Vacation Home Specialist
May 07, 2014

By Elizabeth Philippe | Vacation Home Specialist

You’ve decided that for your next vacation, you want to rent a villa. Well, now what? Whether you are making your debut as a villa renter or you have made renting private vacation villas an annual tradition, there are a few, simple ways to make your hunt just a little less tedious. We here at Travel Keys take pride in matching, not only the perfect villa, but also the perfect destination to our clients’ needs, based on specific desires; be it golf, beach, privacy, ease of access, nightlife, etc. Having your framework set for your dream vacation can only make the matching process for you, and us as Vacation Home Specialists, more seamless, especially for those in a hurry!

You know that friend that everyone has at least one of… the one who thinks he or she is a guru at pairing singles together? Think of your Travel Keys Vacation Home Specialist as that friend and our properties as your potential dates. Our job is to weed out the villas and/or locations that may not quite be the right fit for you on this “blind date”, and to create a love connection! Realistically, like a first date, it can be a huge success or it can be a #totalfail. One of the benefits of working with Travel Keys is that, not only do our Vacation Home Specialists and Concierge representatives frequent our more popular destinations and tour many vacation villas, but we also have staff that lives in many of these destinations! Travel Keys agents are based in locations such as St. John, Maui, Thailand/Bali, Mexico, California and Miami! We offer firsthand guidance you can trust. Granted, we have not seen every single villa in every single destination; however, the knowledge we obtain from our trips certainly serves as a wonderful benefit to our clients.

reqSo, what is the best way that we can make the ideal love connection for you? It all starts with the initial request; be it if you pick up the phone and give us a call to engage in conversation or if you are at work – secretly sneaking glances at vacation homes, saving gorgeous villa photos as your new desktop wallpaper to serve as gentle reminders that it’s time for a vacation – and you take the more subtle approach by requesting additional information online, utilizing these guidelines in your request or on a phone call can help to expedite the process and ensure that your Vacation Home Specialist is offering the optimum options for what you seek!

10. Provide us with your full name

Life in “villa land” is good – I won’t lie. I enjoy my job and absolutely adore working with people. I love building relationships with clients – that’s the fun part! There’s nothing like receiving an online request with only a first name, only a last name, a first initial and no last name, first name and last initial, mix it and match it whichever way you please – you get the point. It really is not ideal for our first contact to read, “Hey you!” That is so impersonal. Also, having your first and last name allows us to look you up in our system. Many of you are repeat guests of ours or even if you are not a repeat client, you might already be working with one of our Vacation Home Specialists and we want to ensure that you work with the same person you have already been in touch as he or she will know your history. This saves a lot of time for both client and Specialist!

9. Reply directly to our emails

It is oh-so-easy to get lost on our website. I hear it all the time! It’s a great looking website full of thousands of beautiful properties. How can you not?! If you submit a request online for a particular property, you will be contacted, first by phone and then by email, by a Vacation Home Specialist. We’ve left you a voicemail if we have not reached you and we have sent you an email, which you have read. Suddenly, you’ve located another one, two, twelve properties (but who’s counting?) you also have interest in in five other destinations and you submit additional requests online for each one. Raise your hand if this applies to you. Guilty as charged! Again, a wonderful way to save time is to simply open up the email response the Vacation Home Specialist has sent to you and reply to that email with the additional listings you have interest in. When you submit the additional fifteen requests online (but who’s counting?) they will all go back to the same Specialist who has already contacted you. Efficiency is key and you can help us be more efficient for you by following this easy guideline!

8. Know the ages of any traveling children

Not every property is kid-friendly and this is usually for the benefit of providing safety for the little ones and ease of mind for parents. Some villas have huge drop-offs in the pool area, some have bedrooms that are all accessed on the exterior, others, multiple steps, or some owners flat out do not wish to have children under a certain age on-property. St. John, for instance, is an island that has many villas that do not allow children under the age of 8. It is important to include the ages of children with your initial request so that we may send realistic options on the first go-round.

7. Read

The Internet is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Despite what the naysayers might tell you, #dontbelievethehype. Reading truly is fundamental. The perk of having online profiles for our villas is that you may quickly and easily access any villa at the click of a button. Each villa includes full descriptions, rental rates, a photo gallery, amenities and most also have location maps. Our website is user-friendly and, while Vacation Home Specialists are the best resource, if you prefer to peruse the site on your own and desire assistance with minimizing time and maximizing results in a search, we are glad to help! The key, though, is to read the information that is available to you. It is true that not every single detail will be outlined on every villa profile and we are happy to cover the fine details; however, a lot of the time, basic questions may be answered by reading the villa descriptions. One of the most common questions received is, “What is the rate?” Each villa profile has an accessible “Rates” tab that that breaks the prices down by season, number of persons and/or number of bedrooms as well.

 6. Leave a contact telephone number

Let’s talk! Don’t be shy. We won’t wake you up in the middle of the night, we promise. Travel Keys is not in the business of telemarketing; we are here to help! The quickest way to get you into your perfect vacation rental is to have a conversation. Don’t wish to be called during work hours? No problem! You can still leave us your phone number with detailed instructions to only call between certain hours or on weekends. Being able talk with you really is a bonus because we obtain much more in conversation than we ever will in an email. It is also a great way for you, the client, to have any opening questions answered right off the bat. And… you guessed it… it is more efficient. 

5. Details, details, details!

The more details, the better it will be for everyone! Clients that provide any and all information will obtain the best results. Period. Why? Because there is no guess work. Remember, this is your first date. We need to know as much information as possible to make sure we are making a good pairing for your blind date. PLEASE do not rent a villa for six people, travel with 10, and decide to have a wedding onsite and host 50 more. You will be evicted, sans notice. If an event is the plan, let us know. We offer many superb options that cater to weddings, parties, corporate functions, etc.

If you require a lower-level bedroom for someone in the group with mobility issues, if all bedrooms should be en-suite, if you are only interested in destinations where you can get your gamble on, include it with your request. Please provide us ALL crucial details so that we may offer the best possible suggestions.

Please view the following sample requests. Can you determine which will receive more suitable suggestions with less filler emails and calls in between? It isn’t that we don’t want to talk to you. We want to help you narrow down multiple options to one quickly so that no one else books your dates. 

Poor Request:

“Looking for a holiday rental in the Caribbean.”

Adequate Request:

“We are looking for a villa in St. John for two couples that has a perfect view of the sunset! Must have A/C, and must have top notch amenities/décor. Our planned trip is Nov. 22-29, 2014.”

Perfect Request:

“Interested in traveling to the Caribbean July 5 – July 12. We have already been to the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Barbados and would like to try somewhere new if we can. We have two adults and three kids, ages 7, 11 and 13. We have never traveled to St. Martin before so we are interested in exploring options. Is there staff included? We’d like to be near swimming beaches for the kids and not too far from town. Ideally, we would like to be able to walk to a beach but a short drive is ok. We need a three bedroom and enjoy newer, more modern homes. At least one of the bedrooms should have two twin beds so that our older girls can share the room. Our budget is around $8500 for the week.”

4. Be reasonable

It does not occur often but every now and then, a client will reach out with a very specific request for a specific property. This request might be to break the maximum occupancy, to obtain the property at a rate much lower than market or to book dates outside of specified parameters. It is advised that you believe what we say when certain requests are immediately turned down. We do not reject a request for kicks or to aggravate you. Certain requests are not entertained because as Vacation Home Specialists who have been in this industry for many years, we are more than familiar with the managers and owners whom we work with and we are aware of who is absolutely stern or who might offer a little flexibility for legitimate inquiries. Again, our aim is to create a happy match, client and villa, and to protect our homeowners as well. If you request to sleep 15 people in a property that sleeps six, advising that you will have kids sleep on the couch or the floor, 99% of the time, this type of request will not be honored. Please know that we have your best interest in mind and will work with you to find the best villa for your needs. Should this trip involve too many people, perhaps we can revisit that specific villa at a later time when you travel with a smaller group. If this year, your vacation can only be for three nights because that is the only time you could get off from work but the property requires a five-night stay, depending on the option, we might be able to make it work. Bottom line, any reasonable request will be considered.


3. Reveal your budget

Travel Keys offers rental selections that fit most every budget. Despite what many may think, everyone has a budget. Yes, I said it and will repeat it: EVERYONE has a budget. I have had the pleasure of working with many individuals who have varying price points, including celebrity clients and EVERYONE has a budget. There is nothing worse for us than spending hours putting together what we deem as perfect options for you when you stated that you do not have a budget, only for you to come back and advise that the options are all out of your desired price range. That will surely put a wrinkle in our day, and our foreheads. Help us slow down the aging process by providing us your maximum range. If you would like your specific budget to be inclusive of any taxes or fees, let us know! This will only make things easier and again, will increase our efficiency.

One important factor to note is that Travel Keys is not a travel agency. We handle everything for our clients from the villa rentals and beyond, meaning car rentals, tee times, spa and restaurant reservations, excursions, airport transfers; any Concierge-related items. We do not handle flights. When providing your budget, please be sure to exclude flight costs.

2. Ask questions

Some clients preface their emails or phone calls with an apology for asking so many questions. Please! There is no limit! Ask as many questions as needed. This is your vacation that we are assisting in planning. The more questions asked, the more we will know if we are aiding you in making the right decision!

 1. Create a timeline

I feel that this warrants the number one spot. Imagine, we spend days, weeks, sometimes months, going back and forth, discussing the perfect match only for it to get booked by someone else when you are finally ready to confirm your reservation. I see this happen all the time and it can be heartbreaking, especially for those individuals who make the common mistake of purchasing flights prior to obtaining a villa contract. Again, folks, this is a dating game! Who wants to sit and wait around for someone to make up their mind as to whether or not you are datable? There will always be someone lurking, ready to swoop in! As with any match, weighing all options is vital in order to select the most suitable one; however, deadlines are imperative as dates can never be guaranteed. If you are working with other couples, friends or family members, give them a final decision date and stick to it! It may be more difficult for first-timers to gauge the appropriate amount of time renting a villa takes but believe me,  creating a simple timeline and sharing it with your party will better your chances of booking your preferred rental option. Keep this in mind – most individuals take about one week, give or take, to decide and confirm on a rental. Of course, this can waiver based on season and other factors but overall, something to keep in mind! 

Following these guidelines will absolutely make the villa rental process simple and efficient and will inevitably lead to a vacation villa love connection.  <3

Until next time…


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