Family holiday hotel vs villa – questions to ask before booking a villa

Guess who’s back? Back from Spain. Father Hood. Tell a friend. Actually, tell more than one friend. Tell every mum and dad you know. Because, along with sunburnt shoulders, mild gout and an empty bank account, I’ve returned from Ibiza with a bunch of insights that will help parents solve the classic ‘family holiday hotel vs villa’ conundrum.

Remember when booking a family holiday was simple and stress-free? Of course, you don’t. The second you begin planning a break with kids is the second the questions start. Bed & breakfast or self-catering? Fly or drive? Long haul or short haul? Is it worth giving an all-inclusive resort a try? Can I really get away with wearing those swimming shorts? All these queries deserve discussion, but, in this article, the one I want to focus on is: hotel vs villa.

Family holiday hotel vs villa

After four or five holidays in hotels over the last three years, my wife, son and I decided to book a villa for our recent family holiday in Ibiza. This was partly due to price (by the time we got around to booking, hotel rooms in Ibiza in August were ridiculously expensive), but mainly down to the fact that we were holidaying with some other family members and a villa seemed like the best way to suit everyone’s needs.

And do you know what? It was a great week that provided me with lots of laughs, dozens of Instagram snaps and loads of insight into the six questions that mums and dads need to ask before selecting the villa option.

Want to know what they are? Great, then here goes…

1. Can I be bothered with the hassle?

The clue is in the title, but when you sign up to a self-catering villa holiday you sign up to shopping for food and household essentials, cooking meals, cleaning up the food your kid has dropped on the floor, changing the bedsheets, washing dishes and taking out the rubbish. For some parents, this will be no big deal. For others, it will be. If you’re in the latter camp, you’re probably best to book a hotel.

2. How deep is the pool?

A swimming pool is a swimming pool is a swimming pool, right? Wrong. Pools at hotels tend to be pretty big and have a) lifeguards and b) a kids’ area or sizeable shallow end. The fact that our villa pool didn’t have lifeguards won’t surprise anyone. But the fact that the shallow end was around 5-foot deep and I could only stand with my head above water in one-third of the pool might.

I appreciate that this isn’t an issue if your kids can swim competently, but right now the Bubster is only capable of swimming a few metres, so it made playing in the pool extremely tricky and hugely stressful. My suggestion? Learn from my mistake. Ask about the pool depth before you book.

3. How close is the nearest beach?

This is extremely important for two reasons. First, kids like going to the beach. Second, kids like going to the beach.

4. What time is our flight home?

On the face of it, a 10am villa check out time doesn’t seem too bad. After all, hotels make you check out at 11am. This is true. But here’s the thing. Hotels have both a left luggage facility and a room that you can change and shower in later in the day. Villas have neither. Thus, if your flight is in the evening you will need to a) pack your own towels and find a beach with showers, b) pack your own towels and hit a water park, c) accept the fact that you will be sandy and dirty on the flight or d) plan a final day that doesn’t involve sand or water.

5. Is my kid likely to break stuff?

When you are staying in a hotel, your kid smashing the odd bowl, staining the odd carpet or shoving his or her foot through the odd painting doesn’t tend to matter. When you are staying in a villa, it does. Why? Because most villa owners ask for up-front deposits, that’s why.

6. How many kids are going to be there?

If the answer is three or more, a villa should work perfectly for your party. If it’s two or one, a hotel is the better option. I say this, because the more kids there are, the more chance there is that your kid will find someone to play independently with, giving you the opportunity to relax.

Until next time…


  1. One further thing….if you are going down the villa route, how close are the shops. if they’re far off, you are also signing up to hiting a car. Interesting comments re pool depth too. The place we have just got back from had a very erm, ‘interesting’, pool. Gradual depth change then wham, huge depth change!

    • Good point re: the shops. Yeah, pool depth isn’t something I’d considered before, but it really did make a big difference to how relaxed we felt when letting the Bubster go near or in the water. Hope you had a good break

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