What are they and what do you get?
What is a Holiday Cottage?
Although the concept has been around for quite some time, the majority of the public are only just discovering cottages as an alternative to motel rooms and caravan park cabins. Or for that matter the category of accommodation called "self-catering".
The following guide is a generalisation, there are no hard and fast rules. It has been put together as a result of the questions most commonly encountered.
A Holiday Cottage tends to be a 2 or 3 bedroom house, either stand alone, tenement or attached.
The accommodation provided is typically a furnished liveable small house offering more privacy and far more space than found in traditional accommodation settings. For much the same cost as more traditional accommodation (eg. Motel) you will get probably 4 to 6 times the space. For only a little more than what you pay for a caravan park cabin you will get roughly twice to 3 times the space.
Cost tends to be the same as the average motel room up to a 5 night stay, but significantly cheaper than a motel for a week or more.
Cottages tend to range in price and features from bush basic to inner city oppulent, priced accordingly! Geography appears to be the determining guide as to what is offered, so don't expect to find an Edwardian 2 up 2 down out back of Bourke or a corrugated iron free standing house in the Sydney CBD.
The owner/manager tends not to be on site, they will either meet you at the cottage, book you in and give you an orientation. Or arrange for you to obtain a key and look after yourself, which appears to be the preference these days for both customer and proprietor.
Other than finalisation of payment, the proprietor will have minimal contact with you. There should be a phone number provided in case of maintenance problems etc.
What is provided.
All the normal features you would expect in short/medium term accommodation are there:
- Furnishings - Beds, Wardrobes, Side tables with lamps, Lounge suite and Coffee table.
- Kitchen facilities - Cooktop and Oven, Domestic sink, countertop and cupboards, Fridge with Freezer (although we have struck one "Cottage" that didn't have any cooking facilities, so it does pay to ask!).
- Silver and Black goods - TV, Video and possibly DVD or Pay TV.
- Heating and cooling - may be geographically dependant.
- Bedding and linen (including pillows/blankets/doonas) - it seems like a silly question, but it does pay to ask, particularly on the east coast!
- Private use laundry, a washing machine with/without wash trough, possibly a dryer, possibly washing powder supplied.
- Condiments - Complimentary Coffee, Tea, and Sugar (sometimes Milk) provided on arrival as a "get you started" service.
- Toiletries - This appears to vary, from small 1 person style cakes of soap to toiletry packs seen in 5 star hotels. No resupply.
What you wouldn't normally expect.
Although there are some upmarket properties that have swimming pools and spas, these are not typical - expect to pay accordingly!
Daily servicing is NOT provided. Hotels and Motels do that. After all, you are getting a house which takes 6 to 10 times longer to clean than a hotel room. At triple the cost you may get one that is serviced daily, but I doubt it. For multi-week stays some providers will do a clean weekly, others will do a linen and towel change at one week intervals , but the majority do not.
Food, Beverages and Liquor is NOT normally provided.
No telephone. Some properties will make arrangements to provide a telephone for longer term stays or for internet access, but as most people now carry mobile phones the cost of a phone service tends to far outweigh any benefits.
No reprovisioning of Condiments - the complimentary Tea and Coffee etc once used is not replaced during your stay.
That service is for a hotel/motel room.
No resupply of toiletries or laundry consumables.
Hopefully - there will be:
No crunchy driveway gravel and other customers leaving at 4am.
No coachloads of footballers or reunions partying all night.
No cleaner knocking on the door waiting for you to go out so she can make the bed.
No neon signs flooding your bedroom with light all night.
No flushing toilet noises coming through the wall next to your pillow.
No goings on outside your door in the middle of the night.
No disagreements with other customers over who "owns" the parking spot.
No having to sit on a bed to watch TV or eat a meal.
No stale, grumpy, receptionist!
What it is not.
"Self catered Bed and Breakfast" (Category 5 = Owner/Manager not on site) - If you desire to have your breakfast provided, then "B&B" is what you are after - expect to pay about 15% to 20% more than for an equivalent cottage. Basically, these properties will provide the breakfast ingredients, but you do the preparation/cooking. (Be aware that the majority of B&B is not Category 5 and tends to be a spare room in a house with shared facilities. Quite often there are curfews imposed.)
Holiday Cabin/Villas/Bungalows - typically found at Caravan Parks or in accommodation clusters such as Cabin Parks. These tend to be about 1/3rd the size of a cottage, of transportable design and in groups of 3 and upwards. Communal laundry facilities.
Holiday Apartments/Flats - Typically a cluster of former flats furnished and let for medium term stays, the older ones tend to be normal flat size, whilst the newer ones can be almost as small as a hotel or motel room. Quite often NOT airconditioned or heated. Linen, Blankets and Pillows etc not provided. Communal laundry facilities.
Most definitely not a Hotel or Motel.
Again there are no hard and fast rules. But in general expect to find that most operators will not take a booking of less than 3 nights, a lot will accept 2 nights minimum and some will accept a single night. It probably depends on who does the cleaning. The properties that will only take 3 nights minimum will tend to employ cleaners, whilst owner cleaned will be those willing to take 2 and single night bookings.
Prices will be stated as $XX per night, $ZZZ weekly. So lets say you want to book in for 3 weeks. The owner will tell you the price is 3 x $ZZZ. Then at 2 weeks 3 nights you decide that you are ready to move on, DO NOT expect to pay 2 weeks and 3/7! In all likelyhood the owner has rejected other customers wanting a booking that overlapped yours. At a minimum you will pay 2 weeks plus 3 x single night rate. Many owner/operators will expect to be paid for the entire 3 weeks - cottages are not motels or hotels.
Payment is normally expected in advance or upon arrival. Most owner/operators have normal jobs to go to and the last thing they want to be doing after dinner is chasing money.
Credit Cards: for the last 10 years or so these have been the currency of choice for most Australians. But that is now changing, it is no longer a cheap way of doing business for either the seller or the customer. The banks charge the seller fees and the cardholder interest. Typically the cost of an old fashioned imprinter is anywhere up to 5% of transaction cost, so these are now normally only used as a back up to electronic systems. The electronic terminal comes with a monthly fee, then there is also a transaction fee, possibly a consumables fee (receipt paper) and often a penalty fee (in some cases $500) if the seller wants to hand back the terminal. All in all it is just too expensive to have. Why give the banks the profit?
At the end of the day, those operators who accept credit cards have raised their prices to cover the additional cost.
Then there is the need to plug the terminal in to a phone line, as most cottages don't have phones, this gets to be awkward to say the least.
There fore, you will find that most cottage operators do not accept credit cards.
How to save money!
Lastly, a word about internet based 3rd party booking systems. These take away all the flexibility from the operator as well as charging a commission, which at the end of the day, you the customer, is paying.
No matter how pretty and slick these sites look, they are essentially a database and very inflexible, more often than not they will return only a small percentage of the actual number of accommodation providers in any area. The majority of them require the operator to guarantee availability to them, which considering that there is thousands of these sites on the internet, is ridiculous. An operator would spend every waking moment updating bookings to those sites. Very few operators are going to hand over control of their business to a 3rd party.
These sites cannot juggle bookings between different cottages owned by one operator (eg re-arrange existing bookings so that everyone is fitted in).
They won't go the extra mile and juggle between operators, as we do amongst ourselves, in order to provide accommodation for people in busy periods eg., "you take them for 3 nights, I will take them for 2 and that way they will have a bed".
You will often see these sites advertise "Free booking service": nothing in life is free, so why would anyone offer a free booking service? Especially those where you can pay by credit card, somebody is paying the merchant fee?
For more information on this topic:"Click here."
As there are very few Holiday Cottages that were built as such, most properties tend to have been originally used for something else. Thus, layouts and facilities along with the proprietor's "style" all vary. There is no set plan or layout, there are no "McCottage" chains!
Expect to have a wide choice, in pricing, facilities and styles.
Some operators are listed in the various Accommodation Directories, but many are not due to the perceived inconsistencies of the rating system and also due to the long delay time between inspections. If an operator has spent a lot of time and money upgrading their property and over a year later is still listed with their old rating or is rated under a different system to their competitors, then quite often they would rather not be listed at all.
The rating system is notorious for the emphasis it places on gimmicks and minor details compared to comfort and cleanliness. Everyone is well aware of how cramped motel and hotel rooms tend to be. Spacious facilities cost lots more than a minimum sized room, but the system does not give adequate credit for this, so people don't build bigger rooms!
Essentially, everything flows down from what the highest ranked International Class Hotel does in Australia. To give an example, which is admittedly ridiculous, but in keeping with the spirit of the rating system: if the top rated hotel installs a machine that automatically ties your shoe laces for you, then that becomes the new standard (and expense) which everyone is expected to meet or they loose points and risk getting a lower rating.
The latest battle in the "bed wars" (as it is known in the 5 star industry) is "triple sheeting", perhaps the ultimate in friviolity. Most people would be quite puzzled as to what function a 3rd sheet performs on a bed, but, because one hotel came up with this idea, all the rest are now following in order to maintain their star points.
A further example: the rating system specifies a full length mirror of 1200mm x 450mm, but the ones available in the shops are 1200mm x 350mm. So the accommodation operator has to get their mirrors custom made or risk losing points, no prizes for guessing how expensive that is and that in the end it is the customer who has to pay............
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