Ahhhhh, yes. A room with a view. Onsite indulgences (think spa treatments and golf lessons). Gourmet meals cooked for you. These are the things heavenly resort vacations are made of. But what if you’re craving that kind of experience yet have come to prefer renting your own private accommodations? Let us present . . . the upgraded home rental.
Here’s the thing: In this on-demand world, much of what we wish for in a top-notch resort can be arranged privately—for a fee. Whether you’re planning a splurgy family getaway or an indulgent trip with friends, here’s how to make up for the past two years of wanderlust and turn your home-rental vacation into a resort-like escape.
Step One: Prepare to Spend Some Money
This, my friends, is no ordinary vacation. No—we’re proposing all the fancy fixings of a lavish holiday, only in the comfort of (someone else’s) home.
Step Two: Book an Ultra-Luxe Home in Just the Right Destination
Scenic or sceney, vistas or in vogue—which-ever is your style, Airbnb and VRBO both have a Rolodex of A-list properties. The homes are often in chic international destinations—Tuscany, Bali, and the Swiss Alps were among the spots that first popped up in a recent search—though there are domestic options as well, including Austin, Texas; Cape Cod; and the California coast.
We’re talking an oversize villa with expansive private grounds, a seaside hideaway with an infinity pool, or a luxe cabin with a hot tub and a snowy mountain view. Boasting four or more bedrooms, these properties come with dreamy prices, too: For example, a new five-bedroom house in Palm Springs with an indoor/outdoor living room, a “resort” pool, and mountain vistas was recently available for about $1,000 a night. Grab a few friends and split that by room, then prepare to shell out for upgrading the amenities.
Step Three: Hire a Private Chef
One of the perks of renting a home is access to a fully equipped kitchen, but you wouldn’t prep dinner or do dishes at a resort. A growing number of companies cater to the vacationing rental-house crowd, though the idea isn’t new. Kitchen Witch Catering, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, for example, has been offering in-home catering by the day or the week for 30 years. Gather & Forge, in Austin, can deliver ready-to-enjoy charcuterie boards, set up a crawfish boil, or provide a full-time, by-the-week private chef. They, and others like them, can also prepare drop-off meals that vacationers can reheat.
No Worries Private Chefs, in California, says its typical rate for three meals a day starts around $150 a person. And Table at Home, an online platform where customers can find private chefs in their budget (think less a catering company and more like a concierge connecting customers to chefs), started in DC in 2018 and now serves nearly a dozen locations across the country, including New York, San Diego, Chicago, and Nashville. According to the website, a typical budget for a multi-course dinner for eight begins at about $80 a person, but costs vary and tighter budgets can often be accommodated. If you don’t want to enlist the help of a private chef for the entire week, you could make your own meals most of the time and then splurge on a one-night dinner party.
You’ll have to get a little more creative if you want a bartender and all-day drink service. What can we say? Some resort amenities are harder to replicate.
Step Four: Bring the Spa to You
Blowouts, massages, manicures—there are apps and people (such as Airbnb’s “trip designers” on the company’s luxury portal)—that will arrange resort-like spa services. The trick is finding the right app for your destination and desire. Beauty-focused ones such as Glamsquad, which operates around the country, offer blowouts, haircuts, mani-pedis, and professional makeup application, whereas more wellness-focused apps such as Zeel have massages, physical therapy, and even onsite Covid testing. Priv will hook you up with private onsite yoga, Pilates classes, spray tans, and more. See? It’s just like being a resort guest.
Step Five: Consider Other Five-Star Perks
If the thought of getting into an unmade bed (or, er, making it yourself) has you longing for the amenities of a high-end hotel, consider asking the rental company for recommendations of housekeeping services that can be arranged throughout your stay.
If it’s the ambience of a resort that you crave, enlist the services of a local musician—maybe an acoustic guitarist or a string trio—while you dine on that special dinner. An acoustic guitarist on The Bash, a booking website for gig musicians, starts at $150 per event in the Bethany Beach area. Nightlife fans who really want to go big can even get a silent disco setup brought to them by companies such as Vox DJ in California. Yes, it’s a different vibe, but it’s a different kind of trip.
Crafting your own concierge experience isn’t for everyone—if it sounds like too much work, there are, ahem, resorts. But if you’re up for the planning and coordination and you don’t mind going without a few perks (did someone say swim-up bar?), there are more creative options now than ever.
Maybe you’re thinking: Who would spend the kind of cash it takes to turn a vacation rental into a mini-resort? Truth is, it’s not as pricey as you might think. In fact, you might even save money.
Although many Airbnb renters don’t opt for three catered meals a day—let alone with hired music—here are two apples-to-apples budgets, for comparison.
Sample costs for a luxury all-inclusive resort in Mexico:
Seven nights in a double-occupancy room, all meals and most activities included
Two 50-minute massages, including tips
Total per couple: $5,015
Sample costs to turn a fancy five-bedroom house rental in Palm Springs into a resort-like experience:
Room per couple, assuming five couples split the $7,000-a-week rate
$150 per day per person for three meals (including cleanup)
Cost per couple to arrange for acoustic music during each of the seven dinners
Two onsite massages, including tax and gratuities
Total per couple: $4,130
This article appears in the February 2022 issue of Washingtonian.