Category: Property Owners

Cottage owners – are you set up to take short breaks?

Couple walking hand in hand

Couples are a big part of the short-break market

Short breaks are exceptionally popular in today’s holiday rental market. Historically, many owners have only offered short breaks during the winter months, but demand for greater flexibility has seen more and more owners offering short breaks all year round, along with flexible changeover days and stays as short as just one night.

The more flexible you are as a cottage owner, the greater the level of interest you are likely to receive. You may also be surprised at just how lucrative short breaks can be if you manage to achieve back to back bookings. Admittedly, it requires extra marketing, admin time and additional cleaning/turnaround time or cost, but short breaks are normally offered at a premium rate which should cover this, and also allow more regular access to the property for maintenance. You may also find a reduced level ‘wear and tear’ on the cottage with short-breaker’s tending to spend more time out and about, trying to see all the popular sites or enjoying more meals out during their short period of time away.

The nature of short breaks means that they are very often last minute. In our experience, we have found that people booking a short break are often more impulsive and quicker to make a snap decision, so it is important as an owner to be set-up to readily take impromptu bookings.

Some tips for taking short breaks, stress-free

  • Enquiries need to be handled super-quick and a mobile phone / device that allows access to emails whilst on the go is a great asset.
  • On the subject of responding quickly, ensure all communication is handled in a timely fashion, from responding back to the initial enquiry, right through to confirming payment and sending details for arrival.
  • Get into the habit of cleaning your property as soon as guests leave, rather than just before new ones arrive. That way you always have peace of mind that the cottage is ready, so if someone calls at 15:30 on a Friday afternoon wanting to arrive that evening, all you need to do is pop the milk into the fridge and drop off any other perishable welcome goodies.

    Lady preparing bedroom ready for guests

    Extra special touches go a long way.

Make your cottage as desirable as possible for short breaks

If guests only have two or three nights away then they want to start enjoying themselves from the minute they arrive, so do all you can to help. When a holiday gets off to the right start, it very often results in happy guests that are more likely to become repeat customers or recommend your cottage to others. Here are some ideas to make your guests short-stay as enjoyable as possible:

  • Make sure guests have crystal clear instructions in advance of arrival on how to find the cottage, keys, parking etc. Basically all the information needed to gain quick access when they arrive as nothing is more frustrating after a long journey than spending time searching for keys or a parking space.
  • On the subject of keys, weekenders often arrive after work on a Friday evening which may be too late to ‘meet and greet’, so find an alternative way for guests to gain access to keys. Many owners use key safes so that guests can let themselves in but ensure you check this complies with the terms and conditions of your insurance policy.
  • Provide guests with information in advance of arrival on the best places to visit and eat out. This will allow guests to do some forward planning and pre-book where required, to avoid disappointment (e.g. tables in popular busy restaurants). Make sure they see all the best bits so that they are not wasting valuable time visiting less desirable places – if they like what they are see, they are more likely to return again.

    Cream tea with scones, cream, jam and a cup of tea

    Give your guests a warm welcome

  • Ensure the cottage is nice and warm and beds are made up ready for arrival – no one likes arriving at a cold cottage or having to make up beds; they want to start enjoying themselves straight away! It is also nice if a few lights are left on ready for arrival (including outside lights steering guests in the direction of the door).
  • Provide all the linen required for the stay – bed linen, towels, bath mats, tea towels, oven gloves etc. The less people have to bring, the easier it is getting away for a short break and it is particularly useful for those travelling on public transport.
  • Make sure there is a welcome letter upon arrival (especially if you’re not meeting and greeting) and lots of useful information in the welcome folder about the cottage facilities and the surrounding area. Let guests know where they can buy logs if you don’t supply them; how the heating works; where the nearest ‘late night’ shop is;  who to contact in case of a problem; provide emergency phone numbers as well as useful numbers for pubs, taxi’s etc; instruction manuals for equipment and gadgets like the washing machine and dishwasher; clear instructions for disposing of rubbish; info on the best walks, attractions and watering holes. The list is endless but make sure your welcome letter and folder provides all the information needed to settle in and get the most out of a holiday.
  • Provide a warm welcome to help guests settle straight in: a bottle of wine in the fridge chilling; a welcome tray with tea, coffee, milk, cake or biscuits; a hamper with breakfast ingredients for the first morning and/or a made up fire ready for lighting.
  • Go the extra mile and provide as many added extras as possible. If guests are only staying for a couple of days, then they generally appreciate not having to bring or buy too many things. It does not cost a fortune to provide the many extra touches that can make all the difference. For example: toilet/kitchen roll; dishwasher liquid/rinse aid and salt; dish cloth; washing liquid; kitchen foil; napkins; matches; fire lighters; food bags; waste bags; liquid soap at the sinks; bubble bath; full salt and pepper mills; sugar, tea and coffee; selection of cook books; or even a picnic hamper .
  • Why not consider having a ‘convenience cupboard’ with really useful things in such as spices, olive oil, mustard, stock cubes, vinegar, flour etc?  However, avoid cluttering it with sticky jars or half eaten perishables!

There are plenty of things you can do to make your cottage the perfect retreat for a short break. Make it easy for your guests to come away and quickly relax and you are likely to see them return time and time again.

11 thoughts on “Cottage owners – are you set up to take short breaks?

  1. Cath O'Leary

    As well as doing all of the above I have an emergency box with things in like tooth brushes/paste, disposable shavers, shaving cream deodorant, moisturiser, hairspray, shampoo, conditioner, soap, brush, hair mouse, all miniature bottles, also tampons etc. We do short breaks all year round, and think the little things you forget could ruin your short break.

  2. Nicola Rogers

    As short breaks can begin on any day of the week, it’s often more difficult to meet your guests on their arrival. A phone call to check that they’ve arrived safely and asking if everything is satisfactory makes a good impression.

    1. Sarah

      I totally agree Nicola, I try to ring guests on their first night and they do seem very appreciative. It also allows you to answer any tiny questions they may have that they would not want to disturb you with. On a slightly separate subject, we have found having a key safe with the key placed within, a very convenient way of guest’s obtaining the key at a time that is convenient to them, allowing flexible arrival times.

  3. Val Wardle

    I do all of the above as after years of self-catering with the children when they were small I found it really helpful if these things were supplied as a basic as you could guarantee you forget something. Also I recently I have found it pays to be flexible on start dates for holidays as Saturday to Saturday is not always convenient now for most peoples holidays. Short Breaks and even extended 10 day breaks seem to be the norm all year. The best thing you could do to encourage more visitors is to be totally flexible with bookings.

  4. Sally Crompton

    I’ve found that all guests, but particularly those staying for a short break, like to have simple instructions for using things like the washing machine/drier. It takes ages to read through, and understand, the manual (I know as I’ve done it) but only a couple of minutes to read through my basic instructions.

  5. Cathy Hancock

    All of the above are good tips, I will add to my existing emergency box.

    A note about key safes; My parents in their 70’s visited a self catering property recently and couldn’t work out how to use the key safe. They were stuck outside the remote country property for hours, unable to contact the owner, before asking a passer by (who happened to be the cleaner!). The instructions to use the safe need to be legible in poor light and easy to understand!

  6. Sandie Ayriss

    We have always offered short breaks all year round. We find that this is the most selected option on stays. We always meet and greet all guests no matter what day or time they arrive. Like others we have always supplied essentials such as toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, cotton wool etc. Also we include all dry goods in the kitchen including alternative teas and coffees.
    Yes I am sure all who offer short breaks will agree this is a lot of extra work but we find it worthwhile.
    Please help in return by featuring short breaks more on the site.

  7. Patrick

    I agree with much of what has already been said, and we find that short breaks are popular in our region, which attracts a lot of walkers and country lovers.
    Short breaks – ie weekend or midweek – are typically priced at 65-75% of a full week so despite increased changeover costs the overall income can be above that generated by sticking to full weeks. (And has been mentioned, it gives people an opportunity to see the property and the area, and they’ll be back – maybe for a full week.)
    A major issue is educating guests to realise that the per-booking overheads and therefore pricing structure in a self-catering business is totally different from a hotel or B&B, and self-catering cannot compete with those establishments for a one night stay. We have an all-inclusive rate for a short break; it covers up to 3 nights at a weekend or 4 nights midweek. If guests feel that for them it’s worth paying that for one or two nights, that’s fine and we’re all happy. Some enquirers try it on with silly offers, but selling a quality product cheap is a shortcut to going out of business.

    1. Sarah

      We have also found an increase in people looking for a 1 night self-catering break and like you Patrick, we offer a minimum number of nights. If someone only wants a 2 night break, I do find that if I sell the benefits of booking 3 (i.e. they have the cottage to leave at their leisure on the Sunday and don’t have to be up and out by 10:00), I am more likely to gain the booking. I have also in the past slightly reduced the rate if they are staying for only 2 nights but then offered a ‘late departure’ additional charge which was often accepted and increased the booking charges to the normal 3 night charge!

  8. mrs j wilson



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