By Susan & Simon Veness
This week’s blog comes with a warning – if you read this, you may never go back to a regular hotel stay in Florida again.
Yes, we’re that bullish about the whole idea of staying in a vacation home – or villa – that we think it needs to be flagged up in advance as a potential game-changer to the way you view holidays in future.
Because the Sunshine State’s speciality of villa-style accommodations is the kind of head-turning experience that helps to provide the ‘X-factor’ when it comes to your first taste of private home luxury.
And make no mistake. This is most definitely deluxe territory, even if it is a self-catering option. Vacation homes, as they are known locally, have become a true five-star option, and the astounding range, variations and overall quality will positively knock your holiday-going socks off.
The Romans may have pioneered the idea of villas, but the Floridians have perfected it in recent years, with a variety of Executive homes that add an enormous amount of flair and pizazz to any visit here.
We have even known people forego a visit to the theme parks for an extra day or two in their expansive holiday villa, chilling out by the private pool, preparing meals in the large, open kitchen and enjoying the luxury of all en-suite bedrooms. Nobody queues for the bathroom here!
Why stay in a Florida villa?
The question may be obvious, but the answer isn’t, necessarily, as evident. There is an amazing diversity of choice in the Sunshine State – it goes with the territory, you know – and there really is something for everyone through the vast list of options, from huge, themed Disney resorts to secluded coastal B&Bs.
But here’s the deciding factor, in our view; most UK visitors are here for an average of 12 days, but many come for two or even three weeks at a time. And, as good as the hotels are, spending up to 21 days in the same one room can get very wearing, even with all the various amenities and attractions.
When you’re travelling with family, that feeling of being ‘cooped up’ is magnified, and it’s easy for your relaxation time to get a bit fractious.
The simple remedy in both instances is a Florida villa. Not only does this become your chillout retreat at the end of the day – and you will need a rest from all the non-stop activity, especially in the Orlando area – it also gives everyone the space they need to enjoy some ‘me’ time, whether it’s taking morning tea on the patio, evening drinks on the pool deck, or just watching TV in your bedroom.
Dining out every day can also quickly become expensive, but being able to prepare meals in your own kitchen will definitely offset some of that cost, and ensure everyone has what they want, even if it is just a bowl of Corn Flakes in the morning. As a half-way house, you can also order take away meals from most restaurants and enjoy them in the spacious comfort of your villa.
Florida villas – the ideal family hangout
Travelling with extended family and/or friends is very much part of our holiday scene these days, and there simply is no better way for everyone to enjoy that group vibe than in the expansive style of villa accommodations.
With large, open-plan living rooms, outdoor dining and capacious kitchens, this is where you can comfortably cater for sizeable family gatherings, party events and special occasions that you can personalise as much as you want to, be it a basic barbecue or a private catered meal.
There is also a substantial cost saving for large families on their Florida holiday compared with a typical hotel. In many cases you might need two or even three rooms to comfortably accommodate mum, dad, grandma, grandad and the kids in a standard resort but, with a villa, one size definitely fits all.
And, when you can give everyone their own bedroom and bathroom, you really feel the full benefit of the sizeable nature of this choice.
The perfect pandemic antidote
While vacation homes weren’t originally built with social distancing and the constraints of the coronavirus in mind, they are most certainly the ideal choice for that get-away-from-it-all feeling where you are free to revel in your own space and soak up that feeling of splendid isolation.
We increasingly hear that, once everyone is free to travel widely again, being able to appreciate more living and recreation space on holiday is a top priority for many, and there just is no better way to luxuriate in a home-away-from-home situation than in the Florida villa way.
The different types of Florida villa
If that’s the big picture as far as the ‘Why’ of choosing a vacation home, you also need to know the ‘What’ part of the equation to be sure you are getting full value for your holiday investment.
And, once again, it comes down to the sheer variety the state can offer when it comes to a villa sojourn. This is also where you should prepare to be dazzled by the possibilities in store.
In basic terms, there are two main distinctions, the pure villa Homes, which are self-contained, detached family-home units, and villa Resorts, which come with more amenities and are a hybrid hotel-villa.
The Homes usually come with their own heated pool and can offer anything from three to 12 bedrooms. Five bedrooms is the industry standard but, increasingly, larger homes are proving more and more popular. They all come with full washer-dryers (how nice would it be to go home with clean laundry!), kitchens with coffee-makers and blenders, and very often a patio barbecue grill.
Resort-style villas are usually one to four-bedroom apartments grouped around communal facilities such as a large pool, Jacuzzis, fitness centre, sports courts, a restaurant or two and at least one bar. They may also offer a spa, video games room and even room service.
Florida villas with extra style
Hopefully the story so far has your curiosity fully engaged – just remember that warning back at the start! – and the benefits of a Florida villa holiday are now crystal clear. But we can up the ante even further thanks to some of the more recent developments.
Nowadays, it often isn’t enough just to feature a gorgeous five-bedroom pool villa with an outdoor barbecue and Jacuzzi. Not when you can go to the Executive level of vacation home delights.
While every home will be suitably spacious and beautifully furnished, an Executive home offers even more in the way of amenities, some of which are positively jaw-dropping. Take themed bedrooms, for example. We’ve seen versions where the kids rooms are themed to Star Wars, Disney princesses, magic castles, and even Harry Potter.
Full home cinema rooms have been added to some villas, while we have also seen an indoor basketball court, full spa, pool slide, home gym, billiards room and parlour complete with grand piano. There simply is no end to the luxury on offer.
For the full film-star touch, there are even villas that offer your own private chef for the duration of your stay, or just for that one special dinner.
You want more?
As if things couldn’t be any grander when it comes to your holiday accommodation, that Florida villa style is positively breathtaking at times. There are genuine mansions on offer at some of the most exclusive developments, plus designer golf courses, tennis academies and even water parks.
In some cases, a self-contained vacation home complex can have more amenities than the most upscale resort hotels, and just as many mod cons. WiFi is standard in every villa, along with alarm systems and safety measures for pools that prevent children gaining access to the pool deck without the adults knowing.
And the sheer visual beauty of these extensive, purpose-built communities simply has to be seen in be believed in many cases. No expense has been spared in ensuring they offer the most up-to-date kitchen appliances, the latest flat-screen TVs and deluxe bathroom facilities with walk-in showers and Jacuzzi tubs.
So, are you ready to book a Florida villa?
Yes, we thought so. When it comes to value-for-money, the luxury of masses of private holiday space and sheer razzle-dazzle, Florida’s vast inventory of vacation homes is in a league of its own.
Even if you’re not quite in full mansion-renting territory, there is just no comparison to waking up each morning to breakfast on your own pool deck or returning from a day in the theme parks to a good soak in the Jacuzzi.
And that, as we might have said a few times, is The Florida Difference!
Susan & Simon Veness are the UK’s leading experts on Florida, having written about it for more than 25 years and sold more than half a million copies of their books about Orlando, Disney and the Sunshine State.
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