Booking an Over-the-top Stay Like This Can Help You Score Insider Perks You Can't Get Any Other Way

Private villas have long promised exclusivity and luxury. Now, a whole-home booking is also the easiest way to score insider perks you couldn’t otherwise.

A boat in turquoise water off the coast of St Bart's
The island’s enticing shoreline. Photo:

Richard Broadwell/Alamy

How’s this for a first-world problem: You and a group of friends have blown the budget on a spectacular villa in St. Bart’s, but instead of turning into one long house party, the stay feels a little ... quiet. Yes, the views are unrivaled, and competition for poolside loungers has never been less of an issue. But up in your über-luxe bubble, the island’s electric social scene feels far away.

A bedroom in a rental villa in St Bart's
One of six bedrooms at Villa Rockstar, on St. Bart’s.

Courtesy of Oetker Collection

Enter Villa Rockstar, one of a new generation of rental properties that, in addition to space and privacy, offer the key to something less tangible — in this case, St. Bart’s party scene. Guests at the six-bedroom beachfront property, part of the 150-villa collection of Eden Rock–St Barths, can avail themselves of priority reservations at the hotel’s ever-buzzing Sand Bar Restaurant, where the menu is from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the interiors are by designer-to-name-drop Martin Brudnizki.

Want to step things up and invite 50 friends over for a pirate-themed cocktail around your 65-foot private pool or charter a yacht to party on? Both can be arranged. Perhaps you need help snagging the hottest table in town, the famed Sunday lunch at celebrity hangout Nikki Beach. Your villa concierge team will jump right on it.

A dj at the turntables in St Bart
New Year’s Eve at Nikki Beach, on St. Bart’s.

Romain Maurice/Getty Images

If, for some reason, the Eden Rock staff isn’t able to secure a booking, general manager Fabrice Moizan will step in. “If the reservations team can’t make it happen,” he tells me, “Boom, I’m going to call the manager.”

Next-level services like these are part of a rapidly growing phenomenon, says Keith Waldon, the founder of luxury travel agency Departure Lounge and a member of T+L’s Travel Advisory Board. “VIP villa concierges are stepping into the role of hotel concierge,” he explains. “But they’re creating custom experiences at an even higher, more exclusive level.”

Take Florence, for example, a city prized for its Renaissance art and architecture. Last summer, Departure Lounge became one of the first agencies to work with ETRA, which has three flawlessly designed rental apartments in a just-restored art nouveau building on the Piazza del Duomo.

People in an open air space at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy
Florence, where booking the right rental can unlock exclusive experiences.

Getty Images

Owners Davide Miglino and Mimma Chiarini have contacts that Waldon describes as “extraordinary.” Perhaps you’re planning a special anniversary dinner — or even a marriage proposal. “If you want a private dinner in the Boboli Gardens with a recital by Andrea Bocelli, we can do that,” Miglino says.

After-hours visits to museums and other historic spaces are also just a WhatsApp message away. “We can have our guests walking alone in the Vasari Corridor at the Uffizi,” Miglino says, referring to the recently reopened passageway that runs across the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the Arno River.

Rentals offering such personalized access are popping up all over, from guided skiing and ice- climbing for guests of the Cuvée villa portfolio in Telluride, Colorado, to the roster of pre- and post-party services at the new Casa Privada, a 14-room villa at The Standard, Ibiza. As Waldon says, “These stays hinge on things that clients would not be able to book themselves.”

A version of this story first appeared in the March 2023 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline “All Yours.”

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