How to book and search for villas and apartments
Getting the right accommodation for your holiday is an important part of the whole experience so if you've always fancied lounging by the pool in a private villa or soaking up the vista on the balcony of an apartment then read on.
Once you've decided where to go my favourite websites for finding self catering accommodation are Homeaway* and Booking.com* (choose 'apartment' or 'villa' from the left hand 'filter by' menu) Both allow you to search with location, dates and number of people and then you can pick more search criteria to narrow down your choice. You can also search with a map facility so you can get a good idea of how close you are to the beach or nearest town. This tool is also handy if you need to broaden your search out a bit or if you are not finding the results you want. Once you press 'search' a list of accommodation options should come up and you will then need to sift through it picking out the ones you like best. While you are doing this keep the following tips in mind:
Make sure you follow the process through to the end to get an accurate total price. All prices will vary according to the time of year and some will vary according to the amount of people going, so make sure you have put these in accurately. There may well be an extra cost for cleaning or booking fees added on at the end. Other extras (which you may have to inquire about separately) might include heating or air conditioning, pool heating, towel and bed linen, tourist tax (which is often per adult per night), wifi, extra beds, cots and highchairs. Inquire about all of these things beforehand and agree the full price in writing.
I'm a total sucker for being persuaded by a good picture especially if it includes a sunset or sparkling swimming pool! However, it's really important to flick through pictures and look at the interior and exterior of the property to be realistic about what the property is really like. I'm always a bit suspicious if they only show a couple of shots of the outside and then the local town or beach. Also look carefully at the layout and descriptions of the rooms and facilities. It's really important to make sure you are aware of how many beds and bedrooms there are and if this is realistic. For example, some properties claim to sleep 10 in 2 bedrooms - how does this actually work? Is everyone in bunk-beds or are there sofa-beds in every room? Think carefully about how the space will work for you and your group.
If you're booking somewhere with a pool be clear about whether it is shared or private. If it's shared try and find out how many other properties it's shared with. If it is private look at the measurements (pools always look huge in photos!). If you have small children you might want to find a pool with a gate or other safety features. If you are travelling out of season make sure that the pool will be up and running and warm enough to swim in.
...the top of this page gives you more tools to make good decisions when choosing accommodation. Make sure you read 'make the most of reviews', 'avoid scams' and 'useful links' which will give you loads more pointers.
Once you've agreed on a price and any extras you need, pay your deposit
and you're all sorted!