Staycations in the UK are not new. They are easier, more convenient and increasingly cheaper than heading overseas. It is therefore not surprising that a number of people choose to explore what is on their doorstep and holiday at home. UK holidays are particularly popular with families. Taking children on long flights can be both stressful and expensive. In contrast, self-catering cottages offer flexibility, value for money and less limitations in terms of luggage.
Families tend to be looking for a home from home, but with a few added extras and a little touch of luxury so everyone feels like they are on holiday! Gone are the days where parents are willing to make up a camp bed on the floor for their child, or improvise with chairs because there are no stair-gates. Multi generation holidays are also on the rise. This means taking parent’s, grandparent’s and children’s needs into account. If you are looking to tap into this potentially lucrative market here are a few top tips to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.
Get the holiday off to the right start
It’s always important to ensure that your guest’s holiday starts well. No one wants to start their holiday tired and stressed after driving around in circles getting lost, only to find when they do finally arrive, that the house is cold, the beds aren’t made up and there is no milk in the fridge for that all important cup of tea. Arguably, if you are travelling with kids in tow, you will be even more relieved to finally escape from the car and the continuous wails of ‘are we there yet’ (take a look at our top tips to help you survive the journey).
Whilst a cup of tea and something edible on arrival will always be appreciated, there are a few extra touches that you could provide which are likely to get everyone in the holiday mood. A colouring or puzzle book could keep smaller kids amused while the parents unpack. Or slightly older kids might enjoy a treasure hunt to help familiarise themselves with their new home for the week. You could consider offering the option of home prepared meals which could be left in the fridge ready for their arrival, or accept supermarket deliveries in advance so groceries can be packed away before guests arrive.
What about all those extra accessories?
Packing for a family holiday with babies or toddlers is a military operation. Forget throwing in a toothbrush and a change of clothes five minutes before you leave. If guests are racing around the day before their holiday literally throwing the entire contents of their house into the back of the car they are likely to be wondering whether going on holiday is really a holiday at all. Whilst you can’t provide everything a family would need on holiday, there are a few essential items that you should invest in if you want to attract families with young children.
Safety is paramount for parents. If you are constantly worrying that your child might crawl into the fire, fall down the stairs, or help themselves to the knife drawer in the kitchen, then you aren’t going to have the most relaxing holiday. To allow Mum and Dad enough time to at least finish that first cup of tea without needing eyes in the back of their head, make sure you have child proofed your holiday house as well as reasonably practical.
If you have a fire you will need a fireguard. Stair-gates and bed guards are a good idea. You might decide to install child proof locks on some of your kitchen cupboards and drawers. However, don’t make them so child proof that adults struggle to open them too! Make sure any cleaning products are either locked away or stored in a cupboard out of children’s reach.
Non-slip bath mats, socket covers, toilet seats and baby monitors are also likely to be well received if you have a lot of young families to stay. If you have blinds in the bedrooms make sure you don’t place the child’s cot or bed near the window and install safety devices to keep the cord or chain out of reach of young children.
Providing a high chair and a cot is a must if you want to attract families with young children (interestingly, a cot is one of the most highly searched facilities by holiday makers using Independent Cottages!) . Leaving these bulky items at home is a definite plus. If you are pushed for space, and you also have guests staying that don’t have small children, invest in a travel cot and a booster seat that can be attached to your kitchen chairs as these will be much easier to store when they aren’t needed. Plastic plates and cups, and toddler sized cutlery will be appreciated by parents and kids alike.
Arguably one of the most important things for a parent with young children whilst on holiday is getting some sleep! Make sure you have black out blinds in all the bedrooms to help avoid any excessively early morning starts. It will also stop your guests using your best blankets, throws and towels as an extra set of curtains.
What about the kids!
Kids love to play with new toys! Simple things such as cars, dolls, dressing up clothes, puzzles, books, games and building blocks will all go down well. Try to include some that are washable so you can keep them clean and avoid replacing them too often. You don’t have to spend a fortune. A visit to one or two of your local charity shops should do the trick. Check toys regularly to ensure they are not broken or missing pieces. Make sure you get rid of them before they start to look grotty or become unsafe. If you are looking to provide something a little different you could include a small pack of pre-stamped postcards for the kids to write to their friends or relatives.
Older children and teenagers are likely to bring their own entertainment in the form of mobile phones and tablets. Their main concern will be whether there is access to Wi-Fi or not! Unless you advertise your property as a ‘digital detox’, most guests will expect to have access to WiFi whilst they are on holiday. If you have space, a pool table or table football is often popular with older kids. Some holiday houses also have a Playstation, Xbox or Wii for guests to use.
Access to kids’ satellite TV channels is also worth considering. A movie and popcorn afternoon is likely to keep everyone happy on a wet day. It’s also an easy way to give kids a bit of down time at the end of a busy day, and it might even allow parents a cheeky five minute snooze on the sofa before cooking dinner! Make sure you have all the necessary TV and film licences for your holiday house.
As with indoors, look around the outside of your property to make sure it’s safe for children. Are there any loose paving stones? Does your storage shed lock? Remove any poisonous plants and make sure ponds and swimming pools are securely covered or fenced off. Outdoor toys like a climbing frame, Wendy house, swing or trampoline are always welcome as long as they are safe and well maintained. Check with your insurance company that you are covered for children’s outdoor play equipment. If you don’t have space for garden toys, let guests know of any local parks in your information folder.
An outdoor umbrella or sailcloth is a good idea in the garden. If you have enough space, a football, croquet or cricket set is also likely to be popular. Picnic hampers are a nice touch for families to use either in the garden or on day trips out. If you live by the sea you could include a couple of body boards and wet suits, as well as buckets, spades, fishing nets and crab lines. You may also want to consider a wash-down area outside to keep sand and mud out of the house.
It is likely families will be eating in for most of their meals so make sure you provide all the necessary cooking equipment. They will also need a decent sized fridge, a freezer, a list of nearby supermarkets and facilities for enjoying meals outside such as a BBQ and comfortable garden furniture. Practical appliances such as a dishwasher and washing machine will definitely be appreciated. If your house caters for large family gatherings consider getting two dishwashers.
Think practically when making decisions regarding furnishing your property. Cream carpets and sofas will only cause stress for parents and potential problems for you. When decorating the property, make it as resilient as possible. Endurance or wipeable paint will pay dividends when you need to clean dirty sticky finger marks off the paintwork. Make sure your furniture is sturdy and practical. A glass coffee table with sharp corners – just the height of a toddler’s head – is not a great idea. Kids love bunk beds, and they are great at saving space. Make sure you have waterproof mattress protectors on all the beds, but avoid the very cheap ones that make crinkly noises every time you move!
Your guests may have already investigated activities and attractions in the area but providing a folder with some of those you know to be particularly child-friendly is helpful. Include wet weather information and check it from time to time to ensure it is still up to date as smaller attractions can close down unexpectedly. Try to include something for all ages so you can appeal to as many people as possible.
A list of family friendly pubs and restaurants is also useful, as is the number and location of the nearest pharmacies, doctor surgery, dentist and A&E department.
The grown-ups are on holiday too!
When it comes to family self-catering holidays, the general rule is that if the children are happy and relaxed, the parents will be happy and relaxed too. Whilst this is largely true, it is worth thinking about what you can provide to ensure the grown-ups have a holiday as well.
Whilst you can’t change the size of your house, bear in mind that houses that have enough space for everyone to hang out both together, and individually, will be more appealing. If at all possible, having a separate playroom or snug that children can make their own for the holiday is a great idea. This is likely to be especially appreciated if the grandparents have come on holiday too, as they may well need a little bit of ‘time out’ from the whirlwind of over-excited grandchildren. If the lay out of your property allows, it is a good idea to have a ground floor bedroom and bathroom for elderly family members who would prefer not to climb stairs.
Consider a few special extra touches that the grown-ups might appreciate. A bottle fizz and nice chocolates in the welcome hamper, a coffee machine in the kitchen or nice toiletries in the bathroom. If you want to go the extra mile, hot tubs are becoming an increasingly popular addition to holiday homes. Relaxing in a hot tub, glass of wine in hand, watching the sun go down after the kids have gone to bed is a lovely way to end a perfect day. Make sure it’s securely fenced off though! You can find out more about the pros and cons of installing a hot tub here.
Whilst happy kids might equal happy parents, happy parents equal repeat bookings! Creating a safe environment and going the extra mile to ensure everyone has a fun and happy holiday will help your property stand out from the crowd. As UK family holidays are (literally!) getting bigger, there has never been a better time to tap into this lucrative market.