Renting a vacation home or villa is an established option for family vacations. The destination clubs provide a full service alternative for discerning families. The key differences are covered here.

Destination Club Beach Home
Destination Club Beach Home

Renting a home or villa provides access to unlimited locations world-wide. But despite this, many one-time villa renters end up joining destination clubs. In fact, at least two destination clubs were started because their founders had poor vacation rental experiences. So the clubs they founded provide a high level, more consistent vacation experience for their members to relax and enjoy their valuable and limited vacation time. So why the switch? As always, there are pros and cons to both sides. If you are deciding between renting a vacation home and joining a destination club, read through the factors below before making your choice.

Concierge & Service

Destination clubs have a concierge service available to all members anytime of the year-many clubs make this service available whether you're vacationing with the club or at any other time you need them. Personal concierges assist members in all aspects of vacation planning, they will book tickets, arrange travel and all activities. Once the member arrives at their destination, local hosts are available night and day to assist in any vacation need. This includes making reservations for excursions, dinning out, tee-times, arranging babysitting, tennis lessons, etc.

Villa rentals are not as consistent. If renting from a local or national/international luxury rental agency in the destination you want to visit, concierge services may be available at that destination-be sure to ask first. Chances are you'll be on your own to figure out the best places to eat, shop and play. If you have plenty of time and enjoy the planning and research, then villa rentals can be the way to go, but for many families this kind of planning can be stressful and takes up valuable family time.

Multiple Locations

Renting a home or a villa allows the selection of an enormous variety of locations in pretty much any country, city or resort that you want to visit. You can also choose the size of the accommodation to fit your plans, so a couple can choose to rent a one bedroom suite or a large family group can select a multi bedroom house. You can also adjust your budget to fit the occasion or your travel plans - for that big anniversary celebration you may want to book the presidential suite, but for the family summer break a more relaxing residence will suffice.

This huge selection and huge choice has its downsides - how do you find the right one. To be honest it can take a lot of time and be a big hassle to find an appropriate home in a particular location. Many families may rent the same vacation home for several years, simply because they know what they are getting and they don't want to spend the time looking for alternatives.

While destination clubs don't offer the almost infinite selection that the rental market provides, they do offer a lot of choice. The larger clubs have homes in 30 to 50 locations, and even the smaller clubs typically have 10 or more destinations, with a mix of mountain, beach, city and leisure properties. As membership numbers grow so do the home choices, and club management listen to member requests for new locations and accommodates when feasible.

Quality & Consistency

The biggest challenge with Villa rentals is consistency in quality. If you rent through an established, reputable, luxury rental company you're much more likely to receive an accurate upfront description and quality images. With a good rental company you'll then find that the actual villa meets your needs, is located where stated and has all the amenities that a discerning traveler would expect. If you're renting on more of a freelance basis then the results can be a lot more variable. What you think will be a prime property and location may not turn out to be quite as nice as you anticipated. One tip, ask for the actual address of the villa, so that even if you can't visit in person beforehand, you can look for it on Google Maps and truly see what's near by.

Destination club members can expect and demand a higher level of consistent quality in their homes, decorations, furnishings, kitchen utilities and supplies, high-tech equipment, etc. If something goes wrong, there's someone to call to rectify the situation.

Villa rentals are used as is. If you don't like the outdated, sagging floral couch there is nothing you can do about it. Destination clubs keep their homes up to date. Most clubs are only a few years old to start with, so the homes are newly fitted and the indications are that the clubs are maintaining their homes really well.

For many people, the last thing they want to do is arrive on their hard earned vacation, only to find that the home itself is less than ideal for their family.


One of the perks of belonging to a destination club is that they will personalize the home before you even arrive. All the clubs stock shelves with the food you like, will place your favorite flowers throughout the house, and some will use digital images of friends and family in digital picture frames. Just as importantly, the club will get to learn your travel preferences, for instance whether you travel with kids or without kids, what sort of restaurants you like, are you a golfer, a skier, do you love fishing, what's your favorite spa treatment - all this helps them tailor services to your vacation preferences.

Some of the better rental agencies will arrange some of these services, such as stocking the pantry or bringing in private chefs, but if you're setting up the trip on your own then it's up to you to arrange all those nice touches.

Destination Club Mountain Home
Destination Club Mountain Home

Availability & Exclusivity

One of the reasons people like destination clubs so much is because they are exclusive, and the homes are only available to members. Members are not sharing the property with random renters or fighting for reservations with outside sources. Each club has an easy to use, fair and accessible reservation system. Most reservation policies include a rotating system for holidays and peak seasons as well as offering space available days for more spontaneous travel accommodations. Over the course of a year, club residences are only occupied about 60% to 70% of the time, allowing for more booking flexibility. To maintain the availability, clubs do limit the block of time that members can stay in one home. This varies from club to club and season to season, with the maximum being from one week to three weeks at a time.

Villa rentals are non-exclusive and as a result offer no consistency in quality or availability. It can sometimes take hours researching locations and finding the perfect place to stay. Once you find a place, you still have to contend with countless other renters for available space. However, there is no limit to the amount of time you can stay. As long as you are willing to pay, you can stay provided the home is available.

Cost & Commitment

For families that do rentals, one of the beauties of villa and vacation home rentals is that there's no long-term commitment. You find a place, you pay for it, you go on vacation and then move on. You are not financially committed for the longer term.

For members of destination clubs the long-term commitment on both sides, is part of the appeal of the clubs. Just like joining any club or society there's an emotional as well as a financial commitment. As a member you're more likely to look after the club homes and treat them as your own, because these homes are the vacation homes for you and the other members. Equally the club itself has a long-term commitment to provide you and your family with great vacation experiences in fabulous residences. It's the long-term nature of these relationships that allows the club to get to know you and your family and your travel preferences.

To rent a home comparable to a destination club home you would pay anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000 per week - depending on the home and the time of year. Joining a destination club you'll pay from $17,000 to $500,000 as an initial fee. Some of this may be refundable when you leave, depending on the club membership structure (read this article to learn about equity clubs and rental clubs). You'll also pay annual dues of $3,000 to over $50,000 depending on the club, and potentially daily fees that vary depending on how many days you want to travel. Membership plans provide from 7 to 60 nights of travel per year. Compare the clubs in our destination clubs comparison table and read about the equivalent cost per night for destination clubs.

The table below summarizes some of the key differences.

 Costs Initial Fee, Annual & daily (sometimes) Weekly Rental Fee
 Full Service Yes Rarely
 Personalization Yes Rarely
 Multiple Locations Yes Yes, Numerous
 Commitment Club Membership None
 Consistency Yes No
 Exclusiveness Yes No

The Bottom Line

If you want the flexibility to go literally anywhere in the world, and you enjoy doing the research and have the time to do the research to find the right places to stay, then villa rentals are a better option.

If you want to know in advance, before you step on the plane or climb in the car, that your vacation residence will be just as you expect. And if you don't have the time to spend hours doing the research to find the ideal place to stay, or the time to plan your trip activities, then a destination club is a better option.

For a full comparison of destination clubs compared to luxury hotels, private residence clubs and villa rentals, download and read our in-depth "Guide to Destination Clubs."