Villa vs Hotel: the pros and cons
I take forever to make a decision, especially when it comes to planning our holidays.
I delight in drawing up pro and con lists, and chatting to people about their own experiences. But with so much choice for travel around Europe, sometimes it isn’t easy for me to even narrow down a location, let alone which property to choose. Traditional full-service hotel? Self-catering villa?
This is one of the things I love about the plethora of information in the blogosphere. Sometimes being able to read about someone else’s personal experience can help me to make my own decisions a bit easier.
On the last night of a 7-day stay at our Sun Hat Villa on the Algarve this past summer, we sat down with the friends with whom we traveled and analysed our trip. We all came to the conclusion that we loved staying in a villa and there were lots of positives over the traditional hotel or resort when traveling with a family or a group. So of course you know what I did next. I got out my notebook and started making a list, of course!
And now I am happy to share with you the fruits of my labor—to hopefully make your next holiday decision a bit easier.
Villa vs. Hotel
1. Sun lounge availability
This is a big win for the Villa. Don’t you just hate it when people go down to the pool before breakfast and reserve (hog) a pool side chair for the day with their towels and then take hours to get down to the pool? It’s a pet peeve of mine and for many people, and I also don’t like having to fight to get lounges that are placed together. In bigger hotel resorts it’s always a battle— in a villa not at all! We had 8 sun loungers next to our own private pool for us to move around from sun to shade depending on our mood.
2. Keep your stuff at the pool instead of hauling it daily
When we arrived at the villa, we organised ourselves with pool towels and pool toys. We could hang out the wet pool towels and swim suits overnight right in the pool area, and the toys stayed in a nice pile by the door. Every morning all we had to think about was sunscreen and we were ready to jump in. There was no packing the bag each time you wanted to go down to the pool, inevitably forgetting something, and there was no searching for places to hang up wet towels.
3. The pool was always open!
We delighted the kids with a couple of nighttime swims while staying in our villa. I never quite understand why the hotel pools need to close at 8pm, especially with the European summer sun setting so late. So it was nice to turn the on the lights in the pool and enjoy a quick dip after sunset if we wanted to.
4. Kids can be kids
I was much calmer at a villa with our group than I would have been at a large hotel. There was no shushing the kids in fear that they would wake up the people in the room next door, and I didn’t have to tell them not to run through the lobby. It made life all that more relaxing for all of us.
5. Healthier meals
With no calorie laden buffet breakfast to stuff ourselves with daily, we had a relative healthy breakfast each morning because we had access to a kitchen and a large fridge. We stocked up at the local Lidl with berries, yogurts and other fruits and brought Weetabix from back home. Not that we didn’t indulge in the occasional cooked breakfast, but we could decide when we did that.
For healthy snacks during the day we stocked up on carrots, cucumbers and peppers and had cut up melon and apples ready to go. Let’s not forget the most glorious local summer fruits you get to have when eating local—I got to eat the most amazing peaches I’ve ever tasted. In fact, they were so sweet, they shouldn’t be allowed to be classed as a fruit. In a hotel we would have missed that opportunity.
6. Washing machine
With a messy toddler and a love for minimalist packing, having access to a washing machine on holidays is a huge bonus. I was able to wash twice during our stay and actually came home with a suitcase full with clean clothes. Bonus.
Tip: I collect samples of washing powder during the year to bring along on holidays.
7. Kids games and other supplies
Our villa came with a portable cot for little Z and a high chair as well at no extra cost. The kids also found board games to play and a couple of balls for the pool. Not to mention the table tennis in the backyard and plenty of grass to do cartwheels in the sunshine.
8. Peace and quiet
Other than the noise of a motor mower once in awhile we rarely heard any noise all week. Well except for our screeching kids jumping in the pool.
9. It’s great to share with friends
We love going away and spending quality time with our close friends, and a villa is the perfect place to do it. In a Villa the kids can go to bed, and we had at least 2 kid-free hours every night to listen to our music, chat and explore the wines of Portugal. Even during the day you could find us often having kid-free time around the pool while the kids were off playing in the garden. Being able to travel together with another family when the kids get along so well is also a huge bonus. Its like having a built-in babysitter.
10. Great for larger families
I find it so hard to find hotel rooms that fit our family of 5. Often they are either extremely expensive, or we have to get two hotel rooms. Not so in a villa. Everyone had their own bedroom and their own space. Renting a villa was actually a lot more economical than you might think when you consider the price of two hotel rooms in high season.
Hotel vs. Villa
1. Often closer to amenities and restaurants
Our villa wasn’t within walking distance of any restaurant, so we needed to drive if our plans included eating out or not laying by the pool. It didn’t bother us too much, but sometimes its nice to just walk downstairs for breakfast or walk across the street for dinner.
2. Multiple keys
At a hotel, you are provided wth at least 2 keys to get in and out of the room. Our villa only provided one key and gate opener so we all had to either do things together, or coordinate our timing so that no one was locked out. My oldest loves being in charge of the hotel room key, something she misses when staying in a villa.
3. A break from washing the dishes
The positive of staying in a hotel and eating every meal out is that you get a break from washing the dishes. While there is a huge positive to being able to cook healthy meals when staying in a villa, it also comes with the chore of having to wash dishes and keep the kitchen clean. And for some people all they want is a break from the tasks they do every single day. So if you are needing a breaking from all domestic duties, then choose a hotel, or go out for every meal.
I don’t think anyone appreciates the daily room cleaning service at a hotel more than a Mum, and its something I love about staying in a hotel. Finally, someone is looking after me for a change! In the villa we did have a midweek clean, which was more of a change of towels and quick clean. Trying to clean around the lives of 10 people, 6 of them being kids, isn’t easy. In a hotel there is daily service and those cute little toiletries that my kids always beg for us to take home.
While I enjoy the peace and quiet of a villa, sometimes it is truly nice to have the service of a concierge. They can help you to better explore the area and avoid rookie errors on your holiday. Although the company from which we rented the villa did contact us to make sure we didn’t have any questions before arrival and also had a representative on location in the Algarve to greet us and answer any questions we may have had, it’s really not comparable to having a hotel filled with locals providing you with recommendations as you need them. Lucky for us, on this trip we had an Algarve native traveling with us, so he directed us to his favourite restaurants and beaches.
For our family and the phase of life we’re in, the positives of the villa outweigh the negatives and we will certainly look into a renting a villa again for our future travels—especially when traveling with friends. However, I still love a good hotel and we will continue to occasionally indulge.
How do you decide where to stay? Do you prefer hotels, apartments, villas or something completely different? We would love to hear from you!