Monthly Archives: June 2019

How to Avoid Holiday Villa Scams, with Advice from the Experts

In light of recent fraudulent villa scams hitting headlines, specialist villa rental company Villa Retreats share their expert tips on how to avoid fraudulent bookings.

Villa rental fraud is expected to reach record levels this summer, with a 39% increase in villa fraud across key holiday destinations such as Spain.

Simon Rowland, Managing Director at Villa Retreats warns holidaymakers to stay vigilant when booking online: “Unfortunately there are criminals out there looking to scam holidaymakers. The best course of action is to stay vigilant: always ask for personal recommendations, speak to the owners on the phone, ask for further information, check on Google Maps, and take other sensible precautions.

Ultimately, the best way to stay safe is to book with a reputable company, one that is ATOL and ABTA protected, and one that is going to ensure your holiday is the best it can be, which is what we offer at Villa Retreats.”

Police and officials are powerless to close down fraudulent sites, which means that the best defence is knowing what to look for and knowing the signs of a fraudulent company.

We have listed our advice on how to avoid being fooled by the fraudsters below. But first, If you haven’t seen ITV’s feature on the growing problem of villa fraud, check it out here.

The Company

Use ATOL and ABTA protected companies

One of the best ways to stay safe is to ensure that your holiday is either ATOL or ABTA protected. Both of these offer travel protection, including being covered if the company goes into administration, or if the holiday has been mis-sold.

ATOL-protected holidays are designed for package holidays that include flights, while ABTA protection only covers holidays that involve rail, cruise, or self-drive. When staying in a luxury villa where you’re likely to be flying to your destination but self-driving once you’re there, it’s a good idea to check out both forms of protection. In addition, ABTA also offers legal protection, which means the company is “making sure that you get the holiday you paid for”.

This is one of many reasons, you can be safest booking through a villa agency who represent a number of villas – rather than booking from independent villa owners, as these companies will typically be ABTA and ATOL protected.

Ensure site is https encrypted

Ensure you are using a secure booking site, by checking it is https encrypted – which you can see by looking at the URL. If a site is HTTPS encrypted, this means that any information you input in the site is shared securely, and it is more difficult for a third party to get hold of any of your details – including your bank account details.

If you’re concerned, ring the owner / agency

Fraudulent companies can easily take photos and information about a villa they don’t own, list them on villa rental sites, take a booking, and then disappear with the

money. If you have any doubts at all, make sure to give the villa owners a call. Any reputable listing will have a number listed – a landline is more secure than a mobile – allowing you to ask the owners any number of questions about the property and the area, and assess how knowledgeable they seem to be. Again, booking through an agency can provide the most reliable and knowledgeable customer service, to ensure you that your booking is secure.

The Property

Read up on reviews

Before booking anything, make sure to check out the reviews online. All legitimate properties will have reviews, whether that’s on the rental site, TripAdvisor, or social media – and these won’t all be five-star, perfect reviews either. Lack of reviews, all negative reviews and undetailed 5* star reviews can all raise suspicion. A genuine, good quality property is likely to have a large number of detailed reviews highlighting the pros and cons of the property. If you’re booking through a villa rental company, rather than an independent property, you can also take assurance by reading up on the company as a whole on their social media channels, website and press coverage. Of course, you can also take the review process offline by asking friends and family for recommendations too.

How long has it been advertised?

If you are booking via a site which lists numerous properties from different suppliers, the date which the advertiser joined the villa rental website will typically be shown. Choose a company which has been advertising on the website for a long time, as this is more likely to be genuine, as fraudulent companies will take down the ads as soon as they’ve had someone “book” to avoid getting caught.

Use Google Maps

Google Maps can be very useful in trying to assess how legitimate a property is. Not only can it be used to confirm the location of the villa matches up with the address provided by the company, but the Street View tool can be used to check the villa is the same one as is shown in the online images.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Luxury villas are expensive, and although there is always the possibility of finding cheap deals for a holiday, savings such as 40% during peak season don’t exist. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: fraudulent third parties will advertise a villa at a low price to increase their chances of people booking with them.


Use a secure online payment method

Avoid using wired money transfer sites, as these are often untraceable. Also, avoid transferring money direct from your bank account to another bank account – as this doesn’t provide any confirmation that the money is in exchange for a product. Instead, PayPal offers secure payment methods, while credit cards are also one of the safest methods of payment, and provide greater security than debit cards.

Triple check the agreement / contract

When booking an expensive holiday, ensure to check over the full agreement before signing. Make sure that if something does go wrong with your booking there is a guarantee in the agreement which covers you for this. Reputable companies should also have their full T&Cs, booking conditions and FAQs listed on their website to ensure you are clear on all conditions of your booking and what you are covered for.

Be wary of extortionate security deposits

Luxury villas are expensive to maintain, upkeep, and repair, so it makes sense that the owners will also ask for a security deposit in case anything does get damaged or broken.

However, this should be only circa £1000 and if its more than this you need to check carefully. If it the security deposit is too high be sure to question this.

The best way to stay safe when booking a villa holiday is to book via a reputable villa rental agency, where you can take assurance in being ABTA and ATOL protected, pay using a secure online method and read up on reviews, social media posts and news articles about the company, to ensure your booking is safe and secure.


Villa Retreats is a luxury villa rental company, offering outstanding customer service combined with a personal knowledge of every single one of the villas they have on offer. Fully ATOL and ABTA protected, and first founded in 1991, the company has villas all over the world, including Mallorca (where they offer the Casa Amor villa, as seen in ITV2’s Love Island), Andalucía, Thailand, Morocco, Antigua, and Sardinia and St. Tropez – both of which are brand-new destinations on offer for 2019.



kid sin the sun

Holiday Sun Safety Tips For Parents & Children

We all love warmth the sun. But no one loves it more than children. The fun and games that the combination of sunshine, sand and water allow, make for many of our best childhood memories. But how do you make sure you children stay protected from the sun ‘s harmful rays whilst still enjoying those long sunny day on the beach or by the pool?

Below are a few basic pointers to remember whilst you are on your next holiday.

  1. Timing

Avoiding the midday sun on your villa holiday

Avoid the midday sun, when the sun is at its strongest. Make it time for a long lunch indoors or simply reading time or a game under the shade of some nearby trees or parasol.


  1. Positioning

Make use of any shade that is near to you. If you are going somewhere more exposed, like beach, take something to shade under with you, like a parasol or golf umbrella. Many beaches have parasols for hire, or often for sale in nearby shops.
If the kids are reading, resting eating or playing a game that can be done in the shade, encourage them to move under the trees, parasol or wherever else there is shade.


  1. Sunscreen

Cover every area of exposed skin with high factor sunscreen. Remember to include everywhere. Some of the commonly forgotten areas are ears, tops of feet and back of the knees.  If they are in the water, re-apply the sunscreen every time they come out. At the slightest sign of the skin reddening, get them to pop on a loose-fitting t-shirt or if they are going back in the water a lycra ‘rash vest’ which will block out far more of the sun.

  1. Sunglasses

The sun can be very harmful to the eyes and often the damage isn’t apparent until later in life, so encourage children to wear sunglasses. Let them choose their own, so they are more likely to wear them but always insist on sunglasses marked as ‘Category 3’ which will provide adequate protection.

  1. Sun Hats

Safety in the sun for children on villa holidays

A sun hat can offer great protection from the sun and shield the eyes from glare too. A wide brim or peak will provide more shade and for younger children, a chinstrap will keep it in place for longer. For older children, like with their sunglasses, allow them to choose their own, so they are more comfortable wearing it.


  1. Drink Plenty

Drinking Water In The Sun

Kids love to play in the sun. Chances are, while you are reading or relaxing, they will be charging around, swimming, digging, jumping and running in the sand. That is hot work. Which means they will sweat and can become dehydrated very quickly. And because they are having so much fun, they will simply forget to drink.So it’s up to you to remind them. Take them regular water and make sure they drink it.

Although these are all handy tips to help keep you children safe form the harmful rays of the sun, there are many more measures you can take but the main point is to use common sense at all times. With common sense and parental vigilance, your children should be able to have enjoy a fantastic holiday in the sun, without having to endure sunburn or suffer lasting skin damage.

Don’t forget, parents with children younger than five years can make the most of our ‘Baby Comes Too’ offer which is available on selected villas across our portfolio. With this offer, you’ll be able to make use of free high chair and cot hire as well as receiving this free Soltan family essential suncare package worth over £22.

Suncare pack for families

(Offer applies to bookings made before the end of July 2019 where one or more children are under 5 years of age. Terms & Conditions Apply)

Travel Apps

Six Must-Use Travel Apps

These days there are countless apps on offer, all claiming to simplify your life and solve your day to day problems in one way or another. Often the reality is rather disappointing. Here we have listed a few apps that really do work. Apps that are truly useful when travelling. Check them out below.

Google Maps - A very handy villa holiday tool

Google Maps

Find your way from anywhere to anywhere. This incredible free app will get you around on foot or even in a hire car, saving you from expensive Sat-Nav hire fees. A must fall-back option for any traveller.

Kindle - better reading on your villa holiday

Kindle App

It seems the kindle has been succeeded by its own technology. “Why carry heavy books when you can carry a kindle has become ‘why carry a kindle when you can just download the app?”

Download this neat app onto your phone or tablet and hey presto! You are reading your favourite book wherever you go. And because words are not to ‘heavy’ on data, when you’ve finished, it is quick and remarkably cheap to download another.

Google Traslate - very useful villa holiday travel

Google Translate

As well the well-known type-and-translate feature, Google Translate also has an incredible offline and real-time translation function. Download the language you need in advance, then point the camera at any sign or notice that you need to translate and, as if by magic, the translated sign appears on the screen.

Tell Packpoint where you are going and when and it will take the climate into account and start to put together a customisable packing list for you. Check any additional activities and it will give you options to add gear to your list. A very intuitive app that can really ease you mind during the planning period as well as the packing process.

wifiMap - very hand app for a villa holiday


This super handy app allows you to find and connect to free wifi networks wherever you are. Very handy when you need to send a hefty email attachment or simply check things out at work.

Lounge Buddy - ideal when travelling to a villa

Lounge Buddy

If you don’t have access via any other method, LoungeBuddy allows you to buy an instant day-pass for many airport lounges directly from your phone. Which is always a better option than sitting on the only remaining space of a cold, hard tiled floor for several hours waiting for a delayed flight.