Renting a Villa for A Group Trip

When our client reached out for help planning a large (26 people) week-long reunion in Mexico, we considered all the options. When you’re planning for a large group trip like that you might look at all-inclusive, cruises, and more “DIY” options like a vacation home rental. This family considered them all before deciding on a fully-staffed villa, and it ended up being the perfect choice!

Why a Villa is Perfect for Groups

Villas offer a multitude of benefits that cater to the needs and preferences of multiple individuals, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable vacation experience. When you’re planning a large family reunion or a vacation with a big group of friends your goal in taking a vacation together is generally to enjoy each other’s company. You want to spend time with each other, not separated in your own hotel rooms, and a villa accommodates that in the most perfect ways.

Everything about the villa was stellar and everyone was extremely impressed and pleased with their stay.

The Riviera Maya Hacienda was nothing less than magnificent.  The pictures of the Villa do not do it justice.  We were in awe from the moment we walked in (Margarita’s waiting for us). And continued to discover so many lovely nooks and crannies.  Comfortable surroundings, soothing breezes and gorgeous bedrooms. 

Fully staffed villas provide ample living space to accommodate a large group comfortably, ensuring everyone has their own retreat and shared areas for communal gatherings. Having a dedicated staff on hand eliminates the need to divide tasks among yourselves. It allows you to focus on relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

They often feature expansive outdoor spaces with private pools, gardens, and patios. Ideal for hosting barbecues, pool parties, and other fun activities. Villa rentals allow you to customize your stay to suit your group’s specific interests. Whether it’s exploring nearby attractions, embarking on adventures, or simply relaxing and enjoying the tranquility of the villa.

The whole week was a dream! We were all so grateful to have so much time together (and SO glad we weren’t at an all-inclusive!).

Even the most upscale villas can be more cost-effective than renting multiple hotel rooms. For families, reunions, or even just a couple of couples- the price per person often works out to be equal to a nice hotel or resort.

Sharing a villa with loved ones fosters a strong sense of community and camaraderie. It creates lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come.

What Does A Fully Staffed Villa Include?

It always depends on you and what you’re looking for, but generally, a staffed villa will include a butler, chef, housekeeper, and perhaps even child care. All the benefits of a hotel staff so that you and your group don’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning, or otherwise caring for your space.

The wait staff was MORE than phenomenal.  They became part of our family.  Our needs were met with great smiles and nothing was too much for them to provide.  Jorge, Patricio and Edam were so gracious and wonderful with our little ones.

In many Villas, you can decide how much staff you need. A butler, a housekeeper, a chef, a driver, child care? You can add these services as needed. Because they are with you the entire time you enjoy that personal luxurious touch.

The food prepared for us was out of this world; abundant, presented beautifully, and more than delicious.  Eating fruit and fish will almost be impossible now that we are back in the States! They did such a great job catering to everyone’s preferences.

Considering a Villa Rental?

  • Be sure you know what kind of vacation you want. If your idea of relaxing is curling up with a good book, make sure the villa has plenty of nooks where you can get some time to yourself! If you plan to do a lot of cooking, make sure the kitchen is big enough for everyone to roll up their sleeves and help out.
  • Choose your group wisely – make sure your expectations are the same and you know that spending a week together under one roof is a good idea!
  • Be clear on location- How far out in the country will you be? Will you need a car to get into town? Is it actually on the beach or is there a road down to the sand? What kinds of activities do you want to do with your group?
  • Remember that many properties have one-week minimums and rent from Saturday to Saturday.
  • Plan well in advance so that we can help you get the exact kind of villa you’re looking for with all the amenities you want!

If you’re starting to consider a villa rental for your next big group trip take a look at our more in-depth Villa Guide Blog . And then reach out! We’d love to help you plan the perfect group adventure.

How to Make the Most of Unexpected Weather

We’ve all had those vacation days that feel ruined by the weather. You’re all set to relax on the beach and instead find yourself in the middle of a tropical storm. You have dreams of warm sunny but not-too-hot days exploring the city, but instead there’s a sudden cold front, it’s pouring with rain, or there’s an unprecedented heat wave. How do you make the best of the unexpected weather? Here are our top tips for saving your vacation:

Mindset & Preparedness

Having the right mindset will change everything. Always look for the “silver lining” and the sudden opportunities the unexpected weather affords you. Keeping a positive mood will drastically affect your vacation, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the turn of events instead of bemoaning the situation.

The first step to a good mindset is preparing yourself beforehand. You should start checking the weather the moment you start packing. Knowing that you might run into rain or extreme heat will help you make alternative plans and keep your expectations realistic. Always check the weather app again in the morning before you head out for the day.

[Photo Credit: Ann via Shared Adventures – read about her hot but lovely trip to Thailand here! ]

Be flexible with your plans, and look at the weather as a chance to slow down and relax. Have a big lie-in, take it slow, and savor the fact that you’re on vacation.

Have the Right Gear

Even the most consistent places can have a sudden change in weather. Always pack one thing to keep you cool/warm even if you’re pretty sure you’re not going to need it. You’ll be glad for the just-in-case item.

If rain is a possibility on your trip you’ll want to focus on being waterproof. A lightweight jacket, a travel umbrella, dry bags for your stuff, and more-or-less waterproof shoes will go a long way to improve your mood.

If you’re traveling in the height of summer, or to a particularly hot & humid locale, protecting yourself from the sun should be a top priority. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a water bottle, loose light layers, a hat, and most importantly a fan!

Although it may seem more effort than it’s worth, we’ve found an old-fashioned hand fan to be light, easy to carry, and a complete lifesaver on the hottest Italian days.

[Photo Credit: Liz via Shared Adventures]

Go Out and Enjoy the Weather

If you’ve packed the right gear, and checked the weather forecast to make sure it’s safe – we highly recommend braving the weather! There’s an old saying that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” And there are so many benefits to going out and getting a little wet or cold anyway.

You’ll have the place to yourself. This is the perfect time to visit the biggest and best attractions. Most of the crowds will be huddling indoors and you’ll get to enjoy these amazing places virtually crowd-free.

[Photo Credit: Liz via Shared Adventures]

If it’s safe and just a drizzle you can still enjoy a walk on the beach – you were going to get wet anyway, right? Grab your umbrella, and your waterproof shoes and enjoy the quiet of a world to yourself. You won’t melt in the rain and you can enjoy those romantic storybook vibes you see in the movies.

a rainbow across the rainy green hills of Snowdonia Wales

This is the perfect time to enjoy atmospheric photos, beautiful rainbows, and explore spots you might have missed otherwise.

[Photo Credit: Ann via Shared Adventures – Read about her UK Adventure here! ]

Find the best Indoor Activities

It’s important to know when to stay inside too. Whether it’s a big thunder and lightning storm or an unbearable heatwave, sometimes it’s safer to stay indoors.

Museums – Extreme weather is a great time to buy a museum pass and see what your destination has to offer. Even the smallest towns and unlikely beach destinations have some interesting museums available!

In Belgium Beth showing off her chocolate- shopping bags in the Brussels Shopping Mall

Shopping – Head into the malls, the boutique shops, and the bookstores. The inclement weather is a good excuse to buy all those souvenirs and spend the day choosing the perfect memento.

[Photo Credit: Beth via Shared Adventures – read about her adventure to Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris here! ]

Foodies – If you enjoy local foods and local drinks then extreme weather is your friend! You can look into a cooking class, try a new restaurant, or just find a local café or pub. Feel like a local as you spend the day chatting in the bar or enjoying authentic local cuisine you may have never found otherwise. Cafés are the perfect place to catch up on all those postcards you want to send back home or update your travel journal.

Hotels/ Spa – Enjoy a very lazy day in your hotel and at your hotel spa! You are on vacation, after all. Take the time to actually rest and relax by sleeping in, ordering room service, playing board games, and staying in that cozy hotel bathrobe all day. Complete the sense of relaxation with a trip to the spa for a massage or mud bath.

Whether you choose to brave the weather or stay indoors, inclement weather doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. With the right mindset and gear, it can lead to the best stories, the most epic photos, or the most relaxing day! The most important thing to remember: When traveling — embrace the unexpected.

If you’re ready to enjoy a fabulous adventure no matter the weather – let us know! We’re always ready to help you start planning.

A Honeymoon in Paris & Italy

Kelly and Chris were looking for an October honeymoon in Europe. Someplace romantic, with plenty of food, museums, and opportunities to explore on their own. The perfect combination of these? Florence, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Paris! Here is their feedback on their European Honeymoon:

We had such a great time on our trip! Everything turned out amazing! The transfers you set up for us were very helpful. The cars were all on time and it was nice to not have to worry about finding transportation. All of the flights and trains were on time and easy to navigate.

The Highlights

We loved all of the hotels but we especially loved Hotel Le Littre in Paris and Hotel Berchielli in Florence (the views and the locations)! All of the tours were great. The guides were all very knowledgeable and helped us see the main attractions in a short amount of time.

One of the highlights of our trip was the Semi-private wine-making experience and gourmet dinner. The vineyard in Tuscany was beautiful and we had fun at the wine and olive oil tasting. We also loved getting to blend our own wine to take home.

The Sorrento Farm Experience was another activity we really enjoyed. It was nice being able to try their different olive oils and cheeses and even watch them make fresh cheese in front of us! 

Good to Note

We just had a few things to note: When we landed at the Paris airport it took us over an hour to get through customs. Luckily the driver was still there when we got through so it wasn’t a problem. The other thing was the private tour of the Amalfi Coast. The driver was so great and he recommended an excellent place to eat.

We got to visit Positano and Ravello which were beautiful but we spent almost 2 hours in traffic and were not able to stop at Amalfi due to crowds and timing. Totally understand that traffic can’t be predicted and we had a great time at the stops we did get to make! That is really the only feedback we have!

We had an incredible honeymoon thanks to you! Your planning was a great help and took a lot of stress off of our plate and the Pocket Travel app made everything so easy and accessible. We will definitely use your services again when we plan another big trip.

5 Travel Tips for 2024

As 2024 approaches we all start to plan our 2024 vacations! What better way to start the year than having an incredible adventure to look forward to? As you begin to consider your 2024 plans – here are our top tips and good travel practices for the coming year:

1. A Minimalist Approach to Packing

There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination and discovering your luggage is nowhere to be found! Left with the few items in your purse, you’re suddenly spending the first few days of your trip buying new clothes and trying to track down your lost luggage. In 2023 there was a lot of lost luggage as airlines struggled. For 2024 we recommend embracing the ‘carry-on only’ style of travel. Minimize your wardrobe, do a spot of laundry, and follow our carry-on-only packing guide to have peace of mind and start your vacation the moment you land!

a golden vally of vineyards and trees with a winding river off to the side in Portugal
[Vineyards and the River Duoro in Porturgal – Photo Credit: Eduardo Lages via Unsplash]

2. Slow & Sustainable Travel

Embrace the joys of slow travel this year. Instead of trying to see it all – consider an immersive experience in one or two destinations. Places like Portugal, Kyoto Japan, and Southern Italy are all known for their slower pace of life. They’re perfect starting points to help you slow down and get to know a place more intimately.

Slowing down goes hand in hand with traveling more sustainably. By slowing down and spending more of your money in one community – you support the locals and emit fewer emissions. Pair this with a reusable travel mug, water bottle, and slower train travel and you’re on your way to being a sustainable traveler!

3. Book Early & Check Your Passports Immediately

Kayak has found that eight months is the true sweet spot to start planning your vacation. Last year was a big year for travel and this year promises to be the same. So starting early and booking early can ensure you get the exact vacation you hope for! Imagine all the hotels, tours, and experiences are available for your exact dates. 

Along with booking early, checking your passport expiration dates as early as possible is a must this year. Renewing your passport can take up to 4 months! Don’t leave it down to the wire when you’re stressed about whether or not you’ll be able to take the fabulous trip you have planned! Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least three to six months from your travel dates. You can check passport requirements here.

[Photo Credit: Spencer Davis via Unsplash]

4. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Travel Insurance

In a world of Covid and lost luggage, unexpected emergencies, and last-minute changes – travel insurance has never been more important. Travel insurance can help cover you in so many situations. If your luggage is lost – it can cover the cost of new clothes. If you or a travel partner suddenly tests positive for COVID-19 – it can cover those non-refundable expenses and changes. If your flight or train is delayed because of a strike and you miss a few days of your vacation – it can cover your unused hotel rooms and date changes.

Ann next to an Elephant at the sanctuary in Thailand

If you’re going to spend money on a trip – it’s worth spending a little extra to ensure you don’t lose it all when the unexpected happens.

[Photo Credit: Ann via Shared Adventures — read about her trip to Thailand here!

5. Stay Informed With the Best Apps

We are firmly in the age of apps. So why not use them to help you stay up-to-date and informed during your trip? Ensure you know how to use your phone abroad and then use it to its fullest! Use a reliable weather app to check each morning so you know what to wear. Always download your airline’s app to keep track of your flights and be able to check in with ease. Download the U.S. government’s safety app (Smart Traveler) to see what visas and vaccines you’ll need before traveling and where to find help if you need it during your trip. Whether you’re using them to calculate the exchange rate, look up the best route from one site to another, or keep track of all your expenses – apps are infinitely useful! These are our 7 top apps for your travels.

We hope you’re ready and excited to start planning your 2024 travels! Whether you’re following the eight-month suggestion and getting ready to plan for summer, looking to plan a quick getaway this spring, or already excited to start planning your December 2024 adventure – we are ready to help you every step of the way!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)