Travel tips from Condé Nast Traveler magazine's Wendy Perrin.
Freebies forbidden here! You can trust me because I accept no discounts or payments from any travel company. Learn more.
Questions: Ask Wendy
Twitter: wendyperrin
Boarding Area
BootsnAll Today
Ciao Bambino
The Cranky Flier
The Cruise Log
The Daily Traveler
Delicious Baby
Don's Place
Ed Perkins (Smarter Travel)
Family TravelLogue
The Gate
Going Places
Peter Greenberg
High Anxiety
Hotel Hotsheet
Itineraries on
Joe Sent Me
Johnny Jet
Killing Batteries
Lonely Planet Travel Blog
The Middle Seat
Middle Seat Terminal
Nerd's Eye View
One Mile at a Time
Rick Seaney
Rick Steves
ShipCritic Blog
Soul Travelers 3
Today in the Sky
Travel Deals
Travel Savvy Mom
Upgrade: Travel Better
Viator Travel Blog
View From the Wing
March 24, 2010

Desperately Seeking Villa in Southern Spain

A view from the Finco de Lujo villa in Andalucia, available in early April.
Photo courtesy of Maxine Harrison

Another reader, Jane Purdy in England, needs urgent birthday vacation help:

"Hi, I am trying to book a luxury villa for a 40th birthday treat.  We have small children. Wanted to go to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, but can't find any villas available!! Needs to be over the Easter holidays, around 3-17 april 2010. Please help!!!"

I don't happen to know offhand of any villas in the Canaries that are both appropriate to groups and available during your travel window, but if a different Spanish island might work for you, how about La Paloga on Mallorca?  Mallorca may not be as warm as Tenerife, but La Paloga has a heated pool, is great for celebrations, and is available from April 8 - 17.

If mainland Spain is also a possibility, how about Finca de Lujo in Andalucia? It's available April 3 - 17 and is also superb for groups celebrating special occasions.

Both of these recommendations come from villa rental agent extraordinaire Maxine Harrison of Elysian Holidays, whom I trust not only because she has been on our annual list of the world's best villa rental agents since we first started publishing it four years ago, but also because she booked my own personal villa vacation in southern Spain (near Granada) two years ago. My sons were four and five years old at the time, and we had a ball. You can read all about it here.

Does anyone else have a last-minute villa recommendation for Jane? If so, please post it in the comment space below.  Thanks!

September 04, 2009

Win a Week's Stay in a Luxury Villa in Tuscany

Villa Grandi - room
You could win a week's stay in this villa near Cortona, Italy, courtesy of Ciao Bambino and HomesAway.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Daily deals Okay, so it's not a deal per se, but you need to know about it regardless: Our friends at Ciao Bambino are giving away a weeklong stay in a luxury villa in Tuscany--a prize worth up to $10,000.

The property is Villa Grandi, a family-friendly, three-bedroom house near Cortona. It's on a large hillside estate surrounded by woodlands, vineyards, and olive groves, and features a terrace with pool, offering sweeping views over the valley below. To say it's the land of Under the Tuscan Sun is no exaggeration: You can actually see Frances Mayes's villa from this property. And you can walk into town along a two-kilometer footpath that is part of the original Roman Road. How great is that?!

For more details and pics, click to the next page.

Continue reading "Win a Week's Stay in a Luxury Villa in Tuscany" »

July 29, 2009

Save 20% on a Luxe Villa in France

HomesAway Aire de Beaumes - pool
Get more ooh-la-la for your moolah. HomesAway is offering 20% off rentals of its French villas through the end of the year.

 by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Daily deals Last-minute summer trip to France, anyone? The folks at HomesAway, which has been on our annual list of top villa rental agents since we started it four years ago, have come up with an exclusive deal for Perrin Post readers: 20% off through the end of 2009--and six bottles of wine thrown in for good measure.

HomesAway's properties are all amazing, but what really sets this company apart is its local hosts: All stays include several hours of time with an English-speaking longtime resident of the region who acts as a concierge and so much more. In addition to recommending restaurants and making reservations, yours might take you to a favorite winery or introduce you to the local shopowners.

A rental villa makes the most sense for a large family or group, of course. If your late-summer/early-fall family-vacation fantasies involve a Provençal château, consider Aire de Beaumes, pictured above.  It's got five bedrooms, a gorgeous pool, and a location within walking distance of a village, and it comes with a staff of two (a husband and wife caretaker team). Normally $8,000 per week, this year it's $6,400. That's less than $200 per bedroom per night--a great value.

HomesAway Aire de Beaumes - house
You can rent Aire de Beaumes for less than $200 per bedroom per night.

If it's an autumn escape you're looking for, check out four-bedroom Château Esperance in the Dordogne. Even if the temperature's slightly cooler, you can still swim in the heated outdoor pool or cozy up in front of its enormous fireplace.  Normally $8,800 per week in autumn, this fall it's $7,040 for rentals starting September 26 or later. That's $251 per bedroom per night.

If you've never taken a villa vacation before, check out Wendy's guide to villa rentals in our June issue--especially her advice on how to make sure it's the right type of vacation for you.

Book by: August 14.

For travel through: The end of 2009.

Book through: Evan Wood at HomesAway. He's one of the France specialists on our annual list of top villa rental agents (800-374-6637;  

Bonus tip: Although HomesAway has a great Web site, it's important to speak with Evan by phone early in your search for a villa.  He has personally visited all of the properties that HomesAway represents and will be able to recommend the right one for you, based on your group's specific needs and interests.

April 14, 2009

Rent a Spanish Castle for Half-Price

Girona Castle, in Catalonia, Spain. Image courtesy of El Sol Villas.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Deal of the Day

Calling all castle lovers! 

Ordinarily, we wouldn't post about reduced rates at just a single rental property. But when I hear about a deal that makes me want to pack my bags, grab some friends, and hop on the next flight, I figure it's worth sharing. The object of my current travel crush? An eleventh-century castle in Catalonia, Spain, near Girona and just minutes from the Costa Brava. With 7 bedrooms and 7.5 baths, it's great for a large group of friends or an extended family. Last summer it rented for $11,000 per week; this summer it can be yours for just $5,800 per week -- even during the peak months of July and August. That may still sound pricey, but round up a group of friends to fill all seven bedrooms, and it's just $118 per bedroom per night

Castle_kitchenThe castle includes a pool, an English-speaking house manager, daily housekeeping, and -- fantastic for cooks -- two separate kitchens in which to try your hand at making paella. (For those less handy with a saute pan, an excellent cook is available on request.)

Haven't rented a villa (or castle) before? Check out Wendy's latest guide to villa rentals--especially her advice on how to make sure it's the right type of vacation for you. Also watch for Wendy's annual villa guide in the upcoming June issue of Conde Nast Traveler.

How to book: Mary Vaira of El Sol Villas, our pick for the top villa rental agent for Spain, is the only agent who can offer this special rate. She's stayed in the castle herself and knows its owner well, of course, so she can answer questions about the property in the most minute detail. Contact her at 610-687-9066 or at

January 20, 2009

Apartment Rental in Rome

My family in Rome last month. (Yes, those are the Spanish Steps.)

by Wendy Perrin

Conde Nast Traveler reader M. Kaplan has written in asking for advice regarding renting an apartment in Rome:

"My husband and I have enjoyed your useful, practical travel advice for years now, thank you! We would appreciate hearing your opinion on something. We are planning to visit Rome, Italy, during the first half of August with our two teenage daughters. Have you heard of an apartment rental company called Halldis Tech Real Estate? It has some promising-looking rentals in Rome at that time. Or do you have any other companies you could recommend for Rome apartment rentals?"

As a matter of fact, I do. The Rome apartment specialist on the list of the best villa rental agents that my team and I update annually in Conde Nast Traveler's June issue is Roberta Cornwall of Doorways. Your timing is good because, Roberta says, some owners have reacted to the lousy economy by offering 10-20% discounts for stays throughout 2009, IF you book by the end of January.

I'd love to hear any feedback readers might have about either Halldis or Doorways. (Please just click on "Comments" below.)

October 30, 2008

Rates Slashed for Hawaii Vacation Rentals

Pacific_charm The nightly rate for this Oahu vacation rental home that sleeps 10 has dropped to $120 per person. That's a remarkable price for a top-notch beachfront house in a central location.

by Wendy Perrin

Tempted by those dirt-cheap air fares to Hawaii and the tremendous hotel deals there? Keep in mind that you can often stretch your dollar even farther by renting a vacation home.  Rental owners in Hawaii are offering excellent deals right now, even for those Christmas/New Year's weeks that are normally sold-out at peak prices this late in the year.

Absolutely_kapalua_2 This over-the-top-luxurious villa on Maui sleeps 8. The nightly rate over the holidays is $238 per person, marked down from $350.

Anne Pawsat-Dressler of Hawaii Hideaways, who is on my rigorously vetted list of the country's best villa rental agents, updated annually in Conde Nast Traveler, says that renters have enormous bargaining power right now. Here, courtesy of Anne, are key bargaining tips for negotiating the best rate:

Continue reading "Rates Slashed for Hawaii Vacation Rentals" »

June 07, 2007

Finding The Right Rental Villa

Rivendell_villa_on_st_john_usvi by Wendy Perrin

Question from reader JSHenry76:

"Just read your excellent article on villa rentals and am anxious to do one. We're thinking of renting in Florida next Christmas or February, and I was disappointed to see that the only rental agent listed for Florida is very expensive. Any suggestions for an agency with more affordable villas?  A villa on St. John is also a possibility.  Does the U.S. Virgin Islands specialist you recommend handle St. John as well as St. Thomas?"

If you want something reasonably priced, forget about renting over Christmas!  Prices are at their peak, and the few good-value properties are probably booked by now.

For an affordable rental in Florida, you might try ResortQuest or VRBO.  ResortQuest is not on our list because the only Florida rental agent who has met our exacting criteria is the expensive one you cited: William McClain of Villazzo.  VRBO stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner, which of course means you skip the middleman.

As for St. John, the U.S. Virgin Islands specialist we recommend, Diane Aamodt of McLaughlin Anderson, is our top choice for that island. The photo above is of Rivendell, a villa on St. John that Diane represents.

If you happen to be looking for a beachfront villa that's a good value for your dollar, you might also consider Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.  Unlike the U.S. Virgins, Virgin Gorda has a large supply of villas located on the beach (the large supply is, of course, what makes them relatively affordable). For a Virgin Gorda rental, try Hunter Butler at Blue Escapes.  Happy villa hunting!

May 23, 2007

Guide To Renting Villas Worldwide

Schoolchildren in St. James Parish, Jamaica
Charlie and friends he made during our villa stay in Jamaica in January. The students attend St. Mary's Prepatory School in Montpelier, St. James Parish.

by Wendy Perrin

Remember that trip to Jamaica I made with my family last winter?  You may recall that I rented a house, but I never did tell you that it was the best-value Caribbean villa I'd found after weeks of research. The purpose of the research, and of road-testing the villa, was to write the article that just came out in our June issue: Wendy Perrin's Worldwide Guide to Affordable Villa Vacations.  Want to learn more about the house, the staff, the beach-resort access that was included in the rate, and my family's experience of "the real Jamaica" that tourists rarely see?  We've put up a slide show too. Enjoy!

Doug (3) and Charlie (then 4) on the villa's pool terrace soon after waking up, January 11, 2007.

March 13, 2007

Seeking Caribbean Wedding Spot

Beach at Caneel Bay, St John
The beach at Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Photo: Caneel Bay Resort.

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader Jmsangel:

"We are looking to get married in an intimate 3- to 5-star boutique resort on an island in the Caribbean.  The wedding attendance should be around 40, so we'd like to keep the room rate reasonable or have accommodations nearby for those on tighter budgets.  Do you have any suggestions?  The ceremony could be at the hotel or at another scenic spot on the island."

Continue reading "Seeking Caribbean Wedding Spot" »

February 27, 2007

Renting A Villa In Croatia

Rental villa off Croatia's Dalmatian coast
This seven-bedroom villa on the island of Brac off Croatia's coast sleeps 14.

By Wendy Perrin

Question from Conde Nast Traveler subscriber P.Divine:

"Can you suggest a good travel agent for a group of 10 adults planning to visit the Dalmation coast in September for one week?  We would like to rent a villa for the week, and will drive from Vienna."

May I come along?!  Seriously, that is one terrific-sounding trip, and I'm very jealous.  I've dreamed for a long time of driving through Slovenia and am dying to return to Croatia (I was in Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split back in '98; I drove there from Sarajevo, so holler if you need any Bosnia driving advice.)

I suggest you contact Charla Cusinato at HomesAway, which is expanding into Croatia and is very careful about vetting properties there.  I like HomesAway because each of its villas comes with a "local host"--an English-speaking resident of the area who will introduce you to the local community and troubleshoot for you--and because its "house books" (the binder you find at the house upon arrival or are given in advance by the rental agent) are loaded with invaluable insider information about the region.  I have great trust in the company's professionalism and customer service because Maija Palkienen, Charla's colleague whom I recommended in my list of the best villa rental agents last year, has done a superlative job for Conde Nast Traveler readers. Bon voyage, and let me know how it goes.

Before your trip, if you would like to keep up with politics and analysis of other news developments in the Balkans, I recommend surfing the Croatia-based Neretva River blog.  You can also find beautiful photography and some fascinating insight into the region at this blog of an American UNDP worker in Albania.  Among the contradictions the writer cites in her Top 10 Things to Know About Life in Albania: "I've drank the freshest water I've ever drank from a mountain stream just 100km from the dirtiest smog I've ever inhaled."

Vote for my blog by clicking here.

February 06, 2007

Rental Apartment in Rome, Part 2

View of the Pantheon from the Piazza della Rotonda in Rome, Italy
View of the 1,000-year-old Pantheon from the Piazza della Rotonda in Rome.
Photo: Imagestate, Jupiter Images

By Wendy Perrin

"Thank you for posting my question about renting an apartment for a single woman in Rome," reader Jedesiree writes back.  "Finding an apartment is not difficult. Finding one with a DSL connection in the historical center of Rome (the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, etc.--not the Vatican) is. Any other agent suggestions?

I encourage you to try any and all of the Italy specialists on my list of the world's best villa rental agents (start with Suzanne Cohen). You could also try reader Lfleit's suggestion of using VRBO, although what if you discover upon arriving at the apartment that the DSL connection advertised by the owner doesn't work?

Am I correct in assuming the reason you want an apartment is that it's more affordable than a hotel? From what I know of the Italian home-rental scene, my guess is that any sufficiently wired apartment in the historical center of Rome will have many more rooms than you need or will want to pay for. Also, if there are Internet-access problems, there will be no staff to help you out. 

If I were in your shoes, I'd choose a small, affordable hotel (as I'm sure you know, such hotels charge lower rates for single-occupancy rooms than for doubles) that is equipped with both DSL and WiFi and is also close to a cybercafe.

February 04, 2007

Rental Apartment In Rome

St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Rome
Photo:, Jupiter Images

By Wendy Perrin

"I'm trying to rent an apartment for one person--me, a single woman--in Rome at the end of February," writes reader Jedesiree. "I know Rome fairly well and know I want to stay in the Pigna, Perione, or Ponta neighborhoods (not Trastevere or Prati). Also need an Internet connection. I contacted Rome rentals listed online and so far have found only one apartment."

I'm not surprised. The villa rental agents I know (who rent cottages and apartments too) focus on accommodations for four or more, since most travelers who contact them want to rent for a group. Nonetheless, I e-mailed the amazing Andrea Grisdale of IC Bellagio, one of the Italy specialists on my list of the world's best villa rental agents. She has 2 two-bedrooms and 1 one-bedroom available the week starting February 24. The one-bedroom is close to the Vatican and is small but charming and comfortable; the cost per week is 870 euros.

Continue reading "Rental Apartment In Rome" »

January 25, 2007

Swapping Homes For Vacation

Kate Winslet swaps her house in England for one in Los Angeles and meets Jack Black in the movie "The Holiday."

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader Nikko:

"I have spent the last 25 years traveling as if there were no tomorrow. Along the way I've managed to accumulate a motley bunch of vacation homes (like cheap souvenirs) in some hot and not-so-hot locales. I would like to put some of them to use. Is there such a thing as a villa swap?  If so, can you please list some of these companies? 
                                     Thank you, Expatriotically Homeless"

Dear Expatriotically:
     The best-known company for house swapping is HomeExchange. Have you seen The Holiday, the movie that came out last month starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet?  Their characters use HomeExchange to swap houses. (Or so I'm told by HomeExchange's PR rep; the only movies I have time to see are on planes.)

I assume the house swap in the movie works out well because, according to, Cameron Diaz has now invited her co-star to exchange homes for real.

Two other house-exchange organizations to consider: Homelink and Intervac. Good luck!  And let me know how it goes, since one of my beats here at Conde Nast Traveler is villas. In fact, if you're interested in seeing my audio slideshow on renting a villa, click here.

January 16, 2007

The Beauty And Tragedy Of Jamaica

Swimming pool in Jamaica
Charlie and Doug "helping" Melvin the gardener at our rental villa

By Wendy Perrin

Sixteen years ago today (January 16, 1991), I was supposed to fly to Vienna for a vacation in Eastern Europe.  That morning the U.S. began bombing targets in Iraq and Kuwait, marking the start of the Persian Gulf War. All flights from JFK to Europe were cancelled, including my Pan Am flight to Vienna. My then-boyfriend and I had already carved out 12 days of vacation time and needed to substitute a new destination. Planes were still operating to the Caribbean, but we weren't lie-on-the-beach types, so we quickly sought a Caribbean island that was not merely a tourist fabrication but was, rather, a real country with a true foreign culture to explore.  Jamaica seemed to fit the bill, so we flew there the next day. We rented a car at the MoBay Airport and spent the next 12 days criss-crossing the surprisingly large and varied island, seeing the lush green jungles and rivers, the mountainous interior, and every coastline. (The undeveloped east coast south of Port Antonio, with its dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, and hidden waterfalls, was my favorite) . . . .

Continue reading "The Beauty And Tragedy Of Jamaica " »

December 31, 2006

Beach Wedding In Hawaii

Setting for a friend's wedding on the north shore of Kauai, Nov. 2006

By Wendy Perrin

Question from reader wfd:

"Our son and future wife are looking for a site for a small, family-only beach wedding in April.  They have talked about the Hawaiian island of Maui, but none of us have been there. Any better ideas or specific locales to suggest?"

I have no earthly idea. So I asked my friend Jamie Nelson, a seasoned and savvy traveler who just got married on the Hawaiian island of Kauai last month. Her advice:

"Maui is a terrific choice. In fact, I was the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding last March on a very scenic beach in Maui near Makena. . . . 

Continue reading "Beach Wedding In Hawaii" »