I have always been a strong advocate of private villa accommodation and wherever possible I try to track down one to stay in rather than settling for a basic hotel room. A villa can transform your vacation from an ordinary getaway shared with hoards of other tourists to a peaceful and relaxing experience where you receive five-star service without the matching price tag.
You also avoid pitfalls like overpriced hotel meals, having to arrive at the pool early to secure your lounge chair, or settling for a small hotel room when you'd love more space. In particular, if you are traveling with a family, a group of friends or another couple, sharing a villa is an ideal accommodation solution, often featuring luxurious inclusions like a driver, a chef, butler and cleaning staff.
Although European destinations and the Caribbean islands offer their fair share of villa rentals, the best value options will more likely be found further a field on the stunning beaches of South East Asia or in the Pacific, so gather up your friends or family, choose a location and get ready for pure indulgence.
When searching for a villa rental, you can choose to do a generic search using Google of Bing for example and you will generally come across larger, international rental companies like Perfect Places (www.perfectplaces.com), Home Away (www.homeaway.com), Villa Renters (www.villarenters.com) and Villas Caribe (www.luxuryvillasintl.com). Alternatively if you know the location you'd like to travel to, then search specifically by geographical region and you are more likely to come up with individual villas and websites operated by the owners themselves. When putting down a deposit for a villa (most require at least a 50% deposit approximately one month prior to travel), there will have to be a degree of trust between you and the owner or rental company. Most deposits are by international wire transfer or direct deposit so if you do have questions, make sure that address them prior to handing over your deposit as getting a refund may not be possible. Always check what is and is not included, if there are additional taxes or fees and the villa's maximum capacity. Owners are usually very flexible and willing to accommodate your needs.
Bali: Indonesia offers perhaps the largest and most affordable range of inviting properties when it comes to renting a stunning contemporary design villa complete with all the added extras. Nowhere is the villa experience more fulfilling than on the idyllic island of Bali. Villa Tujuh is one villa available through Chillout Bali (www.chilloutbali.com), an Australian-operated company. Priced from $370 per night (in low season: January 10 to March 31, April 20 to June 30 and again from October 12 to December 18), you can immerse yourself in a lifestyle that you may have only ever dreamed of while perusing pages of a luxury travel magazine. Set amongst rice paddies in the peaceful Pererenan Village of Canggu, the villa is 500 yards from one of Bali's best surfing beaches and only 15 minutes from Seminyak's shopping and restaurants. Set in its own grounds overlooking a small river and neighboring rice paddies, the house consists of a large open living and dining pavilion that sits alongside a generous sized swimming pool, a children's pool, and a separate pavilion housing four king-size air-conditioned bedrooms each with an ensuite bathroom, satellite TV, and DVD player.
The villa comes complete with a manager and chef plus an English-speaking driver who will handle your day to day villa needs, including transport. The chef will discuss menus with you and shop daily for local produce which will cost in the range of only $10 per day per person (and that is for three meals each). There is also an extensive kids' menu and the chef specializes in Asian cuisine (but also covers a wide variety of western cuisine). Daily housekeeping and laundry is included, as is your first day's breakfast. For a small additional cost, they can also arrange child minding, in-house massages and other spa services in the comfort of your own room or out by the pool. Imagine that eight adults can stay here in the lap of luxury for a week, including round-trip airport transfers, accommodations, all meals and transport for less than $400 per person. If you are traveling with fewer people, you could stay at their Teman Desa Villas, also located in Pererenan. Here a two bedroom villa with similar services to Tujuh start from $200 per night (and only $250 in high season), $250 for a three bedroom and $300 for a four bedroom.
Thailand: Staying in the middle of Phuket's famed Patong Beach can be daunting at times, with hundreds of hotels, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. If you'd like to be close to the center of all the activity but still enjoy a tranquil and secluded stay, then Baan Sabai Villa, available through Amazing Phuket Villas (www.amazingphuketvillas.com), may be the perfect option. Situated at the southern end of Patong, it sits high on a hillside overlooking Patong Bay. This private five-bedroom luxury villa features everything you will need to make your Phuket vacation memorable.
Included in the per night rate of $750 (in low season: generally from May through October) are airport transfers; three full-time staff catering to your every need; an English-speaking manager; all chef prepared meals and snacks; accommodations in ThaiÂ?style bedroom villas (including one larger master or honeymoon suite) each with ensuites and views; garden spaces and terraces; a large salt water pool; sun-lounges; pool side BBQ; a large games room (with a viewing window into the pool) complete with pool table, dart board, various games, as well as a cable TV, stereo, DVD player, Sony Playstation II, and a selection of music, movies, and video games; WiFiÂ throughout the villa; and a seven-seater van with driver for up to five hours a day. The villa comfortably accommodates ten adults and additional beds and baby cribs are also available for guests with children.
India: The Indian coastline state of Goa is India's smallest but most popular, and has long been a beach area of choice for those seeking to escape the rigors of western life and a chance to swim in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. Staying in a private villa here is a breath of fresh air. Situated just behind Coco Beach and a few minutes from an array of internationally acclaimed restaurants and the lively shops of Candolim, Coco Shambhala (www.cocoshambhala.com) is a group of four luxurious villas offering accommodation for four people each in spacious and luxurious digs priced from around $2,000 per week (or less than $300 per night). Each villa has two large bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, some of which are outdoor for the experience of showering under the stars. All four houses have their own private jet pool set in a garden room and a complimentary car and driver. Accommodations are luxurious and feature extensive living and entertainment spaces, a massage and exercise room, flatscreen televisions, daily laundry and housekeeping services, and breakfast cooked daily (plus other meals can be prepared, including regional specialties at additional cost). Each villa accommodates up to four guests with one large shared swimming pool at the center of the property. For a selection of villas sleeping 4 to 14 guests, visit Luxury Goa Villas (www.luxurygoavillas.com). Most prices will be in UK Pounds and range from £549 to £2,900 per week.
Fiji: Always considered a quintessential Pacific island paradise, Fiji is also home to dozens of privately owned villas for rent, or more traditional "bure" style bungalow homes. Although perhaps not as easy to find as those in Bali or Thailand, there are still several websites that allow you to search for Fijian options, including www.holidayhomes.co.nz. One luxurious option is Lagoon Point Villa (www.fijianvilla.com) in Muscat Cove, a five-bedroom bure style villa that is priced from approximately $685 per night. Located on idyllic Malololailai Island, the villa has an open-plan living and dining area with two large bedrooms in the main villa and three additional self-contained bedroom bures, linked to the main living area by generous sweeping decks. Each of these additional bedrooms has its own kitchenette and bathroom. The house is elevated, with sweeping views of surrounding lagoons and a white sand beach. The grounds are home to mango trees and coconut palms and there are many water activities on offer at the Island's two nearby resorts. The villa sleeps a maximum of ten adults with a three-night minimum stay required. Although this villa doesn't come with staff or meals, both can be arranged at an additional cost, as well as speed boat rental, childcare and airport transfers (the villa is a ten-minute plane trip from Fiji's mainland, or if you prefer, a 45-minute boat trip). Supplies can be picked up at the local supermarket located a short walk away and there is a selection of restaurants in the area.