What are your expectations? A villa conjures up visions of luxury, but the truth is that many villas are old and in need of updating. You can go from cheap and cheerful villa hire to a villa that would cost thousands a week and appeal to pop stars or movie stars.
Make sure you view as many photos as possible so you can get a good idea of what you are going to get. Most importantly you want to see interior shots, in particular, the lounge, kitchen and master bedroom. If these aren’t available – ask yourself why!
Get an idea of the room layout and floor plan. If you have children then their bedroom needs to be close to yours. Some villas have rooms that are accessed externally only – these, however, are great for teenagers.
The arrangement of the beds is vital. Find out how many are doubles and singles to avoid any potential embarrassments, especially if you are going with friends and relatives.
As you are likely to have children with you, think about safety. If the villa is on a steep plot, there are bound to be lots of steps or high drops. How well is it fenced? Most importantly if there is a pool, is it fenced off or are you going to have to constantly be on guard the whole holiday (not very relaxing)?
Arrive during the daytime. Many villas can be located in countryside locations and the roads can often be poorly signposted. As you will feel tired, possibly hungry and thirsty, the last thing you want is to be searching in the dark with a car full of frustrated people (yourself included). Make straight for the villa, get settled and do your sightseeing later. Make sure you have a good map and not just directions in case they don’t make sense when you are driving there.
Hire a car. (See my article about car hire in Spain.) Most villas are set out of town and although they may claim to have restaurants and shops nearby, consider that you might find the restaurants are terrible and the shops expensive. A car means you won’t be stuck and gives you choice, variety and ultimately a better holiday.
Know where you would ring (and go) if there was a sudden need for medical attention. Consider whether you feel the facilities are too far away.
Will someone be available locally in case of problems such as figuring out how to use the cooker, items not working etc?
If you are renting a villa outside of the summer season then it can be colder than you realise. Villas often lack the warmth and insulation of houses in northern Europe. Ask if it has some sort of heating and what type of heating. Central heating is a definite advantage. Tiled floors can be very cold. Bring your slippers!
You know Spain is going to be hot in summer but consider that many areas often hit 40°C (or over 100°F). You won’t have time to adapt and might find it unbearable. Does the villa have air-conditioning (most don’t)?
Make sure the villa has everything you will require. Don’t assume it has basics like TV, hairdryer, DVD player or video player, ironing board, cot, dishwasher, mobile phone reception. Anything like this that you would think essential – ask so you know it will be there.
Make a list of things that are most important to you so you can immediately discard villas that don’t meet your criteria, e.g. do you want a sea view or do you want to be in the quiet countryside? Other factors may be distance from the airport, distance from attractions, Internet access, privacy from neighbours, any road noise etc.
Most villas will not have a phone or Internet access.
Many villas do not have a washing-machine.
What is the total cost? Make sure there are no surprises. Sometimes you are charged extra for local taxes or for air-conditioning or heating.
Mosquitoes are rampant in the summer. You can get sprays that you spray on yourself; these are good for going out to restaurants at night. For inside the villa you can buy devices which you plug into the electricity sockets. They give off an aroma which repels the mosquitoes.
Bring some essentials. After your tiring journey you don’t want to have to go searching for the local shops immediately. You might also find they are closed as opening hours are very different from back home. Take items that you like from home as they might not be sold in Spain. Take essentials (or pick them up along the way) such as toilet paper, salt, pepper, sugar, coffee, tea, tomato ketchup, butter, bottled water, soap and shampoo.
Find out if there are options for things to make your holiday even better and more luxurious. For example when you have kids it can be great to have an evening to yourself. Are there child-minding services available? Can you hire a chef or have housekeeping services?
Plan ahead. Many villas, especially the biggest ones (and better ones) fill up quickly so book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Understand the cancellation policies in case you can’t go, and read the fine print in the booking details.
Most villa owners accept the season is quite short – mainly July and August – and so they price those months high. To get a bargain, rent a villa outside those months – the weather is often just as good.
Many new villas are being built in Spain so ask the owners if they can discount the price. You may be surprised at the answer – it’s very competitive out there.
Copyright © Mark Eastwood