I have no affiliation, paid or unpaid, with any company or individuals I’m linking to in this article!
Cheap luxury villas, huh? Well, I can almost smell the pessimism. But if this headline sounds like an advertisement to you — don’t worry, no one makes any money here (gulp). I’m seeing very attractive prices around the world right now, but not at hotels or resorts. Hoteliers seem to believe they’re going to make a killing. The resort rates in popular destinations are through the roof, or at least this is my impression.
The good news is, vacation rentals don’t appear to be following the same gold rush, IMHO. At least, not yet.
I’ve written quite a few stories featuring vacation rentals, but you should read at least this (epic) Airbnb article before renting anything at all.
And I know what you’re thinking. But hotels have all these fabulous amenities! Breakfast, room service, pools, gym, spa, and the sweetest of them all — tiny shampoo bottles. There is always someone to call when things need fixing. Hell, people even open up a door for you — how cool it that?
That’s true. And I’ll add another strong argument in favor of a hotel room. You can also use your points and (maybe) have a free breakfast. How do you beat free travel?
Well, you don’t need to beat that. Just open your mind to exploring other options.
Like this one.
This is a luxury 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath villa on Koh Samui with a pool overlooking the ocean.
You won’t get this at a hotel.
And if you do, it won’t be on points.
And if you can get it for points, you’ll be manufacturing them for a couple of lifetimes for sure. Well, unless your name is Frequent Miler and you’ve just received a time machine from Amazon that can send you back to 2016.
And even then…
3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and a private pool overlooking the ocean.
How much, do you think, something like that would cost you?
$200 a day after all charges and fees in January, the peak of high season.
You’re likely to get a better price for traveling during other months. Here is October.
Once again, no, I don’t advertise this place or any other place for that matter. If anything, the villa above seems new and doesn’t have any reviews. It can be a good thing or a bad thing, but if you’re traveling with your family you don’t want to find out the hard way. If I traveled alone, I’d probably risk it. Why? Because I’ve never been scammed in a vacation rental deal in almost 30 years (although there is always the first time for everything).
So, out of curiosity how much something like that would cost you at a hotel?
Here is a guess.
Hear are my research parameters
- Price: up to $200 a day
- Stay: 1 week
- Bedrooms: 2+
- Baths: 2+
- Good air-conditioning, preferably in all rooms and not just bedrooms
- Private pool
- Hot tub
- Fast WiFi
- Ocean view or beachfront
- A pool or ping-pong table is a nice addition but not necessary
Allow me to explain.
1. One week seems to be a sweet spot in vacation rentals. They usually offer sensible discounts, and if not you can try and negotiate one. Every host wants you to stay longer, and even a small 15% discount amounts to one free day.
2. When I’m renting a place in a seaside destination, I’m interested in one of two layouts, either beachfront or ocean view. These two criteria are often, but not always, mutually exclusive. A stunning ocean view comes with a hill, and a beachfront villa will rarely have it. I’m absolutely mesmerized by an ocean view and try to get it whenever I can. That’s unless I can open the door and find myself right on the sand. It’s a tough choice.
3. Unfortunately, Airbnb lets you filter for “beachfront” but not ocean-view. That’s frustrating, to say the least.
4. It also doesn’t let you filter for private or shared pool, but sometimes, in lieu of a private pool, you can find a jewel you would’ve missed, like a stunning resort-style pool with a mini water park.
5. Hot tub is not always what you think. Some hosts in foreign lands pretend they don’t understand what it means. If Airbnb just replaced hot tub with Jacuzzi, there wouldn’t be any ambiguities (well, we can dream).
Do I even need to remind everyone that your idea of a perfect vacation home can be completely different from mine?
Let’s move on.
Some rental villas are marketed by the resorts
No one’s blaming you for being apprehensive about things that can go wrong. If that’s the case, some properties on Airbnb and other platforms are listed by hotels and resorts themselves. You might not get your daily room cleanings (sometimes you do), but all other services are available, including room service and someone picking up the phone when a shower faucet drops on your foot.
And there are restaurants on the premises too, so no need to cook anything.
This listing below is by the resort called The Sea Koh Samui. A 3-bedroom villa with a private pool and Jacuzzi will cost you slightly over $1,000, or $143 a day including the fee.
And here is the same resort on Expedia. Note how much they charge on the traditional channels for much lesser rooms.
So even if you must stay at a hotel, don’t discard Airbnb or other vacation rental platforms if you want more than just a regular hotel room. You might have to sift through a lot of listings, but in the end, it can be worth it.
I stayed at Conrad Koh Samui in 2014
And it was unforgettable. Magical even.
But if I’m being honest, there are three reasons why it was magical. The view, the pool and the view from the pool.
My room was very nicely appointed, but it was just a room, and not a huge one, although it was perfectly fine for one or two people, of course.
And of course, the breakfast was delicious (and free for Golds and Diamonds) and yes, they had restaurants (expensive) and a spa (super expensive), but if we’re talking about Thailand, there are three things that are dirt-cheap in the Land of Smiles: housekeeping, cooking and massages.
You can hire an excellent chef for 2,000 BHT (~$65) to cook dinner for your group and that would include tips and the cost of groceries.
You can hire a maid for… well, it’s been years, but I’d be very surprised if it had cost us more than $10 and probably less.
Having said that, cleaning services are usually included in your weekly rentals; even breakfasts are sometimes included; and pool cleaning is always included, perhaps every other or third day. But even if your contract excludes breakfast or/and cleaning — so what? Just pay a few bucks more and have it done. Why not, with all the money you’ve saved by not booking your villa through the hotel?
Conrad rates for next January start from the mid $600s, and that’s before taxes and fees. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of incredible villa you can rent for this kind of dough.
Although, why not? See for yourself.
The way I see it, by renting your villa you can either save a bunch of money or get a lot more space and luxury for your money.
But what’s wrong with booking Conrad Koh Samui for “only” 95,000 points?
Nothing’s wrong with it. Except maybe you could spend these points for a really pricey destination, like Paris, Sydney, or Tokyo where there aren’t many great alternatives?
When there are dozens of 5-star reviews and no negativity — it’s time to stop worrying
Take a look at this listing. It has amazing reviews and two Certificates of Excellence from Trip Advisor. Think these can be faked?
While reviews can be and often are manipulated, you can always count on the laziness of people who do it for [very little] money. And you can count on at least a few guests telling things as they are.
So when you encounter dozens of passionate 5-star reviews, you’re onto something.
There are professional hosts who excel in treating their work as a real hospitality service rather than a hobby. You can actually have a much better experience with the service provided by your host than even a 5-star hotel. I know I have.
With the vibes I’m getting from this particular host, I probably wouldn’t hesitate for a moment but only after I’ve carefully read every single review. I haven’t, hence “probably.” 🙂
Once again, no affiliation. None whatsoever.
There are two things you might want to keep in mind. Hosts can charge more for more people, so make sure to enter the exact number of guests to avoid some nasty surprises. And they often charge separately for electricity, so you need to read the listing carefully.
Well, actually, reading the listing carefully is never optional! 🙂
Where you can rent luxury villas for less
Obviously, you must be flexible about your destinations. Luxury villas in the rich world will usually cost exactly as you expect them to: plenty! Here are some suggestions.
Note: when searching, you need to zoom in to see all the properties in the area that interest you.
Cheap luxury villas in Thailand
If you are going to Thailand, I believe Koh Samui is the best place to rent your villa. It’s easy to find an ocean-view villa under $200 that checks off all my boxes, and the island offers enough to keep you busy when you feel like getting out of bed (or a pool).
Phuket and Krabi
This is the second best option, IMHO. Not only because it’s the largest Thai island, but also because the local government has promised to open it up on July 1. Although, since we’re discussing winter travel, I’m quite optimistic that other destinations in Thailand will open up as well. As to Krabi, I’ve never been, but it does have some of the best beaches in Thailand.
If you want to stay closer to Bangkok (3-3.5 hours by bus), Hua Hin can work nicely. Ocean views are harder to find from what I see, but all other boxes check off nicely.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s most popular non-beach destination after Bangkok.
Cheap luxury villas in Bali, Indonesia
Bali is another fascinating destination that has an abundance of pool villas for every taste and budget.
And I mean, seriously — any budget!
Needless to say, you can also find cheap luxury villas in Vietnam, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia outside Bali, but I can’t cover everything. 🙂
Cheap luxury villas in Europe
Now, the combination of words cheap and Europe may sound like science fiction, but finding a great villa with the same search terms can be totally possible if you look at southern Spain or Portugal (again zoom in on the specific areas of Spain or Portugal to see more). Of course, at this price-point you might not be able to find the over-the-top luxury like in Bali or Thailand.
Cheap luxury villas in the Americas
Dreading the long flight? You can find whatever you want in the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica. Both countries are fascinating destinations and have lots of villas to choose from for under $200.
The Dominican Republic
Keep in mind, though, that in either country the power can go off abruptly at any time, day or night. When that happens (at night especially) and the AC and fans stop working, you’re sweaty and miserable and rue the day you ended your quarantine and got on the plane. So try to find a property that has a generator. And if there is none, read the reviews and ask your host the right question. Don’t ask if electricity goes out in her neighborhood, ask how often it’s happened in the last month.
The DR and Costa Rica are not the only countries in the Americas where you can rent a villa, but they’re the closest, with an abundance of choices. However, I’ve seen listings for cheap luxury villas in Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Martinique, to name just a few.
This a great time to rent your cheap luxury villa on Airbnb (or other vacation rental websites, for that matter).
I’ve searched villas in Asia and the Americas in January 2022 — high season.
I’ve searched villas in southern Spain and Portugal for early October — shoulder season. I, however, would prefer to travel in that time of the year even if there weren’t any price benefits. The weather is pleasant, the sea is still warm, and the crowds are mostly non-existent. What’s not to love?
While I can’t be 100% certain, the prices I’m seeing now appear to be considerably cheaper than in pre-pandemic times for the same types of properties.
If you have an accommodation budget of $200 a day, you can rent an amazing villa that has everything you need and then some. In most cases you’ll also get the host striving to resolve whatever issues you might encounter during your stay — but only if you play your cards right. Don’t just jump into renting a villa after looking at some pretty pictures. Read T&C, study the reviews and ask questions.
Would you rent a luxury villa at Airbnb or other platform? Yes, maybe, never — please share your thoughts.
The photos and screenshots of rental properties are courtesy Airbnb.