Expert Tips for the Best Villa Vacation Ever

For the perfect villa vacation, we consulted the villa experts for the best tips. Afterall, there’s no substitute for experience. Not to mention that this is your vacation — shouldn’t someone else do the work?

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WHY STAY IN A VILLA? A villa vacation affords you an authentic experience on the island, plus it offers comfort, privacy and the level of luxury you choose. Villas are also quite affordable, especially if you travel with other couples and divide the expense. BEST TIP FOR VILLA-GOERS:Rent through a reputable agency that holds the inventory, works directly with the villa owners and has firsthand knowledge of the villas. Always ask if the agent has personally inspected the villa. BEST WAY TO GET A DEAL: Plan to travel in the value season (mid-April through mid-December), when rates can be as much as 40 percent off the rate in high season. Look for extras that come with the villa, such as a free rental car. WHAT'S THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE WOULD-BE RENTERS MAKE? Working directly with the owner to rent a villa. They think they're getting a bargain, but what hap- pens when you arrive and things aren't as promised? An agency protects you from the unexpected. WHAT'S YOUR MOST AFFORDABLE/ EXPENSIVE VILLA? Villa les Poiriers starts at $1,490 a week for a one-bedroom during value season. For a true splurge, you can spend the holidays in Villa Oasis de Saline for $140,000 a week — with a two-week minimum. — Peg Walsh, president of St. Barth PropertiesZach Stovall
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WHY STAY IN A VILLA? Privacy, a wide range of amenities, romance, quality time with your family and friends in a beautiful setting — a villa stay is by and large the best value in the Caribbean. WHAT'S THE BIGGEST TREND YOU'RE SEEING RIGHT NOW? Guests are looking for ways to get the best price for the accommodations and amenities they expect so they can spend their money on getting the island experience. BEST VILLA TRAVEL TIP:Arrange ahead of time to have your groceries delivered on your arrival for your first night and breakfast the next day. That way you can change into your bathing suit and start relaxing immediately. BEST WAY TO ENJOY A VILLA:Don't rush; you're on vacation. Things in the islands are done in a far more leisurely manner, so give everything a little more time — relax and go with the island flow. WHAT'S YOUR MOST AFFORDABLE/ EXPENSIVE VILLA? You can stay at cozy Crow's Nest, in the heart of Cruz Bay, starting at $1,617 for five nights or $1,890 for a week. Presidio del Mar, overlook- ing Peter Bay on St. John's north coast, offers six bedrooms, a mini gym and a personal concierge and starts at $23,000 a week. — Nancy Anderson, president/owner of McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Villas
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WHY STAY IN A VILLA? You're in a real home, so the only people around are the folks you rode in with. On Jamaica, there's also the luxury of a trained staff dedicated to you exclusively — everything is done for you. BEST WAY TO FIND THE RIGHT VILLA: Work with a specialist with experience and a strong track record in your destination, and ask to be put in touch with others with profiles like yours who have stayed in the villas you're considering. WHAT'S THE BIGGEST TREND YOU'RE SEEING RIGHT NOW? Mostly multigenerational families traveling together, which is probably why nannies are one of our most- requested amenities. But we're also seeing a lot of girlfriend getaways loaded with spa treatments — on- site massages are really popular. BEST WAY TO WAKE UP: In a villa right on the beach. In the morning light, the sea looks like an endless carpet of blues. Take a walk along the beach; then head home to the smell of bacon. WHAT'S YOUR MOST AFFORDABLE/ EXPENSIVE VILLA? Almond Hill is $2,400 a week for one or two bedrooms in low season, April 16 through Dec. 14. Roaring Pavilion & Spa — our most remarkable villa, with five bedrooms, a private beach and spa services — starts at $26,600 a week. — Linda Smith, owner of Villas by Linda Smith
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WHY STAY IN A VILLA? Villas offer incredible value, especially when compared to rent- ing multiple hotel rooms. You also get complete privacy and plenty of space for everyone to enjoy. BEST TIP FOR VILLA-GOERS: Don't start with a preconceived notion about a particular villa. Instead choose the three essential expectations you have for your villa experience so your agent can do the necessary research to provide the best options available. WHAT AMENITIES ARE REQUESTED MOST OFTEN? A private pool, air conditioning (not all villas have it) and a location right on the beach. We also get plenty of requests for staff. BEST ASPECT OF A VILLA VACATION: Unwinding in the comfort of home while enjoying the local culture, surroundings and food. You also have lots of room to relax with your family, plus your own pool, living area, kitchen — the list goes on. WHAT'S YOUR MOST AFFORDABLE/ EXPENSIVE VILLA? Rent one of the three bedrooms at Brimstage Estate, on St. Croix, from $286 per night. On the other end of the spectrum, Ty Molineaux, a 25,000-square-foot villa on a pri- vate beach in Antigua's Jumby Bay Resort, starts at $11,500 a night. —Steve A. Lassman, vice president/general manager of Villas of Distinction