OK – now you know what “must have”, you can start looking and the first step is ….
Research, research and then some more research.
Sounds like a lot of hard work – but it is not if you look in the right places.
1. The internet
This is the easiest way to find a villa/apartment. But you may be overwhelmed by the volume of choice. My tip is refine your search as to the
• Type of accommodation
• Key characteristics that are important to you such as pool, golf, mountains, seaside etc
So examples search strings could be:
• “Luxury villa” + Tuscany + pool
• Budget + “holiday accommodation” + Italy
• “Apartment to rent”+ Venice + “San Marco”
When your internet search is delivered, look at the first few sites and see if they carry the stock of accommodation that you’re looking for. If not – refine your search string.
Don’t spend too long on each site but bookmark (add to your favourites) the websites that look interesting to come back to later for an in depth search. I tend to shortlist about 5 sites.
Lago Maggiore – Italy
Now that you have your rental checklist of “must haves” as well as a shortlist of sites, the fun really begins.
Most sites have search criteria from which you can select, so plug in your “must haves” – number of bedrooms, rental period, pool, location, etc. Now carefully read the detailed descriptions and inclusions of each of the accommodations. If the details do not match your “must haves” there is no point getting hooked on the pretty pictures – move on. When you see a property that matches your criteria either print off the details and pictures, or bookmark that particular property.
I admit that I have a secret pleasure. Once I have a shortlist of say 10 properties I love to get into bed that night and read the detailed descriptions and peruse the pictures at leisure without interruption. I have found that during the night, while I sleep, one or two properties percolate up through my subconscious and in the morning, I have the shortlist in my mind. I then rate the property descriptions by most liked and least liked. That way I can concentrate on a handful of “most liked” properties for in-depth investigation.
Above all, make sure you carefully read what has been described, not what you “want” to read. It’s all too easy to “think” you read about some attribute only to find when you excitedly arrive at your destination that the swimming pool you’ve been dreaming about is in fact a paddling pool, or some such other disappointment!.
2. Ask friends and associates for referrals
Referrals are a great way to source accommodation. If other people have had a good experience when dealing with a particular vendor or renting a particular property, then half the hard work is already done for you.
• Trusting someone else’s opinion is great as long as you have similar tastes and/or requirements.
• How long ago did they rent this property?
• What could have changed since then?
• Has the property been well maintained?
• Is the same vendor and or agent managing the peoperty?
Hanging Gardens – Tuscany Italy
3. Check out the bona fides of the agent/vendor before you send any money
I hear loads of people say they are nervous about dealing with vendors over the internet. I completely understand and have felt the same in the past. The following are a few tips that I use to check the bona fides of the vendor I am about to deal with:
• do they have a corporate website
• are there testimonials on the website
• check out the reviews the villa/apartment on Trip Advisor – contact the most recent reviewers and post a question
• start an email conversation with the vendor and get more information about items and conditions that are on your “must have” list
• ask for a phone number and call them
• ask for references from previous clients
• make sure that you have adequate travel insurance before you send any money
Money, Money, Money!
Once you have the numbers of participants confirmed, you need to receive a non-refundable deposit from them. This deposit is refundable only if other participants take their place. Otherwise other members of your group will have to absorb this extra financial burden.
OK – Now you have your ideal villa/apartment sorted it is time to get the finances sorted.
Show me the colour of your money
When renting with friends and family members you need to make sure that you get a firm financial commitment from them prior to you parting with any of your own hard earned cash. You certainly don’t want to commit to renting a 6 bedroom villa and then a month before you leave on your holiday, someone pulls out of the deal and leaves you carrying the financial burden.
So my advice is to get all your companions to “show you the colour of their money” (and commitment) early! Well before you have to make your initial deposit payment to the vendor.
I work on the basis that the individual cost will include:
• optional outgoings (air-con, heating, pool, chef, maid service, etc)
• housekeeping (this covers groceries, wine and liquor, household incidentals, etc).
What about housekeeping?
In the past I have found that asking everyone to chip into a housekeeping kitty prior to leaving is the best and the most hassle free way to manage the day-to-day expenses while you are living it up in your villa or apartment.
I have loaded the housekeeping kitty onto a designated credit or debit card for the sole use of making your purchases or getting cash from the ATM. I keep all the receipts and regularly reconcile these against the housekeeping kitty. This is the best way to make sure that everyone feels that there has been an equal contribution to the running expenses and also, as the organiser, you are not out of pocket.
Depending on your anticipated lifestyle, and the group that you are renting with, the housekeeping kitty can vary from $100 per day to $200 per day. That should be ample. Towards the end of the rental period if there are surplus funds in kitty, I have also paid for some meals when out at restaurants, entrance fees and bar bills etc.
In the next blog I will give you some ideas of making the most of your holiday such as:
• discovering those exciting out of the way adventures
• finding the best local produce
• dining with the locals
• making your villa a home away from home .