Choosing the perfect villa for a relaxing break should be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Yet for many who find themselves in the organisers role it can quickly turn in to a major frustration. Trying to please everyone yet pleasing few, and in the end feeling unappreciated.
Managing Director of Villa Retreats, Simon Rowland has been searching out perfect villas for almost 30 years. Here, he has distilled his lifetime of experience into few simple steps which can significantly reduce hassle, confusion and frustration when choosing a villa for your next relaxing holiday.
So before you start work on your family’s villa wish list, read these tips and use them to structure your planning process.
Think Family/Party Members
Consider the people you are inviting. What are their interests? Do they have any special needs? Are there any babies, toddlers, teenagers, elderly, infirm or people with mobility issues within the group?
Write down specific requirements for each person. Be sure to list things that relate to the property and to the area around the property.
For example, a choosing a hilly location if you are taking grandparents who have mobility issues may cause them difficulties, leading to a far from relaxing trip for them, and the group.
Put the destination to one side for the time being (unless it is absolutely written in stone) and think about where your ideal villa would be in relation to facilities, amenities and terrain. The location of your villa is far more important than the actual destination.
Again, run through the list of people in the group and consider their individual interests and requirements.
Consider the distance to the beach, restaurants, bars, a golf course, gym, playground and pool.
Would you like a sea view? Do you need to ensure certain facilities are within walking distance so that driving and vehicle rental is not essential? Are there teenagers in the party who will appreciate bars and nightclubs being only a short walk away?
Do you also need to be far enough away to not be disturbed by the hustle and bustle of the nighlife?
Think Duration & Dates
With the party and their interests and requirements now mapped out, the next thing to consider is the time of the year.
Chances are your group have a date, or at least a rough date, for the trip in mind. Study the climate and temperature of possible destinations carefully. Not only during the day but also consider night time temperatures and how they may affect your group.
Think through all the implications and their effect on those joining you on the villa holiday.
If your trip is off-peak season, the pool temperature be kept low by plummeting night time temperatures, so you may decide that you need a heated pool?
Temperature can be an issue for the very young and the very old as well. August temperatures in the Algarve could potentially be too hot for a new born baby. The same intense heat may be uncomfortable for elderly relatives.
When considering the Caribbean or even further afield, be careful to look into natural weather patterns. Is there a typhoon month, hurricane season or a period where rain is recognised as a major factor? Unless you already know a location well, research is everything. Google away and gather as much information as you can.
Think Change Over Days
You will need to decide on the precise range of dates you are available to travel within. Most properties insist on a particular arrival day. This is likely to be a Saturday. Seven and Fourteen nights are the norm in peak season but owners are sometimes more flexible when considering off-peak season bookings.
Think Villa Specification
Now you have all the groundwork in place, it is time to think carefully about the villa and the facilities your party will need.
Go back to your list of people and run down it, listing any particular facilities they will need.
How many bedrooms will you need? One often-overlooked consideration is the kind of beds (double or twin) your party will need in each room. Make a careful note of these next to the list of rooms you require.
If you have children (or adults) who enjoy games, would a games room, pool table or table tennis table come in handy?
Is a tennis court essential? If you have an enthusiastic chef travelling with you, you may want a fully equipped kitchen and certainly a BBQ.
Style and standard are also worthy of great thought. Would you rather stay in a contemporary villa or one with a more classical feel. Or perhaps an informal, beach style property.
Write down your ideal budget and your maximum budget. Make sure that all paying members in your party are comfortable with their commitment.
Don’t be afraid to share this information when looking for a villa. The more specific you can be, the more focused and useful the results of your enquiries will become.
Think ‘Must Haves’ & ‘Nice to Haves’
Split your list of requirements into two distinct lists. A ‘Must Have’ and a ‘Nice To Have’ list. Once prepared, share the lists with the other decision makers in the family or party, to make sure you have covered everything – and that they are on the correct lists.
At this point you are nearly there and the important part of the process is almost complete.
Who Should I Send My Brief To?
Now that you know what you want, where, when and for how much, it’s time to select the appropriate villa companies to send your brief to.
Always choose prospective Villa specialists very carefully. You must make sure you are sending your brief to experienced and established villa specialists.
Here are a few tips to help you select the right shortlist:
- Ensure that those you deal with are members of ABTA and ATOL registered to assure you of the consumer protection. Do not underestimate what can go wrong if you either deal with an owner direct or deal with a so called specialist, if they cannot offer financial security.
Buyer beware and seek proof of important credentials. You need accountable parties to deal with in case anything goes wrong. This accountability is lost if you deal with anyone or any company who is based overseas. Be warned. We have spoken to many clients who have been hoodwinked in the past and been swindled out of thousands by unscrupulous villa operators.
- Once you are sure the correct protection is covered, be prepared to ask a few cheeky questions that may unsettle less-professional villa providers. For example, how often they visit the properties they rent and are you able to speak to a member of the team who has either stayed at the property in question or who has visited it in the last 12 months. This is essential.
Once you have your final list of three or four villa specialists, send your brief to them all, in an easy to understand format with the ‘Must Haves’ and the ‘Nice To Haves’ all clearly listed. Don’t forget to share your budget figures – the ideal price and the maximum price.
The response you receive from your enquiry directly reflects the service and support you can expect from your villa specialist.
The replies you receive should be prompt, precise and easy to understand. They should also include up to date availability otherwise the information has little or no purpose.
As soon as you see a potentially perfect villa, you must ask for it to be put on hold at all costs. Even if it is just for 48 hours. Any Villa specialist worth their salt will offer to do this for you without question.
Any Villa Specialist should be available to arrange a phone call or reply to an email when you need a reply, even if it’s out of office hours in the evening or weekend.
You should expect help and assistance all the way up to arriving at the property and returning back home. Remember, a professional and experienced Villa Specialist will aim to build long term relationships with customers by offering the best possible service and support at all times.