Self-catering holidays are our go to family getaways – partly because renting a holiday cottage can be very cost effective, but also because a house offers more space and home comforts than any hotel and certainly more than camping can.
— If you’re heading away and have a long journey ahead of you you may like our post looking at:
Whenever we go away I always spend hours writing out an exhaustive list of what to pack. Years of forgetting vital supplies has taught me how to get it down to a fine art.
Now, of course, many things are personal to each family. We, for example, could not go away without my son’s beloved toy giraffe, so I’ll let you add those to your own personal list. But hopefully the list below will give any list a solid starting point:
Essentials to Pack for a Family Self-Catering Holiday
1. Sharp knife
Let’s face it self-catering kitchens never have sharp knives and trying to cut an onion with a blunt knife is a long-winded pain.
If you are being really organised you might also want to pack a can opener and a bottle opener as holiday without a bottle opener is no holiday at all.
Some places provide them, others don’t. It takes up so little space you might as well chuck one in. (Also you can wrap it around the sharp knife so you don’t cut yourself when you reach to get something out of the bag!).
3. Sandwich bags/Tupperware
It might sound strange but if you are a true frugal family then picnics are an essential way to save cash on holiday. I always try and bring a roll of sandwich bags and a selection of Tupperware to make packing up the daily picnic simpler.
Picnics are #1 on our list of ways to save money on days out.
I really rate the Sistema range for picnics as they have a pot for every foodstuff. These mid-sized ones are great for grapes, crackers or hummus while these larger ones are perfect for a round of sandwiches.
4. Selection of water bottles
Along the same lines as the Tupperware, I always pack a large selection of reusable water bottles as the kids always get thirsty while out and about and this stops us from having to constantly buy drinks.
Again Sistema have some great ones but sometimes are a bit small so I was really happy to find an amazing 1.5 litre bottle from Decathlon which kept all five of us going (and for under £10 is a bargain!).
5. Digital alarm clock
This might sound strange but I always try and take at least one digital alarm clock with us, not to wake us up but in fact quite the opposite!
My kids tend to wake up pretty early (especially if they are sharing a room on holiday) so to allow us adults some semblance of a lie-in (and when I say lie-in I mean 7am, which for most parents is as good as it gets).
By giving the kids a digital clock that they can all read it means we can tell them to keep it quiet before 7am therefore preventing any unwelcome 5am wake-up calls.
My kids love these Lego clocks (see right) but a simple travel alarm clock like this one would work just as well (our daughter likes this one as it folds flat and has a light feature so she can check the time in the dark!).
6. Selection of games
Many holiday cottages do provide some games but to be sure of some family favourites I always pack some of our own.
Scrabble is always a classic and now the children are 6, 8 and 10 they can join in too (the 10-year-old has nearly beaten me on a number of occasions!).
Monopoly Deal (right) is the new family favourite, it is just a pack of cards so very portable (great for taking to pubs and restaurants to play while waiting for food) but also easy to get to grips with for the younger players.
Uno is the original and best family card game. My kids have been playing this since they were 3 and it is so simple anyone can understand the rules (even Granny!).
7. Washing-up liquid/sponges
It’s so annoying when you arrive at a self-catering place, eat a nice dinner and then realise you have failed to bring any washing up liquid, sponges or dishwasher tablets.
These days I always decant some washing power and dishwasher powder from our big boxes at home (another great money saver!) into Tupperware to save us having to buy expensive stuff while we are away.
8. Your favourite herbs, spices and condiments
I take a few of my most used herbs and spices from home to make sure I can cook tasty food while we are away, the ones I take are below:
Salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chilli flakes, oregano, thyme, chicken stock, Worcester sauce.
9. Books, books, books!
Now if you like to travel light then this tip is not for you, but if you have bookworms for children then I highly recommend stocking up on some packaged books for the kids to read when they wake in the morning or when winding down for bed.
I always go to The Works to buy some cheap packaged books.
The most popular with the kids have been:
- The Roald Dahl collection
- The Horrible Histories box set
- The Treehouse books
- Mary Poppins series (yes, there’s more than one!) and
- Captain Underpants.
You can actually get The Roald Dahl collection + The Horrible Histories box set + The Treehouse books + Secret Breakers in a bumper The Works deal (36 books in all!) for just £50: check out this amazing bumper deal.
10. Phone chargers
Hands up the people who have gone away only to realise they left their phone charger at home? And probably only noticed once they have 1% battery?
When it comes to chargers make life easy and take more than one.
You can also get really handy devices like this which mean you can charge a number of different gadgets in one go. Handy! Especially when the kids’ tablet runs out of battery, plus both parents’ mobile phones and your teenager’s phone too etc. etc.
Grab yourself one of these, sling it in the boot of the car and you’ll never have to fight over the plug sockets and chargers again.