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Ditch the hotel for a vacation villaJan 9 2007

Ditch the hotel for a vacation villa

Whether in Orlando or Budapest, private vacation villas are tops!

By David Leonhardt

Two visits to Budapest. Two apartments, walking distance from downtown. I did not even set foot in the Hilton. My mother and I saw Budapest like only someone who stays away from the Americanized hotels can. We stayed with the locals. We came to feel the city, not just see it.

Several years later, I returned to Europe on my honeymoon (this time, without my mother). The first two nights in a little village near Schaffhausen, Switzerland, we stayed in the European version of a vacation villa rental: our own unit in a private home, our own balcony overlooking the scenic village, comfort, privacy and peace.

Three weeks of touring brought us to one or two hotels, several bed and breakfasts, and a couple "gasthauses" in Austria and Liechtenstein that felt more like private homes.

"There is no way to compare the comfort and privacy of a private villa with squeezing everybody into an impersonal hotel room," says Stewart Granville, CEO of Last Minute Villas, a booking site for Florida vacation villas and of Orlando Villa Owners, another villas booking site. "You have your own space – and lots of it – and you don’t have to worry about noise of peeping eyes. Usually you have a private pool, spa, sound system and other luxuries."

Mr. Granville books some vacation homes on Florida’s Gulf Coast, but mostly in the Orlando area, where there is the greatest demand. Typically, theme park visitors stay in the motel strip in Kissimmee. Those with deeper pockets might stay at the Disney World Hotel. Few people realize that a vacation home near Disney World or in nearby Orlando is even an option.

Luxury comes cheap in a Florida Vacation Villa

Fewer still realize how cheap it is. One Florida villa owner describes how he had just checked his guests in to his own Kissimmee/Orlando area villa. Drew was heading out of town, but he missed his flight. With ten people staying in his rental home, there really was no place for him. He checked into a very basic motel, typical of the Kissimmee strip, and realized he would be paying over $200 per night for ten people – or about $1500 per week – for uncomfortably basic motel rooms typical of Orlando and other vacation mecas.

"They stayed in my house for $900 - and they got their own private pool, ensuite bedrooms, laundry facilities, refrigerator and all the things you now take for granted in villas," Drew says. "It really opened my eyes to just what a sweet deal my visitors are getting – and how little motel visitors get for their money, too."

Two years ago, my brother and I rented a private cottage in the Laurentians. We had four bedrooms, enough to accommodate both our young families. We could see two of the neighboring houses, which would be useful in case of an emergency.

We had the television, the stereo, the fire place, fresh raspberries right off the bushes around the house (some blueberries, too!), a screened patio with a private table/bench swing, and a nice big fridge to keep juice, milk and beer cool. We had plenty of space to spread out and a table just perfect for a relaxing evening of cards.

Last summer, we rented a private villa in the Laurentians again, this time overlooking a small lake, and a canoe was supplied.

Why would anybody want to crowd their family into a hotel room? Or even two? I’ve been spoiled. From Orlando, Florida to Budapest, Hungary, travel in style by staying in a private vacation villa, no matter where you go.

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