When booking a villa, you'll need to ensure that you choose something that meets all your holiday needs. Whether it's the first time you've booked or something you've done a hundred times before, our top tips will ensure you're fully prepared for any eventuality...
1. Set a budget
Villas vary in price and range from budget to luxury accommodation. Think about how much you want to spend - remember, on top of the price of the villa you will probably need to factor in the cost of car hire as well as flights or ferry crossings. Villas are usually charged by the week - for the whole property, not per person. Therefore, booking a villa that sleeps eight for a group of only four is going to work out more expensive. Think about the numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms you need and try to book a villa that sleeps a similar number of people to your party size.
2. Deciding where you want to go
Villas are available for hire in most countries, the most popular being The Algarve in Portugal, Spain and the Balearic Islands and Florida. Once you have decided on your destination, consider the location - are you looking for somewhere near the beach, the countryside or near a city? An isolated retreat may seem ideal when you're booking it, but think about the practicalities too - especially if you're with children or a large group. Is there a shop or restaurant within walking distance (remembering not to risk drinking and driving after a night out or having to arrange taxis) - or are there any language barriers to overcome etc?
3. Decide what you want out of your holiday
Do you want to relax with your family around the pool and fit in sightseeing at a leisurely pace, or do you want to base yourself in a centrally located position to minimize the travelling distance to major sights? List the amenities you would like, check off the ones you must have, and have an open mind when you are choosing between the villas you like.
4. Choose the right sized property
Think about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you'll need and check whether any of the beds are sofa beds. Is it practical for a member of your party to sleep in the lounge?
5. Swimming pool
A good or bad pool can make or break your holiday. Before booking your villa, check the size of the pool, whether it is heated and if so, will you have to pay to switch the heating on? If you're holidaying with children, check that the pool has a shallow end and a shelved entrance or steps for toddlers. Other factors to consider are whether the pool is exclusive to your villa or if you need to share with other properties nearby? Is the pool overlooked and are there enough sun beds for everyone?
Villa holidays are generally self-catering. Some homes are supplied with large, well equipped kitchens while others will have a kitchen corner or kitchenette. You should always have enough pots, pans etc for the maximum amount of people that can occupy the villa, but if you're planning on a lot of cooking it's best to inquire about its facilities.
Check the children's facilities. If the villa has a television, does it also have UK satellite channels or a DVD player (in which case, you might want to pack some favourite films)? If travelling with a baby, make sure there is a cot and high chair.
Some villas have specific days of the week for check-in and check-out (usually a Saturday) so ensure this fits in with your plans - if you're looking for a ten day break you might want to book a week at a villa plus three nights at a hotel. The same goes for weekend breaks - during peak holiday periods these may not be permitted unless it's a last minute booking or a cancellation.
Finally, think about the date of your villa holiday. The school holidays obviously book up the quickest so be prepared to book in advance to get the accommodation you want - the best villas often book up a year in advance by repeat holiday makers. Alternatively, be prepared to be flexible and change your dates. Also, check your flight times. Most villas need to be vacated in the morning and are not available for new arrivals until late afternoon. Try to time your flights or ferries accordingly to prevent having to hang around.