Self Catering Vs Hotel Accomodation

Have you ever considered staying in a self-catering apartment but been a bit confused about what it is all about?

Well let me explain a little bit about them. We have been running Moonflower Cottages in Victory Park, Johannesburg’s northern suburbs for the last three years, so we know a bit about the Apartment Accommodation business.

First of all what exactly are ‘self-catering holiday apartments’? Generally they are privately owned apartments, managed and operated by the owners. There are large chains that offer ‘self-catering apartments’ but generally these are also ‘serviced apartments’ in hotel style complexes. This article is focused solely on privately owned apartments, which offer quite a few advantages over the apartments from large chains, but be aware there are also some disadvantages.

First let’s look at the advantages:

  • Whether you are traveling alone or in a group it is almost always cheaper to book self-catering apartments than hotel rooms.
  • An apartment will have a lot more space than hotel rooms. Generally is will consist of between one and three bedrooms and have a lounge, a kitchen, a dining area as well as the bedrooms and bathroom and a lot they offer a much more relaxed and ‘home from home’ environment particularly for women travelling on their own.
  • You can cook for yourselves, thus saving money on restaurant meals, and healthier than eating cheap takeaway for all meals. You can even prepare packed lunches and it also allows a wide variety of choice if you do choose to go out or even get take outs before curling up in front of the TV. You can also choose to get meals delivered to your doorstep.
  • There will be no interruptions from a room maid and you do not need to worry about coming back to the room in the afternoon to find the maid has not been and you can’t have that afternoon nap.
  • Most apartments are likely to be garden cottages or villa’s and offers a swimming pool set in tropical gardens, and often a gym, a spa and sometimes even a sauna on the premises or in close proximity.
  • Most apartments also have a balcony or patio, which is a great spot for a pre-dinner drink, especially if it overlooks the pool.
  • The apartment owners will offer an individualised service, using their local knowledge to provide tips on the things to see and do, without relying on commercial, and more expensive, tour companies.
  • Johannesburg apartments are generally centrally located but in quiet neighborhoods’, away from busy, noisy streets and offer safe off street parking with remote access so that you can come and go as you please and even entertain friends or business guests in a relaxed and comfortable invironment..
  • If you have a large group it is often possible to rent a number of apartments at the same facility allowing you all your privacy and where you can get together for meals. This is great if you are attending a business convention or sporting event and have a lot of spare frequent flyer points that you would like to use up.

Now let’s take a look at the disadvantage, because you will be disappointed if you arrive expecting the advantages of a hotel, with full reception, retourants, maid and room service. Here they are:

  • You will have to make your own beds and keep the apartment clean. There will not be a maid coming in every day to make the bed and clean the bathroom. Of course the apartment management will send in a cleaner at least weekly and after you leave, but they do like you to leave the apartment in a reasonable clean state.
  • You may also have to figure out how things work for yourselves. Things that are different from home, such as the microwave, the remote, and even how to open the windows, can seem rather daunting after an 18 hour flight. You will of course, have a phone number for the apartment management or access to an onsite manager but it is a good idea to try to sort things out yourselves. If you lock the keys in the apartment you should be prepared to wait awhile for the management to come around to open up.
  • As there is generally limited reception you may need to arrange a time to pick up and drop off keys. This means you must read the instructions sent to you, and bring them with you. There is no good flying half way around the world only to find that you don’t know where you are going, or how to get in. Taxi drivers generally do not know the location of the apartments, so don’t rely on jumping in a taxi and saying take me to Moonflower Cottages. I once ‘found’ my very late German guests sitting in a local internet café trying to pick up the emailed instructions they had been sent months before. They couldn’t believe it when I asked them if they were my missing guests, but they must have thought Johannesburg is a pretty small city.
  • As the apartment owner only has a small number of apartments it is less likely that they will be able to offer an early check in, or a late checkout without arrangement so once again plan ahead. Unlike hotels that will generally have a few spare rooms, if the apartment has another guest arriving on the day you leave, the apartment will need to be cleaned and prepared for the next guest. They may also find it difficult to look after your luggage for you, so be prepared and if you are arriving at 6 am perhaps you should book for the night before, or if your departure flight is at midnight it may be better to book for that night.

So overall, if you are looking at a holiday in a self-catering apartment take all of these points into considerations, and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and then make your decision.