Holiday Home Get-togethers – Tips for planning a large gathering or family celebration

Having recently organised a large family gathering to celebrate my mothers 80th Birthday, I know all about the stresses and strains of event planning.  There are so many things to think about, not least finding a large house big enough for 14 people! My advice is to book accommodation well in advance and plan everything you can in good time, particularly if you want to have a summer weekend event.

Blaithwaite House

What’s your budget for your group holiday/weekend break?

So where do you start when the idea of having a family ‘get-together’, friends reunion, ‘big’ birthday celebration, hen party or stage weekend is suggested?  Who is invited? And who is doing the organisation? Are good places to begin.  What is your budget? And who is paying for what?

It’s good to get these things clear early on.  You don’t want to go ahead and find a beautiful house that sleeps 20 only to find that it is way out of your price range or that some people want to find cheap accommodation for the weekend and spend as little as possible.  In my case, my mother had set aside an amount to pay for her 80th Birthday celebration.  She had initially wanted to go into a hotel, however, after discussions, it was agreed that a large house or a group of cottages near each other, was a better idea and would be more flexible – plus we could take our own booze and avoid expensive bar bills!

When is the best time to book accommodation for a large group? Get the date for your large gathering sorted early!

The key thing to agree on, once who is invited is sorted, is a date or a choice of dates.  This can be tricky if your group has lots of commitments, have school children with busy social lives, or work weekends.  So giving everyone as much notice a possible is a must.  I say a choice of dates because, once you start looking for large accommodation, you may be restricting your choice of properties if you only have one date.  We only had one date – because my mother’s birthday was on a Saturday, she wanted to the weekend celebration to be then.

Find the best location for your event

So, with a date in mind, what next for finding that perfect weekend away.  Well, location, location, location is the next big thing.  There are some fabulous large properties in Scotland, great for a ‘hen weekends’. No use if the majority of your group live in Cornwall without cars and without public transport options. It’s good to know your travel limitations – who will be arriving by car? Is there a railway station nearby or a bus service?  It could be that some of your party are abroad and will be flying in – finding a holiday house near an airport could be important, particularly if time is limited.  Consider the direction everyone will be coming from.  We chose a central location in the Peak District as we had family travelling from the north, south and midlands.  If a lot of your group are in the South East then looking for a large cottage near London, or a big house in Hampshire, Dorset or the Cotswolds could be the best option.

To save money on your cottage holiday it’s worth looking to stay where fewer want to go. Less popular destinations are often as attractive as popular places it’s just that people haven’t heard of them!  Travelling might be easier too.  Whilst the Malvern Hills aren’t as stunning as Snowdonia, they are easier to get to! In the less popular destinations, cottage owners generally work hard to keep standards high and visitors coming back. Devon and Cornwall have some wonderful large houses that can be best appreciated without crowds of people.  Or if you don’t want to travel that far, a large cottage in Somerset or Wiltshire might work

Do you want to rent a country cottage or a seaside property?  Again, it’s worth thinking about the time of year.  Dragging your friends to a house in North Wales may not be ideal in the depths of winter. That said, there are some great places to stay in the winter months that are less busy and cheaper than at the height of the summer. There are 13 weeks of school holidays a year and 39 weeks that are not. So if you’re restricted to school holidays, you know that you will be paying a premium. This, unfortunately, is the reality of the market and supply and demand; lots of people want those weeks so the price goes up. However, if you can go away in term time, you could grab yourself a bargain.  The traditional Whit weekend of May / start of June can often offer the best value.  Prices are lower than the high season and if you’re lucky you can enjoy the long days with lovely weather.

Look out for offers and discounts

Another plus if you are looking for a large property and without school-aged children, is that bigger properties tend to drop the most in price outside school holidays, as families can’t travel then.  So three couples splitting the cost of a large cottage could be a real bargain. Now’s the time, if you have a baby or pre-schoolers, to take advantage of holidaying in term time! Share the cost with another couple or take along Grandparents and you’ve got built-in babysitters!

Here’s a roundup of Cottage Agents offer pages

How many beds do you need to sleep everyone? Is the accommodation suitable for disabled guests? Child-friendly? Does it allow dogs? What must your holiday home offer?

Do you need accommodation suitable for children?  Or do you have people in your group with mobility issues?  We didn’t have any babies or very small children to cater for, so no cots or high chairs needed,  instead, we wanted to find somewhere that was ok for older children – so finding a property with a garden was important, so that they could kick a ball around. And of course, having Wifi in the cottage was vital!  We did look at some cottages with a swimming pool. Some had private pools or if they were a group of cottages they often had a shared swimming pool. Swimming is a great family activity for all ages, so long as the weather is ok.  Lots of large holiday houses have hot tubs – which now seem a pre-requisite for any Hen Party!

You also need to consider the number of double, twin or single rooms you need.  Who’s happy sharing? And how many rooms are en-suite, if not all how many bathrooms in the property are there?  We managed to find accommodation with en-suite and all rooms to the same standard.

What about the dog? Do you need to bring your pets to stay?  Thankfully, we didn’t!  It can save on kennelling fees though, especially if there is more than one dog.  Look for properties that allow pets, but beware it might narrow your choice. And check that everyone in your party is happy that the dog is coming!

Don’t want to cook? Who’s doing the catering in your cottage?

How are you going to cater for everyone? And who’s going to do all the shopping? If you have a group of cottages or lodges together it might be that everyone brings their food for breakfast and lunch and then you eat at the local pub in the evenings. Or you could find a house big enough for you all to eat together. We were lucky that the place we rented had a dinning table big enough for 14 and also the option for us to eat (and seat everyone) outside.  Some cottage complexes have cottages that have the capacity to seat more people that they can sleep! Perfect for just this type of large gathering.

We decided to have a caterer cook for us on the Saturday evening – so no cooking or no clearing up that night.  For the other food needs we arranged a home delivery from a nearby supermarket.  This is a great way to organise the food and drink.  With most supermarkets you can check if they deliver to the area, by putting in the postcode of the rental property.  Some holiday properties also offer a catering service, food delivery, fresh milk, meat and bread, or provide a welcome hamper or have an on-site restaurant.  It’s good to use local products if you can, it helps support the local economy, and smaller shops will often offer a delivery service too.  The one thing I forgot to organise was flowers; luckily there was a florist nearby.

Fancy horse-riding or need a pub in walking distance? What activities are near your cottage?

Once you’ve decided roughly where is the country have your gathering you want to be you can consider other requirements.  Do you want a cottage in walking distance to a pub? Or with shops close by?  Do you want a holiday house that you can walk to the beach from or a country cottage in a National Park with direct access to good walks and Public Rights of Way?  Or perhaps you want to rent somewhere be near a town, so that you can go the theatre or to restaurants.

We were happy spending time together, and were fortunate that the weather was glorious. Had it rained then there were plenty of board games and DVD’s to keep everyone amused.  I had planned a circular walk for the Sunday, which took in a pub along route – always good to keep motivation.   It could be that your group wants more organised events such as clay pigeon shooting, horse-riding or quad biking, depending on your location, these activities are often available nearby.  For those wanting a more relaxing experience a cottage near a spa or beauty parlour could be a winner.  Day packages at spas are often good value, and a popular choice for hen weekends, 40th Birthday’s or just a ‘girly’ weekend.

If you’re organising a golfing break for a large group, finding a large house near a golf course could be a more flexible option than staying in a hotel – particularly if there’s a pub nearby offering food.

Start searching for your perfect weekend away

So our advice for booking a large cottage and arranging a gathering with lots of people is to start early, look at less popular locations and search for your requirement  – whether it’s ‘dog-friendly cottages’ or ‘wifi’, using the Cottage World search tool. Happy holidays!

Top tips for planning a large gathering

  • Set a budget for your holiday and agree who is paying
  • Find a suitable date for the event
  • What facilities MUST your holiday rental property offer?
  • Choose a good, easily accessible location for all your guests
  • Consider home deliveries and the cottage catering requirements
  • What group activities do you want near your accommodation?
  • Use Cottage World to search for your specific requirements
  • To get the best locations and choice of cottages for large groups Book early!

“3 killer questions” to ask before booking your next Cottage Holiday

Here’s taster of our guide…

The first rule of holiday cottages – Price is not a good guide to quality!

The price you pay is mainly about the size of the cottage, where it is, and how popular the time of year is. So a four-bedroomed cottage in Cornwall in August will cost at least three times more than a two-bedroom cottage in Herefordshire in May. But the cheaper cottage may be much nicer inside. The truth is that a cottage in Cornwall will let for the summer holidays regardless of how tired it may be inside, because lots of people are looking for big places for a family holiday.

Quality schemes don’t help much.

I have seen an owner moving furniture out of a holiday cottage with his son. When I asked why, he told me “The tourist board inspector is due round this afternoon, and we always put the furniture out of our house in for him, because it’s much nicer”. A quality inspection is once every year or second year, so don’t rely on it for reassurance.

Pictures only tell part of the story.

Clever use of a long lens can make a beach appear to be right outside the window of your cottage. Only when you get there do you discover the camera angle has shielded the road / rubbish tip / impassable cliff between you and the golden sands. Google Maps on “satellite” view can be very helpful for getting the lie of the land.

Is the price really the price?

Check what is included and what may be extra. This varies with different cottage agencies, with some seeming to make charges for everything. Items to check include booking fees, credit card charges, bed linen, fuel, electricity, and charges for pets.

Like to know more? Download our FREE Cottage Holiday Guide, giving you expert tips on how to find the best holiday cottage for you, and those “3 killer questions” to ask before booking.

How to find value in your cottage holiday

If you have a choice between two items, and one costs twice as much as the other, it’s a fair bet that the more expensive one will be better / nicer / trendier.

The world of cottage rental, as usual, has different rules.

It is perfectly feasible to walk into a cottage for which you have paid say £400 for a week and go “Wow, Fabulous!” and spend 5 minutes in a cottage costing twice as much and wonder about going home. So how do you get the best value from a holiday cottage.

The three key factors in understanding the price of a cottage are location, size and date

These things come way ahead of quality of furnishings. To take an extreme example, a 5 bedroom cottage on a Cornish beach in August could probably sell out 30 times over. So how concerned will the owners be about making sure evreything is perfect? They might, but they don’t really need to in order to get more bookings.

There are 13 weeks of school holidays a year, compared to 39 weeks which are not school holidays. If you are tied to school holidays for your cottage you already know you will be paying a price premium. Many people believe this is unjust, but it is just market reality – lots more people want those few weeks, so the price goes up. The best value is often Whit week, at the end of May / beginning of June. Days are long, prices are lower than high season, and the weather can be lovely.

Cottage size matters!

Size of property is tricky to change as it is probably determined by your party. Bigger properties tend to drop the most in price outside school holidays,  as families can’t travel then. So three couples splitting the cost of a large cottage can get a real bargain.

Gorgeous Cottages have a range of large luxury holiday homes that are perfect for a special celebration.  Brass Castle – prices start at £2450 or a short break at this wow-factor 6 bedroom property which has a hot tub, games room and even a tennis court. Skylark – A 6-bedroom property that’s right in the centre of the North York Moors. It’s elevated position means stunning views and the interiors are just as good. Prices start at £1650 Gilling Lodge – This stunning Georgian Manor House has grand interiors (including a sweeping cantilever staircase), gorgeous grounds and sleeps up to 16 people. Prices start at £1490

What’s the most effective way of saving money on your cottage holiday?

Go where fewer people want to go – not because these places are unattractive, but because people have not heard of them. By and large people don’t take a lot of holidays, so they aren’t familiar with all of the options available to them. Most people have heard of Newquay, but how many have heard of Embleton? (It’s in Northumberland, and features as the backdrop to ITV’s “Vera” detective series). Snowdonia is rightly famous, but the Malvern Hills rise spectacularly out of a flat plain, and provide wonderful views on both sides while walking along the ridge. By definition, fewer people visit less-known places, so cottage owners generally try hard to bring them back by keeping standards very high.

So our advice is, start from what you like in a holiday cottage, whether it’s wifi or an open fire (or both) and put those into the CottageWorld search Don’t go through the results to find a location you have heard of – look at all of them. Lower Slaughter might be just the place for you, despite the off-putting name (it’s a gorgeous village in the Cotswolds). And it’s the places people haven’t heard of where the real bargains lie.

Happy hunting!


Winter Half Term is fast approaching – make it truly special with a Cottage Holiday

Cottage Holidays are the perfect breaks for families, offering space, privacy and freedom, and sometimes extra-special features like games rooms, swimming pools and even tennis courts!  Many also welcome the family petThink family walks through beautiful countryside or cosy nights by a roaring fire…

Sykes have reduced thousands of prices for February half term, giving you the perfect chance to spend some quality time with your family.

The National Trust have over 400 holiday cottages across England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Looking for holiday ideas? From cosy boltholes for two, large family get togethers, to wild outdoor escapes, the National Trust have holiday cottage accommodation in some of the most beautiful and iconic locations in Britain. See their lastest offers here…

Mulberry Cottages also have offers for February Half Term and Easter 2018

£50 OFF voucher code for any 2018 arrival at any of our new holiday houses.  This offer is running until midnight on the 11th February 2018.


Coast & Country Cottages are offering discounts of up to £300 OFF* 2018 summer holidays.

See all Coast & Country Cottages summer special offers here: 

Other 2018 Offers below:

Sykes Cottages – £25 low deposit offer FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Secure your 2018 and 2019 Cottage today.

Blue Chip – January Sale – ‘Save up to 20% on 2018 Holidays’.

Hoseasons Summer Sale – Save up to £200*

*Up to £200 off 7 night stays and up to £100 off 3 or 4 night stays. New bookings only for departures between 20/07/18 and 01/09/18, book by 28/02/18. Offer applies to selected locations and accommodation types. All bookings are subject to availability.

Coast & Country Cottages…

Hillfield Farmhouse, Dartmouth, sleeps 10 – up to £250 off summer weeks Hillfield Farmhouse is a spacious and immaculately presented luxury property, fully renovated and available for special holidays and family celebrations. Sleeping up to ten, the accommodation is presented over three floors with five good sized bedrooms, three with large en suite bath or shower rooms. The house also benefits from the use of the facilities at neighbouring Hillfield Village, including an all-weather tennis court, outdoor pool and children’s play area.

 Oversteps House, Saclombe, sleeps 16 – up to £300 off summer weeks 
Oversteps House is a spacious and luxurious holiday home sleeping up to 16 people, boasting incredible views and in an idyllic location overlooking South Sands beach in Salcombe. Originally constructed in 1901, this imposing holiday property has been extensively refurbished to the very highest of standards, and is now cleverly designed as a spacious and luxurious eight-bedroom house, with seven bathrooms and stylishly presented living, dining and relaxation areas.

Drake House, Hope Cove, sleeps 10 – up to £300 off summer weeks
Drake House is a substantial and immaculately presented seaside holiday home with wonderful sea views, just a few metres walk from Hope Cove’s sandy beaches. With the South West Coast Path almost on the doorstep, two lovely beaches just minutes away, a village shop for croissants and newspapers, plus a local pub and café serving good food, this is the perfect location for a seaside break, this summer. The house has been extended, renovated and stylishly modernised to provide a very high standard of accommodation for families, adult groups or those simply looking for a spacious and luxurious holiday retreat in a sought-after coastal location.

Vantage Point, Hillfield Village, sleeps 8 – up to £200 off summer weeks
Vantage Point is a unique VisitEngland 5-Star Gold awarded property with spectacular views from the ‘wrap around’ deck of the surrounding countryside. This chic and contemporary house overlooks the beautiful gardens and the valley beyond. The perfect base for a family group, the property has two extensive elevated decked areas – ideal for an al fresco meal in the South Devon sunshine – as well as a sauna and large hot tub! Vantage Point is set within the stunning Hillfield Villagedevelopment of properties nestled near historic Dartmouth, in the South Devon countryside. Facilities include acres of landscaped gardens, an outdoor swimming pool, all weather tennis court and children’s play area.

Broad Downs Barn, Nr Salcombe, sleeps 12 – up to £250 off summer weeks
Set within 22 acres of privately owned pasture land, Broad Downs Barn forms part of Broad Downs Farm dating from c1860 and consisting of the original farmhouse, stables, barn and piggery. Approached by its own private lane, the barn has been converted to the highest of standards whilst maintaining its original exterior integrity. Internally it provides spacious, luxury modern family holiday accommodation, contemporary design and technical specification, and is serviced by the latest ‘Green’ technology.  The barn also enjoys shared use of a delightful outdoor heated swimming pool set in an original walled garden.

*See Coast & Country Cottages T&C’s

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