In the June issue of Traveler, Wendy Perrin authored a smart and thorough account of renting a villa while traveling. As a proponent of villa rental vs. hotel every now and then, I found her article full of smart tips that I wish I'd known several years ago.
Nine friends and I headed to Portugal for a three week holiday and rented a villa through an online agency. Like Ms Perrin, the villa we landed in didn't quite fit the needs of each guest (details that should be sorted out before the trip, as I learned the hard way; but that's another post altogether) and wasn't as pristine as promised - a few appliances fell apart mid-stay, the housekeeper had a nasty disposition that kept her from doing her job on a regular basis and the interior climate was unexpectedly cold and damp - something both the rental agency and the owners neglected to mention.
It took a solid week for us to work out the kinks with the house and find our rhythm as a group, but once we did the trip was absolutely unrivaled. The best part of renting a home away from home is the freedom you experience without the pressure of life as usual. Simple things like cooking your own meals and having people over for dinner become exotic adventures. We traded traditional American dishes for traditional Portuguese dishes with the house manager on several occasions, enjoying the culinary contrast in our lovely villa dining room. We could sleep late and have breakfast at 3pm without the pressure of restaurant meal turnover, stay up chatting as a group until 4am, or wander around the house all day in slippers. The cost savings are an added bonus, of course - our 12-bedroom villa was $1100 per week: 10 people = $330 per person.
The invauable resource of a rental agency rolodex accompanies the article, and I've begun an inspired search for a villa to rent in the Carribean this summer. Now, if only I could do something about hurricane season...