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12 March 2021

Five ways to save on UK cottage breaks

With just a few clicks you could find your holiday cottage much cheaper. Read our tips to save precious pounds
Which? Team

Timing is money 

Swap a weekend break for a weekday getaway and you’ll find yourself with a longer trip for less.

For instance, Ancient House in Clare, Suffolk, via The Landmark Trust was £592 for a three-night stay from Friday to Monday in March. But when we switched to a four-night stay Monday to Friday, the same cottage was £90 cheaper (£502). 

This won’t be the case for every cottage, but it’s definitely worth a try if you can be flexible.

Travelling during school term time can also make a huge difference. Some cottage listings are hundreds of pounds more expensive over the half-term breaks and Easter, and we found cottages that doubled in price in the summer holidays.

The National Trust’s Dyffryn Mymbyr Cottage in Snowdonia, for example, cost £449 for seven nights in January 2021, but skyrockets to £979 in August. 

If you’re looking for a bargain, Forest Holidays (a Which? Recommended Provider), told us that you can find its lowest prices at the start of December, in mid-January and in mid-February.

Shop around 

Holiday cottages often appear on multiple booking websites, for varied prices. In a matter of minutes, we found savings worth hundreds of pounds.

A week's stay at the four-bed Lake District holiday home, Windsor Farm House, was £2,726 through Airbnb, but the same property was £136 cheaper via Booking.com at £2,590. No single site was consistently cheaper in our research.

Skerryvore, a holiday home in Oban, Scotland, was listed for £980 via Booking.com, but it was nearly £300 cheaper at £700 when we phoned to book directly via Independent Cottages.

Booking direct with a holiday cottage owner can save you money on third-party fees. Just make sure you find a cottage owner who accepts payment by credit card, rather than bank transfer, to protect yourself against fraud. Also be sure to ask them their cancellation policy upfront and get this in writing.

Read our holiday cottage company reviews to discover who and who not to book with

Grab a last-minute bargain

Shave pounds off the price by checking late-availability listings on holiday cottage websites.

We found a five-night stay at The National Trust’s South Pilton Green Farmhouse in Wales was £53 cheaper, cut from £535 to £482, when booked two weeks in advance. 

Just make sure you’re not being fooled by fake savings. Without tracking prices over time, it’s difficult to tell how much of a bargain you’re really getting. We tracked prices over a year-long period and in that time saw plenty of suspect-looking ‘discounts’ that were impossible to verify.

Book in a group (where allowed)

Current restrictions mean that it’s not always possible to mix indoors with another household. But wherever you can, booking with a group of friends or family can bring down the price per group.

We found that a couple can stay for four nights in a one-bed cabin in Bude, Cornwall, for £351 this May via Airbnb. But an apartment nearby, with the same star rating and sleeping four, was available for £567. That’s just £284 per couple – a saving of £67 per household.

Longer stays are better value

Splashing out on one long break can be cheaper than taking multiple mini-breaks. That’s because the longer you stay in a cottage, the lower the rate often works out per night.

For example, Derwent Cottage in Keswick booked through Heart of the Lakes works out at £81 per night for three nights, £74 per night for four nights or £49 per night for seven nights. 

We found that prices tend to bottom out after about six or seven nights, so there was very little difference in value between seven, 14 or 21-night stays. 

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