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A global guide to high-end vacation villas

Renting a house on Lake Como or in the south of France provides a whole different perspective, and a feeling of belonging, instead of just passing through.
Image: Villa in Careyes, Mexico
This six-bedroom villa in Careyes, Mexico, sits at the end of a peninsula between two beaches. An electric gondola takes guests to a small private beach with a palapa.. Courtesy of Costa Careyes
/ Source: Departures

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.

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