Ten things to bear in mind when choosing a large holiday house

Oxon Hoath

1. Size

Large dining room at Plas Dinam

Large dining room at Plas Dinam

It sounds obvious, but ‘large’ houses come in many different guises. Do you require a minimum number of bedrooms, a minimum number of beds, or both? Would you like children with parents or sharing bedrooms? A few of our houses have bunk beds and cots available, and some are flexible about adding ‘put-ups’ or extra mattresses. Generally speaking, it is best to work out how large you need a house to be before moving onto choosing a location. Search Landed Houses by house size.

2. Location

Some groups are more concerned with location than price, and others vice versa. The larger the ‘possible area’, the more likely you are to find a house which is: (a) large enough; (b) within budget; and (c) available. That said, ‘UK-wide’ can be a rather wide net to cast, and you may be better with a few regions (for example South West England, Wales and Midlands). The closer you need to be to London, the greater your budget will need to be. There is a huge difference in price between houses that are within 90 minutes of London versus those that are two or three hours away (houses within 2.5 hours of London). Think creatively too – a train can travel a long way in two hours (even on Friday night!) and local taxis are usually easy to find.

Oxon Hoath

Oxon Hoath, a large country house near London

3. Budget

The big ‘B’ for Budget! The houses that we represent tend to range between £50 and £150 per person per night, depending on location, facilities, size and whether you are booking a weekend (more expensive per night) or a full week. We frequently see enquiries asking for Saturday-night only but the reality is you should expect to pay the same (or near enough) for just Saturday night as you would Friday and Saturday – even Sunday too. The reason is simply that a holiday house is unlikely to be able to sell the other evenings independently, and clean up in time. Search by price.

4. Facilities

Seaside

Seaside

Ideally all houses would have an indoor swimming pool, snooker, a huge television, tennis court and their own cricket pitch. The reality is that most will have something to entertain children but swimming pools – particularly indoor ones – are hard to come by. Table tennis/football are quite common. Try not to be too prescriptive and think about local activities in tandem with those that the house offers. It also possible to have mobile outfits come to houses, for example clay pigeon shooting, archery and falconry displays.

5. Local area

Decent outdoor walks are available within easy reach of almost everywhere. Also, have a whizz on Google Maps for local attractions and you might be surprised by what’s on offer – museums, horse riding, Iron-Age forts and sometimes the seaside too! Example: museums near Chatsworth House.

6. Deposit

It’s a mundane matter, but most houses will ask for a refundable deposit. It will be your choice whether to ‘share’ the cost amongst everyone to keep the group ‘in it together’ or just contribute yourself. The former is probably wise for stag and hen groups, the latter for more mature/family groups. Small breakages (the odd glass) are expected but larger ones are to be avoided. If they do happen, always be honest rather than bodging a family heirloom back together.

7. Dates

It’s easy – the more flexible you are, the more houses you will have to choose between. A year or more ahead: there’s a good choice available, six months: be quick, three months: be really quick, less than three months: you might find a special offer – or nothing! Those that are retired (or out of work or on holiday) are able to find some cracking weekday-only bargains, particularly out of the peak summer season.

8. Catering

Cutlery

Cutlery

Some houses will only offer a fully catered service, but nearly all large holiday houses are predominantly self-catering. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t have a Rolls Royce service and finding a local cook can be easy. Ask the house for suggestions and you ought to see a few names/companies come back.

Tip: Try to have at least one fully catered meal; cooking for the masses is hard work! You can save staff cost by serving yourselves but that takes some of the luxury away. Other handy hints are to have food and wine delivered directly to the house (try Tesco Wine) and think about cooking meals in advance and freezing them.

9. Staff

Rather like catering, most houses do not provide staff but can arrange help if you would like it. Recommended housekeepers and nannies/babysitters are the obvious choices, or perhaps bring your own.

10. Little things

The little things can make all the difference. Here are a few ideas: A3 bedrooms plans and Blu-Tack (ask for a floorplan in advance) to help guests find their rooms, name tags for bedroom door handles (don’t forget string), gifts for guests (t-shirts/hip flasks or even custom-printed pyjamas) and remember to tip the staff if they’ve gone the extra mile; £5 a head can go a long way with a big group!

Any questions? Contact us at Landed Houses and we will be happy to help.

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