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You don’t have to be a longtime reader of the Divine Living Magazine to know how much we love a classic luxury hotel. As women entrepreneurs who travel for work and play, it’s often essential to have the level of service and amenities that frees us up to do our best. If I’m hosting back-to-back events for example, I know I’m going to need 24-hour  room service, a fabulous spa and fitness center, housekeeping and the high-vibe support of an English-speaking staff.

The more I travel however, the more I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of a luxury villa (or apartment!) rental. Staying in your own home, going shopping at the market and cooking beautiful meals immerses you in the local way of life on a deeper level. It’s part of what’s been so fulfilling about my seven weeks in Provence, allowing me to explore the culture and interrupt my typical pattern in a big way.

Beyond cultural immersion, there are plenty of reasons why a villa rental might be the right choice for a trip. For high-end client retreats, it can help create an exclusive, intimate vibe that you can up-level with something like a private chef (which many rental services will be able to set you up with). Last summer I hosted my Entrepreneur group in a villa overlooking the bay of St. Tropez and it was totally ideal. We took them out on a yacht and gave them the full experience of what life could be like for the new women millionaires.

A villa might also be the way to go when you’re traveling with a group of friends and family, or even with just your husband and kids. Not only will you have more space to be together or spread out, it can also be a lot less expensive than getting several suites and rooms. And if cooking is a priority for your trip, few hotel suite kitchens can compare to being in a real home. There’s such a delight in plopping your shopping bags full of fresh veggies down on the counter, whipping up something amazing and having all your guests gather around for dinner.

Convinced? Okay—so finding a rental isn’t quite as straightforward as booking a hotel room. There are a lot of factors to consider, but with our Smart Girl’s Guide below you’ll know exactly how to find the villa of your dreams. Keep reading for my list of villa essentials, the best online services for booking your dream property and an insider Q&A with the villa experts from Haven in Paris.

 

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GINA’S
TOP 10 VILLA MUST-HAVES

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1
Fully Connected

While some villa-goers are looking to unplug, women like us need consistent, reliable and super-fast internet access wherever we go. Before you wind up with dial-up, confirm that your rental will have the highest speed connection and a strong signal that reaches everywhere that’s important to you, like the upstairs bedrooms, out by the pool, in the kitchen, etc.

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2
Chill Vibes

Especially if you’re working, you probably want the option of a cool, comfortable space on those too-hot summer days. Air conditioning is not as standard in Europe as it is in other parts of the world (shout out to my fellow Americans), so if this is important to you make sure to confirm the house has it, and in which rooms.

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Upkeep & Up-charges

A lot of villa rentals will include a certain level of upkeep, like gardening, pool maintenance and house cleaning. Find out if these elements are included, or if there will be additional charges. You may also be charged fees for things like linens and towels, so don’t forget to read the fine print.

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VIP Parking

Parking in Europe can be….bizarre. Glenn and I had a villa once wherethe driveway was this crazy super-steep slope. Every time we left it took us twenty minutes to navigate. A friend of mine had one so narrow, she had to drive all the way down the street backwards to turn the car around. You can skip this auto-trauma by asking the right questions.

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Home Alone

If you’re looking for privacy and seclusion on your villa adventure, you’ll want to make sure that there’s no unexpected upstairs renter, or someone in the guest house you didn’t know about. Ask the agent if you’ll be the only one on the premises.

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Ask the Experts

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The ladies at Haven in Paris tell us about the best in villa living.

What do you look for in the villas you represent?

When considering taking on a new villa, we take our due diligence seriously so our guests don’t have to. We look for fabulous locations and private settings with stunning views, but also the more specific details that we believe make an experience truly luxurious, like high-quality linens and a kitchen stocked with cooking basics needed to prepare a meal at home. An accommodation itself must be impeccable, but we want our guests’ experiences there to be as well.

What’s key to making sure you’re getting a really high quality property?

Renting a property you’ve never seen can certainly be a bit daunting, but we are here to bridge that gap. Someone from our team completes an in-depth visit of every villa or apartment we consider representing, to ensure it is up to our rigorous standards of quality, cleanliness, and comfort. We also want to exceed our guests’ expectations and, as such, stand by complete transparency. All client reviews on our website come directly from previous guests, and we even have some who have opted to serve as references for any prospective renters.

Tell us about the services you offer that make renting a villa more effortless.

During the booking process, we take the time to propose personalized, tailored suggestions in order to find the villa or apartment that best suits the needs of each guest, taking into account ideal size, décor, location and desired amenities. Guests can take advantage of our exclusive Luxe Service partners, which include private drivers to bring guests to and from their property, concierges, personal chefs, masseuses, tour guides, and more, to make their vacations as memorable and stress-free as possible. Throughout the whole process, we regularly check in with property greeters and guests to make sure all is running smoothly, and to answer any questions guests might have.

How do the costs of staying in a villa compare to that of a four or five-star hotel?

When comparing the cost of a hotel versus a villa or apartment, there are a few things to take into account. While hotels often come with extra fees, the price we quote to guests is inclusive—there are no hidden taxes or dues. Thanks to the ability to cook in one’s own kitchen, guests often save hundreds of dollars that they would have otherwise spent dining out or ordering room service. Finally, the amount of space and that irreplaceable “homey” feeling you get in a villa or apartment is what makes it an incredible value.

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Chef’s Kitchen

If cooking is part of your villa living fantasy, make sure you’ll have all the right cooking tools, appliances, pots, pans and tableware to serve your dream dinner. Is the kitchen spacious enough? Are there enough chairs for everyone?

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Beauty Rest

Not all beds are created equal. For Americans like me, the mattresses you discover abroad can be a little shocking. In Europe they are notoriously thin, hard and sometimes you even find two twin beds pushed together without a box spring—confirm you’re getting something comfier.

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Do Not Disturb

Who’s giving you the keys? My best villa experiences have been in dealing with a property manager, while the owner is out of the picture. When you rent direct from an owner who’s in town, they tend to want to check up on the home a lot, or they’ll forget things and need to come inside to look for them. It can be a little disruptive.

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The Closet Caper

Sometimes with villa rentals you’ll find the master bedroom closet locked, and the owner has left you with just a rolling rack with hangers. If you’re like me, and especially if you’re coming for a month or more, you probably want access to that space, so make sure it’s going to be clear and accessible.

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Pretty Payments

Typically European villa rentals require you to pay upfront with a wire transfer. This can become a problem when the villa you end up with turns out to have been totally misrepresented, and now chances are slim you’ll be getting your money back. These days Glenn and I will only rent if we can pay via pay pal and put it on our AMEX. Online services, like these top luxury villa websites below, make this aspect much easier.

 

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