Planning a self-catering holiday with family? Here are some tips

If you are planning a self-catering family holiday, there are a few things you should probably pack, says EIMEAR HUTCHINSON, who reflects on a recent vacation
Planning a self-catering holiday with family? Here are some tips

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to pack and what not to pack on self-catering holidays - especially if you are going with the whole family. Picture: Stock

WE escaped to the Peak District in England during the mid-term break, an area that perhaps not many Irish people have on their bucket list, but it is a really beautiful and relaxed part of the world. My husband’s great-aunt was the draw for us and it was nice to have a reason see a part of the world we might otherwise have never seen fit to visit.

The Peak District is right in the heart of England and is filled with rolling hills. We did a couple of popular climbs and our three-year-old was able to walk them all (much to our surprise because the same one wouldn’t walk 500m to school without complaining about her sore legs!). If there are peaks, there are valleys, so there are lots of easier walking routes alongside rivers and plenty of caves to explore.

We took a cable car to the Heights of Abraham in Matlock, which is a lovely day out with children (although not so much for those who are afraid of heights!).

The highlight of the trip for me was a day spent at Chatsworth, part of the estate of the Duke of Devonshire, who also boasts Lismore Castle here in Ireland as part of his portfolio. It’s a fantastic day out for the whole family with gardens to explore, the biggest playground we have ever seen, a petting farm, and of course the house itself, mind-blowing.

Almost every holiday we have gone on with the children in the last ten years has been self-catering, either cottages in England or mobile homes in France. 

I know a lot of people like to escape the kitchen when they are on holidays, but my husband enjoys cooking so he likes to do so on holidays. 

We love going to restaurants when we are away, but with four small kids up until recently, it was marginally more hassle than it was worth to go out for dinner, although that balance is beginning to shift.

That said, I’m sure we won’t feel it until they are old enough to be too embarrassed to eat out with us!

This time round, we holidayed with family and had a ‘come dine with me’ approach to dinner, where each couple cooked and cleaned on one of the first few nights, and it worked really well, a nice variety, and we all had a few nights off cooking and cleaning, which is always great.

Over the last few years, we have figured out some bits and pieces that are very useful to bring on a self-catering holiday. 

Obviously, all of this you can buy locally when you get to wherever you are going, but it’s often just as easy to bring them with you. Most places you go now are well equipped in terms of utensils, pots and pans, toilet roll, sheets and towels, but it’s worth reading the finer print just to be sure, certainly, with the mobile home style holidays, bed linen is not always automatically included.

First things first, because it is freshest in my mind after our holiday, always bring some form of pain-killer for small kids. Inevitably, they wake in the dead of the night with pains and it’s a real test to have to try and comfort a child who is in discomfort and to not have any paracetamol or ibuprofen with you.

Plasters are always useful too because I find my children always exhaust themselves on holidays, and therefore get clumsy and fall more often than usual.

Condiments are handy to have, things like salt, pepper, mixed herbs, ketchup, mayo, plus your favourite coffee or tea.

I find it useful to dispense an all-purpose cleaning spray into a smaller spray bottle to bring along with a cloth. In my experience, a scrubber and washing up liquid is often the extent of the cleaning products you will get in a self-catering accommodation.

Tinfoil is handy for cooking in general, for barbecues, and covering sandwiches at picnics. A sharp knife is practical to bring (if you’re travelling by car!) because the ones provided are usually so blunt they can barely cut butter.

Games are always a must when you travel, whether it is to keep children busy as you travel, or as a back up if it should rain when you are away. 

We love games like Dobble, Uno, cards, Banangrams and Brainbox that are all small in size but suitable for children and adults alike.

One thing I am adding to my list of necessities that I don’t already have is a portable black-out blind. Our youngest two ladies are used to sleeping in dark rooms with both black-out curtains and blackout blinds so we were greeted by them at about 6.20am each day of our holiday due to the brightness in their rooms. I can assure you it’s hard to convince a 5 and 3 year old to go back to sleep when it is bright outside and they’re ready for the day!

Last, but definitely not least – bring a bottle opener, just in case!

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