Posts filed under ‘1. Just starting to plan…’
Even if you have rented a villa in the past, you probably have questions about costs and how they might compare to a hotel stay. Here are some points to consider:
One of the many things that sets villa rentals apart from hotels stays is the savings for groups. The more people staying in a property, the greater the savings per person. Average mid-level price ranges for small rentals (2 people/1 bedroom) are $1,000-$2500 per week. A medium-size rental (4-6 people/2-3 bedrooms) is $2500-$4000 per week. A large rental (8+ people/4+ bedrooms) is $4,000-$8000 per week, depending on the quality of the property and the season.
The weekly rental price of a countryside villa varies according to season. However, the rental prices of city apartments may not fluctuate as much. Although the price/season breakdowns vary according to property, here is a general guide:
- High season is generally July and August (although, June and September are sometimes included), the three Christmas weeks, and the two Easter weeks. During these periods, prices are highest and crowds are largest.
- Mid-season, or shoulder season, is generally June and September. This is a good time to travel because the weather is warm, but not yet hot.
- Low-mid-season, or low-shoulder season, is generally late April through May, and again in late September to late October. This is a good time to travel, thanks to milder weather, fewer tourists, and lower prices.
- Low season is generally January to the end of April (except during Easter), and late October to Christmas. Prices are at their lowest during this period, though conversely, due to cold weather, heating costs (which are usually extra) must be factored in. See below for more details on heating.
With very few exceptions, all linens and bath towels are included in the rental price. In some cases, utilities (such as gas and electricity, but excluding air-conditioning and heating) are included in the price.
What’s NOT Included
With some exceptions, air-conditioning, heating, gas, and electricity are metered according to consumption and are not included in the rental price. This is because energy costs in Europe are much higher than in the United States. In particular, the laws governing the use of heating are restrictive in the interest of energy conservation. For example, in Italy heating is generally only allowed from the 1st of November until the 1st of April, although this can vary. If your property has a working fireplace, it will be stated in the description whether you need to request and pay for firewood.
Most of our properties are privately owned, so the provisions in the house will vary according to owner. Some villas are well-stocked with basics such as salt & pepper, dish soap, bath soap, paper towels, and toilet paper, while others provide the bare minimum. It’s always a good idea to pack a few small spices, and then plan to stop at a grocery store en route to your villa on Saturday (since smaller stores are usually closed on Sunday).
A Final Cleaning fee applies to most of our villas. This amount covers the cost of cleaning following your departure. Usually, this amount, in addition to any stated extra charges not included in the rental rate, is deducted from the security deposit (paid in Euros upon arrival), which is returned to you upon departure. The total amount of both the security deposit and the final cleaning fee will be specified at the time of booking.
What Savings Can I Expect?
Unlike hotel rooms, all properties are equipped with a furnished kitchen and amenities such as a stove and/or oven and refrigerator. This makes it possible to store groceries and prepare meals both simple and elaborate, therefore eliminating the added expense and hassle of eating out for three meals a day! Calculate that this also includes incidentals, like snacks and drinks. Imagine the pleasure of enjoying a good bottle of wine and local meats and cheeses on your private terrace at the end of a long day of sightseeing! While of course a similar experience could be had at a local bar or café, you’d pay twice the amount (even three times in a touristy locale), and there would be no gorgeous vista or sunset to admire—let alone privacy and space.
If you’re traveling with children, the convenience factor of a villa is extremely appealing. Not only do you have the ease of a kitchen for quick, inexpensive meal preparation and snack storage, but you have the added bonus of ample room for young ones to run around and expend some of that boundless kid energy. Villa rentals provide a degree of flexibility that hotel rooms do not! In this case you may not save a calculable amount, but you certainly gain peace of mind and sanity–which, as only a parent knows, are priceless.
The Blue Flag is an eco-label awarded to the cleanest, safest beaches with good environmental track records. Owned and run by the non-profit organization Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), the Blue Flag campaign supports sustainable development at beaches and marinas, monitoring standards in water quality, education, environmental management, and public safety in 41 countries across Europe.
Here are some of our favorite Italian award-winning beaches and marinas in Tuscany (Forte dei Marmi, Pietrasanta, and Viareggio) and Campania (Positano)…plus villa picks nearby:
Tuscany – Blue Flag Beaches in Forte dei Marmi, Pietrasanta, and Viareggio
About the area: If you avoid the August crowds, Forte dei Marmi (or simply “Forte”) is a fashionable, low-profile beach town with a beautiful Blue Flag beach and enticing shops located approximately 1.5 hours NW of Florence. It’s chic, but understated. The beach is accessible via bathing clubs; Alaide and Capri are family-run. Bike rentals are available at Cicli Maggi, a bike shop founded in 1916. It’s a pleasurable spin to nearby Pietrasanta (the medieval town; 3 km inland) and Marina di Pietrasanta (the port), where you can sample renowned biscotti at Fortini and visit marble sculptors’ studios. Viareggio, also a Blue Flag award-winner in 2010, is the main center on the northern Italian riviera. Although very crowded in August (like all beaches in Italy!), it has a beautiful port and historic center, as well as convenient train service to all of Italy’s major cities. Here, sample one of our favorite Versilian specialities: cecina, a chickpea pancake.
Villa picks in Tuscany:
Casa Pietrasanta offers a lush countryside setting with easy access to Pietrasanta (3 km), Forte dei Marmi (10 km), and Viareggio (12 km). It sleeps 6-7, has a swimming pool, and is furnished in an elegant, rustic style.
Villa Maria is a spacious villa for 6-8 people with pool 3 km from the beach in Viareggio, 13 km to Forte Marmi, and 9 km to Pietrasanta. It’s also 1 km from the village of Piano di Mommio, which offers a good selection of services, and is only 20 km from the beautiful walled city of Lucca.
Campania – Blue Flag Beaches in Positano
About the area: Positano is one of the jewels of the Amalfi Coast. It’s an unbelievably picturesque fishing village and has a Blue Flag beach (Spiaggia Grande; pebbled) and port. There are many charming outdoor cafés and narrow, cobbled alleys and endless staircases to meander. Typical fare highlights all types of seafood and local produce such as lemons, peppers, and tomatoes. Don’t miss the anchovies with mint and garlic! Other popular beaches include Fornilla, La Porta, and Arienzo. There’s also an incredible trail that starts in the mountains above Positano called Il Sentiero degli Dei (Trail of the Gods). It follows a high ridge and ends in Vietri sul Mare, east of Positano.
Villa Picks in Campania:
Brezza di Mare is a charming one-bedroom villa in the village of Montepertuso—a 10-minute shuttle bus ride to Positano. It has a large, private terrace with views of the sea.
Casa Luna is a 2-bedroom apartment within walking distance of Positano. It has a garden terrace, fragrant with jasmine, that overlooks the sea and village.
When it comes to searching online for airfare to Europe, it’s tough to know where to begin in an ever-expanding sea of travel sites. Here, in part 2 of our 2-part guide to finding the right flight online, we cover the best resources:
First stop: Matrix. This is ITA Software’s public airfare search engine, and it also happens to power many popular travel sites and airlines’ reservation systems. What you can’t do with Matrix: Purchase tickets directly. What you can do: Download a mobile airfare shopping app for iPhone or Android called OnTheFly. Use an interactive calendar to explore date ranges. Refer to color-coded time bars to compare flights at a glance.
Like Matrix, Fly.com, Kayak.com, and Bing.com are so-called metasearch engines. This means you can enter your search criteria in one place and simultaneously get results indexed from multiple engines. These sites are highly efficient, but again, you can’t book tickets directly. Here’s how the three sites are different:
–Fly.com indexes just flights: its data comes from airlines and major travel sites (including discount and international flights, online travel agencies, and airfare consolidators).
–Kayak.com also indexes flights—plus hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages.
–Bing.com is slightly different in that it’s an actual search engine, or “decision engine”, in Microsoft’s words. Its travel search tool, Bing Travel, includes the cool bonus of offering price predictions for each fare (Is the fare likely to go up or down?)
Cheapoair.com functions similarly to the other metasearch travel engines in that results are culled from multiple data resources and reservation systems, but it’s a one-stop shop: Tickets can be booked directly though Cheapoair.com, either online or by phone, 24/7. Its also a full-service travel agency, with deals on hotels, vacation packages, car rentals, and airport parking.
Momondo.com is a great bet for finding cheap airfare to and within Europe. This Denmark-based aggregator indexes more than 450 travel sites—including major booking engines, airlines, and discount European airlines (an inexpensive choice if you don’t mind making a connection and possibly paying additional baggage fees). It also features city guides and a traveler blog.
Yapta.com will actually help you to pinpoint the best time to book by tracking fluctuating prices, and even better, enable you to take advantage of many U.S. airlines’ “guaranteed airfare policies”. According to this policy, if the price of flight you’ve already booked goes down, you may be eligible for a refund. Yapta will track the price of a flight you’ve booked, and alert you if it drops below the purchase price. Word to the wise: Refunds apply only if you book directly through the airline!
Along similar lines there’s Airfarewatchdog.com. What makes this site unique is its staff of dedicated “Dealhounds” (yes, real people!) who are literally sniffing out the fare sales for you. You pick your home airport, and then Airfarewatchdog.com will email you when prices go up or down.
Also worth a mention is InsideTrip.com. It’s an airfare search engine, but it’s unique because each itinerary is awarded a TripQuality score based on 12 criteria: security wait time; legroom; aircraft type; aircraft age; historical load factor; connect time; routing quality; lost bags rank; and gate location. In addition, it provide a FinalAirfare calculation—an estimate of bag and drink fees prior to departure.
Finally, if all of this just sounds like way too much work, consider Tripology.com. This is a free service that puts you in touch with certified Travel Specialists: By submitting a Trip Request online you’ll receive up to 3 Customized Trip Itineraries; you then select the one you want and book your trip.
Photo courtesy AMagill @ Flickr
Securing the perfect villa for your desired dates is just one piece of the travel puzzle: Now you need to find a flight. Here’s part one of a two-part guide to help you book the right flight online:
Let’s start with basics. Is your priority cost or convenience? Here’s a scenario to consider: I’m renting a villa in the Chianti in June for two weeks with two small children. To minimize parental headaches, I’m flying direct. I’ve booked a Delta flight serviced by AlItalia from LAX to Rome’s Fiumicino. From there, I’ll rent a car and drive to Tuscany (3.5 hours).
Now let’s say the kids are staying home with grandma. In that case I might find a more competitive rate by flying a carrier such as Lufthansa into Munich, a large, user friendly international airport with complete services, and then booking a connecting flight to Rome on a local discount airline such as Meridiana, Air Italy, EasyJet, or Blu-Express. One note of caution here: Baggage restrictions on smaller airlines are often tighter than those on major carriers; be sure to check weight limits and/or baggage charges on individual carriers’ sites before you purchase! You may even want to think about traveling with just a carry on, if possible. For alternative transportation there’s the train—a convenient, relaxing, and certainly less expensive option. According to RailEurope I could take the City Night Line, for example: The train leaves Munich at 9:00 PM…and arrives in Rome at 9:00 AM the next morning. Not too shabby!
Before you get down to searching, here’s a few more helpful tips:
–Should you pounce on tickets in February if, say, you’re not traveling until September? Depends. It might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important to consider that the cheapest seats sell out first. Waiting until the last minute isn’t necessarily going to save money, especially in those last 2 weeks prior to your departure (when prices tend to be inflated). On the other hand, by buying far in advance you may miss eventual price drops. A good rule of thumb is to book 1-5 months in advance of your departure date for best price and selection. You’ll also find the best fares during business hours—when most people are online.
–Is there a cheaper day of the week to fly? Yes. According to Rick Seaney, CEO of farecompare.com, traveling on weekdays to Europe is cheaper than weekends (FYI: Wednesday is your day to save if you’re flying domestic).
–Consider the high and low European tourist seasons. Peak periods, such as summer (late May – late August) are generally more expensive. Late October to mid-March is considered the winter season and is typically more affordable; same goes for late March to mid-May (though Easter week may see some spikes). Fall (mid-September to late October) is also low season.
–Flexibility is key! If you’ve got wiggle room on your dates or arrival/departure airport, you can find the best deals.
Photo courtesy of xlibber @ Flickr
Journalist Millie Kerr writes, “Vacation rentals are fast becoming my travel obsession: how else can travelers, especially those on a budget, really get to know a place?” We couldn’t agree more. To read the full text of Millie’s article in the Huffington Post, click here. For 26 years RentVillas has been helping travelers plan authentic European experiences. Our passion? To borrow the words of Millie Kerr, “genuine travel”.
La Ferme de la Dronne is a beautifully restored 17th century chateau situated right on the Dronne river in the Aquitaine region. It’s ideal for a large group (sleeps 14) or meeting, especially after April 2011 when L’Orangerie, a newly refurbished meeting room constructed in the chateau’s original swimming pool, will be complete. Also new for 2011: A private riverside beach! The wine center of Saint Emilion is just 45 minutes away.
New large apartment near the Champs Elysees! Located on the 2nd floor of a 19th century Haussmann building, Le Serin is 1800 luxurious square feet and sleeps 5-6. Minimum rental is 5 days. The Champs Elysees is a just a short walk away. Discounted until November 30th, 2010!
Granato is a 2-bedroom apartment in Palazzo dell’Arno, a restored 19th century building in the San Niccolo section of Florence. It’s ideal for 2 couples because it combines 2 one-bedroom apartments, creating 2 independent suites (each with kitchenette) with a shared balcony. We also like that the minimum stay is 3 days, making it a convenient option if you plan to travel elsewhere.
Some villas really do have it all: access to town on foot, views, historic charm, and all the creature comforts and amenities one could hope to find. Antica Rocca, near Orvieto in Umbria, is one such place. “It was furnished like an elegant private home, and so well equipped with everything we could possibly need!” writes a customer of his October stay.
Thinking about seeing Turkey in 2011? We have a newly remodeled villa in Alacati, an ancient Aegean town on the west coast. This semi-detached house, called Ladybird, sleeps four and is steps away from restaurants, shops, and a fantastic Saturday covered market. The beach is 2 km away, including a wind/kite surfing center. Nearby day trips include Izmir and Ephesus. Per day/per person rates are as low as $30 in early spring.