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When looking for vacation accommodation in the United Kingdom, it appears self-catering accommodation such as in cottages is typically available only per week. I have noticed this in the Isles of Scilly and the Southern Hebrides, so it's probably true in general. In other areas (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Spain, Canada, United States, Switzerland) I've never had problems booking self-catering cabins/cottages for an arbitrary number of nights (possibly with a minimum stay), and within the United Kingdom, it appears hotels, B&Bs, and campgrounds do not have the same limitation.

Why is it that in the United Kingdom, cottages are apparently only available per week?

(I tried 23 cottages listed on the Isle of Jura, Scotland, and only 2 of them consider accommodation that is not per week)

  • 1
    Hmm... I just now typed "London holiday apartments" into Google and randomly sampled two of the paid ads it came up with. Both seemed to be perfectly willing to book a random Tuesday-Friday period in May -- so doesn't look like the UK has a general rule that self-catered accommodation is always per-week. – Henning Makholm Apr 23 '16 at 20:48
  • @HenningMakholm I tried 23 cottages listed on the Isle of Jura, and 21 of those were weekly only. On the Isles of Scilly, I tried a dozen or so, and only one was willing to accommodate for a long weekend, but not really because they were charging as if it was a week. I've never tried to book self-catering accommodation in a city (cities have plenty of restaurants, so I see no need), so I wouldn't know about London. – gerrit Apr 23 '16 at 21:19
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    In many places, especially when they are destinations people would go to for holidays only, it is common that you can only arrive on a Saturday and depart on the next Saturday (or the one after that if you book two weeks in a row). This is the norm for most accommodation at ski resorts for instance, as well as in many beach destination. That's because most people will usually book it that way to get the longest holiday while using the least number of vacation days, and takes into account travel time from home to the destination and back, and a bit of time to rest after the return trip. – jcaron Apr 24 '16 at 9:59
  • Did you try AirBnb? Their bookings are usually much more transparent and flexible than traditional "email only" bookings. – JonathanReez Apr 24 '16 at 11:46
  • @jcaron: in my experience, I haven't found a one-week requirement neither at ski resorts nor beaches. What's your source/sample? – Martin Argerami Apr 24 '16 at 13:03
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As so often, the answer is a combination of local tradition and economic reality.
Not all self-catering accommodation is per week but a fair percentage is.

Most UK people who travel to the cottages are going for the whole week, the places which rent them out are geared to that and do not want to rent them out for shorter periods as that will result in the cottages standing empty, unpaid, for times that are too short for others to rent them.
Those agencies and parks that often get requests for shorter periods or dates other than the most usual ones will often offer those periods for the higher rate with a lower rate to fill out of the rest of the week, but less than a whole week would cost.

I see something like that in the Netherlands, where the typical holiday park cottage is available for weeks, weekends and midweek periods, with the weekends going at a premium price, and the midweek periods going cheaper as those are used as fillers. The 'week' periods often change on the Fridays, same as the start of the weekends.

In the UK there is less of a tradition of 'weekend' and 'midweek' rentals, so holiday providers prefer people to rent for the whole of the week. And if you only offer whole weeks, you might trick people in paying for more days than they would like.

Hotels and B&B people are more used to people comming for just one or two days, and the owners know that if they have their accommodation empty for a few days, they might get people to come in on the day itself. They often still offer lower rates for weeks or ask for minimum periods, to get the most out of the market.

But as with all kinds of accommodation everywhere, ask.

There will be cottages that go empty for weeks on end and the owners might be happy to rent it to you instead.
You may need to go through a search site, go airbnb or call many parks, but I would be surprised if nobody will rent out self-cartered accommodation for less than a week, even when it is advertised as 'full weeks only'.

And as said in the answer by @vclaw for some rentals there are the practical limits of having staff on hand, or even the owner being around at all, during the working week. But there might still be the option to rent part of the week outside the tourist season, as the owner might be happy to get less money rather than no money and might be able to arrange key-collection, payment and check of the property with someone who lives or works near.

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    Out of season, you have a much better chance - I've stayed for a few days in October at places that required a full week in June – Andrew Apr 24 '16 at 0:47
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I think much of this is due to the work involved. Whenever someone leaves the cottage, it has to be cleaned and prepared for the next guests. Then you have to arrange to meet the next guests, and pass on keys etc as required.

Especially in rural areas, or on islands, many people will have several other jobs, eg working on the ferries, or on their croft. Or they may be away, off the island some of the time. The cottage is just an extra side business. So they can arrange to deal with the cottage every Saturday, but it may not be possible on other days. Or if employing someone else to do the cleaning, it is a lot simpler if it is the same day every week.

Other accommodation, eg hotels or holiday parks, are usually much larger businesses. They will probably employ several full time staff, so they can arrange to clean the rooms and check-in/check-out guests any day of the week.

  • I don't think this is the reason at all. If the reason was the cost of cleaning etc. between visitors, then the places would have a minimum stay length. But they don't: they require people to book whole numbers of weeks, typically arriving on Saturday afternoon and leaving on Saturday morning. This is entirely because they don't want the property empty for a few days between visitors. – David Richerby Apr 29 '16 at 6:47

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