I like staying in hotels - sometimes. Usually for a weekend city break or if we've booked a package deal, but on the whole they can be as restrictive as they are convenient. I'm not one that likes routine all that much. When I'm on holiday I like it even less. Why must I have breakfast between 6-10 am? Why dinner at a set time? A holiday is about breaking away from the shackles of everyday living. Throwing off the routine and grudge of 9-5, exploring, relaxing and basically doing as one sees fit and usually outside of home constraints. So having breakfast at obscene hours of the morning is a definite no-no! And before anyone contradicts, explaining that it's good for the kids, etc., remember, I said I like hotels - sometimes. So what's the alternative? Easy, a villa of your own for a week or two. A place that's home from home and complete with a schedule that you devise. No more fighting to get around the pool (cue German jokes), extortionate prices for a glass of coloured water with the potency of milk of magnesia and no hoards around the buffet table waiting to pounce like a luncher at Pizza Hut. With a villa you have the pleasure to come and go as you like. To stay around your own pool, sunbathe in complete privacy, sipping chilled orange juice from your own fridge - bought from the local market. Perhaps a little MTV from the satellite TV in the background to complement the hum of amorous crickets. Total relaxation. Total privacy. Total holiday. And with the Net you are spoilt for your choice of villas. One of the best umbrella sites is www.privatevillas.co.uk. But as this is the magazine section I'll concentrate on their glossy magazine as that's what we used to book our fortnight in Costa Blanca. Just got back yesterday as a matter of fact. It rained! And rained! And then rained a little more. The Floods were nice. Not. The mag Private villas (PV) covers: Balearic Islands, Canary
Islands, Caribbean, Cyprus, France, Greece, Itlay, Portugal, South Africa, Spanish Costas, and Florida/Gulf Coast (There's also the odd villa from other places). At £2.95 monthly it's as over-priced as the rest of the glossy stuff but the pictures of sun and visions of opulence make up for it. Talking of price, PV covers most pockets. A winter break in a 2 bed villa from £150 a week, to 22 bed pure luxury, complete with chef, butler, villa manager, tennis court and the like for a measly £8,000 per week. Tsk! Simply choose your locality and have a gander at the piccies, staged for your delectation. Some have internal pictures whereas others just give a single external view. Increasingly though there is details of individual web page where you can go for further pictures and info. Always useful and inviting. You'll find huge differences in price so look very closely. Some offer the set price in £ Sterling and yet others in the currency of location. Don't disregard the latter as it can make a large difference if the £ is weakened/weakening. The advertisements are primarily 5 to a page, each with an introduction to the villa and its facilities. Again, the difference in internal specifications can be huge. Some have Jacuzzis, sauna, satellite TV and other nice things as standard, others may not. It is not always reflected in the price so if in doubt, ask. (Contact details of the owner/managing agents is given). Be prepared to make a few overseas calls if no e-mail is supplied. Best to contact the owner and ask for the brochure that more and more owners are devising. At least that way you'll get more of a feel of the individual villa and what your hard-earned is gonna get for you. Always ask for a copy of the terms and conditions and check how much security deposit is required, and more importantly when this is to be returned. Remember, PV is just a mag where owners advertise. PV play no part in the contractual arrangements. Th
at's up to you. When the terms and condition do arrive be sure to read rather than scan. Owners can be quite anal about their requirements and also their potential tenants. Especially true if it's a booking for a hen/bachelor holiday - as some refuse same sex groups. As for the general pricing of the villas, it can be a bit confusing. One advert may have 4 seasons and commensurate pricing: Low/Mid/High/Peak, others only 3, and again others with a single year-round price. Most bizarre. Another consideration in weekly amounts is of course locality. For an uninterrupted sea-view you're obviously going to have to pay more than a rural retreat. The bigger the villa the more you pay. Heated pool, more again. It's all swings and roundabouts and requires you to do your homework in order to get the best value for your pennies. Also check whether maid service is included (usually is, if only once a week). As you'd expect with a magazine such as Private Villas, inevitably there's a fair amount of adverts for flights, car hire and insurance. I contacted a couple of them in order to check on flight and car hire prices. None of them beat my usual travel agent or hire car (dial-a-flight.co.uk) company, so nothing more to say about them really. They're only the usual familiar names anyway and details could be sourced on the web so don't go buying the mag for them alone. Not that you would, of course. Before I get to my favourite section a quick word about the "Stop Press" entries. At the back you'll find information and pictures on villas that were too late for inclusion in the main magazine. Do have a thorough look through these as the villas are usually cheaper and as they are late entries, available. Perfect opportunity to do a little negotiating. Much better for an owner/agent to have 50% of something than a 100% of nothing. Catch my drift? Good. Make an offer, they can only say no. 40 vill
as were in this section of the August edition and covering practically all areas. Equally dense in content is my favourite section: "Property For Sale". Well, I can dream can't I? Not so much individual owners offering villas for sale but house builders and agents. Again, covering many areas and with prices from the realistic to the down right preposterous. Most of them just give a quick snippet of properties for sale, plots under offer, apartments and things but using their respective web sites it's nice to play being rich and 'holidaying at the villa, dahling'. Particularly good are the sites with virtual tours. Perhaps one day the real things but in the meantime virtual will have to do. Deep sigh. OK. Round-up. Nicely set out, lots of colour pictures, lots and lots and lots of villas to choose from, plenty of enticements and covering a wide geographical area. It's ideal to have a look through before jumping onto their site, get a feel for what is on offer and thus avoid square eyes. Read the ads carefully to avoid being burnt and do your research before parting with any cash. Remember Private Villas is only a one-stop-shop for owners and agents to advertise their wares and thus your contract will be with the individual owner and subject to local laws. Private Villas is a magazine for putting your feet up over a cuppa and reading/salivating at leisure, planning your forthcoming accommodation needs in those exotic climes. You might also be just pleasantly surprised at the accessible prices of some villas too. Can be cheaper than a package deal and much more interesting. www.privatevillas.co.uk £2.95 Glossy (monthly)
Have been getting this for about 4 years now. It is paced full of interesting articles and goes into great depth of destinations. Each week there is also a seperate section on the USA, and often a different state of this country. At the back there are also temperature and climate charts for the popular destinations, also jabs that are needed for each country. It also gives tit-bits of gossip about who is likely to take over who, and pages of ads. for tour operators and where they go, often specialised, and ones most people have never heard of.If you are thinking about going to a certain hotel, sometimes you will read a report about it, favourable or not. It is delivered by subscription only as far as I know.