A Global Guide to Vacation Villas

<a href="http://www.careyes.com/" class="external" rel="nofollow">Courtesy of Costa Careyes</a>

Skip the traditional hotel and live like a well-situated local. Departures shares its top picks for villa rentals, plus tips for finding the perfect place.

There’s a real
difference between visiting a place and living in it. Renting a house on Lake
Como or in the south of France provides a whole different perspective—shopping
at village markets, interacting with locals at cafés and shops—a feeling of
belonging, instead of just passing through. From Fiji to Anguilla to the
Mexican Riviera, villas, with their numerous bedrooms and generously sized
living areas, are tailor-made for family and intergenerational travel. But
before booking, there are few things to keep in mind:

1. Deal with an
established agency. Work with an agent like Barbara Bennett, of Villas of Distinction, who has
been scouting and renting for 18 years.

2. Confirm that the
agent has inspected the villa in person. Seeing photos of a property online is
no substitute.

3. Make sure
there’s a local representative or a property manager on-site. An agent at the
other end of an 800 number is of little help if the dishwasher breaks down.

4. Think about
logistics. How far is it to town? (No one wants to drive 45 minutes for a quart
of milk.) Is the property well suited for day trips?

5. Most villa
rentals include cleaning service, but ask about frequency. And there’s usually
an extra charge for a private chef.

6. Two key
amenities: The pool and the view, especially in summer in Europe. Many villas
are not air-conditioned, but a property with a good view catches the breeze.

7. It’s best to
book at least a full week to have enough time to settle in. (Some villas
require it.) Remember, it’s about living there.

8. Before
committing to a villa, ask the agent to secure a hold. “It’s usually good for
three to five days with no obligation,” says Bennett. “And it gives you time to
reconfirm with other members of your party.” Use the hold period to get
feedback from the last client who rented the place.