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10 Top Tips For Finding and Booking Large Holiday Cottages

Frontage of Biallid, a Scottish Manor Farmhouse in Spring

Biallid - a Scottish Manor Farmhouse in Newtonmore. Sleeps 14. A superb choice for an active outdoor holiday.

Follow The Trend and Plan A Holiday With The Gang!

More and more families and groups of friends are enjoying holidays together by sharing large holiday cottages.

The increasing number of large self-catering holiday homes in the UK sleeping between 10-30 guests (or even more) means that there is much more choice available for dual family holidays these days. Choose from large country houses, castles, big barn conversions, farmhouses or even converted rural railway stations where the tracks have long since been lifted.

As well as being fun, they offer very good value for money. Even at the height of the season, you can generally get more for your money if 2 families share a large cottage instead of booking two smaller ones. Take Biallid, a historic 7-bedroom manor farmhouse in Scotland that sleeps 14 with fishing rights on the River Spey. A week in the height of summer will only set you back just over £16 per person per night.

Booking group accommodation for large family holidays, whether with grandparents, cousins or close friends, can take a bit of planning. Here are 10 tips to make it easier for you to plan and book group accommodation for a large family or friends in a holiday cottage.

The Benefits of a Large Family Holiday Cottage

It’s great to have time to share with family members or friends. As kids invariably make up a large part of the group, the chance for them to play with friends, means adults get a little more time to themselves – especially if you look for a property that has a great garden, access to fields and woods, has a pool or overlooks a beach. They’ll just disappear in a group and rock up at mealtimes unless you have other plans.

With most large cottages having lots of en suite bathrooms, there is rarely a queue for a hot shower in the mornings. Many will have at least one ground floor bedroom with en suite facilities, ideal for elderly family members who would prefer to avoid having to climb the stairs every night.

The secret of a happy holiday with a large family or group lies in the planning. This article offers some useful tips to help you plan and enjoy a truly memorable holiday with minimum fuss and stress.

First Find Your Cottage

Where are you going to look? Most holiday property directory sites will allow you to search for cottages by specifying the number of people in your party.

Some sites like My Favourite Holiday Cottages make it even easier by having a special search category for large holiday houses on their home page. This will give you a long list that you can then check to identify those that best meet your criteria.

So, what else should you take into account in order to make your dual holiday run without a hitch (as far as the accommodation is concerned)?

If booking self-catering accommodation for a dual family holiday –

1. Be aware that it can take time

Plan in advance. When booking group or large family holiday accommodation, it can take more than a little time to get everyone to agree on a particular holiday property. We often refer to this stage as ‘trying to contain eels in a string bag’. By the time you’ve got everybody to agree to a property, it can quite easily have been booked by someone else. To avoid this, have a shortlist and book through an independent owner as they will generally allow you to provisionally book their property giving you time to ask everybody else to check out its website and agree to let you book it.

The other advantages of going through an independent owner are that you don’t have to pay agency booking fees. You also have the chance to talk to someone who really knows a property and can answer the many questions you’ll want to ask in determining whether a property is right for you. Knowing whether a travel cot can fit into a particular bedroom, or, if you have young children, whether the garden is secure and reassuringly free of deadly nightshade is important!

2. The Ground Rules

You need to establish a few ground rules with everyone who is coming. The best way to do this is to get together for lunch or dinner and do it around the table. That way it is much more fun. Before you start the search for your favourite affordable holiday cottage, you’ll need to agree on the following:

  • Who is going to do the booking? Having one person means that you don’t get 2-3 people fighting for their preferences.
  • Dates: preferred dates and flexibility.
  • Who is coming? (This helps to determine how many bedrooms you need and the number and type of beds in each). Quite often kids will want to share rooms together – so work out the implications of that now so you can find properties that fit the criteria.
  • Budget: What is the maximum amount per person per week that people are happy to spend on the rental of a holiday cottage?
  • Any special needs (cots, high chairs, pets, BBQ, smokers etc.)?
  • Location: what type of holiday do you want and in which corner of the UK do you want it?
  • Who pays and how will you collect the money from everyone? It’s quite a good idea if everyone gives the person doing the booking a sum of money beforehand so that they are ready to pay the deposit on a property. If they have to take time to collect this later, you risk losing it to another booker.

And talking of rules, don’t forget the rule is that the person who organises the booking gets first dibs on the choice of bedroom. They’ll deserve it – and there’s got to be something to make it worthwhile.

3. Same dates – Separate Cottages

For some people – sharing one large property may seem to be a bridge too far. That shouldn’t stop you from going away together. Look out for places such as farm cottages, which have a choice of family-sized cottages, where one of them has a large enough dining area to seat the larger party. Then just ask everyone to book their own cottage for the same dates and start planning the communal barbeques!

Stonehayes Farm



Dippers Rest  - A Devon cottage for couples at Stonehayes Farm near Honiton is one of five holiday cottages that can be collectively booked for large groups of families and friends.

Multiple family holidays in self-catering accommodation can be wonderful - and will be all the better for a little bit of planning and foresight before you book. Here’s hoping that these top tips will help to ensure a holiday full of happy memories, and make you wonder why you never holidayed like this before.

4. Avoid the Battle of the Bedrooms

Don’t forget that kids often like to mix and share bedrooms – so look for properties with rooms with 3 or more single beds, and be prepared for fights over the top bunk in bunk beds (Kids don’t mind swapping beds, so suggest that whoever is on washing up duty gets the first choice each night!). Also, it's an unwritten rule that whoever organises the booking gets the first choice of bedrooms!

5. Agree who sleeps where in advance

Firstly, this way you’ll know that you can all fit in – you’d be surprised at how many large groups turn up to find they are a bed short because certain people refuse to share with others! If there’s going to be a dispute over who has which bedroom – agree to swap rooms halfway through the holiday.

6. Cots and High Chairs

When using a cot and/or a high chair in a self-catering property, most will provide one free of charge, but in most cases, this won’t include cot bedding. Check before you travel and pack accordingly – and make sure there are enough cots, highchairs (and even stair gates) available for your needs as well.

7. Know what you’re going to do during your stay

Check out the attractions that lie within reach of a holiday cottage before you book. Granted you’ll want to find the perfect cottage – but do your best to make sure it is also in the perfect location. Will you be travelling around en masse or just going your separate ways during the day and meeting up for dinner?

It’s a good idea to start your holiday knowing at least one or two places to visit together. Inevitably, if you give the kids a fabulous day out somewhere one day, they’ll want to return. It’s your choice whether you choose to visit such a place at the start of the week, to allow time for a repeat visit, or at the end to serve as a fitting finale for a fine week. Finding places that can be enjoyed in wet weather means the rain won’t spoil anyone’s holiday. Most independent holiday cottage websites will have a page describing all the things to do and places to go when on holiday there.

Another advantage of booking through an independent owner, ask them which attractions tend to score a hit with the kids as they’ll be certain to have a useful shortlist and may even be able to suggest ways of getting a discounted entry voucher

8. Parking

If you are all arriving in groups of 2-4, you might need a lot of parking space. Make sure the accommodation has parking for all the cars you’ll need to park there. This isn't usually a problem but is always worth checking. Keep in mind the size of all the cars. You can fit four Fiat 500;s in the space required by pair of VW Transporter people carriers. Check with the owner if in any doubt.

9. Collect everyone’s e-mail address to share shortlists

As soon as you have created a bijou shortlist of likely suspects, e-mail the website links to everyone.

Ideally, send links to a cottage’s own website – it’s a useful way to do a quality check. If an owner is prepared to invest in maintaining a decent website, then chances are they are just as committed to maintaining and caring for their cottage. My Favourite Holiday Cottages makes the task much easier by allowing people to create and store a private shortlist of their favourite cottages which they can then share with other members of the party for their feedback at the click of a button.

Also, if you send links to a cottage on a large agency site, be perfectly prepared for the fact that everyone will then look at every other cottage on that site and come back with a whole host of counter suggestions – many of which you may have already considered and rejected. This just lengthens the process and frays a few nerves, especially yours.

Individual websites also help your research as you’ll find far more information there than on an advert, so look for directory sites that offer a web link to a property’s own website. Good examples are My Favourite Holiday Cottages, Independent Cottages and Unique Cottages – all of which have an enticing selection of suitably sized self-catering accommodation.

10. Stay fully charged!

USB Multi socket for charging electronic devices

Unless there is one supplied within your holiday cottage, it can be worth investing in a multi-socket battery charger to allow everyone to recharge various devices each night. Given that most people travel with a mobile phone, a camera, a Kindle, tablet or laptop – if there are ten of you in the party – that’s potentially 30 plug sockets you’ll need to find before bedtime every night.

You can find such devices online for a little as £15 for one that will power up to 6 gadgets at a time. Just think of the arguments you won’t have when fighting over access to a socket! It also means devices are all in one place at the end of the day and you’ll be much less likely to leave one plugged into a distant socket unnoticed when packing to leave.

Any Advance on 10?

Follow these 10 tips, and your group holiday with family and friends will be less stressful in the planning and much happier throughout your stay in whichever cottage you select.

If you are a seasoned booker of group accommodation and would like like to suggest your own tips for planning a successful multi-family or friends holiday feel free to send them in. I'll add them to this list.


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