Tag Archives: villas

The 5 Keys to the Perfect Paris Apartment Rental for your Family

We chose an apartment in the 7th arrondissement. This was the view from our balcony. Photo: ParisPerfect
The living room in our apartment. Photo: ParisPerfect
The bedroom. Photo: ParisPerfect
mother and child looking through telescope on terrace at the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann department store in Paris
Enjoying the view from the terrace at the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann department store, well worth a visit for its wonderful Art-Nouveau glass dome.
child and adult look out the window at the rain at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris
A winter wonderland in spring, as seen from the Musée des Arts et Métiers.
adult and child play cards in an apartment rental in Paris
Down time in our apartment.
family in Paris rental apartment eating lunch
We found the delicious fixings for this lunch on Rue Cler, one of the city's best market streets and just a few blocks from our apartment.
boy stops to listen to a street musician in Paris
Zeke stops to listen to a street musician.
Sailing a toy boat on the Luxembourg Gardens' pond in Paris
Sailing a toy boat on the Luxembourg Gardens' pond.
The line for stair-and-elevator tickets up the Eiffel Tower in Paris
The line for stair-and-elevator tickets up the Eiffel Tower was short when we arrived 15 minutes before it opened at 9:30am one morning.
boy at market Marché Saxe-Breteuil in Paris
Early-spring produce at the Marché Saxe-Breteuil.
child looking at art at the Centre Pompidou in Paris
A lesson in modern art at the Centre Pompidou.
child looking at art at the Centre Pompidou in Paris
Zeke loved a special exhibit of works by the artist César at the Pompidou; those are crushed cars in the background.
child navigates a via ferrata, one of many children's play places scattered along the banks of the Seine in Paris
Zeke navigates a via ferrata, one of many children's play places scattered along the banks of the Seine.


Ah, Paris.  City of Lights.  City of Romance.  City of … families?  I’d been to Paris at least five times before I came to truly appreciate it. It wasn’t as a high-school exchange student, or on a girlfriends’ weekend getaway, or even after three weeks in France with my husband, that I finally succumbed to Paris’s charms. It was with my six-year-old son. The human-scale architecture, the playgrounds galore, the carb-heavy cuisine—this place is a kids’ wonderland, I discovered. Without him, I also wouldn’t have waited in line for the chocolat chaud at Angelina or seen the world’s oldest self-propelled vehicle at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. My son, my mother, and I spent an unseasonably chilly week in Paris this spring—I have the photos of falling snow to prove it—and when we weren’t busy scaling escalators at the Pompidou or strolling along the Seine, we enjoyed the comforts (and warmth) of our home base: a cozy apartment in the 7th arrondissement.

When you’re bringing kids to a city for more than a few days, it’s a no-brainer to rent an apartment, merging the conveniences of home with the perspective of a local. You get considerably more space than the typical footprint of an urban hotel room, you save money by making some of your meals in the kitchen, and a washing machine can cut down considerably on your packing (no need to bring spare clothes for the drips and stains that are an inevitability of parenthood). In short, you end up feeling like you’re actually living in the city, rather than just visiting.

But where and how to find the perfect apartment—one that truly enhances your experience of the city?  My week in Paris taught me five important strategies:

1. Choose a neighborhood that’s frequented by locals but close to the most kid-friendly attractions.

As I strolled a few blocks each morning from our pied-a-terre in the 7th arrondissement to a scrumptious patisserie for our daily quota of croissants, I would smile at the crossing guard shepherding kids on their way to school. I also met the kind man from Mauritius who lived on the ground floor, looking after the building where I was staying and making jewelry in his spare time. I felt like a local—but I was a mere seven-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, which made it easy to be among the first in line for the tickets that let you take the stairs to the second floor and the elevator to the top. (These tickets are my favorite option for families—they allow you to go when the weather is clear, and turn the ascent into an interactive experience as you look out on the city through the exoskeleton of the tower’s legs—but you can’t reserve them ahead.)  We also had a center-stage view out our living-room window of the sparkling lights that illuminate the tower each night, and we were walking distance from an excellent farmers’ market where we bought fresh pasta and salad fixings for dinner.

The 6th and 7th arrondissements are ideal for those with kids, putting you close to the Eiffel Tower, Champs de Mars, and Luxembourg Gardens.  (Don’t miss Luxembourg’s main pond, where the toy boats steered with bamboo poles are a wonderful throwback for this tech-addled generation.)  Think twice before renting in the 1st arrondissement (tourist central), the 2nd (too far from the Seine), the 3rd (not enough green space or playgrounds), or the 4th (better for nightlife, not kids).

2. Pick a location within easy walking distance of a Métro station.

A big part of Paris’s charm with kids is making your way from park to park on foot, stopping for street musicians and Nutella crepes along the way, but you can’t walk all day. The city’s subway system is clean, easily navigated, cheap, and can take you just about anyplace you want to go. Fair warning, though: The unlimited Paris Visite passes that are marketed to travelers only make economic sense if you’re planning to take public transportation at least six times a day. Instead, buy a carnet—a pack of ten tickets sold at a discount—to be shared among the adults in your group, and a reduced-fare version for your kids. With these, one-way rides cost about $1.75 for adults, and 90 cents or so for kids. Another way to counteract all that walking is with a boat ride on the Seine; it lets kids rest their legs while the changing scenery keeps them captivated.

3. Factor local architecture and appliances into your decision.

For instance, some wrought-iron balconies are more easily climbed than others. Not all apartments have both a washing machine and dryer—and air-drying your clothes takes up time and space. And many buildings in Paris have very thin walls (we were asked to keep voices to a whisper in the hallways of ours), so if your kid is particularly rambunctious, you’d be wise to look for newer construction.  Also, those white couches may look chic in the photos, but what if your child is inspired by the Louvre and takes crayons to the fabric?   An experienced apartment rental specialist will know which properties are most intelligently outfitted for families.

4. Don’t arrive too late or leave too early.

Arrive early enough that you’ll have a few hours to get oriented in the daylight.  That’s because apartments aren’t as intuitive as hotel rooms, since the latter are explicitly designed to be occupied by a new visitor every night.  The Trusted Travel Expert who arranged our stay (Ask Wendy for a recommendation) always has a staffer on hand to greet travelers at their apartment and show them how the air-conditioning works, where the bowls are stored in the kitchen, and how to convert the living room into sleeping quarters (many of her apartments have comfortable sofa beds, which let families economize on one fewer bedrooms).

At the end of your stay, you’ll need to tidy up the apartment, take out the trash, and likely coordinate getting all your luggage down to the ground floor in a small elevator that fits no more than one person with one suitcase at a time. So don’t set yourself up for a stressful departure by booking the first flight of the day.

5. When comparing prices, compare apples with apples.

Sure, you can find plenty of places to rent on Airbnb—so many, in fact, that the options can be truly dizzying. Our Trusted Travel Expert has a handpicked portfolio of apartments that she and her team have personally inspected, with prices that are nearly equivalent to those on Airbnb, once you factor in Airbnb’s service and cleaning fees. And the additional service she provides translates to additional value.

If you go: Ask Wendy to put you in touch with the right France travel specialist for your particular trip goals and needs.

Disclosure: To report this story, our writer stayed in an apartment on a complimentary basis. In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, coverage was not guaranteed and remains at our editorial discretion. 


Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

What Not to Do in the Caribbean

Making the most of your Caribbean vacation means knowing where to find the hidden gems. It also means knowing what to skip and why. So we asked the Caribbean travel specialists on Wendy’s WOW List to share their tips for avoiding mistakes—what’s overrated, overpriced, or just not a smart move—in the Caribbean.

Hitting the beach? Don’t choose the wrong islands.

If beach bliss is your No. 1 goal, steer clear of Dominica, Saba, and Montserrat. They have plenty of charms, but are not known for their beaches.

Instead: While you can find inviting stretches of sand just about anywhere, the islands most famous for their beaches are what some call the coral islands: the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas (Eleuthera, Harbour Island, and the Exumas are among the favorites), and Anguilla. These are all basically flat and scrubby with the quintessential powdery white sand and crystal-clear water that the Caribbean is famed for.

Read our Insider’s Guide to the Finding the Perfect Caribbean Island Resort, and reach out to Wendy to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Planning to scuba dive? Don’t get stuck with the cruise crowds.

Cozumel and Grand Cayman can get overrun with passengers from the giant cruise ships that call there. The only way to avoid the cruise crowds is to dive at off-peak times or to go with a dive operator who knows the secret spots.

Instead: In Cozumel, Palancar Reef is about an hour’s boat ride from town, each way. If you stay at the Iberostar Cozumel you will be able to sleep in, then have a cup of coffee while others are “commuting,” saving you two hours per two tank! — Meg Austin, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Scuba Diving in the Caribbean

Read our Insider’s Guide to Scuba Diving in the Caribbean and the Bahamas, and reach out to Wendy to find the right travel planner for your next trip.

Renting on St. Barts? Don’t book a cook.

St. Barts has some of the best rental villas in the Caribbean, as well as some of the best restaurants. So don’t spend your money on a private chef the way you might if you’re renting on, say, Jamaica or Barbados.

Instead: Splurge on an in-villa massage. A number of villas have rooms or nooks designated specifically for spa treatments. In the late afternoon, getting a rubdown in a shady poolside cabana is the ultimate indulgence. —Peg Walsh, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for St. Barts Villas

Read Peg’s Insider’s Guide to St. Barts Villa Vacations, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Shopping in Bermuda? Don’t waste time in Hamilton’s generic shops.

Shopping in Hamilton, once a highlight, is no more. Although the storefronts nicely reflect the architecture of Bermuda, their merchandise decidedly does not; most is what you’ll find in the United States.

Instead: One exception is the Island Shop, with its colorfully hand-painted housewares. Owner Barbara Finsness has even brought back the “Bermuda bag”—a small purse with wooden handles that’s a relic of the past.

Read our Insider’s Guide to Bermuda, and reach out to Wendy to find the right travel planner for your next trip.

Looking to experience the best of the Riviera Maya? Skip the famous Xel-Ha.

Xel-Ha bills itself as a “natural aquarium” for ecotourists to swim and snorkel in, but it has nothing to do with the appreciation of nature. All of the coral in the lagoon is dead, and there are virtually no fish; it’s basically now a giant swimming pool stuffed with tourists and surrounded by tacky gift shops, restaurants, and bars.

Instead: Take the ferry to Cozumel on a day when no cruise ships are in port (have your concierge call the “Capitania de Puerto” to check: 52-987-872-2409). The boat trip—about $15 for adults, $10 for kids—gives you incredible views of the coast, the Caribbean, and the reefs around Cozumel. Once ashore, head to Pescadería San Carlos for some tasty ceviche. —Zach Rabinor, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico

Read Zach’s Insider’s Guide to the Riviera Maya, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Planning to do activities on a Sunday? Don’t be surprised when things are closed.

Many Caribbean islands are deeply rooted in the Christian faith, which means Sunday sees closures of attractions, shops, and even restaurants.

Instead: Pack your own pool float (because while some resorts might have a couple of floats for the pool, most don’t supply them for the ocean) and hit the beach. Depending on the island, consider venturing from your resort to a public beach to hang with the locals: On St. Barts, for instance, the public beaches (especially Gouverneur and Saline Beach) are postcard-perfect.

Read our Insider’s Guide to the Best and Worst of the Caribbean, and reach out to Wendy to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Don’t forget to take your passport—and check it

Check the expiration date on your passport—it gets risky when you get to the six-month mark. Most countries now require you to have a passport that will be valid for at least three to six months from the time you travel or they won’t admit you—not a nice surprise at the check-in counter!

What are some of your own Caribbean travel don’ts? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Dining Pergola Ca di Pesa Italy villa

Rent A Villa In Italy For the Whole Family

Poolside and deck view.
Poolside and deck view. Photo: Homebase Abroad
countryside view
Countryside view. Photo: Homebase Abroad
outdoor side view
Outdoor side view. Photo: Homebase Abroad
dining room
Dining room. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Master suite sitting area
Master suite sitting area. Photo: Homebase Abroad
outdoor cooking
outdoor dining
Outdoor dining. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Dining Pergola
Dining pergola. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Cantina detail
Cantina detail. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Cinema night
Cinema night. Photo: Homebase Abroad
cinema seating
Cinema seating. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Bellavista suite detail
Bellavista suite detail. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Brunello suite sitting room
Brunello suite sitting room. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Brunello suite sitting room
Brunello suite sitting room. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Living room view
Living room view. Photo: Homebase Abroad
interior view Ca di Pesa Italy villa
Interior view. Photo: Homebase Abroad
breakfast nook Ca di Pesa Italy villa
Breakfast nook. Photo: Homebase Abroad
children's TV room Ca di Pesa Italy villa
Children's TV room. Photo: Homebase Abroad
Italy villa ca di pesa jungle room
Jungle room. Photo: Homebase Abroad
countryside view
Countryside view. Photo: Homebase Abroad


Hi Wendy,

I’m looking for a really special villa in Tuscany for a family reunion for my mom and dad’s 40th wedding anniversary. There will be 18 of us, ranging in age from three years old to 82. We want a great setting with fabulous views, and also a good base for making day trips to the hill towns. Can you suggest a village or villa for us—or a good resource for securing a rental?
Thanks for any help you can offer,



You’ve got a challenge, Margaret: The dreamiest villas in Tuscany tend to be restored farmhouses or castles filled with things that can be treacherous to toddlers or grandmas or both: slippery centuries-old stone steps, open-hearth fireplaces, wobbly antique furniture, spiky medieval-style door latches, etc. I know this from personal experience, having rented an ancient Italian farmhouse with my own mom and kids. I went to sleep every night worried my two-year-old was going to trip over an antique, go flying into a door latch, catapult down the stairs, and end up in the fireplace.

But I do, in fact, have a place in mind for you. Several years ago, when I was in Tuscany I was shown a rambling property called Ca di Pesa that is actually an historic borgo (medieval village). I’ve remembered it since because it struck that unusual note of being sophisticated enough for adults (it’s got a wine cellar where you can dine by candelight, for instance, not to mention a cinema and a bocce court), while also kid-friendly enough for tots (it’s got plenty of flat lawn and a freshwater pool with a child-friendly gate). It’s in an ideal central location amid the vineyards and olive groves of Chianti, near the charming town of Panzano, halfway between Florence and Siena. And it fits 18.

Two caveats: First, a lot of people who rent homes in Tuscany like to be able to walk into town, and while it’s only a five-minute drive to town, it’s a 3.6-mile walk—and not on a charming country path but just on the regular road. Second, the price tag is high, so it helps if you can fill the house. (Maybe you can scrounge up two more family members to make your group 20?) The price in May is $22,500 for the week—which sounds exorbitant until you do the math and realize it translates to $161 per person per night and includes a concierge and a welcome dinner.

So it’s a splurge, for sure, but then again, you did ask for “really special.” And, to this day, whenever I fantasize about the Tuscan villa vacation I desperately need, I think back to Ca di Pesa and look through the photos above. My favorite touch in the house? The jungle fresco in one of the bedrooms.



Villa di Torno, Lake Como

Yes, It’s Possible: A Villa Vacation That Keeps Every Member of the Family Happy

You already know the benefits of choosing a rental villa over a hotel for your family vacation: More space, more privacy, more local flavor, and—if your group is large enough to fill every room in the house—significant savings. What you might not know though, is just how much the property itself—its layout, location, amenities—will affect the group dynamic. So will decisions ranging from which activities you pre-plan to which type of car you rent to whether the fridge is already stocked when you arrive on a Sunday and the grocery stores are closed. As someone who has rented homes for multiple generations of my own family in locales from Tuscany to Jamaica, I am here to tell you that renting through an expert who will level with you about the pros and cons of the neighborhoods and homes at your destination is a priceless advantage.

Mara Solomon, my Trusted Travel Expert for large Italian villas (read her Insider’s Guide to Italian Villa Vacations) does even more than that. Part magician, part psychologist, she can predict potential conflicts within your group…and make them disappear via smart planning. Mara, who specializes in properties that have four or more bedrooms, has compiled 11 tips for a successful villa vacation, and they’re a must-read as you start to plan your summer villa trip:

1. Manage everyone’s expectations. Travel might be the ultimate test of relationships (besides politics according to my mother). We all do it differently and spend time and money according to our own priorities. Manage everyone’s expectations for time together and time apart, for planned activities versus kicking back, very early on. Use Skype or a similar tool to bring the relevant decision-makers together, hash out the basic structure of the holiday and get everyone on the same playing field. A well-structured villa vacation ensures an elder is not over-taxed, a sporting parent gets the exercise they seek, and the kids are well engaged.

2. Divvy up the work and establish authority. Group travel—whether an extended family or group of long-standing friends (with or without children)—does take planning and it is essential for each group to decide who is making the decisions. Then make sure everyone gets behind them and sticks to the agreed upon plan. It’s also important to decide how the planning work is being shared. One person, maybe two if they work well together, is best for spearheading the choice of villa, but there are other tasks. The wine enthusiast can be put in charge of provisioning wine for the house and selecting wineries to visit, for instance.

3. Determine what really matters to your group. If your first conversations are less focused and people are less than candid, that is ok. Listen closely and you will have the keys to success. One person may need nothing so much as a fabulous bathroom. Be sure you have a plan for mornings out walking or taking coffee up to your own balcony or terrace if you need alone time. Maybe your nuclear family runs at a different speed and needs an excursion without the entourage of in-laws and cousins. Americans are used to enjoying their freedom. Be sure to rent enough cars so someone can make a quick get-away if tension mounts.

4. Make the most of the intelligence and insight of the people who have seen the house and know the area. Villa travel is, by definition, different from any other form of travel. The point is to have space as well as time and experiences together. The house matters greatly, even if you are a get-up-and-go group. Sooner or later your paths will return you home. Get this figured out in the early stages. How? Talk to the person or people who have been there and know the house. The accumulated wisdom of their experience can mean you avoid any nasty surprises. We greatly appreciate a chance to share our knowledge and our talents with our clients. This is what we are paid to do and besides the villas themselves, it is what our clients most appreciate.

5. Build into the structure of your holiday as much service as you can afford. You may think you don’t want a full-time cook but we can say from 20 years travel experience cooking services in the house are the amenity our guests appreciate the most and derive the most value. Inevitably people cancel restaurant meals and stay home because the food is so good. And enjoying it all in the privacy of your own Villa in black tie or pajamas (as you prefer) is a priceless gift to share with people you love. Meal organizing, shopping, preparation and clean up is an every-day responsibility for most of us. It becomes a true vacation when you can be at home without the everyday responsibilities.

6. Plan organized group-wide events or activities. Creating joy-filled moments elevates a get-together to the status of life-long shared memory. An excursion of interest to everyone, a special meal with a well-chosen menu or some fun and easy activity local to your destination generates enthusiasm and excitement. But don’t overdo the planning. In Italy, as with so many destinations, the most transcendent moments are often unplanned, so you want to leave room for those as well.

7. Consider seriously the layout and amenities of the property you are selecting. Quality time for relaxing and playing together in various combinations is essential for successful villa travel. The point is to come together in different times and different ways. Where will you gather for apperitivi before dinner? Are there enough chairs? A friendly bocce competition makes great fun all week long and you can end with a tournament complete with prizes.

8. Staying in one place longer makes for a richer, more rewarding experience. One week is most always not quite enough. Ten days is much better but two weeks is really recommended. I know, you may be thinking people will be bored, but I encourage you to give it consideration. A two-week stay means you sink in and get to know the place, find yourself unwinding in ways you may have forgotten. Your group of teenage boys will be transforming a mound of potatoes into that night’s gnocchi. Maybe you find yourself deep in a long conversation that is years overdue. You will have more flexibility in group configuration and size, as not everyone has to be together the whole time. And a well-located villa will have more to do than you think. We hear this quite often when our guests return: “I wish I pushed for that second week in the villa…”

9. It is Your Vacation too. We do not believe in ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’. A visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa could be a highlight or the worst day of the holiday. It depends. It depends both on things you control and those you don’t. Make sure you work with people who are listening closely to what matters to you and are facilitating that experience for you. If you are working with someone who really understands your group, the necessary insights, contacts and arrangements can be deployed in a way that meets your needs. And, that travel consultant will have you prepared for the variables beyond your control that are an essential part of the villa experience. Yes, the Blue Grotto is special, but we think having your own boat and exploring the other relatively deserted grottos around Capri is much more rewarding. And if you want to skip Capri altogether, that is fine too.

10. Success is in the details. Location, location, location counts when planning villa travel. With villa travel you might not know what questions to ask, so we suggest you work with people who know the house, setting and local area well enough to tell you what you need to consider. The Amalfi Coast is not well suited to those who cannot manage steps. Do you need running room for rambunctious children with soccer balls? Do you have shoppers or fitness buffs or serious scholars? What about food allergies? Can the staff find gluten-free pasta and almond milk easily if needed?

11. Plan on enjoying yourselves and having fun together. We invite our guests to plan on enjoying themselves and doing things differently. Use your phone or tablet for photos, not for email with the office. Eat gelato at least once every day. Have fun getting lost –you will be rewarded with at least a great story to share over apperitivi back at the house. You are sure to encounter an awe-inspiring moment, great memento or new friend for life. Remember what it is to have a day to fill as you like, without an agenda. This is what we strive for at Homebase Abroad–a well-structured trip whose cadence best matches the needs and preferences of your family and friends. We promise you will be rewarded with an exceptional experience. Maybe even the best vacation of your life.

Thanks, Mara, for letting me share your tips with WendyPerrin.com travelers!


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.