Long summer evenings with family and good friends, eating al fresco, and living la dolce vita – ahhh the villa lifestyle. There’s a lot to be said for a family holiday in a villa: eating when you want, being able to potter around with a cup of tea if you have an early-rising toddler, drinking copious amounts of wine on a balmy evening on your own terrace and only having to stagger up your own stairs... Then there’s the joy of having your own pool, your own space, somewhere for children to chill out with a DVD in the heat of the day at siesta time. A villa can be an idyllic escape, if you choose your location – and your company – carefully.
So where are the best places for a villa holiday? Perhaps the ideal, if you’re travelling with small children, is accommodation that’s been fully vetted and graded for family-friendliness – and equipped with everything you didn’t even think you’d ever need.
The award-winning Baby Friendly Boltholes can provide everything families need with its range of B&Bs, villas and apartments worldwide – each one chosen for its tasteful style as well as children’s facilities. Le Sarrail – three luxurious houses near Carcassonne in the south of France – comes with everything from a log-cabin playhouse to inflatable pools. There’s also a meal-delivery service and an aromatherapy massage on request. Maison Citron, the mid-sized villa at Le Sarrail, sleeps six and costs from €2,050 a week from July 10 to September 4.
For a truly luxurious family celebration, it’s hard to beat a French château. Château Les Tours in Saussignac near Bordeaux is a 13th-century château set in 30 acres of beautiful landscaped parkland and woods. Groceries can be delivered straight your door and a chef can be arranged to prepare your family’s meals – either throughout the week or for a special one-off occasion. But the highlights are the nearby fishing, boating and horse-riding activities – and the fabulous floodlit swimming pool that’s perfect for night-time dips. The château sleeps 14 and costs from £7,265 in July and August with Sanctuary Villas.
There are lots of villas in Greece, ranging from ultra-luxury to simple. If you’re on a budget, Planos Holidays has a good selection on the Ionian island of Paxos, where there are lovely beaches and tavernas. Villa Lydia, overlooking the bay at Lakka village, sleeps four to five, is close to the beach and five minutes’ walk from
the harbour, so you don’t need a car. To explore, rent a boat – there’s a mooring just below the villa. There are child discounts so, for a family of four in July and August, it costs from £725 per adult per week, £580 for the first child, then £365 for a second child, including flights and transfers.
At the other end of the price scale, the seven villas at the Santa Marina hotel in Mykonos are gorgeous, with minimalist interiors, private pools, fully-equipped kitchens and all the amenities of the hotel on site – including a private beach, a children’s pool, playground, babysitting, tennis and spa, as well as restaurants (for when you don’t want to cook). A week in a Santa Marina villa with ITC Classics costs from £4,357 for a family of four.
Following a similar concept of villas with access to hotel facilities is the swish Aphrodite Hills Resort near Paphos in Cyprus. It has contemporary villas and apartments (the villas have private pools) with fully-equipped kitchens and maid service, and the resort itself is great for families with children of mixed ages, up to teenagers. It’s secluded and safe, with a world-class golf course, a Tennis Academy, a superb spa, children’s clubs, horse riding, a Beach Club (reached by shuttle bus) and great restaurants in the Village Square. This is also a great place for out-of-season holidays, as the climate is warm from April to November. The villas sleep up to ten and cost from €1,680 for a week in July and August.
Tuscany somehow lends itself to big, Italian-style house parties, and Invitation To Tuscany offer some stunning villas to suit larger groups. Podere dell’Amore, an old, fully-restored hilltop house near Siena with a private swimming pool and tennis court, sleeps ten and has amazing views across the Tuscan countryside. A farmhouse kitchen leads onto an outdoor dining area with a shaded patio. In addition, there are furnished terraces on all sides of the house, a fenced outdoor pool, a barbecue and an incredible wood-fired oven that’s large enough to cook a whole lamb. Catering or babysitting can be arranged. Weekly rental costs £4,082 from June 26 to August 28.
Scott Dunn is particularly family-friendly when it comes to villa holidays, and all bookings are made via a team of family specialists. The four-bedroom villa Quinta da Maranhao in the western Algarve in Portugal is particularly appealing. The villa, which stands on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Meia Praia beach, sleeps up to eight. It has a pool and a pool house, which also acts as a children’s playroom. It costs £8,750 a week from mid July to the end of August (excluding flights); this includes a private chef and the services of a Scott Dunn host and a nanny.
Another destination that lends itself to villa holidays is Mallorca, where Mallorca Farmhouses offer more than 140 gorgeous properties, each with their own private pool and maid service. Many of the pools are fenced – helpful for families with young children – and baby equipment can be provided. Sergi, a farmhouse located near the picturesque town of Pollença, is a rustic treasure. Built using local Mallorquin stone and traditional wooden beams, the covered dining terrace with its barbecue is fantastic for families who love a relaxing al fresco gathering. It sleeps six and costs from €3,003 a week in July and August.
Corsica is another superb location. Bergerie Olivella is a lovely hacienda that sleeps six and is five minutes away from the historic village of Olmeto. From £1,100 per person per week during July and August through Coastline, including flights, car hire, pastries and newspapers, concierge, food hamper, maid, shopping delivery and towels.
Self-catering is also worth considering if you are heading further afield. Do what chic and affluent New Yorkers do and take a house in the Hamptons for the summer. This is not a budget option – but it makes a lavish house party. The Lauren Berger Collection offers super-luxury family houses, including Westhampton Manor (the former mansion of the famed composer Marvin Hamlisch) on Westhampton Beach, a 90-minute drive from Manhattan. It has seven bedrooms, two acres of immaculate grounds, a private dock, pool, spa and sauna and, as optional extras, a fleet of staff from chauffeur and chef to tailor and babysitter. It is usually booked by the month, but it can sometimes be available for the odd week. It costs $65,000 to hire for four weeks in June, $75,000 for four weeks in July and $85,000 for August.
For almost guaranteed sunshine (after all, the weather in the Hamptons can be a bit like Britain), visit the Caribbean. Cotton Bay Village near Rodney Bay in St Lucia has villas sleeping up to ten with secluded gardens, private pools and, in the largest villas, a guest cottage – ideal for a nanny, grandparents or teenagers. There’s a children’s club and a teen club and you can choose between self-catering or eating at the on-site restaurant or Beach Club. From $9,380 per week during the high season between January and April. In nearby Jamaica, the Half Moon Resort at Montego Bay has 32 villas with between three to seven bedrooms, private pools, butlers and cooks. There’s a Jamaican-themed children’s village, an equestrian centre, golf for the over-sixes, tennis, snorkelling (for over-fives) and the Dolphin Lagoon. Elegant Resorts offers seven nights from £3,365 per adult and £3,165 per child during the high season from December 15 to April 15. This is based on two adults and two children sharing a Garden View Villa and includes flights and transfers.
South Africa is also a great option for winter sun. Villa Lara at Llandudno, Cape Town, is a stunning Cape Cod-style house with ocean views, a pool, guest cottage, live-in butler and chef. It sleeps ten and costs £8,400 (including B&B and drinks) to hire during the high season (October to March) through Ultimate Family Hideaways.
Check out Junior's guide to Top holiday villas in our Tips & advice section.