I think we can all agree that the classic hotel room is not the ideal base for a good holiday. Everything is cramped, there’s no space to unpack, the shower takes up at least half of the bathroom, and you have to go up and down tens of floors just to get to the street and back.
But serviced apartments now better serve the needs of many travellers. Complete with a lounge and dining area, a kitchen, and even an office, you get the benefits of a hotel without the aforementioned drawbacks.
Serviced apartments are especially popular with businessmen and women in town for work purposes. They provide the home comforts the traveller is used to while helping them adapt quickly to the location.
And when travelling for leisure, serviced apartments might seem like the ideal. They’re hassle-free, after all.
However, I believe that a luxury villa is a far better way to experience a new place. I recently found Costa Brava villas to rent and treated myself to their charm. I don’t think I can ever go back to the cold comfort of a serviced apartment, for a few good reasons.
Villas Have Local Character
One major difference between hotels/serviced apartments and villas is that the former is made to be completely interchangeable. A serviced apartment in Spain looks like a serviced apartment in the US, and so on. This is not by accident, of course. Much of the point is to ease a person in, making it feel like they’re home when they’re on the road.
This is exactly why I don’t find it ideal when you actually want to experience the local culture. Luxury villas are constructed to cater to all the comforts of tourists, but they inevitably end up looking more like the place around them than a quadrilateral hotel room does.
In Costa Brava, the villa I stayed in had a rustic quality – and not the “rustic” that is used as a euphemism for rundown! It felt Catalonian, and when I went back after a night on the town, I did not feel like I was stepping into another, more sterile world.
Don’t Get Caught Up In The Tourist Trap
Hotels and serviced apartments are filled with visitors from outside the city. They exist to serve foreign clientele. This can be helpful if you are moving to a place, as you get to meet expats who are going through the process of settling in just like you.
But when you’re on holiday, being around other tourists is a curse. Travelling should have you pushing your boundaries, but humans are conditioned to look for comfort. Seeing other people all around you, speaking your language, eating McDonald’s, complaining about the unfamiliar, it can be easy to go with the flow. Rather than meeting the locals and trying new foods and experiences.
You end up getting a watered down experience of the place. Coloured by what has been diluted to make it more palatable to those who shy away from anything new.
When you’re in a villa, however, you get to define your own experience. You won’t be tempted by the sight of other tourists to stay put. You’ll still get your home comforts, but when you leave the villa you will go towards the unknown, rather than the known.
Also, tourists – especially Westerners – have the tendency to complain about everything that’s not exactly as they expect it to be. It’s very easy to get caught up in complaining about the unfamiliar rather than appreciating it for what it is. You’ll learn to love the idiosyncrasies by the time you leave, rather than letting them get on your nerve and compromise all your enjoyment.
Do It Your Way
Hotels and serviced apartments are not just built to cater to your home comforts. They’re designed to give you a very particular experience of a place. The concierge will direct you to particular tours, particular landmarks, and particular experiences. While she or he may seem to have your best interests at heart, they’re ultimately giving the same spiel to every single other tourist. They cater to the lowest common denominator.
Travelling is not about being the lowest common denominator. Ideally, travel is an adventure, a way to explore not just a new place but the way you yourself experience newness. Travel is a bit of a wasted opportunity if you don’t do it your way.
This includes everything from the places you visit, and the foods that you eat, to the way you relax during your downtime. In a villa, you are less likely to get used to eating at familiar restaurants, as they are not in the very same building. You will find the experiences that appeal to you, rather than to the average tourist and go about them in a way that suits you. You will truly relax during your downtime, rather than choosing the same sterile entertainment that is served up at tourist hotspots.
Ultimately, a villa provides a far more personal way to spend a vacation. While serviced apartments are incredibly useful, especially for those travelling for work, they are not ideal for experiencing a brand new city or country. They cater to comfort, rather than experience. And travelling should always be an experience that pushes your boundaries, instead of an approximation of what you’re used to back home.