Holiday hotel vs self-catering? Which is better?
5 min | 10 July 2023
Which are you most likely to book for your holiday: a hotel or a self-catering villa? Read on to discover the pros and cons of both options, and you might just change your mind about what is best for you.
Whether you're after a long weekend or a major trip, you probably still want to get the most for your money.
Many families opt for a holiday rental over a hotel for added privacy and extra space for young children to run around.
But hotels can come with valuable perks: room service, on-site amenities and possibly a kids’ club, plus airport transfers. They also offer the chance to escape daily chores – no tidying or washing up needed.
To help you make the best choice, read our list of pros and cons.
Travelling with kids: What are the options?
Cathy Adams, senior travel editor at The Times and The Sunday Times, approaches holidays in a different way since having her son three years ago. “Usually I tend towards self-catering to solve the space issue. There's nothing worse than putting a toddler to bed at 7pm, then having to sit in the bathroom in the dark with a glass of wine”.
But hotels can work, she says – especially if you book a suite or interconnecting rooms and the hotel offers plenty of fun things to do.
Carrie Bradley, who runs the travel blog Flying With A Baby (Opens in new window) says her ultimate holiday is an apartment in a hotel resort complex. This way you get the best of both worlds: housekeeping and on-site facilities, as well as a kitchen and the all-important washer-dryer.
“A hotel with good facilities and the opportunity to make new friends is often preferred by school-age kids,” she says, “whereas a villa might be ideal for parents whose children need a nap during the day.”
How do you know if you’re getting value for money?
For a holiday in a city or town, hotels can work out cheaper because you can save on car hire by walking or taking public transport to the main sights. Don’t forget to ask whether the hotel offers a free airport shuttle service.
But if you’re looking for a quieter or more secluded spot, a villa could be better. You may need to factor in the cost of hiring a car, but you could save money by preparing meals yourself 'at home'.
That said, it’s a good idea to draw up a rota so that everyone pitches in with the food shopping, cooking and cleaning up – kids included! Or mix it up with some meals out at restaurants, and prepare others at the property.
Large groups often find a self-catered property can provide better value than booking multiple hotel rooms.
How to cut costs on holiday
For the lowest prices, you want to book no later than six weeks before your departure date, ideally eight months before, if you can.
Blogger Carrie advises looking at package deals and then pricing them up separately to discover the cheapest option. “Look for similar deals out of regional airports as they can often be cheaper,” she adds. “And sign up for holiday company and airline newsletters to be first to hear about sales.” However, be careful of any additional costs of getting to or from regional airports that could push the total cost up.
Check whether your bank or credit card offers holiday perks. It’s also worth comparing your debit and credit cards to see which offers the lowest fees for overseas transactions and competitive exchange rates for cash withdrawals.
Try saving through the year for your holiday. By setting up a monthly standing order, you could be putting away £50 a month into a holiday fund. Even £50 a month would mean you'd have £600 a year, plus any interest on top if you choose to keep your money in a savings account that pays interest. You might want to think about a Chase saver account for this purpose1
Beware of cancellation policies
Many hotels and holiday rentals have updated their terms since Covid. Check whether you'll get a full refund if you cancel or if the airline or hotel only offers a voucher. Flexible cancellation options often cost more.
Hotel vs self-catering accommodation: a pros and cons list
- A freshly made bed and breakfast every day
- Room service, concierge service, airport transfers
- More amenities for all ages
- Entertainment and kids' club options at larger resorts
- Special rates, deals and free nights
- Additional costs: food, taxes and staff tips
- Sharing a pool and other facilities
- Often overpriced laundry services
- Added privacy and space
- Lower food bills by eating in
- Friends and family can gather in one place
- Ease of catering for any allergies or dietary requirements
- Cooking and cleaning up
- Financial responsibility for accidental damage
- Lack of amenities
- WiFi may be patchy (hotel WiFi might be patchy, but at least you can ask at the front desk to help you)
Whichever accommodation option you choose, do your research, relax and above all, enjoy your holiday!
1. UK residents, 18+. You must have a Chase current account. T&Cs apply.