When you’re talking about holidays, one of the first questions is: Should you have a villa holiday or a hotel holiday? Once that question is out of the way the next step is to work on maximising your chances of a successful holiday BEFORE you even set foot in your destination.
And of course these considerations will vary depending on whether you are booking a hotel or having a villa holiday.
For a villa holiday here are my seven top tips to ensure the whole family have the best time that they can, without too much stress and over planning.
1. Location, location, location
This is the place to start I guess! First of all you want to make sure it is somewhere near where you want to be. Do you want to be central and in the middle of things? Or could you be (or even prefer to be) a bit further away from the action and to drive or walk to where you need to be?
If you’re far away from the action (whether intentionally or for budget restrictions) are there other things nearby? Can you walk to the beach / restaurants? Where is the nearest supermarket? Is it secluded?
It is definitely worth checking out your villa holiday on Google Maps to make sure you’re getting what you think you are before you book.
2. Does it have family friendly amenities?
For the Wanderlust family these days we are all about the family friendly amenities!
- If we’re in a villa I want a decent kitchen and dining area where we can prepare and eat food.
- A living area is a must for a bit of quiet time especially if we are somewhere where it gets super hot in the middle of the day.
- It’s fab to have a good area to go when the kids are asleep. A few times we haven’t had great living areas or places for evenings when the kids were asleep and we really missed it.
- If we’re going to have a villa and do things like all our own cooking then we like to have access to a swimming pool and a playground.
- Some people prefer to have private amenities whereas others don’t care. For our villa holiday in Lake Como we had no pool or playground but had lots of options were nearby and it was fine. In the Amalfi Coast we were a bigger group and thought the amenities were private so it was a shock to discover they weren’t!!!
- Who else is going? When we’re doing a villa holiday in a big group we prefer to have some privacy. If it’s just us I’m happy to get a 2 bedroom apartment in a complex which has shared facilities. In fact sometimes it’s nice to see other families around.
- Finally, per number 7 below, make sure you check what is actually advertised and what isn’t…
Following on from the family friendly nature of things, I’d definitely think about these things for your villa holiday:
- Is the pool fenced and gated?
- Are there stairs? Do they have gates? Are there gaps between the stairs to fall through? Handrails?
- Do the stairs connect any bedrooms?
- Do the bedrooms open out onto a pool area?
- Does the property open out on to a road?
- Are the windows on upper levels locked?
- How high are the beds? (further to fall for little ones in big kids beds)
4. Room Options / Layouts
Oh my goodness there are so many things to think about here:
- Where are the bedrooms? Is one upstairs and one downstairs? Does one room open out onto a pool / road / balcony?
- Is the living area covered and air-conditioned? Where is it?
- Is there an area where you can sit after the Things have gone to bed and / or are napping?
- If you are sharing with other families, does the layout allow for each family to be close to each other / have their own privacy?
The answers are almost irrelevant to me… the big question is: Is that ok for your villa holiday?
5. A picture tells a thousand words
You can email and ask for floor plans but there are soooo many clues in photos if you just know what to look for. Take your time to really look at them and don’t get caught up in panic booking a villa holiday just because you’ve left things too late (a *friend* of mine may have done this once or twice…). What are you looking for? Stuff like this:
- Beds in the bedrooms – need enough double beds to accommodate all the adults? Check the photos and the descriptions to make sure one couple isn’t in 2 singles. Are kids going to be sharing? Think about the sizes of beds available for them. Poor Granny Wanderlust ended up spending a week with Thing 1 in a couple of very narrow beds in Lake Como after I made this mistake.
- Views from the bedrooms – If you can see the road / garden / pool outside one bedroom and a balcony outside the other… chances are there are 2 bedrooms on different levels. If you aren’t ok with being so far away from the kids as I wasn’t in Ubud (they could have been upstairs with steep stairs and no bannister between us or downstairs right next to the pool), you’ll probably find yourself with some roommates.
- Bathrooms – can you see pictures of bathtubs? Some kids don’t care but mine HATED showers for ages and would scream when we took them in. If you can’t see a picture of a bath in the photos, chances are there isn’t one.
- Clutter – are there lots of little ornaments and decorations in the photos? Little hands make mischief quickly and you don’t want to be penalised for breakages of things that, frankly, should have been put away.
- Pool – where is it? Can you see a fence? Does it look like it might be shared? How clean does it look?
- Is there a garden? Where is it? How big does it seem? Are there any features (trees, playsets, furniture, etc) that can give you scale?
- General cleanliness – spot the photos that have been edited to enhance whiteness or exposure. Doe the clouds look too white or the sky too blue? Is the light coming from a window super bright? If it has been edited they could just be enhancing things or you could find they’re covering something up.
- Angles / perspective – check for where the photo has been taken. Right in the corner of a tiny room or up high by the pool – both to create the illusion of more space.
6. DON’T assume anything!
You know what they say… Assumption is the mother of all….. Well, its true. I have kicked myself so many times for thinking one thing and then realising something else was the case when we arrived.
- If you assume that both bedrooms are on one floor and you know you’ll be wrong.
- Assume that the pool is private and you’ll randomly find strangers wandering around it. (To be fair, it was a 5 bedroom villa – I thought that was a reasonable assumption).
- Specify everything you want included in the price of the rental including number of bedrooms, access to kitchens / pools / parking…
- Check what “beach access” and “beachfront” mean in the description.
- Ask if “Air Conditioning” means a fan or actual air conditioning and ask if it is available in every room.
Finally it’s always good to know what other people think. If you can get first hand recommendations then I would always go with them. If you’re booking through an agency, find out if they have actually visited the location.
Then check the reviews (not just the ratings). While it is true that people are more likely to post a bad review than a good one, they are still posting to warn other travellers of the bad villa holiday they have had. Read the bad reviews and how they are written. Does the complaint seem reasonable to you? Look for consistency in complaints and look for the topics. How does the owner or booking agent respond?Watch out for a co-incidental rave review a few days later from an anonymous user (who then posts this one review and then vanishes). Consider how long ago the reviews were made: Reviews from 5 years ago could be showing a totally different scene today.
So there you have it Wanderlusters. A few tips on how to pick a great villa or apartment for your next vacation! If you want some more tips for renting a vacation home with kids, head over to The Chirping Moms for some great advice!
What do you look for?