5 fun travel-themed activities to do at home

Coronavirus may have temporarily put your villa holiday plans on hold. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge your love of exploring the world. Here are 5 travel-related activities you and the family can enjoy at home during this period:

1. Sort and print your old holiday photos

If you can’t get away right now, why not take a trip down memory lane instead? Now’s a great time to finally sort through those hundreds of holiday snaps gathering digital dust on your phone or camera.

After you’ve picked out your favourites, you can get them printed to display around the house. You’ll find all sorts of fantastic photo products available to order online – from canvases, calendars and fridge magnets, to cushions, mugs and even chopping boards!

2. Learn a new language

Always wanted to take up Spanish or refresh your Italian? Here’s the perfect chance to work on your foreign language skills before your next villa holiday. Not only will you impress your friends and family, but you’ll find it easier to communicate with locals who’ll appreciate your efforts to speak their lingo.

There are plenty of ways to start learning from the comfort of your sofa, like mobile apps, online courses and YouTube. And many of them don’t cost a penny.

3. Discover your dream holiday destination

Why not spend some time checking out all the amazing parts of the world you could jet off to for a future villa holiday? From Croatia to the Greek Islands, we have 19 fantastic destinations for you to choose from.

Each one has its own unique culture, history, cuisine, natural beauty and things to do. So get researching and start planning!

4. Find some handy new travel accessories

Love a good gadget? Then head online to browse the latest accessories designed to make your overseas adventures that bit easier. There are loads of useful gizmos that’ll save you time, money and hassle on your next villa holiday.

How about some packing cubes that banish messy suitcases once and for all? Or a collapsible reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated on day trips and protect the planet at the same time? Have a look and see what’s out there.

5. Get competitive with a travel-themed game

Sometimes you just can’t beat a good old-fashioned head-to-head at the kitchen table. Whether you want to build a railroad or traverse a desert, there are countless travel-themed games out there to keep everyone entertained.

Or for the ultimate in fun, why not nominate a Travel Quiz Master and test the extended family’s geographical knowledge in a group video call? Split into teams and let battle commence!

12 winning reasons why shoulder season travel is the best

The “shoulder seasons” are those travel periods that fall in spring and autumn, between the peak and fully off-peak seasons. For those not at the mercy of school terms – like couples, retirees, and families with tots – they can be the perfect times for a villa getaway. Here are 12 top reasons to get booking and jet off this spring:

1. Save on accommodation

There are great bargains to be had on our huge range of villas outside the summer holidays. This spring 2020, you could book a fantastic property for just £500 per week – that’s a whopping saving of £1,500 compared to peak season!

2. Nab your dream villa

There’s much better availability in the shoulder seasons, so you can have the pick of the bunch and snap up that fabulous villa you’ve been eyeing for months.

3. Spend less on flights

Air fares are often lower at off-peak times too, which can significantly cut the cost of your trip even more. Across our destinations, flying in the spring shoulder season is on average £100 cheaper than peak season.

4. Bask in better weather

Love the sun but hate melting in the heat? The shoulder seasons’ slightly cooler temperatures are perfect for sightseeing and adventure, while still warm enough for lazy days spent lounging by the pool.

5. Beat the crowds

You won’t be jostling for space in the museum or fighting for spots on the beach, meaning a much more pleasant experience all round.

6. Skip the queues

Who wants to waste precious time waiting in long lines when you could be fast-tracking straight to the fun?

7. Get around easily

With fewer cars on the roads and less busy public transport, you’ll find it a stress-free breeze to get from A to B when you’re out exploring.

8. Be snap happy

Looking to make your Instagram followers green with envy? You’ll be free to capture those perfect holiday shots without throngs of other people ruining them!

9. Live like a local

With fewer tourists about, you’ll enjoy a more authentic experience of your destination and have better chances to mingle with the locals.

10. Enjoy discounts on foods and attractions

Did you know some tourist spots slash entrance fees and menu prices outside peak times? So you could come home with even more pennies in your pocket.

11. Support the local economy

By visiting and spending money outside the main tourist period, you’ll be benefiting your destination’s local economy – so everyone wins.

12. Help reduce overtourism

Travelling in the shoulder seasons helps distribute the weight of tourism on a destination across the year. And that’s much better news for locals and the environment.

Fancy a bargain last-minute getaway during the upcoming shoulder season? Take a look at our fantastic range of holiday villas still available this spring 2020!

What are the advantages of holiday villa rentals for groups of friends?

Has the winter series of Love Island got you glued to the TV watching them get up to their cheeky antics in the sun? If the show’s got you dreaming of a villa holiday with your group of friends, then now is the perfect time to start planning one!

Travelling with a group of friends promises plenty of fun, and you’re sure to return home with lots of lost-lasting memories. Self-catering villa rentals are one of the best ways to make the most of your trip. Group holiday villa accommodation saves you money over a hotel, which means you’re able to spend more on exciting activities and going out.

Whichever type of holiday rental villa you choose – from a seafront villa in Tenerife to a poolside apartment in Corfu – there are many advantages of holiday lets for groups. Here are just a few:

You’ll have lots of space to make yourself at home

Villa Potami Nikos, Chania, Crete

The last thing you want on a group holiday is to be crammed into a small hotel room. If you go self-catering, you can choose a villa with spacious bedrooms. This way, you’ll have plenty of room to unpack and store your belongings, so there’s no need to live out of a suitcase.

In addition to being more comfortable, you’ll have space to find a few moments to yourself if you fancy a break from the rest of the group. In a large rental house, you won’t all be living on top of one another, with is particularly good if you’re going on a longer trip with several others.

Enjoy drinks in the lounge or on the terrace

Not only does a holiday villa rental mean more spacious accommodation, but you’ll also have your own lounge and kitchen. Here, you can hang out with your friends without worrying about crossing paths with other guests. Whether you want to put on some music or enjoy a few rounds of post-dinner drinks, you’ll appreciate having some communal space to yourselves. And don’t forget all of that outdoor space and your very own private pool!

You’ll have a kitchen to cook and eat in plus an outdoor BBQ

It doesn’t take long for costs to rise if you’re eating out every night, but in a holiday home, you can save money by making your own meals. Cooking is always a fun group activity, so why not get creative an experiment with some local dishes? You could cook up Canary flavours on Fuerteventura, or make some tapas in Costa Blanca. You will have a fully equipped kitchen and an outdoor BBQ to choose from.

Furthermore, if you can’t all agree on a single dish, that’s not a problem. Self-catering also means you can make your own food individually if you feel like it. Alternatively, if you want a quick and convenient option, you could even order take away to your holiday home. This is perfect if you and your friends feel like having a lazy night in.

You can stay in and unwind

No matter how action-packed your villa holiday is, you’ll still want some down time to recharge and relax. A holiday let means you have a place to stay if you fancy some time off from going out and sightseeing.

You might want to watch a movie, or just spend the day lounging in the sun in your garden. If you opt for a holiday villa with a private pool, you don’t even have to leave to be able to have fun.

View our range of villas for couples and small groups

By Lara Scott. A former executive at a major hotel chain, Lara Scott is a freelance travel writer and journalist. She says her previous career gives her extra insight into both sides of the tourism industry.

5 easy yoga poses to help you chill on your villa holiday

Want to kick your holiday relaxation up a notch? Then make sure you pack a yoga mat for your next villa getaway. With its peace and privacy, your sun-soaked villa garden is the perfect place to get your chakras aligned while working on your tan. Even better, you can cool off in your private pool afterwards!

To get you started, here are 5 beginner yoga poses to help you relieve those tight muscles and switch off your buzzing mind.* And exhale…

Child’s pose

This easy resting pose calms the mind, busts stress and stretches out the hips, thighs and ankles. And it’s great for winding down after a tiring day of exploration.

Start by sitting on your heels with your knees and feet together. Then roll your torso forward, lower your forehead to the ground and stretch your arms in front of you. Let your body release, breathe, and hold for as long as you like.

Warrior 1

A gentle backbend pose, Warrior 1 opens up the front body and strengthens your legs, arms and core.

Take a big step back with your right leg and go into a lunge with your left knee over your left ankle. Turn your right foot out 45 degrees and anchor your right heel firmly into the mat. Lift your chest, reach up your arms and gaze up to your thumb. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Warrior 2

Warrior 2 is great for opening up your outer hips, inner thighs and groin.

Start with your feed about a leg length’s apart. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in slightly. Bend your left knee directly over your left ankle and extend your arms out to the sides with your palms facing down. Gaze out over your left arm, hold for 1 minute and then do it again on the other side.

Bridge pose

This pose gives your front and back a good stretch while extending the spine.

Lie on your back with your knees bent hip width apart directly over your heels. Press your feet into the mat and lift up your hips and bottom. Clasp your hands underneath your pelvis and press them into the ground. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then slowly roll your spine down onto the mat.

Tree pose

Tree is a great one-legged standing pose for beginners that can help you improve your balance and focus. What’s more, it’s great for strengthening your ankles, legs and core.

Stand with your feet together and weight distributed evenly. Engage your abs and slowly shift your weight onto your right foot. Lift your left foot and place it onto your inner right thigh. Bring your hands into the prayer position and focus your gaze on a fixed spot in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Looking for the ideal holiday to destress and get away from it all? Check out our biggest ever range of villas available for booking in 2020.

* If you have any health conditions or injuries, do seek medical advice before trying any of the yoga poses described in this article.

4 of the best couples retreats

Now the school holidays are over, why not book a trip away for just the two of you? By jetting away off-peak, you’ll skip the crowds and save money on accommodation and air fares. Here are four small but fabulous villas that are just the ticket for a romantic couples getaway this autumn.

Villa Lefkippos in Gouves, Crete

lefkippos

Right in the centre of Crete’s northern coast is Villa Lefkippos. With its exposed stonework, arched windows and mix of contemporary and traditional furnishings, this beautiful 1-bedroom property is perfect for couples looking for both chic and charm. What’s more, you can rack up some lengths in the long private pool before chilling out together on the sun loungers.

You’ll find plenty to keep you occupied in the local area too. An unspoilt beach is just a 5-minute wander away, and there are plenty of great restaurants and tavernas in Gouves. Or take a trip to the historical resort of Hersonissos, where you can amble round the picturesque fishing harbour or enjoy a date night at one of its many bars and eateries.

Villa Morea in Old Skala, Kefalonia

morea

Villa Morea is idyllic 1-bedroom hideaway near the southern coast of Kefalonia, the largest of the Greek Ionian islands. Set into the slopes near Old Skala, you can both unwind in its fantastic infinity pool while watching the sun set over the olive groves and glittering ocean below.

For some quality time outside the villa, visit the nearby peaceful fishing village of Katelios for an evening of wining and dining at a waterfront taverna. Or if you fancy a livelier atmosphere, the popular seaside resort of Skala offers trendy cocktail bars, authentic tavernas and 3 kilometres of sand-and-shingle beach flanked by fragrant pine forest.

Villa Dora in Sao Rafael, Algarve

dora

Located in the picture postcard countryside near the Algarve’s southern coast, the 2-bedroom Villa Dora is the ideal choice for couples wanting some R&R. With its impressive pool, spacious terrace and lush lawn surrounded by colourful blooms, there are plenty of great spots to soak up the sun and enjoy each other’s company.

Just around the corner is the spectacular Sao Rafael Beach, with its stunning rock formations and rust-coloured cliffs. And you’ll also be within striking distance of Albufeira, where you can roam the Old Town’s cobbled streets before sipping a delicious cocktail at one of its many nightlife hotspots.

Villa Serena in Nissaki, Corfu

serena

Villa Serena is found in a small seaside village in north east Corfu. It boasts two bright bedrooms, a vine-covered pergola, gorgeous treetop views and a poolside BBQ for rustling up an intimate alfresco dinner for two.

Not only that, but Villa Serena occupies a great central spot in Nissaki. You’ll be just a 10-minute stroll from its pretty cove, harbour and seafront tavernas. And if you’re feeling particularly intrepid, you can even hire a private motorboat to explore the neighbouring resorts and little tucked-away beaches along the coast.

Want to discover even more options for the perfect romantic escape? Take a look at our other villas for couples

5 top tips for keeping fit and healthy on holiday

Ah, holiday time. A chance to leave the stressful everyday routine behind and spend a few weeks indulging in endless food, drink, sun and relaxation.

But you don’t have to completely neglect your health and fitness while you’re away. Check out our 5 top tips for how to stay in great shape during your villa break, while still kicking back and enjoying yourself.

  1. Eat mindfully

It’s hard to resist the lure of all the tasty cuisine on offer when we’re on holiday. Who could say no to another cooling scoop of that delicious gelato? But if you want to still fit into your favourite jeans when you get home, you’ll need eat consciously rather than on autopilot.

So balance out those naughty treats with healthier choices. Savour rather than scoff each mouthful. Don’t pile your plate too high. And instead of dining out every day, why not stay at your villa and whip up a wholesome feast with fresh produce from the local market?

  1. Go easy on the booze

It’s not just holiday food that can wreak havoc with your waistline. Alcohol also packs a calorific punch and too many tipples will quickly pile on the pounds. What’s more, it can make you pee more often and lead to dehydration – which is bad news if you’re in a hot climate.

Instead of downing lots of drinks at once, pace yourself and try not to exceed the recommended maximum of 14 units a week. And if you’re watching your weight, choose your drinks wisely and consider swapping that calorie-laden wine or beer for a skinnier spritzer or shandy.

  1. Keep active

After an exhausting few months at home, it’s tempting to spend all of your well-earned break lazing and lounging in the sun. But by staying active for some of the time, you’ll keep your fitness levels up and burn off those extra calories too.

Why not swim a few lengths of your villa’s private pool? Have a rally on your private tennis court? Or get out and explore the local area on foot or by bike? Just be careful to avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.

  1. Stay hydrated

We all know we should be drinking eight glasses of water a day. And it’s even more important to get plenty of H2O while holidaying in the heat, as dehydration can lead to nasties like headaches, nausea, dizziness and even heatstroke.

To keep your water levels topped up, make sure you always carry a bottle with you and take regular slurps even if you don’t feel thirsty. You could also munch on yummy snacks with a high water content, like watermelon or cucumber.

  1. Protect yourself from the sun

Most of us can’t wait to escape the typical British weather and soak up some rays in warmer climes. But too much UV light is is hazardous to our health, causing painful skin burns and even cancer.

To enjoy the sunshine safely, generously apply a good high factor sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapply this regularly throughout the day. And when the sun is at its strongest, it’s best to seek out shade, wear a wide-brimmed hat and cover up with loose-fitting clothing.

7 easy ways to go green (and save money) on holiday

7 easy ways to go green (and save money) on holiday

 

Climate change. Plastic pollution. Food waste. These are all hot topics right now, and with good reason. But how can you care for the planet when you’re miles away from home? Well, it’s not as hard as you think. Here are 7 simple ways to protect the environment (and your wallet) on your next villa holiday.

 

  1. Pack a refillable water bottle

BBC’s Blue Planet II woke us all up to the world’s devastating plastic problem. So do your bit and save some dosh by taking a refillable water bottle on holiday with you. Trendy stainless steel bottles are the most durable, best insulated and easiest to clean. But if you want a lighter and cheaper option, a BPA-free plastic bottle is the way to go.

 

  1. Watch your energy and water use

Conserving energy and water are great ways to be eco-friendly during your villa holiday. Turn off the air conditioning, lights, TV and taps when you’re not using them. Take a quick and energising shower instead of a bath. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until they’re full. And remember to unplug your gadgets when they’ve finished charging.

 

  1. Bring some reusable bags

Like plastic bottles, single-use carrier bags are another big environmental offender. So make sure you pack some reusable ones for carrying your groceries, souvenirs and holiday gear. Tote bags are a good choice as they’re hardwearing, lightweight and foldable. They’ll hardly take up any space in your suitcase, either.

 

  1. Explore by foot or bike

Motor vehicles are a major contributor to climate change and air pollution. So why not leave your hire car at the villa and explore the local area by walking or cycling? Many of our villas are in great central locations just a stone’s throw away from beaches, restaurants and other amenities. What’s more, you’ll save yourself the hassle and expense of parking – and burn off those extra holiday calories!

 

  1. Eat out responsibly

Restaurants and cafés generate a huge amount of food waste and carbon emissions, so it’s worth being mindful when eating out. Try to dine at places that use local, organic ingredients that haven’t been shipped from the other side of the world. Avoid disposable containers and cutlery. And don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach and order more than you can manage.

 

  1. Cook up your own storm

Instead of eating out every day, how about saving the environment and a wad of cash by self-catering? Head to the local grocery store or farmers market before whipping up a delicious feast using your villa’s kitchen or BBQ. You could even make your own yummy packed lunches to take out on day trips.

 

  1. Recycle your rubbish

You don’t have abandon your recycling habits just because you’re on holiday. Rather than throwing all your waste into the same bin, sort it into categories like you would at home and drop it at the local recycling facilities before you leave. The planet will thank you, and you can travel home guilt-free.

 

 

 

On the Gourmet Trail. Italy: Puglia

Taste a piece of Puglia at home with this delicious Orecchiette pasta with broccoli sauce.

Ingredients

12 ounces broccoli florets- cut or broken into very small florets about equal size

8 ounces short pasta- orecchiette pasta, penne, rigatoni, etc

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves- rough chopped

Generous pinch chili flakes

Generous pinch salt and pepper

12 anchovy, chopped (optional)

2 cups veggie or chicken broth

Garnish options- grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese,  lemon zest, fresh basil ribbons, toasted pine nuts, toasted bread crumbs, truffle oil or kalamata olives- all optional.

 

Instructions

1. Steam small broccoli florets until very tender ( easily pierced with a fork)  and set aside.

2. Cook pasta according to directions, and save some hot pasta water when you drain.

3. In a large pan, saute the garlic and chili flakes in the olive oil, over medium heat until fragrant and golden, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the steamed broccoli, optional anchovy, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and start breaking apart the broccoli with a metal spatula into tiny pieces.

4. You want the broccoli to basically melt down into a “sauce”.  Continue simmering gently, on low heat until half of the liquid evaporates and it becomes the consisancy of a thick sauce, about 10-15 minutes. It won’t be smooth-just broken down and tender.

5. Add the pasta. Toss well. Add more pasta water if you like it a little more saucy. Taste for salt, adding more along with pepper and the chili flakes.

6. Divide among bowls and top with any of the garnishes you like. Grated Parmesan adds depth and salt, Lemon zest adds a nice brightness, which I highly recommend and a drizzle of truffle oil elevates.

Enjoy!

How do you choose your next destination?

Have you booked your holiday? How did you decide where you were going? Did you spend hours thumbing through Instagram, checking out your friends’ pictures of sun-kissed legs set against the backdrop of an azure sea, or envying those influencers lounging by an infinity pool? Maybe you read an article about the latest holiday hotspot in one of the Sunday supplements? Or perhaps you’re returning to the same place you went to last year. After all, you had a great time, so why wouldn’t you want to return?

Here at Villa Plus, we wanted to find out the greatest influences when looking for our next holiday destinations. So, we surveyed 1,000 British adults to find out.

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Instagram influence

One in five of us let our thumbs do the talking when we’re looking for our next holiday.

Scrolling through social media sure does make us feel envious, or shall we say, provides inspiration. Whether it’s travel bloggers in far-flung places or friends messing around pools in the grounds of gorgeous villas, social media certainly gives us lots of ideas when we’re looking for our next holiday destination.

And it’s women who are more influenced by social media than men. In fact, they’re three times more likely than men to choose a holiday based on something they’ve seen on social media. And 10% more likely to choose a holiday destination because they deem it to be “Instagram worthy”.

Finding that Instagrammable location is especially a priority for Geordies, with nearly a fifth of them stating it’s an important factor when choosing a holiday destination.

After all, what’s the point of going on holiday if you can’t make your friends jealous?!

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Keeping it in the family

Despite the rising influence of social media, recommendations from friends and family remain the top factor when we’re looking for holiday inspiration, with over a third of Brits saying that they’re more likely to book a holiday at a location that their friends or family have stayed at and enjoyed.

Bagging a bargain

Us Brits love a bargain and finding a cheap deal certainly remains a factor when we’re looking for a holiday, particularly for men, who are nearly four times more likely to pick a holiday destination because of a special offer or because it has been reduced in price. Liverpudlians are particularly keen on a deal, with 42% stating that it would influence where they decide to go on holiday.

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Sticking to tradition

A good few of us are repeat tourists – 10% of Brits like to return to a holiday destination they’ve enjoyed before. After all, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it! Men (20%) are nearly twice as likely as women (11%) to choose a holiday because they’ve been there before. This also tends to be true of older holiday makers, with more than a quarter of 55-64-year-olds (25.3%) returning to a favourite destination, compared to only 11% of 18-24-year-olds. As for around the UK, a quarter of Sheffield-based folks stated that the last holiday they booked was a return visit to a place they had stayed at before.

Chasing the sun

So, what other factors influence us when we’re looking for a holiday? Just over 23% of people from Edinburgh revealed they get holiday inspiration from newspaper and magazine articles, whereas 50% of Scousers list finding a holiday destination not too far from home as a top factor. After all, not everyone wants to waste days of their work holiday allowance travelling to their destination. Obviously, the weather is a big consideration for many of us, especially for Sheffield holiday makers, with over 62% of them stating that it was a major factor in their decision-making process.

Getting it booked

When it comes to booking, the majority of us (34%) prefer to book a holiday directly with the service provider, for example, booking villas with a dedicated villa holiday company. Surprisingly, only 8% of Brits use home-sharing or owner-letting sites, like Airbnb, to book their holidays. Perhaps we’re still disposed to trusting more established companies rather than individuals when it comes to such important decisions. Interestingly, over one in ten Brits booked their last holiday destination directly through social media.

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It’s clear that social media is becoming more and more influential to people’s holidaying habits, but can anything really match a recommendation from a friend or family member?  After all, it’s the job of influencers and travel bloggers to make their pictures look amazing, so how can you really be sure that a place is as Instagrammable as it looks? When it comes to family and friends, they’re more likely to give you the warts-and-all report of a destination, which might be why their recommendations influence our holiday decisions more than social media.

No matter how you found your holiday whether it was through your Instagram feed, by following a friend’s recommendation or returning to a tried-and-tested location – we’re sure you’ll have an amazing time. Bonnes vacances!

Ways to protect yourself in the sun

With temperatures this week due to reach a scorching 38°C, we’ve put together a list of handy tips to keep you and your family safe in the sun…

1 Make sure you always carry water with you – carrying water or something cool to drink not only keeps you hydrated, it also decreases your body temperature, and is therefore a must on sunny days.

2 Apply sun cream – put sun cream on before you go out and make sure to top it up regularly throughout the day, especially after swimming.

3 Cover up – wear something light which covers easy-to-burn areas such as your neck and shoulders. A sun hat is also a great way to keep your head and face protected at the same time as looking super fashionable!

4 Protect your eyes – wearing sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays. Plus, they’ll also block out the glare allowing you to see much better in bright weather.

5 Stay in the shade – the middle of the day is when the sun’s rays are strongest, so stay safe in the shade as much as possible between 11am – 3pm.

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