So you’ve already made the decision to go away for Christmas and booked a self catering cottage to enjoy the festive season. The UK is a great choice of holiday destination for a Christmas break. Not only can you immerse yourself in familiar festive traditions, but you also avoid lengthily delays at the airport and can take the whole family away with you if you wish (including the dog!). Simply pack up the car with your favourite festive treats and presents and head off to your cottage for a relaxing Christmas.
Whether you are going away to escape the Christmas mania or are planning a big family get together, a little forward planning and preparation will ensure your holiday and Christmas runs smoothly. After all, Christmas takes a fair bit of planning at the best of times and in new surrounds, without the back up of your well stocked home cupboards or friendly neighbours to call upon, you need to be well organised.
Some planning you can do in advance:
- Pre-order Groceries – The last thing you want to do when you arrive at the cottage is dash around trying to source ingredients in an unfamiliar area for your Christmas dinner or Boxing Day banquet. Pre-order your groceries online if possible to be delivered to the cottage, and to be sure your turkey is not substituted for a chicken, source a good local butcher – what could be nicer than a festive feast consisting of the finest of local produce. It is worth speaking to the cottage owner to find out what supermarkets offer delivery (particularly if the cottage is in a more remote location), and they may also be able to suggest good local suppliers (some may even have their own home reared produce for sale if you have booked a farmstay!).
- Pre-book restaurants – To avoid disappointment, make sure you book any meals out as far in advance as possible and confirm the booking a couple of days beforehand.
- Think about practical gifts – Before you buy your Christmas presents, think about the ones you are planning to take with you for your Christmas break and remember they need to fit in the car, along with all your other luggage, equipment, family members and dog (unless of course you take a roof box). A friend once learned the hard way, and had to hire a trailer at short notice to fit luggage and presents for six in the car!
- Confirm the size of the cottage oven – I once had a guest ask me the size of my cottage oven in advance of arrival. She was planning ahead and wanted to ensure the goose would fit in.
- Decorations – Ask the owner if the cottage will be decorated and if not, check it is OK to take your own along and put them up (make sure you take ones that do not need sticking to walls or furniture!). If you want a Christmas tree, it may be worth finding out how much room there is in the cottage to accommodate one and pre-ordering with a local supplier as many will have sold out by the time you arrive a couple of days before Christmas.
- Pre-wrap presents – Not only may it stop the little ones catching a glimpse of their presents early but it allows you to dispose of all the packaging, cuts down on space in the car and it’s one less thing to do when you arrive at the cottage. Make sure you take some spare paper and cellotape for any presents that break open before Christmas day or last minute gifts you buy locally.
- Fire wood – If you have booked a cottage with an open fire, ask the owner if fire wood is provided and if not, find out where you can purchase some locally or pick some up on your journey to the cottage (don’t forget the matches, fire lighters, kindling and chestnuts!).
- Think communication – We all like to keep in touch with friends and family, particularly at Christmas. If the cottage has a phone, you may be able to get the number in advance of your stay so your friends and family can call you. Alternatively, find out if your mobile phone network has coverage in the cottage location. You may also want to find out access details for Wi-Fi if the cottage offers this facility.
Things to take with you:
- Take some kitchen essentials – Whilst many holiday homes are well equipped for preparing a Christmas dinner, it may be worth taking along a few home faithfuls, just in case you need them. These could include an oven thermometer for checking if the turkey is cooked, your favourite sharp knives, Christmas cook books or copies of your favourite recipes, ice tray/cubes and a large roasting tin that is sure to fit the turkey in. Make sure you also take plenty of foil, cling wrap, storage containers/food bags and lots of rubbish bags.
- Entertainment – Many cottages provide a selection of games but don’t forget to pack the family favourites. You may also like to pack a couple of good films, comedy DVD’s and a radio times to make sure you don’t miss any of your favourite Christmas specials.
- Medications – No time taxes the constitution more than Christmas, so don’t forget the medications for over indulgence or you may find yourself driving around looking for a chemist!
- Christmas cards from friends and family – Take some Christmas cards from friends and family to put some Christmas cheer and familiarity into the cottage.
- Festive favourites – You can buy so many wonderful treats and tipples at Christmas, so make sure you take your favourites away with you. Pudding wine, champagne, Christmas pudding, crackers and stollen are just a few on my list!
- Christmas table – If you’re having your Christmas meal in the cottage, you may like to take some extra touches with you to make the table look special such as festive napkins, crackers and table gifts. When you arrive, take a stroll out into the country and see what nature can provide in terms of natural decorations. Springs of holly, old mans beard, pine cones and rosehips can add some festive cheer to the table and if you’re lucky you may even find some mistletoe!
- Outdoor gear – Don’t forget to make sure your party all bring outdoor clothing including wet weather gear, so you can walk off the Christmas feast and explore the new surrounds. Boxing day is a great day for a walk, so why not take a stroll to the local pub to soak up the atmosphere and sample a local tipple.
The list could go on forever and you do have to fit everything (and everyone!) in the car. However, it is worth thinking about all the essential things you and your family will want to have over Christmas, especially if you are in a rural location without shops at hand. With a little extra planning your Christmas in a cottage will be a special one that the whole family will remember forever.