In addition to hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts and self-catering accommodations like gîtes, vacation rentals in France are available for almost any budget and group size. In fact, for larger groups or family vacations, renting an entire home or villa may be the way to go – particularly if you are looking for fun in more remote areas or along the Mediterranean shoreline.
You may have to do a bit more work to find just the right vacation rental, but it can truly make even a weeklong holiday feel like a month of Sundays. Here are a few things to keep in mind when researching vacation rentals in France:
When you’re planning a vacation and want to go the home rental route, you are going to get super excited when you see the pictures – from stone hilltop châteaux in the Loire to exclusive villas on windswept cliffs high above the Mediterranean. If they meet your budget and group size, you’re going to be tempted to request availability as soon as possible.
But first, look at the location of the vacation rental property on a map. And if the map they provide isn’t good enough, plug it into Google Maps. Zoom out, zoom in; do whatever it takes to get a good feel for where the property is in relation to the following:
- Arrival/departure airports – will you have to stay overnight in a city in order to make your flight? Are you going to have to waste an entire vacation day in the car picking up visiting Aunt Tilly?
- Public transportation – if the thought of driving in France scares the bejeezis out of you, this may be a factor.
- Major highways – country roads are fun, but not if you’re bumping long on them for an hour every day.
- City/town/village center – do you have visions of walking to get your daily dose of baguette?
- Your must-see/do list – staying in a villa in Bordeaux is lovely, but not if everything you want to see is in Provence.
>>Read about getting around France, including driving in France, train travel in France, airports in France and bus travel in France.
>>Can’t decide where to stay in France? Check out our French cities and regions guide.
Vacation rentals in France run the gamut, from $25,000/week mansions with full staff to $600/week or less for a charming cottage in the off-season. Here are some things to consider when figuring out your budget for this type of lodging:
- How much would a hotel cost in the same location for the same duration?
- Will you be cooking a lot, thereby saving on food costs that can be applied to your target weekly rate?
- How many people are you traveling with? You can get some great per-person deals by renting a larger place and splitting the cost.
- Will you be renting a car? How does that cost affect your overall travel budget?
- Are you going to be staying at the rental every night, or will you be doing overnight trips in other areas?
- What other plans do you have for the trip that might be costly?
This is where you really have to read the vacation property description closely, and get as many pictures of the place as you can. There are many places that say they “sleep 10 people,” but then you show up and it’s two bedrooms, three sofas and an air mattress.
You need to look not only at how many bedrooms it has, but the configuration of each of those bedrooms in relation to whom you’re traveling with. Couples might avoid twin beds, while friends may freak out sharing one larger bed. If you’ve got kids or babies traveling with you, keep in mind their sleeping needs as well.
This is more important than you think. Unlike hotels, you’re going to be spending a lot more time IN your vacation rental, particularly if it is your only destination. Stepping over sleeping bodies to get the coffee started can get annoying after the first couple days.
Capacity considerations are not only about where you lay your head. Is the dining room table big enough? Will there be enough parking for groups with multiple cars? How many bathrooms are there?
>>Renting a place on or near a beach can get everyone out of the house during the day. (A tip I learned growing up on the Jersey Shore!) Take a look at the best beaches in France, and see if you find one you think your group will like.
Making an amenities list is not just wishing for an ideal place; it will help you narrow down your choices, and may also give you a clearer idea of what you want from your vacation in France.
- Do you absolutely need WiFi? How about a place that allows smoking? (Yes, even private homes have these restrictions at the owners’ request.)
- Does it have a TV and DVD for the kids on a rainy day?
- What’s the hot water situation? (If you’ve got 10 people and the hot water runs out after one shower, it’s gonna take you all day to get the troops assembled.)
- It can get brutally hot in the summer, particularly in the South; 100F+ temperatures can last for a full month with no relief. Is air-conditioning a must?
Don’t Get Intimidated!
There are a lot of considerations, as private homes are as unique as their owners. But, this shouldn’t make you shy away from the fantastic experience of renting a vacation property for your next vacation in France.
It’s a true adventure, and gives you a glimpse into what it’s like to live in France more than even the most welcoming bed and breakfast. From picking up the day’s meal at the local market to passing the same neighbors each day to marveling at the settings on a foreign washing machine, vacation rentals make the simple act of living each day part of your holiday experience.
>>Ready to come on over and be French for a while? Check out our tips on flights to France.
>> Still not convinced a vacation rental is right for you? Don’t forget to read about other kinds of accommodation in France.