23 June 2017

Where there's a villa, there's a way!

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How to have the perfect villa holiday

Debi Green from www.BabyGoes2.com gives us her essential guide to finding the right holiday villa for you and your family, along with tips on how to have a great time when you get there.

Why choose a villa holiday?
Villas are a great holiday choice. You get plenty of space and privacy, you can come and go as you please, eat whatever and whenever you want and you can really relax. There's no stress over securing the best spot by the pool, or having to look presentable first thing in the morning for the hotel breakfast experience, and no fighting for space and sanity with your little ones in a small, hot hotel room.

Where to go
Location, location, location...is crucial to a stress-free holiday.

Portugal: Real villa territory - either countryside or in swish urbanisations close to the sea. Standards usually very high, almost always have private pools. Portugal has a Mediterranean climate but low humidity with cooling breezes. Good variety of towns to visit, good facilities. Plenty of sports options, riding etc. Food good too. Short transfers from airport. Great summer holiday location - beach, scenery, towns, restaurants.

Spain: High quality villas - either by coast, in complexes
or in white mountain villages. Quite easy to find village/rural properties if that's your thing. Spain has excellent facilities, great food, very child-friendly. Some rural villas don't have pools. Weather stays good into October. Great for exploring - good for towns, beach and culture too.

Greece: There are plenty of luxury villas, but it's also very easy to find small, simple dwellings, often without private pools in Greece. Easy to find villas either right on seafront or in the middle of towns or villages, so very good if you're after a holiday where you can walk everywhere. Greece has a long season: Crete, and Zakynthos are still good bets for a warm holiday well into October. Great for beach lovers.

Corsica: Most villas come without private pools and tend to be quite simple. Great place for "back to nature" residences (groups of cottages in often stunning locations). Some luxury villas with pools too. Beautiful island - very unspoilt. Weather is more variable in September, but still very warm. Very good for beach/mountain/nature-lovers. Excellent prehistoric sites and great towns too. Easy to cover lots of different activities in a day. Great for those who prefer their beaches unspoilt and like to explore.

France: Huge variety of villa accommodation, from lap of luxury, through farmhouses to simple gites and cottages. It's a great place for rambling, rustic properties full of character, or alternatively chateaux! Plenty of climate variations to suit all tastes - lots to do, great food, scenery and towns. Easy to please a group of people with differing interests.

Italy: One of the best places for large, converted farmhouses in stunning countryside. Usually high quality conversions with plenty of mod cons and pools. Often come complete with cook option. Some take large parties, others offer apartments or rooms in a converted building. Easy to find lovely places in deep countryside, yet still only 30 minutes drive from towns full of culture, history, facilities and so on. Plenty of lovely coastline, but so much to do and see, best if you're not looking for just a beach holiday.

Sardinia: A wide range of villas - usually very high standard of décor and facilities. Private pools not a given however. Many luxury and large properties on the chic Costa Smerelda. Also plenty of "residences", similar to those on Corsica - groups of simple cottages in stunning locations with shared pools and facilities. Beautiful beaches, good food, plenty to explore, short flight from UK.

Balearics: Excellent choice of villas at all levels - many rural locations yet within easy reach of towns and facilities. Great weather through September, delightful towns, lovely scenery. Not totally unspoilt and rarely deserted in season, but a really excellent base for most people - unless you're keen on big city trips. Palma is great, but it's the only major city.

UK: A wide range of self catering properties from tiny apartments to castles. Perhaps best known for cosy cottages - usually well equipped with gardens in lovely rural or beachside locations. Many groups of cottages with pools etc and plenty of stylish conversions. Generally very well priced.

Caribbean: Excellent choice for luxury villas - which don't necessarily cost the earth. Generally close to beach and restaurants with excellent facilities - often come complete with cook and maid. Great for winter or summer luxury - very much a relaxation, sun and sea holiday, although most islands offer plenty to explore.

USA: Excellent villa accommodation all over the USA - of a very high quality but reasonable price. You can find places to stay in most locations, and obviously plenty by the beach. Our favourites are in Sanibel, or Naples, Florida or on Hilton Head in South Carolina. Great for golf, sailing, boating, fishing, tennis. Excellent facilities all round.

South Africa, Africa, Bali, Malaysia, Mauritius: There are some fabulous villas in these exotic destinations - wonderful locations, fantastic décor and facilities.

For more details on all of these locations, log on to www.babygoes2.com

Just your family?
Probably best not to be in the middle of nowhere. Having a quick, easy drive (or even better a short walk) into town, to the shops, to the beach or to a restaurant, will make all the difference. You'll have more opportunities for spontaneity and you won't feel isolated. You can each do different things and still be within a few minutes of meeting up. Try a shared pool - great for people watching/chatting and easier on the child monitoring front.

A few of you? The same applies, as a convenient location means you don't have to make every trip into town or beach a major expedition and can come and go as you please. Independence is essential to avoid gripes. Are there plenty of restaurants within a short walk or drive?

In a big group?
Make sure that the villa is well positioned for everyone's preferences: within easy reach of the beach, the countryside and culture - if possible - so no-one feels hard done by. Most importantly, be honest with yourselves and the people you're travelling with. If you're not clear from the outset about your respective priorities, no-one will get the holiday they want.

Staying independent
If there are any more than 2 of you, then one of the keys to a successful stay is enough transport. Make sure there's a car per family - it ensures flexibility and control over what you do with your time - there's no need for fixed daily itineraries and no-one has to agree to majority rule. It might cost a bit more, but it's really worth it. Don't expect to do everything together - freedom from the tyranny of plans and discussions is often a really important part of any holiday. It can be a lot more fun if you each go off and do your own thing from time to time, coming together later with plenty of new experiences to share.

Other considerations:
all mod cons?
Investigate the facilities as fully as you can beforehand. You may fondly imagine getting to grips with the good life, but in many cases a few mod cons such as freezer, dishwasher and washing machine can make life much easier. If you're going off season - is there any heating? If you're going far afield, is there air-conditioning in the bedrooms? If there's a pool, is it heated? If not, does it get the sun or is it always in the shade (shady pools can stay icy cold even in very high temperatures, which can be really disappointing if everyone's looking forward to a daily splash). You might prefer rustic and full of character OR you might want to wallow in the lap of luxury with plenty of home comforts - TVs, VCRs, hi-fi systems etc

Food and drink
Shopping
However well you think you know someone, you'll still end up moaning about the way they choose to apportion the weekly villa food budget. Yes, they really DO drink that much and yes, they really MUST have that particular type of extra expensive olive oil. A big part of holiday fun is sampling foreign food and shops, and if you limit this too much you'll have niggles which can spoil the hols. Decide on a reasonable kitty to cover essentials (agree them too), buy a basic stock of wine or beer for the duration, then just buy what takes your fancy and be prepared to share it.

If you're self-catering in your own country, and driving to your destination, most people take some staples with them. If you're holidaying with friends or family, it makes sense to ensure that you don't all bring the same stuff.

Eating
If you're in a group, don't plan on eating together all the time - this can introduce a rigid timetable for cooking or going out. Easier to agree at the beginning of each day. Some villas even come complete with cook, or with the option of engaging a cook for a few evenings. If you do have this facility use it - it's bliss! This means you can concentrate on the kids bedtime routine or relaxing, while a delicious dinner is prepared and waiting for you whenever you want it - with no worries about choice of restaurant or who will drive, and so on.

BabyGoes2...
And far, (far) be it for anyone to suggest that holidaying with a baby might have the odd disadvantage, but... if you've got a tiny baby who's in the tears before, during and after bedtime stage, then it makes sense to make sure you're in the most far flung bedroom, even if it's not the ensuite with the four poster and the fetching rug. And speaking of bedrooms - it's almost a given that your villa will come with one (or two or three) spacious, bright and airy bed-rooms, and one small, cramped, gloomy affair. Agreeing to swap half way through might sound like a hassle, but can make for a much happier stay all round.

Childcare
Having your children around you, happy, relaxed and with plenty of room to run and play (or crawl, cry or gurgle) and no worries about anyone else's disapproval, is one of the big bonuses of villa holidays. And if you're in a group, then it makes sense to share some of the supervision and let each of you get out and about to do your own thing from time to time. It's not a good idea to rely on it too much though, since you won't always be together and whilst grandparents or friends may profess to love your little darling(s) dearly, spending days looking after may not be their holiday cup of tea.

So, consider villas which offer some sort of childcare - your children can still be around you, but someone else can take care of the fun and games for a couple of hours each day. Properties offering this sort of service get snapped up incredibly quickly though, so you should be thinking well ahead if you want to make sure of childcare.

Please see www.babygoes2.com for a worldwide selection of recommended properties along with lots of tips and advice.


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