you are renting a car, research how driveable the destination is. In general, identify an area or region that has a lot of attractions and amenities within easy driving distance or by public transport. Be sure to investigate local public transportation if you are going that route.
(c) The local or regional official tourism website (in the business we call them CVBs, Convention and Visitor Bureaus) is a prime resource for researching your chosen destination. In our experience, these people really know what they are doing. Self-catering properties have been checked out carefully and in most destinations they must meet certain criteria. Although the CVB websites are there to market their destinations, they are in general not commercial websites.
(d) Always dialogue with the company representatives or the owners themselves. They are in the business to serve your needs and answer your questions before you arrive.
(e) Is there an urban centre nearby that serves as a hub for your regional itinerary or is a destination within a destination itself?
(g) Research special discounts available in the area. For example larger urban centres may have discounted transportation passes or museum passes such as CityPass.
(h) The best entry point for the region you have chosen may not be the major national airport. For example, there are excellent air connections to the city of Bordeaux and then on to the Périgord. If you are considering North East England, check out airlines and airfares to some of the northern cities or even cities like Glasgow.
Some favourite self-catering holidays
The self-catering marketing can be as diverse as the travel industry itself, and there are probably a lot more opportunities for living at a grassroots level that one might imagine. Here are a few of our favourites.
In part to attract visitors, more and more London hotels are providing some in-room amenities (small kitchenette) that allow for self-catering. This worked well for us on our last visit, especially the Buckingham Hotel which is part of the Grange Hotel chain. These converted Georgian town houses are in the Bloomsbury area and just around the corner from the British Museum. We were fortunate to have a very large room at the back which gave onto the garden. Bird song in the middle of London!
(b) Durham, Northeast England
The “hub” of a great destination within a destination, this renowned cathedral city was our focal point for exploring the North East of England. We can especially recommend Dove Cottage (Durham Cottages) in the village of Sherburn on the outskirts of the city.
(c) Abel Tasman Park and New Zealand in General
New Zealand is one of the most self-catering destinations we have visited. Most family-style motels have full kitchen and laundry facilities as well as other outdoor amenities. We did the RV thing (another self-catering possibility) but especially enjoyed staying right on the edge of Abel Tasman Park (one of the best natural reserves in the world) at Abel Tasman Lodge. For more information, click here.
The city is a perfect self-catering opportunity because of the abundance of wonderful day trips that can be taken by very convenient local trains. For more information see Make Yourself at Home — in Amsterdam!
Like Amsterdam, Prague is especially appropriate for longer stays as you can plan numerous day trips outside the city. (See Karlovy Vary: Through A Lens Obliquely).
An old favourite that we have visited numerous times (sigh), the island of Maui has many condo-like self-catering properties. Our favourite is Maui Hill. For more information, click here.
(g) Blue Sea Lakeside Villas, Outaouais, Québec
A little over an hour north of Ottawa, Canada’s national capital and a city brimming with art and history, the lac Blue Sea area is a wonderful getaway in any season, very unspoiled and a great nature destination. For more information click here
(h) Lou Recantou in France’s Languedoc Region
The ancient region of Languedoc is also one of the great self-catering destinations in Europe. The history, unique natural environment, and proximity of so many attractions make it a great “home stay” destination. For more information, read Once Upon a Gîte in Languedoc
(i) Seafields Delray Beach, Florida
I find that many travellers have a one-dimensional view of Florida, and therefore can tend to miss out on some very unique destinations in that state. We enjoyed the city of Delray in part because of its proximity to wildlife areas and the wonderful Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
(j) Pacific Sands, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Vancouver Island on Canada’s Pacific Coast is of course one of this country’s most spectacular travel destinations. See Vancouver Island: Insula Pacifica Gloriosa.
For more information on this somewhat upscale self-catering resort, click here.)
Bon voyage and bon séjour!
All images in this article are from a self-catering holiday at Dove Cottages in Durham, Northeast England.