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How to have the perfect villa holiday

Our guide to finding the right villa for you and having a great time when you get there!

Which country? our summary of where to find the villa you want

How to find the best self catering still available for summer 2002

Our tips on how to have the perfect 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. No stress over securing the best spot by the pool, or having to look presentable first thing in the morning for the hotel breakfast extravaganza, and no fighting for space and sanity with your little darlings in a small, hot hotel room.
There are usually there are 3 scenarios for a villa break: you’re going on your own, just the 2 of you plus offspring;you’re going with another couple (and their offspring); or family/grandparents, or you’re going with a big group of friends and assorted urchins.

And they all sound great – at the planning stage. Going it alone? Excellent. You can please yourselves, no what-shall-we-do today breakfast meetings or arguments over bedtimes. Going with another couple or family? Excellent. Plenty of lively conversation, shared driving, fun, and childcare/babysitting. Going with a whole group of friends? Excellent. Everyone can come and go as they please, LOTS of conversation, activities, games, fun for the kids and plenty of shared childcare and lots of alfresco meals round a lively table with all your dearest chums.

Yet before you know it, the two of you are exhausted from pool monitor duty and staring glumly at each other over yet another hastily prepared at-home supper. Alternatively the 4 of you are at loggerheads because you like to chill out by the pool and they like to exhaust all the Rough Guide possibilities in a day. Or finally the big, welcoming group has morphed into a seething mass of minor irritations and is generating a mound of domestic chores worthy of a small army.
So here are our top tips on how to avoid the pitfalls and end up with the holiday you fondly imagined when poring over pictures of your summer idyll, along with late availability for this summer.

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Location, location, location

The location of your villa is crucial to a stress-free hols.

On your own?
Probably best not to be in the middle of nowhere. Having a quick, easy drive (or even better a quick 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 both do different things and still be within a few minutes of meeting up. Try a shared pool – great for people watching/chatting and easy on the monitoring front.

Just 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 and compelled to spend a few days in a surly sulk.

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All the mod cons…

Investigate the facilities as fully as you can beforehand. You may fondly imagine the simple 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, cd systems etc. Be honest with yourselves and the people you’re travelling with. If you’re both at opposite ends of the spectrum, then no-one will feel they’re getting the holiday they wanted.

We recommend villas of all types, click here for more information.

Staying independent
If there are any more than 2 of you, then the key 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 in the day with plenty of new experiences to share.

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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, it makes sense to make sure that you don’t all bring the same stuff. A babygoes2 member has kindly shared a packing checklist with us, which we think makes an excellent basis for organising provisions. Click here to find it and print a copy (you can find all our other packing/planning checklists by clicking here).

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.

Many villas come complete with cook, or with the option of engaging a cook for a few evenings. If you do have this facility – it’s bliss!

You can concentrate on the 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 has many villas with a cook option (Italy, Portugal, Spain, Corfu,Caribbean), just click here   for latest information on villas with cook options.

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Sharing and caring….
Whilst presenting your chums with a strict chores rota in triplicate on day one probably isn’t the best way to have a laid back hols, allocating certain tasks to certain people isn’t necessarily a bad idea. It’ll at least avoid the ‘she’s just not pulling her weight’ mutterings but of course you do run the risk of becoming the holiday headmistress or master – so be warn Bear in mind that most villas come with maid service, so your chores are unlikely to be anything like the onerous duties you have to fulfil every day chez vous.

And far,(far) be it from us 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 bedrooms, 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 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 your chums may profess to love your little darling(s) dearly, spending days looking after them in addition to their own 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.

If you're interested in this option for 2002 click here and add 'childcare 2002' in the comments box, and if you'd like to plan ahead for 2003 (and it's not a bad idea as 60% of people here - book this kind of property the moment they finish their holiday) then click here and add 'childcare 2003' to the comments field.

We can offer an automatic booking availability check early in the new season. Just fill out the form by clicking here and we’ll put in an availability request for you at your chosen time, and ensure you get a new brochure as soon as available.

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In a nutshell

Make sure your location allows for flexibility and doesn’t make you feel isolated or trapped. Ensure that families holidaying together retain their own independence, so that everyone can do their own thing whenever they want to, having a car a piece is the easiest way to achieve this.
Be relaxed about shopping and eating together, have a kitty, agree on staple provisions and get a cook in if you can! Finally, make sure your villa has the facilities you and your friends need to enjoy themselves. Really. And this comes from someone who has spent many an evening sitting glumly on a wobbly wooden chair under a bare light bulb with warm wine in a chipped cup in the name of ‘back to nature’!
So choose your villa carefully, book plenty of cars, then just get on the plane or in the car, chill out and enjoy it!

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Which country?

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

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year

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.

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year

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 sea front 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.

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Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year

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.

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year

Sardinia: Similar to Corsica although many luxury properties (pools still a rarity however) on the stunning costa smerelda. Residences popular too but far from rustic – most have excellent facilities and are often within walking distanceof superb baches and facilities.

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year

France: Huge variety of villa accommodation, from lap of luxury through farmhouses to simples 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.

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year.

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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 mins 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.

Click here or information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year

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.

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year.

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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.

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year

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.

Click here for information on their latest availability and deals, and a priority brochure for next year.

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

Click here for information, latest availability and a priority brochure/request, booking check.


Availability for June-Sept 2002

There is still reasonable availability for self catering options during the peak season – in most European and Caribbean destinations, and if you're travelling last minute you'll find some good offers. There is still availability in most places and types of accommodation, from tiny apartments in Sardinia to luxurious villas with cook and nanny in the South of France. For a quick summary of this month's availability and offers click here and for detailed info on the right villa for you, just click here and give us your requirements, and we'll send you some suggestions of what's currently available

Debi Green

Contact the writer of this article via contribution@babygoes2.com

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