By Suzanne Bopp
Renting a villa may seem more daunting than reserving a hotel room, but we’ve simplified the process to eight easy steps—so you can find and book the property that’s perfect for you. Once you're ready to book, check out our list of top 10 villa rental companies.
1. Choose your destination
Decide where to go and what kind of experiences you want to have, from cultural interactions to beach time to outdoor adventures. Then consider your preferred villa location: near town, by the water, or up on a hill with sunset views. This will dictate your choice of agents, as different companies specialize in different areas and different types of properties.
2. Plan and book early
Book at least six months in advance for high-season periods to ensure that you have a broad range of rental choices. Always ask for discounts that might be available. If your travel dates are flexible, you can save a bundle by booking during a destination’s shoulder seasons, when booking agents are working harder to fill their properties and are more likely to negotiate.
3. Choose a booking agent
Some companies are simply property listings on a website that connect you with owners; other sites vet their properties and offer added-value services, from chartering flights to procuring babysitters. Using the self-service companies will likely require more legwork, but could result in finding a less expensive villa. A full-service company can save you time by handling additional details of your trip. Plus, there’s the peace-of-mind factor: They stand behind their properties, and often have management staff nearby in case of problems.
4. Sweat the details
Make a list of your must-have amenities, and drill down on the details you deem important. If you envision spending a quiet week by the pool, make sure that the pool is in good working condition (is it heated? Salt-water or chlorine? Will someone come to clean the pool?), and that there aren’t noisy neighbors or busy roads nearby. It’s better to know as much as possible before you arrive, so there are no unexpected surprises.
5. Ask for "breakdown rates"
This little-known strategy can get you into a bigger property for less. The concept is this: If you only need two bedrooms, you might be able to rent a five-bedroom villa at a two-bedroom price. "They will close off some of the bedrooms, and you get a reduced rate for the larger pool and terrace," says Wimco’s Bennet. Some properties even post breakdown rates on their price lists.
6. Check references
"Always talk with someone who has been there," advises Suzanne Cohen, founder of Villa Europe. For self-service booking sites, call and ask for a reference from someone who has stayed at the property. If you use a full-service booking agent, most stay at the properties in their collection periodically, and will be able to give you first-hand references.
7. Watch for hidden costs
Ask questions upfront regarding additional charges like cleaning, heating, electricity, telephone, and Internet. Then, review the terms of your rental contract carefully before you sign it.
8. Buy trip insurance
You may have to pay in full for your villa long before your tripvacation so protect your investment from unexpected developments. Many villa rental sites provide a link so you can buy insurance from a company they recommend, such as Travelex and Travel Guard. Cost depends on multiple factors, including the price of your trip, the number of people traveling, and their ages.
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