Whether It's a Mansion on Mustique or a Castle in Cork, Renting A Luxurious Vacation Home May Cost Less Than You Think
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The second option is to go through groups such as Hideaways or the World Wide Home Rental Guide, which send subscribers a catalog containing advertisements from owners. These publications make their money on advertisements rather than rental fees. Hideaways also has a $99 annual membership fee, for which it tracks comments from its 18,000 members and makes them available to customers interested in particular properties.
Unlike the full-service agencies, which tend to concentrate on one or several countries, these guides cover a wider variety of destinations around the world. Since the owners write the advertisements, the information may be presented less clearly than in the full-service catalogs.
Many rental clubs or agencies also serve as U.S. agents for villa management firms abroad, especially in Europe. You can obtain the same catalogs of French vacation homes from different U.S. agencies. Since there is little exclusivity in the listings, identical homes are featured in many of the catalogs. Traditional travel agents can also book rental homes for customers, and in fact, 95 percent of LaCure's business comes through travel agents. However, for firsthand descriptions of the properties, go to the source--the rental agency or owner.
Prices vary greatly by location and by season, but these factors tend to affect nearby hotel prices as well. Due to their size, home rentals are popular with groups vacationing together, especially with children. Many renters also bring their nannies from home. Whether or not price is an object, few hotels can adequately accommodate three or four families and nannies traveling together.
"Suppose you go with two or three couples and the villa costs five hundred dollars a night," says Healy, the venture capitalist. "You have privacy and the pool to yourself. It beats a hotel six ways to Sunday." Families with children also find that dining on the premises can be a lot easier.
Before searching for your dream rental, make a list of requirements. Start with your geographic destination, such as a tropical vacation or a European visit. Determine the number in your party and any special needs, such as a home that is safe for small children or without stairs. Then make a wish list of features, such as a tennis court, pool, gourmet kitchen or private beach. Decide whether you want seclusion or to be near the action.
Once you have pinpointed your needs, turn to the catalogs or ask an agent for assistance. Dozens of homes may be available in your price range, so by knowing your specifics, you can eliminate many of them easily. If still in doubt, ask for references from others who have rented the property. The highest-end properties often have videos or additional information kits available.
Many of the larger homes are rented for special events or business affairs. LaCure's Squires notes that "some of our larger homes accommodate groups of 16 to 24, making them ideal for weddings, family reunions, corporate affairs or sales incentive rewards." For this reason, the larger homes tend to be better staffed and include business equipment and related amenities. In the English Manner also offers homes that can be used for small meetings and family reunions.
While this may be a bit much for the casual vacation rental, top-notch facilities can be found in scaled-down homes. For this reason, Fredo of In the English Manner sums up the rental experience by saying, "It's like having very, very wealthy friends invite you over to visit."
"By the way," she adds, "we have plenty of homes where cigarette smoking is prohibited, but cigars and pipes are welcome."
Vermont-based Larry Olmsted writes about travel and is a frequent contributor to Investors Business Daily. Living the Luxe Life
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