Getting It Right – Selecting the Perfect Holiday Rental

Getting It Right – Selecting the Perfect Holiday Rental

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Think back to the last time you had to book a holiday rental for a family reunion or choose a resort for your summer getaway. Remember the hours you spent trawling through photos and descriptions on websites? Flicking through the back page ads in stacks of old Conde Nast Travellers? Multiply that by 26 and you have our life at the moment.

Selecting the right holiday rental, like a good hotel, takes time. It’s not because there isn’t a lot out there. There are a gazillion places – not just on HomeAway Holiday-Rentals, but on sites like The issue is more about finding the right place to match your needs.

It’s not such a headache if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t really care where you stay because you’re going to be out exploring all day – you just want somewhere cheap to lay your head, to be able to make a coffee the moment you wake, and to have a fridge full of snacks and drinks to enjoy during that early evening chill-out time before you head out again.

If you’re that kind of person on one of those types of holidays then location is your main concern – you want to make sure you’re nice and central to the action, or you’re near a train station, bus stop or busy street so it won’t take you long to get there.

But if you’re planning on kicking back at the place – perhaps you have kids who need afternoon naps, you love to cook and want to have some meals in, or it’s going to be another sticky summer holiday on the Med so you’re intending on snoozing by the pool during the day and exploring the old city in the breezy evenings – then a whole bunch of factors come into play that affect the decisions you make.

If you’ve got a big stay-at-home family or group of friends, you’ll want loads of space, more than one bathroom, a big dining table and plenty of seating. If there are kids who need entertaining, you’re going to be looking for extras like bicycles or a games room. By contrast, an active young couple planning on spending their days at museums and galleries and nights at restaurants and bars, will probably be happy in a cute, clean, compact studio, as long as it’s got an espresso maker and iPod docking station.

Due to the nature of our work – we’ll be spending several hours a day writing, downloading photos, and updating the blog – our number one priority is fast broadband Internet and a big table to work at. Ideally there’ll be heaps of natural light and heating or air-con, depending on the climate. We also look for handy locations, within walking distance of the action, in buzzy local neighbourhoods rather than areas where travellers congregate. For instance in Bangkok, you won’t see us at Banglamphu v we stay in Thong Lor where the young Thai hipsters and Japanese expats hang out.

Ordinarily, our only other requirement is a good well-equipped kitchen, because Terence is a brilliant cook and we love shopping the local markets, buying fresh seasonal produce, and eating some meals in.

For our Grantourismo Project, however, we have one more requirement – we need to make sure the place is sexy. It needs to look good. It needs to be alluring. Why? Because we want you to like it. We want it to capture your imagination. Remember, we don’t want to do this trip alone, we want you to come along for the ride.

So take a look at the links – these are the places we’ve selected so far, in London, Marrakech, Essaouira, Jerez, Barcelona, Ceret, Paris, Kotor, and Venice, just for starters. Let us know what you think of our choices so far.

Updates on our Holiday Rental Calendar

Update 19/1/10 And these are our latest homes to be confirmed: a luxurious home on The Palm, Dubai, a charmingly rustic casa in Sardinia, a tranquil Balinese villa, this sleek, chic villa in Phuket, a cute colorful casita in San Miguel de Allende, and these stylish contemporary homes (here, and here) in Austin, Texas. Things are getting very exciting now, don’t you think?

Update 1/2/10 We’ve had a few more fabulous homes confirmed for the year ahead which we wanted to share with you, including a traditional trullo (conical-shaped house) in Puglia, stylish contemporary apartments with stunning city vistas in New York and Buenos Aires, two breathtakingly beautiful beach houses in Costa Rica that come complete with friendly monkeys (see here and here), a characterful penthouse in the historic centre of Mexico City, a breezy hut-like cottage with makuti roof in Kenya, and an architect-designed penthouse in Istanbul that’s featured in design magazines. What do you think?

Update 10/1/10 Due to the recent trouble in Thailand, we have changed our plans, sadly cancelling the stunning Phuket villa above. We’re venturing to Tokyo and a chic apartment in Akasaka instead. We’ll update you on our post-Istanbul properties soon…


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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

7 thoughts on “Getting It Right – Selecting the Perfect Holiday Rental”

  1. Hi Terence and Lara,
    This sounds like a magiic job/life style!
    I’m really glad I came across you (by chance on twitter) and look forward to following your blog.
    Even better, is that you are planning to come to Jerez, my home for the last 7 years. I don’t know when you plan to come but the horse fair in the first week of May would be a GREAT time to come. The 2nd & 3rd is also the World Motor bike GP and there is a real ambience around town.
    Good luck & Best wishes

  2. If I had to do what you’re doing right now, I would feel very overwhelmed. On the other hand, at the same time I’d probably feel like a kid on Christmas morning!

    I like the way you display photos by the way. Makes the blog stand out.

    Thanks for revealing your choices. I LOVE the deluxe studio in Barcelona. Exactly my taste!

  3. Mmm…fantastic choices so far. I LOVE that process of choosing and have spent 2-3 days finding just the right spot–and that was for ONE city. Can’t imagine how your head must be swimming. :-) I think the patio/pool in Kator looks especially fab.

    We rented an apartment in Venice on the Grand Canal…it was an entirely different experience than when we first went and stayed in a hotel a couple blocks inland. It looks like you’re right above a vaparetto stop–be aware they can be loud if you have to keep your window open (not sure what month you’ll get to Venezia). But then that’s part of modern life on that special waterway…*sigh* We pulled up chairs to our canal view windows, drank wine and just watched it all happen outside. [Insert dreamy look out my window now…]

  4. Hey there Lisa,
    Lara is alternatively tearing her hair out and going ‘wow’ as she goes through the property listings! I guess it’s holiday anticipation x 24. ;)
    Totally agree with you on the different experiences in Venice. Personally, I didn’t like Venice much at all until we stayed there in an apartment. We just had an experience that was so different from our hotel stays there. The funny thing is that we’ve stayed in Venice three times since (for travel gigs), but my best memories are of the time we stayed in an apartment…
    Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. Hi

    It’s great to get an insight into what other people base their apartment selections on, thanks. I must admit I’d not necessarily thought that sexiness would be high on the list, but I can completely see where you are coming from.

    The demand for wifi really seems to have grown as our ‘bleisure’ time increasingly merges. I wonder what others on holiday typically log on for if they are not doing your job?

    Looking forward to seeeing how your travles progress. Enjoy!

  6. Hi Jane

    The places need to be alluring in some way (whether they’re drop dead gorgeous or they have a brilliant location or attractive setting) to capture people’s imagination and engage readers, but that’s not to say that a stunning apartment tops everyone’s list – some people are more concerned with space, others location, some just want something affordable where they can rest their head every night.

    Re WiFi, it’s quite incredible how many people travel with their laptops these days. In Bangkok last month we were noticing all kinds of travellers carrying laptops, from young backpacking friends to mature, affluent couples.

    Looking forward to having you along for the ride! :)

  7. And, here’s me thinking you just threw a dart at a map of the world! :D

    Hey, but over the last few weeks, we’ve stayed at a couple of self-catering apartments in Queensland, & will be blogging about them in the months to come.

    Not exactly ‘holiday homes’; I can best describe them as ‘hostels that think they’re hotels’ …

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