Holidays for homebirds – less Pinterest, more perfunctory

Irish holiday home-owners are not necessarily in the business of selling you a boutique lifestyle for a couple of days

The typical Irish holiday: pretty on the outside, practical within. Phootgraph: Getty

The typical Irish holiday: pretty on the outside, practical within. Phootgraph: Getty

 

Maybe it’s the lure of the Wild Atlantic Way or the sunny south-east; maybe people have had one too many dastardly Ryanair flights. Either way, word reaches us that staycations – a fancy term for holidaying at home – is on the rise.

Picture in your mind’s eye a staycation getaway, and it’s likely that certain images spring to mind: seafront gardens crisp with sea air, tall windows with seaside views that stretch for miles, dinky thatched cottages with all the trimmings, drenched in tradition and history, vast expanses of emerald green land, an imposing stone fireplace, the roiling waves providing the soundtrack to your late night suppers, rustic cabins and roaring open fires.

Well, good luck with that. These idylls are few and far between, and come with a hefty price tag to boot.

In the tug of war between practicality/durability and style, the former almost always wins out.

Reading between the lines on some holiday home websites, more than a few Irish holiday home properties double as student accommodation during the academic year. So things become less Pinterest and more perfunctory.

In the tug of war between practicality/durability and style, the former almost always wins out. It’s not unusual to find that a three-bedroom property sleeps 10 people. There’s the occasional concession to tradition, mainly for the benefit of tourists who came a long way to see a bit of thatch: think burlap accents, rattan furnishings, heavy-duty rugs, durable furniture, the odd ornamental sailboat, and bedclothes that can withstand, and have withstood, several hundred spin cycles.

A few years ago, I bought into the staycation dream. I’ll mainline right into the quiet idyll of the countryside, I thought. I’ll come off grid and slow things right down in a traditional Irish cottage. The holiday home in question certainly had all the hallmarks of a traditional Irish cottage, right down to the lack of central heating and a reliable stream of hot water. We wanted rustic, certainly, but not that rustic.

That’s not to say that holiday homes cannot be homely, or even stylish.

But here’s the thing. Irish holiday home-owners are not necessarily in the business of selling you a boutique lifestyle for a couple of days. Rather, they’re offering holidaymakers a bolthole. A base from which one can explore the area. And, much as is the case in the wider rental market, they want a return on their investment. But so too do holidaymakers, who are more exacting then ever.

That’s not to say that holiday homes cannot be homely, or even stylish.

So let’s look back at that aforesaid tug of war between style and practicality. Why can’t there be both? If you’re in the enviable position of renting out a holiday home in Ireland, take note, for there are cost-effective ways to combine the two. You may not be able to offer holidaymakers the sort of sepia-tinted escapism that John Hinde could only dream of, but if you get a few of the basics right, you’ll be forgiven that.

But before we talk aesthetics, let’s get down to brass tacks. First things first: your wifi needs to be top of the range. In fact, this is something of a non-negotiable. Have you not seen the ad where the father and son go camping, and only a fast internet connection can salvage things?

And given how temperamental Irish weather is, it’s safe to assume that your guests will be indoors quite a bit. That swimming, kayaking and sunbathing that you’ve mentioned as local amenities on your advert can only really happen on a few blessed days during the Irish summer. Looking at the ornamental sailboat all day just won’t do. This is why you’ll need to bone up on your tech: good sound systems, iPod docks and smart TVs. A TV won’t go through the wear and tear that the rest of the house will, so buy the most up-to-date one that you can afford (these things tend to date badly).

In the kitchen, some relatively inexpensive upgrades can really bring the wow factor.

Layout is a big thing to consider, perhaps even more so than in a regular rental. When it comes to holiday homes, it’s very much a question of the more, the merrier. But beware of overcrowding. Bunk beds wedged in everywhere can start to feel a bit, well, boarding school dormitory. And who wants to be reminded of that on their holiday? If your property says it can sleep 10, make sure it can seat, feed, and wash 10, too.

In the kitchen, some relatively inexpensive upgrades can really bring the wow factor. It being a holiday, your guests will want to do as little work as humanly possible, so a dishwasher will be a true boon. People also get uncommonly excited about a Nespresso machine. Owing in part to Airbnb, many holiday home owners now offer up a “welcome care package”, with the few starter essentials, like bread, milk and butter, waiting for guests. Yes, you’re not a B&B, but it’s a €5 spend that goes a long way towards creating goodwill.

After that, it’s just plain common sense: brightly coloured bedclothes that aren’t likely to suffer too much in the wash; enough storage space so that no one has to live out of a suitcase; durable crockery and cutlery that can withstand a shindig or two; a good quality sofa that won’t make your paying guests feel short-changed.

People go on holiday to relax and restore. Your wicker furniture, hard-wearing though it is, isn’t conducive to that. Neither are your dinky ornaments that need dusting, or a pristine white sofa that renters will spend their holiday worrying about. The easier is it to maintain, the better for all parties concerned. And who knows, some repeat business might just make your busy season all the easier to weather.

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