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Five-star hotel service has its perks, but renting a private villa is the ultimate holiday luxury. Especially when it's a property on the North coast of Sardinia (Italy) with the amenities of a private pool, air conditioning, a view of the Mediterranean, daily maid service, and a concierge that can arrange everything from a private sailing expedition to a five-course private chef prepared dinner. If the goal is work hard to play hard, seven days in a private villa is the reward.

We have used with great success, three different services for private accommodation over the last three years. One Fine Stay for an apartment in (West Village) New York City, VRBO for a home (near Disney) Anaheim and a Paris apartment (Marais district), and Luxury Retreats for villas in Italy. Regardless of the website, there are a few learnings when booking with online services.

My tips:

1. Location is everything - Determining the city or area is important, but also consider the neighbourhoods. For city stays, identify if the property is close proximity to public transport, restaurants, and shopping. Unless a traveller wants to spend time in the taxi and be in an unsafe area, it's more convenient and fun to be able to step out the door, right into where the good action is. More centrally located accommodations are more costly, but definitely worth it. For more country stays, is it in or near a town, consider how and where shopping is located. Research the surrounding towns for day trips and other restaurants.

2. Consider the requirements and filter - It can be overwhelming on the number of properties available. I recommend taking time to think about requirements and filter a search. First neighbourhood, then price range, but also identify other filters like air-conditioning, private pool, children allowed, beach proximity, WiFi, parking, number of bathrooms and bedrooms.

3. Pour over the pictures and read the reviews - Does the decor appeal, are the bathrooms and kitchen up to date, does the pool look clean? Don't risk being the first guests and book a property with recent reviews. It also helps to cross-reference on Trip Advisor. Reviews should be for the majority, positive. There are always some unhappy guests, but those same people would probably also complain about winning the lottery.

4. Research - Research as much as possible, to give confidence that it's the best choice at a price within a budget. The services I have used have a large range of accommodations available for diverse budgets, from studio apartments to large ten-bedroom estates.


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