Ever dreamed of owning a beach house - waking up in a designer holiday home a frisbee’s throw from a sweep of soft sand and the inviting blue of the ocean? Or perhaps you’d prefer a stylish city apartment, and the daily ritual of oven-fresh croissants from the corner deli?
A classic hotel holiday has many advantages... and a few uncomfortable limitations: you can’t wander through to the kitchen when you feel like a mid-morning snack, or connect your iPod to the central sound system – even if you do have the perfect playlist for the occasion. A serviced pool terrace may be just the spot for you to slip into vacation mode, but it can be challenging to hold onto your bliss amidst the chatter and splash of other guests.
The growing trend towards private villa vacations is not surprising when you consider how important the rest and recharge aspect of any holiday is to the average person. If you're thinking about a home-away-from-home villa stay, take a look at the statements below - they'll help you work out if 'living like a local' is a perfect fit for your next vacation.
I’m looking for the best value
At first glance, holiday villas may seem like an expensive option but if you’re on a family holiday (or travelling with a group of friends) then chances are it’ll be more cost effective than booking multiple hotel rooms.
You'll also save more than a few dollars a day by catering for some of your meals and snacks from a local supermarket - just taking care of breakfast in your own kitchen instead of eating out for all meals every day, and you'll make a big difference to your budget. Add snacks, drinks and the odd light lunch, and you'll save a bundle simply by making use of your villa's fully-equipped kitchen.
I value my privacy
Probably the biggest advantage of villa living is the privacy it affords you. While you can book a spacious suite in a hotel, there will still be people staying in the room next door. You can put up the Do Not Disturb sign to have a late morning lie-in but will still hear vaccuming in the hallway.
Often the more spontanoues, relaxed moments with family and friends become the best memories of a holiday. In a hotel, you will always be aware of other guests to some extent. In a private villa, you have the peace and privacy to unwind over an easy-going barbecue next to your villa's pool, sip sunset drinks out on your private deck or indulge in a long, lazy brunch in the summer sunshine.
Villa vacations aren’t restricted to cities and beaches either. Most visitors to Africa want to include a big game safari and Africa offers a selection of gorgeous safari villas set in some of the continent's most pristine wilderness, where your nearest neighbours are passing elephants and wild pheasants announce the start of each day.
I like to set my own schedule
It’s true that most luxury hotels and guest houses are very accommodating: if they know you’re going to be up and out before the set breakfast time, they’ll usually prepare a snack or picnic for you. Room service offers some flexibility for meal times... at a price, of course. Safari camps and lodges are naturally much less flexible than hotels - room service is rare and meals and activities happen at specific menu to times.
For some travellers, it's the very freedom from other people's schedules that is at the heart of their relaxation. In a hotel or lodge, other people influence your daily routine to a greater to lesser extent. This is especially inconvenient when you travel as a family - try sticking to even basic routines when you don't have access to the kitchen!
On a villa vacation, you decide the pace and plan for each day. And safari villas, including your own private guide and game viewing vehicle, make all the difference to a family safari. Travelling with youngsters? keep the drives short and exciting to hold their attention. Got a budding photographer or a keen birder in your group? Take a picnic lunch and head out for a full day exploring the African bush.
View our experts' picks of the Top 5 African safari villas.
I love my extra comforts
There's no denying that luxury hotels have been carefully designed around your comfort and convenience: book a massage at the spa (just a short stroll from your room), allow the sommelier to pair your main course (with the best his cellar has to offer), and drift off to sleep cocooned in Egyptian cotton sheets (800 thread count of course).
Your villa may not have a spa or sommelier, but many villas offer a level of exclusive luxury that will challenge the top hotels. From personal butlers to private chefs, housekeeper to drivers, your villa's staff are there to take care of only you. While you can't stroll to the villa's spa, your butler can arrange for an on-site masseur to come to you, delivering the same professional treatment in the comfort of your villa. As for the finer things in life, select villas offer the same gorgeous bed linen, high tech entertainment systems, and designer decor that hotels do.
I love cooking
If you find cooking relaxing and enjoy creating your own feasts, you’ll love your villa's well-equipped kitchen. Depending on your location, there's the added thrill of discovering local ingredients and exploring delis, markets and supermarkets. One of the best parts of your culinary adventures? A fully serviced villa means you never have to do the washing up.
You can arrange to have groceries delivered to save you the hassle of shopping and a private chef on hand to conjure up a delicious menu according to your tastes. This is a great advantage if you're celebrating a special occasion on holiday - where else can you combine the advantages of entertaining at home with all the benefits of hotel staff?
I want to be close to the beach
When planning a beach vacation, the general rule is: the closer to the beach, the better! On the tropical islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles there are resorts and villas set on soft sweeps of pure white sand. Of course, there’ll be far more people on that lounger-lined resort beaches than on the stretch of private paradise just in front of your villa...
In Africa's favourite city, Cape Town, to be really close to the best beaches your best bet is a villa vacation. There are no hotels overlooking the four famous coves of Clifton, but there are incredible villas mere steps away from the sand. The same can be said for the pretty little bay of Bakoven, local-favourite Llandudno, and many other spots along Cape Tonw's coasts where the best ocean views and seaside sunsets are there to be enjoyed from perfectly placed private decks.
But where to stay?
Best Kenya Safari Lodges: big game viewing and your own slice of untamed wilderness