England has a range of cozy bed and breakfasts, and, for travelers looking for a bit more independence, there are self-contained flats (Brit-speak for apartments) and cottages for rent, both in cities and in the country. If you're looking for something more unusual, home letting agencies such as Britain's National Trust offer accommodations that show off some of the country's historic architecture, with old gatekeepers' houses and lifeguard stations displaying a different side of the country's working past.
On top of this, there are many opportunities to enjoy some more DIY accommodation, with campsites, campervans (what Americans call mobile homes or RV's) and caravans offering the freedom to move around and explore at a relaxed pace.
Here are a few options to consider.
Hotel accommodation in England comes in many forms. At the budget end of the spectrum, British-oriented chain Premier Inn is on a par with cost-conscious companies like Travelodge, Best Western and Holiday Inn (which also have properties throughout the country).
In major cities, Hilton and Marriott are among hotel companies you'll find familiar for middle-of-the-road choices. The U.K.'s DeVere chain is comparable.
We love more iconic accommodations too. Among locally owned and operated chains of boutique hotels, Hotel du Vin is a popular upmarket choice in many major cities throughout Britain. For luxe, check out Red Carnation Hotels, which operate a handful of top-rated properties in London as well as in the countryside. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention England's famous country house hotels, which range from modest to seriously luxurious. A great place to start searching is via our sister site, TripAdvisor.com.
It's important to note that hotels in the U.K. are given a standard star rating by the AA (Automobile Association), which awards one to five stars, with one being the lowest rating and five being the highest. Hotels are also rated by the national tourist boards. VisitEngland works closely with sister organizations such as VisitScotland, VisitWales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to offer standardized ratings.
What do the ratings mean? A single-star hotel will offer an acceptable level of overall quality, with at least 75 percent of the rooms having en-suite or private bathrooms. Two-star hotels are often family-owned places that provide a little more space, while three-star hotels will be able to provide a higher level of service. Four-stars will offer guests more formal service, while five-star hotels will conform to luxury standards, with extensive facilities and highly trained staff.
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Bed and Breakfasts
Bed and breakfast inns -- small lodges that provide guests with a cozy room and breakfast in the mornings -- can be a great way to feel more at home in England. For many travelers, small cottages and houses are preferable to large chain hotels, being a bit less expected and a little closer to the way people in the country actually live. Many B&B's are run by couples or families, who can give visitors lots of local knowledge and insider tips on how best to enjoy the country.
B&B's can also be a lot cheaper than many hotels, and the inclusion of a home-cooked English breakfast (a favourite with B&B's) beats anything else on offer! If a full English is available, and if you're not averse to large quantities of fried meat, eggs and baked beans, make sure you take advantage and fill up for the morning.
B&B's in England are rated by the AA and also by the country's national tourist board, VisitEngland. Although harder to standardize than hotels, B&Bs are subject to a strict set of requirements and are only awarded a star rating if they comply with a minimum set of standards. B&B's are awarded between one and five stars depending upon the facilities and services they make available, their cleanliness and their hospitality.
What Makes a Perfect B&B?
Rent a Self-Catered Flat or Cottage
Renting your own place can be a good option and, for groups of more than two people, can be a good way to save money over the course of a longer holiday. A flat or cottage gives travelers more independence, and the chance to live more authentically. A self-catered property also removes the necessity of dining out every night, allowing the cheaper (and sometimes more relaxing) option of cooking and eating in. This can also be a great option if you're traveling with children.
Properties can be leased from individual landlords or from larger letting agencies or specialized holiday providers, who will often have reduced rates for guests booking accommodation during the winter months and other off-peak times. Larger rental companies are also more likely to ascribe to standardized ratings systems, which will give you a better idea of what to expect from the property. As well, there are hotel-style apartment rentals (especially in places like London), where you reside in a flat but have concierge and other services on site.
For rentals, see sites such as HolidayLettings.co.uk, HomeAway.com and TripAdvisor.com.
And don't forget that the National Trust, as well as curating some of the country's best-loved castles, gardens and stately homes, makes available a number of historic and unusual cottages and small lets to visitors. Want to stay in a renovated woodland lodge, a converted water tower or a lighthouse keeper's cottage? The National Trust has a range of options up and down the country, each with its own unique ambience and each with its own story to tell. See NationalTrustCottages.co.uk.
The AA endorses a good range of self-catered rental properties. The Travel section of its Web site, TheAA.com, lists a number of options that are by no means exhaustive -- but visitors to England can rest assured that an AA certificate or plaque indicates that the property has been subjected to rigorous and frequent inspections and has met the organization's high standards. People who have registered as members of the AA will be able to save up to 10 percent on their stay.
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Camping can save money, bring a degree of freedom and get visitors closer to the environment they've come to explore. Accommodation costs can be kept to a minimum, with the only major expenditures being a tent and some sleeping bags. Some U.K. campsites offer the use of static caravans, while other companies, such as CanopyandStars.co.uk, hire out romantic gypsy caravans – which are a traditional and beautiful way to see the countryside.
Make sure you find out which amenities are available on site before arrival. Most campsites will include a shower block and cleaning facilities as standard, but many will also have gas hook-ups for caravans and Wi-Fi connections. The AA does a good job of rating campsites, and TheAA.com has a list of recommended venues up and down the country. Make sure to check the weather forecast with the BBC beforehand. And avoid camping during the winter months, as this can be no fun at all!
Alternatively, why not see England in style from the wheel of a vintage VW campervan? This mode of transport became a favourite in the 1960's, with a generation of people enjoying the freedom and versatility that the now-famous campers gave them. Today, these compact vans are available for visitors to hire, giving them the chance to take in as much of the country as they like, without having to stay tied down to one particular area. See CamperBug.co.uk or OConnorsCampers.co.uk.
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--written by Josh Thomas