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17 Sep 2021

2022 holidays: should I wait to book a UK cottage break or are they running out?

With the government's traffic light decisions still affecting overseas holiday plans, are people now booking domestic summer breaks in Cornwall, Devon and the rest of England earlier than ever?
Cottage in the countryside

Summer season may be wrapping up in the UK, but we've already seen media reports claiming that UK holidaymakers face missing out on cottage holidays in 2022 if they don't book soon.

This year, those nervous about committing to overseas holiday plans turned to UK stays instead. And with the picture unclear for the future of travel abroad, holidaymakers might be tempted to stick to domestic holidays in 2022 too.

So, if you're hoping to secure your chances of a trip by sticking local again next year, should you book in advance now - or is there really no reason to rush? We took a closer look at the numbers to help you decide whether to plan ahead or sit tight for a last-minute deal.

According to several holiday cottage companies, as well as the Professional Association of Self Caterers UK (PASC), bookings are up compared to the same period in the past few years.

But while bookings seem to be rising, our snapshot research shows that there's no need to panic. We found thousands of properties still available in May half term as well as in the school summer holidays from three of the biggest UK holiday cottage providers: Awaze, Sykes and Holidaycottages.co.uk. What's more, even holiday hotspots Cornwall and Devon aren't yet at full capacity.

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Bookings for 2022 seem to be up, but far from selling out

We asked Which? Recommended Provider Classic Cottages to comment on its bookings for next year. It told us that despite seeing an increase in the number of bookings for 2022, it still has availability and new properties join its portfolio regularly.

When comparing bookings from 1 January to 14 September 2021 for May half term and summer 2022 against the previous two years in the same period, Classic Cottages told us it had seen an increase in bookings. It saw a 52% increase for May half term and more than a 60% increase for July and August, but that there is still 'a great choice of places to stay'.

And, though Holidaycottages.co.uk said that it's seeing strong demand for next year from April through to the end of June, it also said that it has 54% availability in the spring half term and 69% left in the school summer holidays for week-long breaks. The 'biggest growth' for 2022 - with 'bookings up 140%' and 58% compared to the same period in 2021 -was for the school summer holidays.

Similarly, PASC provided us with booking data* that showed there are 58% of properties left in Whitsun week (May half term for many), and 68% of properties left in July and August. They also noted that bookings appear to be up by just over 20% compared to pre-pandemic levels at this same time in 2019.

When you do book your cottage holiday, take a look at our cottage holiday provider survey results to find the best-rated companies

Which? snapshot research shows thousands of 2022 cottages are still available

Cottage with a floral garden

To assess availability, Which? experts researched cottage holidays in three set weeks across three different cottage holiday websites. We looked at 28 May for seven nights (May half term week for many), 23-30 July and 13-20 August (both school summer holiday dates for many across the UK).

On just three websites, Hoseasons (owned by Awaze), Sykes and Holidaycottages.co.uk, there were plenty of accommodation options to choose from if you're looking to holiday anywhere in England during peak periods.

Looking at a seven-night break for a family of four starting in May 2022, we found 2,518 properties left to book across England with Hoseasons. We found greater availability still when we checked the school summer holidays. For instance, there were more than 3,000 properties left to book in July and August.

Families of four looking to book on Sykes will find a choice of more than 6,000 properties** in England for the same May week, and over 7,000 for both the July and August dates, with a day's flexibility either side (Sykes' website only allows searches with at least one day's flexibility, a factor which may have increased the number of available properties displayed).

There were also plenty of accommodation options for both couples and families on Holidaycottages.co.uk, with 3,806 self-catering cottages available for two adults looking to holiday in England for one week in July. A family of four looking to go away in May would have found 1,982 cottages left to book, plus more in the summer.

Are cottage holidays selling out in Devon and Cornwall in 2022?

The South West of England (where Devon and Cornwall are located) is the leading destination for an overnight domestic trip according to a survey from VisitBritain*** repeated throughout the summer. So we searched for availability in the same three weeks: May half term, 23-30 July and 13-20 August in both Cornwall and Devon.

But despite Devon's popularity, we still found 316 properties left to book for a family of four on Hoseasons for the May week, and over 500 in the set weeks of the school summer holidays. Similarly on Holidaycottages.co.uk there were anything between 450 and 650 cottages to book, depending on the dates. Sykes still had between 700 and 930 properties, depending on whether dates fell during May or in the summer holidays.

While there seems to still be plenty of availability in the South West generally, it's worth considering that there appears to be a bigger demand for Cornwall. WRP Classic Cottages echoed this, telling us that the most popular locations based on current 2022 bookings are on the South Coast of Cornwall, including Portscatho and Falmouth, with also 'high levels of bookings' in Port Isaac and St Ives on the north coast, as well as Seaview on the Isle of Wight.

Even in Cornwall, Hoseasons had over 400 properties left in the week of 13-20 August for two adults and over 300 for families of four. May half term week had 363 left for two adults, but less for a family of four with 250 cottages left.

A search on Sykes for set weeks (with one day flexibility either side) turned up over 1,000 results for May half term, as well as in July and August for a family of four. In other words, there's still lots of choice.

Holidaycottages.co.uk seemed to have considerable amounts of self-catered accommodation in the area left too. When we searched for two adults for a week in August, Holidaycottages.co.uk had more than 500 properties ready to book. For a family of four, there were 364 options, which reduced to 224 in the May half term.

Keen to visit a seaside town next summer? Take a look at where Which? readers rated as the best coastal destinations

Verdict: Do I need to book now for 2022?

person booking holiday on laptop

While bookings may be up on the previous few years, our snapshot research shows there are thousands of properties left across just three companies, and there are plenty more accommodation providers out there. Whether you decide to book a cottage now or later, read our top tips below to ensure you get the best deal and have the best protection.

Plan ahead for 'boom times'

Keep an eye on availability, especially as we head into the new year. Executive chair of PASC, Alistair Handyside, told Which? that 'normal boom time for bookings is in the Christmas January rush, and that'll be when it's critical to book if guests want to have real choices'.

Choose a flexible cottage holiday provider

Book with a provider which will offer rebooking without an admin charge if Covid-19 disrupts your holiday. Or better yet, a refund in the instance restrictions prevent you from going.

Take a look at our cottage company reviews to discover the companies Which? members rated most highly and how they've treated people during the coronavirus crisis.

Stay open-minded where possible

If your domestic holiday destination isn't set in stone, you can afford to be less hasty. Flexible travellers may also be rewarded with decent deals. For instance, when we researched hotel rates in August 2020, we found that holidaymakers could save more than £400 on a UK holiday just by swapping their location for a similar destination a few miles down the road.

Likewise, if you don't need to travel in the school holidays, you'll find better rates during off-peak periods.

Read our article for more tips on how to save on a UK holiday.

*Data includes 16,000 properties in England based upon bookings where consumers paid deposits via booking platform SuperControl. The properties included within this are from hundreds of sites, including Premier Cottages, Independent Cottages, Coolstays and Group Accommodation.

**Correct as of 10 September

***According to VisitBritain, each survey had a nationally representative sample of 1,500 adults. VisitBritain has commissioned the weekly survey since 18 May, changing it to bi-weekly from 31 August onwards.