i like the idea of cheaper, basic accommodation with the facilities to cook for yourself
Have you looked at the prices? We stay in youth hostels a couple of times a year (sorry no caps kids have spilt something on keyboard) and you used to get a bed for £7/night and breakfast for £2. Kitchens were huge with lots of facilities.
Not any more! Not saying YHA isn't fun - buildings are usually great - good for kids to explore and be a bit independent. Average price seems to be £15/night pp which when you add it up comes to lots of dosh. Kitchens seem to have been down scaled in favour of restaurants. You can still self cater but its often difficult due to lack of storage space in cupboards and fridge and lack of facilites - often 1 or 2 cookers between several families.
I'm not saying don't do it - just be aware how much it costs. We still love it. Want to stay in a castle next!
My best tip though is to use Tesco vouchers - you can pay for your accomodation with them. Have to ring up though and can't do it weekends during school holidays etc. We did it October half term last year in Peak District - hostel was decorated for Halloween and the kids loved it. They also loved the fact that there was a Nintendo Wii in the games room. I was less impressed as we go to get away from all that but Hey Ho.