Months back we wrote an article on how to behave in a British Bed and Breakfast and it generated a great debate on some guest decorum. So, we thought we’d expand into covering some tips for how to behave in a self-catering cottage or flat in Britain.
Now that we have young children, we prefer to stay in self-catering accommodation. It’s much easier when the kids have their own rooms and it’s much more cost effective to cook your own locally sourced meals. We’ll be staying in 3 self-catering properties on our upcoming trip – 1 in London, 1 in Dorset and 1 in the Cotswolds.
You are Staying in Someone’s Home
First rule – you are staying in someone’s home. While it may not be their main home – it is still someone else’s home. You are guest there and despite paying to stay, it’s still someone’s personal property.
When guests are first enquiring, remember that holiday cottage owners are not faceless company employees but individuals who are letting their most valuable material possession to complete strangers. Friendly emails are always appreciated. It’s a good idea to acknowledge email replies so that the owner knows that their replies have reached them.
Be Flexible With Payment Options
Pay deposits and balances on time and ensure that bank fees are covered if applicable – it is highly unlikely that owners make very much profit, if at all. The biggest challenge self-catering owners face is processing payments from abroad which eats into their thin margins once you factor in exchange rates and credit card fees. Consider using a wire transfer service like Xoom.com and pay the fees. If you can pay via Paypal, send it as a gift so you can cover the modest fees. Some owners will take Credit Cards directly so you can stay covered under your Credit Cards travel protections, but many will charge a small fee for this.
Read the Information Packet
Most cottages will provide you with an information pack on how to make use of all the facilities. Be sure to read all information packs in advance to ensure that you are fully prepared. If it’s not provided in advance, make time to read it when you arrive. That way if the place has a finicky thermostat – you’ll know!
Travel Insurance is a Good Idea
It’s a good idea to take out travel insurance that covers weather – if you are prevented from reaching the cottage, the owners shouldn’t lose out! With the unpredictability of the self-catering market, they’re unlikely to be able to fill your booking at the last minute.
Arrive on time (and not early)
Arrive no earlier than the stated time – the owners need all the time they have available to prepare the cottage to the standard that guests expect. It’s also important to get yourself good directions there so you’re not frantically calling trying to find the place. Usually these are provided by the cottage owners when you book. Satnavs can be very unreliable so it’s a good idea to have multiple directions.
Take Care of the Property and it’s Furnishings
Take every care with the property, the furnishings and contents etc. – accidents happen but excessive breakages are frustrating for owners. Equally spillages and marks on carpets, bed linen and sofas are usually avoidable and difficult to clean quickly within the time available during a changeover.
Coasters are your Best Friend
Use coasters! Ring marks on wood and antique furniture are bad news!
Leave it as you found it
Leave the cottage as you found it – everything in the same place, basically clean and tidy and ALWAYS do the washing up………leaving a filthy oven with a dirty roasting tray in the oven which has been left ON for 24 hours is unacceptable! (Yes, this happened to a friend of ours).
Try to be Conscious of Energy Usage
Be aware of saving energy – turn lights off when you leave a room and definitely when you go out (this happens ALL the time!) and try not to leave heating on with all the windows open!
Leave On Time
Try to leave on time, which is usually in the morning. The poor housekeeper has to get the entire house ready for the next guests in just a few hours time.
Pay Attention to Waste Management
Pay attention to the information packet for info on waste management – some towns and councils have particular rules for where you can put your garbage and when. Usually you can only put your rubbish out on collection day.
Don’t Nick (steal) Anything!
DON’T take anything with you ‘by accident’ that belongs to the cottage!
Don’t Leave Anything Unless it’s a gift
DO take your own belongings when you leave. It’s not good to leave a lot – as the housekeeper will have to remove it before the next guests arrive. However, it’s perfectly all right to leave a momento for other guests to enjoy – such as a map or local book. When we stay in Updown Cottage, we often leave a local topic book for future guests.
Be Prepared to Pay to Replace Something You Broke
If you break anything, be prepared to pay to replace it. Most cottages will require a deposit that this can come out of. So, if you break something, be prepared not to get your deposit back.
Write in the Guest Book
Be sure to write in the guest book about your stay.
Leave a Good Review on Trip Advisor
If you enjoyed your stay – it’s a good idea to leave a review on Trip Advisor. Keep in mind when writing a review there that it’s not a hotel, so do not hold them to the same standard. Good reviews can make or break a self-catering cottage business. One bad review for someone absurd (like you didn’t like the soaps provided so gave your whole stay 1 star) can ruin a cottage’s reputation.
Have you stayed in a self-catering cottage? What would you recommend to fellow visitors? Let us know in the comments!
The photo at the top of the article is of Updown Cottage in Shaftesbury Dorset, one of our favorite places to stay.