About Vacation Rentals

Privately-owned vacation rentals are available around the world, presenting in all shapes, sizes and rates. Holiday properties, as with hotels, motels, lodges and hostels in traditional travel booking, really span the gamut, offering a broad spectrum of options in just about every price range, property type, style of decoration, and standard of upkeep in locations all over the world.

Whether searching for high end, upscale and luxury rentals, or more modest, interesting and budget accommodations, at Elegant Retreats, we’ve taken the guess work out of hunting for the perfect place. Because we’ve visited each property – pre-inspected them for you, if you will – you can be assured of an excellent accommodation at every price.

Sometimes a hotel is the best and easiest way to accommodate a trip, depending on the number of travelers, the timing and the itinerary of your holiday (and in fact, we can assist you with hotel booking as well, although we won’t always have visited them ahead of time). More and more, however, travelers are discovering the joy of renting a home-away-from-home, in order to experience a region, city or area more in depth, often renting something period, traditional or historical from which to fully explore a destination from a comfortable, upscale or classic home base.

If you aren’t yet familiar with renting vacation properties – which include everything from cottages to castles, flats to farmhouses, villas, manors, thatched roof houses and barn conversions to grand and palatial estates –  here is some information to help you get started.

Self-Catering vacation rentals vs. Serviced holiday properties

Self-catering properties, from the smallest cottage, or mid-size flat to the largest most luxury manor rental, are generally fully equipped private rentals providing autonomy, privacy and all the comforts of home, such as kitchen equipment and well-stocked service ware for making and serving meals at home. Often additional services can be engaged at a self-catering property (things like cooking staff, housekeeping, or concierge) but are not part of the rental itself.

Serviced properties, on the other hand, generally include all of the amenities of a self-catering place, plus housekeeping at a minimum, and up to full-service staffing at the maximum, providing everything from a Butler to daily meal service, depending on the property.

In London, Serviced Apartments are quite popular, and the perfect combination of apartment and hotel, with larger areas for groups to gather, sit and eat together, or retire to individual bedrooms, while still enjoying housekeeping and concierge services. They tend to be more per night than a self-catering apartment or house, of course, and located right in the busiest and most popular spots in central London.

Self-catering flats and houses in London are also located in terrific central locations, often in posh neighborhoods, with restaurants, shops and cafes nearby, close walking distance to tube stops, and available in a variety of styles from traditional English to modern contemporary.

In Ireland and Scotland there are several exquisite full service luxury castles and manor homes for rent. They are all exceptional, with perfect service, catered meals, and accommodation. We are just beginning to add to our portfolio of serviced properties in France and Italy, so stay tuned for details.

General expectations for renting a holiday home:

*Weekly Rentals. Most self-catering properties in Europe rent weekly, from Saturday to Saturday, except in London, where apartment rentals usually require a minimum 7 night stay.

*Nightly Rentals? Serviced properties usually offer stays of less than a week, including nightly rentals, though it varies by property.

*Sparkling for your arrival. Rentals are cleaned prior to your arrival and on departure, and a basic level of tidiness is expected to be maintained while in residence.

*Seasonal Rates. Most properties have different prices based on the time of year they are rented. Summer months and major family holidays like Christmas and Easter (as well as some bank holidays) are High Season rates, sometimes twice as much or more than the Low Season rates. Mid-Season are usually the months surrounding High Season, usually parts of April, all of May and part of June, as well as September and October, depending on the property. Low Season generally falls in the darker, colder months, not including holidays. More information about this is included on the description page for each property on our site.

*Extra Charge for Heat/Electricity. Most self-catering properties, except in London where it varies, charge separately for heating and electricity. Heating and electric costs are usually much higher in Europe than in the United States, but you can get a rough idea of what the costs will be for a group of your size at the time of year you are traveling so you’ll know what to expect ahead of time.

*Refundable damage deposits. Most vacation rentals require refundable security damage deposit. This is arranged by the owner of each individual property, but we make sure that you know what to expect, and in some cases may collect your credit card details for the owner if the deposit is to be held by credit card. Details for the required security/damage deposit are found on each property page on our site.

What is included at a self-catering vacation rental property?

In general self-catering homes come with the following:

*Linens. Complete bed linens, blankets, pillows, personal towels and tea towels (but not necessarily wash cloths, so you bring your own if you must have them).
*Equipment/Appliances. Kitchen appliances including, at minimum, refrigerator, stove/oven, small appliances; i.e., blender, electric tea kettle and coffee pot, a generous supply of high quality kitchen and dining necessities.
*Supplies. In most places (except Italy), a minimum of supplies is included: toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning products, sponges, etc. Some have cooking supplies like oil, salt, pepper, etc, but it varies from property to property. Often you’ll have the pleasure of visiting local shops to stock up on exactly what you need.
*Entertainment. Most places have at least one color television, and sometimes a video or DVD player (some with family-friendly movie library) and a telephone. Some also have cable or satellite television.
*Extras. Hair dryer, bathroom shelving to hold your toiletries, bedside tables and lamps, alarm clock or clock radios. It varies, but these are homey homes, and we try to detail all the amenities or features in the property description pages.
*Parking. Most homes offer convenient, free parking for multiple cars (except in London where very few properties have off-street parking, and many that do charge extra for this hot commodity).
*Heat and Light. You will not have to holiday in the dark or the cold as every property has electricity and heat, including fire logs or peat where appropriate. In Italy heating oil is not available from April to November (bring a sweater or two!) and in London flats sometimes the central heating in buildings can be a little off with the weather outside.
*Fans. Air conditioning is extremely rare (though recent heat waves have increased demand for those that do offer AC), but fans are usually provided in hot weather.
*Instructions. Most owners provide a booklet or printout of instructions concerning the property and its contents including emergency numbers. In London, someone will generally meet you and explain all the property features to you in person.
*Guidebooks or Local Information. Often properties will have guidebooks or informational material onsite about the local attractions, restaurants, and services.

Most self-catering properties also include or can arrange for the following:

*Labor-Saving Devices. Microwave, dishwasher, laundry facilities (either separate washer and dryer or a combined washer/dryer which can be a little baffling to use the first time), telephone,
*Child-Friendly Equipment. If not already on site, most owners can make available a baby cot (crib or similar), high chair and stair gate. Sometimes there is an additional charge for this (particularly in London).
*Welcome Hamper. Many properties, particularly in Ireland, have a lovely welcome hamper of basic foods for guests to get started on a lovely holiday without having to worry about staples after a long day of travel. (On the other hand, some Italian properties barely contain enough toilet paper for one night and you’ll have to plan for supplies prior to arrival. We will make sure you know what to expect prior to arrival).
*Local Contact/Assistance. While some owners live nearby and provide something like a concierge service, most properties enjoy an off-site caretaker who will meet guests and help with any troubles during a visit, and some will be happy to provide advice or assistance with arranging local activities but will otherwise leave tenants alone to enjoy their home from home in peace.

Why book a vacation rental property instead of hotels or B&Bs?

In our experience, planning trips around holiday property rentals in various destinations is an excellent way to travel for many reasons, including:

*Budget – Even the grandest, most high-end luxury property rentals end up being less expensive to rent for a group than their comparable hotel counterparts, especially for the quality and quantity of space, as well as the number and types of amenities included in fully equipped homes, villas and rentals. For travel on a less than extravagant budget, vacation rentals are always the way to go, simply for the promise of not having to eat out at every meal, not having to pay additional VAT or accommodation taxes, nor fees for parking, housekeeping, etc.

*Convenience. It is generally much easier to host groups in a holiday property than in hotels, with private common spaces to gather or cook meals and enables travelers with different sleep schedules to wake up and go to sleep at different times, perhaps staggering morning coffee and use of the showers without disturbing others in the group.

*Location, Location, Location – Enjoying and exploring a region from a central location. Travelers can see so much when fanning out from a property in any direction each day, able to return to home base each night and settle in comfortably to rest up for the next day’s adventure, rather than packing up and moving on the next location.

*Relaxation. Remember a vacation is supposed to be exciting and fun and interesting AND RELAXING. You don’t want to come home and need a vacation to recover from your holiday! With vacation rental homes, there is no packing up to rush off to the next place, no whirlwind “if it’s Tuesday I must be in Belgium” and best of all, there is the ability to hang out in common areas with fellow travelers, spend time together, just BE on vacation together (so take note, and if you don’t like the people you are traveling with, perhaps you’d be better off with a hotel!).

*Blending In. With holiday rental homes, a traveler has the ability to live like a local, to really experience the taste and feel of a place. Between shopping for local foods, cooking and eating meals together (again, not having to eat out every single meal is a fantastic benefit to a self-catering holiday), and really exploring an area or region, one can have a much more in-depth, slower, deeper and more authentic taste of a destination.

*History & Education. The historical and educational benefits of the kind of travel afforded by renting self-catering homes are great for students and lifelong learners alike. Because many of the properties in our catalogue are historical buildings, with generations of stories and lore to go along with them, they provide the unique opportunity to sneak in some education along the travel journey. Half of the fun of travel adventure comes in visiting museums, historical buildings, monuments, and learning about the area being visited. What better way than to steep yourself in the history of an area by starting with the personal narrative of the house, cottage or castle where you are staying?

*Connecting to your roots. Everyone has relatives from somewhere. How about finding a holiday rental in an area where your people come from?  Plan a family reunion! Or explore the local records offices, visit the graveyards, take rubbings of ancestral gravestones? Elegant Retreats even has a resident Genealogist on staff available to help you track down regional ancestry to get you started.

*Combine the best of both travel worlds – rent a self-catering property for a week, and add on nights in other places on either end of your stay. Since most rentals (except in London or at larger Serviced properties) are Saturday to Saturday, you can easily add on a few nights other places on the way in or out to expand the trip and experience or explore other areas.

Give us a call, send us an email or submit an inquiry to let us know what kind of holiday you are planning and what type of property you might be interested in booking for your ideal trip.  There are no end of terrific options to accommodate every kind of traveler, with luxury and practical budgets alike.


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