The Internet has long been a great resource for listings, descriptions, and photos of properties travelers can rent—from grand country estates to metropolitan apartments. But how do you know which of the many sites out there have the perfect villa in Provence or the quintessential Caribbean hideaway?Here, our picks for the best rental sites.
INVENTORY Worldwide (emphasis on France and Italy)
BOOKING 800/323-7308, or on-line
THE LOWDOWN This U.K.-based site, from Abercrombie & Kent, focuses on luxury properties—there are even a few castles on the list. Each rental is checked out by a company representative and rated on three points, from comfortable to ultra-luxurious.
INVENTORY France, Italy, Spain
THE LOWDOWN Tons of information and pictures showcase the company's well-edited selection of luxury rentals. Staff members travel to Europe every year to inspect new acquisitions and review older inventory. The services of a local English-speaking host (up to 12 hours a week) are included.
INVENTORY Throughout Europe
BOOKING 800/726-6702, or on-line
THE LOWDOWN Villas on this easy-to-use site are company-inspected and given ratings (one to five stars) in seven categories—from ambience to location to amenities. There are helpful reviews from previous guests in categories such as Enjoyed Most and Unpleasant Surprises.
INVENTORY Worldwide (emphasis on the United States)
BOOKING 888/903-7768, or on-line
THE LOWDOWN The new site from Hotels.com has a wide range of villas and, more commonly, apartments and condos. Each property is examined and rated (one to five stars) on amenities, service, and location. The Vacation Ideas feature matches properties to your preferred activities.
PROPERTIES More than 3,000
BOOKING 888/728-4552, or on-line
THE LOWDOWN Good photos and descriptions of these company-inspected rentals, one of which is Mick Jagger's six-bedroom beachside bungalow on Mustique (from $13,000 a week). You must first register with an e-mail address to check on availability.
PROPERTIES More than 1,200
INVENTORY The Caribbean, Europe
BOOKING 800/932-3222, or on-line
THE LOWDOWN St. Bart's is a specialty of this 22-year-old company. Staff members visit each property before it's offered for rental. The search function allows prospective renters to choose villas by size and look for houses with a pool or kid-friendly facilities. E-mail registration required to book.
*For a seven-day rental