Want a real taste of local flavor with
a fully-equipped kitchen and plenty of room to spread
out while you get away from it all? Try a villa.
Renting a private vacation home used to
be the almost exclusive purview of celebrities, rock
stars and the very rich. But that's not the case any
more, says Jennifer V. Cole, associate research editor
for Travel + Leisure magazine. Mainstream travelers
are discovering that a staying in a home with a kitchen
and multiple bedrooms can be cheaper and more comfortable
than a hotel, especially for larger families.
Here's where to find them:
has more than 17,000 properties in resort areas throughout
the U.S. and Canada, says Cole. Also, Rentvillas.com
has almost 1,400 properties in Europe rated on a variety
of criteria by former guests.
A few other choice ones include: VacationSpot.com,
says Cole, who adds that you may be able to line yourself
up for a stay at Mick Jagger's beach house on Mustique
But be warned: The six-bedroom bungalow will set you
back at least $13,000 per week. Another of the agency's
many offerings is a six-bedroom
home, decorated by Rudolf Nureyev, on a private
island off Italy's Amalfi Coast. It rents for $80,000
to $100,000 per week.
With a private home, there are more variables,
so shop carefully. And be prepared to ask a few extra
questions so that the image you have is what you actually
find when you arrive.
Cole's advice: With vacation homes, go
through an established rental company rather than a
private individual. Ask for references (guests who have
either stayed at a particular property or rented from
the company). And look for photos. "I would never
book a place unless the site has photos," she says.
"You may not see everything about it, but you get
a sense of what you're looking at."
Find out about the payment and cancellation
policies, because they can "vary pretty drastically,"
And it pays to speak the lingo. "When
you read the listings, there are some buzz words --
real estate speak," Cole says. "'Beachfront'
could mean literally on the water. Or it could mean
right on the sand but separated from the water by a
For example, a vacation rental listing
might say the property is:
- A villa.
"It could be as grandiose and elegant as the
typical image of a villa, sitting on a hillside surrounded
by sweeping gardens," says Cole. "Or it
could just mean a small house in the country."
And in some cases, she says, it could even be a city
- A cottage.
It could signify a quaint, little place or it might
just be very small.
- Comfortable. This
could mean either it's warm and welcoming, or that
it's old, well-worn and hasn't been updated recently.
- Cozy. The
translation on this one could be "intimate"
Right there on the beach or atop a cliff overlooking
the water? Both are great; just make sure it's what
you think it is.
"Then call and talk to someone,"
she says. If you don't want to rack up international
charges, send an e-mail. But find a way to ask about
the details that are important to you.
"You're buying something sight unseen,"
says Cole. "You have to read between the lines."
What are your summer travel plans? Take
poll and see what other Americans will be doing