What to ask yourself
Are you the villa type? Renting a villa can be “the best thing short of having a rich friend with a summer house,” says Smith, and most travelers will lap up the personal attention and privacy that villas afford. But if you’re the type who needs to be surrounded by crowds and in the center of all the action, you might want to think twice — or, as Smith suggests, book a villa either within a resort or with access privileges. “Most of our homes have complimentary membership at resorts nearby, so clients can enjoy the best of both worlds,” she says.
What do you need? There are thousands of Caribbean villas, and identifying your needs is critical to narrowing the choices to a manageable handful. Must you be beachfront, or will a pool do? Do you need a full- time retinue, or can you get by with daily maid service? Do you want an active vacation packed with excursions or a fuss-free beach getaway? Will you need child care? On Smith’s website, jamaicavillas.com, a questionnaire helps customers refine their choices, and booking agents continue the process over the phone, asking an exhaustive list of questions that cover everything from allergies to favorite desserts. “The better the information we get, the better the service and the better the experience our clients will have,” Smith says.
How big is too big? You don’t need eight people to rent a home with four bedrooms. Many villas offer staggered rates, so depending on the size of the group, renters can pay either the one- to two-bedroom rate or a rate for three- to four- or five- to six-bedrooms and still enjoy all the amenities of a larger home. “You pay based on the number of bedrooms you need, not on the size of the villa,” Smith advises.
So even if your group’s small, don’t limit your search to petite places; scope out a few larger homes too
Who’s in your corner? Particularly if you’re a first-timer, it’s smart to consult an agent. “The best have an intimate knowledge of not only the homes, but also the destinations they represent,” says Smith. They’ll analyze your preferences, match you with the home that best meets your needs and be a valuable resource for local info — at no cost to you. Need a grand piano, kosher meals or gym equipment? An experienced agent can make it happen.
What’s the bottom line? Be sure to verify exactly what the rental rate covers before you leave. “We tell our clients to budget for the three G’s: groceries, ground transportation and gratuities,” says Smith. Typically you’ll pay for airport transfers, food and drink, and additional services such as excursions, spa services and, in some cases, child care. Remember that gratuities are not optional, “We recommend 10 percent of the rental cost during high season and 15 percent in the summer,” says Smith. You can choose to prepay tips to your agent, who will distribute them to the staff, or use cash at the end of your stay.
To find out more about the villas in Linda Smith’s collection or to make a booking, please visit www.jamaicavillas.com,
Tel: (301) 229 4300 or email: Linda@jamaicavillas.com
Reprinted with permission from author Sarah Greaves Gabbadon.
This article first appeared in Caribbean Travel Life.