Holiday villas are an alternative to traditional hotels or hostel accommodation. This type of accommodation is very popular in Europe and some parts of South-East Asia (notably Bali and Phuket), but very rare in North America. The primary difference between a holiday villa and a hotel is that a holiday villa contains a kitchen (or kitchenette) and other living space. Holiday villas are also referred to as short term rental apartments and "self catering" apartments.
When planning a trip or a holiday, after deciding on a destination, one major decision is where to stay. The first thought may be a hotel, or if money is tight, a hostel. In many cities and major tourist destinations, you may find private apartments or villas that are available for short term rental. Prices, on a per-person basis, are often lower than hotels.
Compared to hotel accommodation, a holiday villa is more like a home, gives more privacy, and is cheaper, and lets you cook your own meals if you like. When combined with shopping at local stores, this can lead to significant cost savings over eating all meals in restaurants. Rental holiday homes often have gardens and private pools. The kitchen is usually fully equipped and you are not restricted by any schedule. Staying in a holiday villa will provide more exposure to the local culture, as most are located outside the tourist areas and in neighborhoods where the locals live. Most holiday villas and short term rental apartments are owned and operated by locals, not international hotel chains, so more of your tourist spending on these accommodations stays in the local economy and benefits local residents. In high cost cities, a short term apartment rental is often significantly cheaper than a hotel, if you are staying for two or more nights.
Holiday villas and self catering apartments are more difficult to locate and book than hotels. It often takes a bit of searching to locate one, and not all cities and towns have holiday villas. Most holiday villas and self catering apartments are not standardized, so the quality can vary even at similar price points. Many holiday villa rentals require a minimum stay of one week. Holiday villas usually don't have private security guards. If there is a laundry service, it may be only once a week. The price may be good if you have several people, but higher than a hotel for only one or two. Many holiday rentals are off the beaten path, and not located near convenient transportation like train stations, bus stations and airports. Some short term rental apartments in cities do not have parking garages.
Staying in holiday villas and self catering apartments on a vacation takes more planning, and provides less flexibility in your itinerary. Since you have to book most in advance, you can't just drive until you are tired, or come to a town that strikes your fancy, and check into a holiday villa or short term rental apartment.
When booking a villa, there may be many things you should pay attention to.
Many villa owners may require payment in advance 1-2 months before arrival. Be sure to check the conditions of the lease, in order to be sure your booking doesn't get cancelled. Also be sure to check the cancellation policy, so that you know what to expect in the event that you have to cancel your holiday.
The price list may include a daily or weekly price plus: energy, heating, final cleaning, pool heating, air conditioning, a security deposit or other taxes.
Be sure to check the check-in and check-out hours before arriving. Some owners may be flexible on check-out hours if the apartment is not rented the next night.
If you book directly with an owner, do your best to ensure that the owner is licensed and has adequate public liability insurance cover.
It can be advantageous to select a villa through a reputable villa holiday company as they are regulated more than owners and will be able to offer alternative accommodation if something goes wrong, and will provide support for you while you are on your holiday.
If you are dealing directly with an owner, be aware that you may not be given a completely objective assessment of the quality or suitablility of the accommodation.
How to find holiday villas
Many home owners publish ads in national newspapers to advertise the villas. If you plan to travel in your country, this is one of the best & cheapest way to find accommodation. Just buy a classified newspaper and make some calls!
If you are planning to visit a different country, the web, including search engines like Google are your best friends! Many holiday property owners have built their own websites advertising accommodation and sometimes offering availability calendars and price lists. "Self catering accommodation" is a good search term for finding holiday rentals, or, for instance "villas in France".
There are also some worldwide holiday villas operators, that offer villas in major cities from most of the countries. Many of them offer online availability calendar (updated 24/7), descriptions and pictures, online inquiry or booking form, visitor's reviews and price calculator.