Normally we’re in a tent during the British ‘summer’, but every now and then we travel a bit further. This was far from being a tent…
Most summer holidays are spent camping, hiking, canoeing, cycling, going to the beach, doing activities and visiting attractions at various places around the UK.
As much as we love the UK we do like to travel further afield but it may take us a few years to afford to do so.
We’re a family of 5 with kids getting older (airlines count kids as adults from the age of 12!) so all the regular ‘package’ type of holidays were rather pricey.
What was a surprise, that by shopping around we could hire a villa – with a private pool – to accommodate us all at a better price than those ‘package’ holidays.
The result: one of the best family holidays we’ve had abroad.
one of the best family holidays we’ve had abroad
So if you’re a larger family looking to get away and not hired a villa in Spain before, here’s our experience…
Booking a Villa
This was a DIY holiday. No travel agents involved.
Of course, it means you have to do a little more work, but it really is a little. And you save yourself money in the process.
Holiday Lettings isn’t a travel agent but where private villa owners display their villa’s details and availability. As this is a private hire arrangement, you can get a lot more for your money than most tour packages.
Finding the right villa can take time. The website has search facilities so you can narrow the list of villas to those that are ‘Child Friendly‘ and have a ‘Private Pool‘.
Villas in popular holiday locations and this right next to the beach are more expensive. Look a little further out and you can get a fantastic luxury villa at a better price. You’ll be hiring a car anyway, so being a little further out shouldn’t be an issue.
Sometimes villas may have a gap in their bookings, and the owner may be offering a reduced rate so that the villa isn’t unoccupied. Look out for these deals. You can grab yourself a bargain – as we did 😉
The booking process was painless, with a few e-mails to the owner to confirm, and then doing a bank transfer for the deposit and then final amount. Get yourself some holiday insurance that covers the cost of your holiday in case you need to cancel.
- Search for villas that are ‘Child Friendly’
- We recommend looking for a villa with a ‘Private Pool’ but make sure it is gated if you have young kids.
- Look for villas away from the beach or tourist spots. They’re a lot cheaper.
- Find a villa that has a gap in its bookings and is offering a reduced rate in order to fill that gap. You can get a bargain.
Booking the Transport
Booking flights was easily done online with budget airlines, and hiring the car online was also straightforward.
BTW, we flew from John Lennon airport in Liverpool. This is a great little airport if you are in the North West.
We flew into Alicante airport in Spain.
Collecting the hire car
At Alicante Airport there’s a multi-storey car park full of car hire vehicles. Find the company you hired from and collect the keys.
As we were loading our bags into our car another Brit came over and advised us to remove the car hire sticker from the rear windscreen. He told us that police were pulling over cars with car hire stickers and escorting them to a cash point to pay a large fine.
escorting them to a cash point to pay a large fine
I don’t know if that was a rumour or real, but it’s a good idea to not advertise yourself as using car hire, especially if you park up somewhere and have your luggage in the boot. Looking at the rear sticker in our hire care, it had been removed so many times before that it was barely stuck to the window anyway.
Driving in Spain
In many ways, driving in Spain is very similar to driving in France.
Motorways and the open roads were fine. However, some road junctions are just mad in towns and villages, and I can only think that the road planners never quite understood what a roundabout is.
We found several instances where there would be a large roundabout but with a road going through the middle of it, and some approach roads not quite joining the roundabout but bypassing it. And they don’t appear to standardise on give way rules, so each of these quirky roundabouts had to be handled differently.
We had taken our Sat Nav after upgrading to European maps, but it had no idea what to do at these funny roundabouts either.
I didn’t enjoy driving in Spain on some days
After doing some of these several times they became easier, but I confess I didn’t enjoy driving in Spain on some days. Lots of U-Turns.
Our villa was up in the hills in an area called La Nucia, and it was fantastic.
The owner wasn’t there to meet us when we arrived but there was another ex-pat to give us the keys and show us around. There was also an ex-pat pool cleaner & gardener that visited a few times whilst we were there. Both provided great info on where to visit.
We booked a villa with a private pool. After all, if we were going to live it up, we had to do this in style 😉
The pool was fantastic and great for the kids. If you are thinking of hiring a villa, it is well worth getting one with its own pool.
The pool was fenced off with gates that adults could lock. If you have young kids this is essential.
The villa had air-conditioning, two kitchens (including an outside one), a couple of bathrooms, a number of sun terraces and sun traps, including a rooftop terrace where you could view the mountains and overlook the Mediterranean sea.
The picture at the top of this page was taken one evening from the roof terrace of our villa.
The outside kitchen was a great addition. It included a fridge freezer so you could stock it with ice creams and cold drinks to enjoy by the pool.
we felt like royalty living it up Spain
Perhaps we were particularly lucky with this villa. We felt like royalty living it up Spain.
Food and Shopping
If you’ve been on a self-catering holiday in a popular Spanish tourist spot, you will no doubt have experienced expensive supermarkets (usually a ‘Spa’) that don’t carry a lot of choices.
When you choose a villa away from the normal tourist spots you can find supermarkets that the locals use. There are large modern supermarkets just like Tesco, Asda, or Sainsbury’s, and a lot cheaper than the tourist supermarkets.
Do some online research before you go to where the supermarkets are. You’ll probably also find the villa owner very helpful with where their best place to shop is.
Beaches and Attractions
The beaches and attractions will depend on where you hire your villa, but as you have your own car, getting to different places is a lot easier and doesn’t require a ‘tour rep’ meeting to organise.
We were close to the mountains, the beaches, and even the attractions at Benidorm.
Some of our favourites were Guadalest in the mountains, swimming in the mountain waterfalls (Las Fuentes Del Algar), snorkelling in Benidorm (surprisingly the clearest waters with the most fish that we had found along the coast), and Mundo Mar.
If you are planning on taking your family abroad to somewhere like Spain we’d definitely advise looking at the option of hiring a villa.
We still went camping that summer too (of course!), but sandwiched it with our own custom-made luxury break in Spain.
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