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Booking into a hotel – boutique or otherwise – is all well and good, and, yes, Airbnb’s are kind of fun and great if you like a surprise. But what about when you just want to trust that the digs you’re picking to rest your weary head (whether you’re off for two weeks in paradise or a last-minute weekend city break) is going to be kitted out properly, with no nasty surprises, and all the comforts of home?

Cue, Stay One Degree. This luxury holiday home rental website bills itself as the answer to many a travellers’ conundrum. Easy to navigate site? Check. Homes around the world, each one offering a luxury vibe – regardless of whether you’re travelling with 2 or 20 companions? Check.

Every home and homeowner on the website is properly vetted – many by Stay One Degree co-founders, Thomas Bennett and Jorge Munoz – but even more interestingly, in order to book any of the properties that catch your eye, you must first reach out and connect with the owner so that a degree of trust is bred on both sides of the holiday-house fence.

Bennett and Munoz are two gents that know the value of time spent with friends and family, at home and abroad, and aren’t afraid to say that wanting the very best experience for the best price is a luxury that everyone should seek out. I spoke to the eloquent duo over coffee, where they filled me in on the vacation spots to make time for and shared a few other top tips for travellers.

Algarve, Olhao
Algarve, Olhao

What are your top recommendations for 2018 holiday spots?

JM: I’m slightly biased as this is my home town, but I would suggest visiting Andalucía in Southern Spain. The cities of Seville, Granada and Cordoba are rich in culture and have stunning architecture. The resort of Sotogrande, boasts stunning beaches and breath-taking views, it also has five of the best golf courses in Europe, including the iconic Valderrama Golf Club. This magical place is also where the concept of Stay One Degree was first born!

TB: We’ve noticed that Sri Lanka has become a popular destination for people wanting a holiday that offers a variety of different experiences, especially with direct flights from Hong Kong. From the tea plantations in Kandy, to Yala National Park for its array of wildlife including elephants, bears and leopards. The South Coast includes the must-visit, Galle Fort, an UNESCO world heritage site and blue-whale watching in Mirissa.

Is there anywhere you think is particularly underrated from a vacation point of view?

TB: Scotland. It isn’t known for its beaches, but the Isle of Lewis is home to the most spectacular white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. Looking at the pictures, you wouldn’t even guess it was Scotland.

JM: Instead of Marrakesh, try Tangier in Morocco. It is fascinating with its unique blend of cultures. This place is buzzing with a thriving café culture, design shops and selection of new restaurants combined with the old Moorish medina and colonial-era neighbourhoods.

Last minute or advance planning – when it comes to using Stay One Degree, is there one way that really makes sense?

TB: When booking a holiday, we definitely recommend planning in advance, especially if it is during the school holidays. Members of Stay One Degree can check availability of the homes in their trusted network, price and connect with the home owner to ask them about the best times to visit, location etc. 
For travel inspiration we have the Stay One Degree online magazine, the Journal, written by our members for our members, and including top travel tips, the best places to visit and profiles with our home owners. 
Also, we’ll soon be introducing a feed announcing new homes and discounts of up to 50% offered by our home owners. With homes in 42 countries, it is worth checking regularly to see if there are any last-minute getaway deals!

Villa Co di Casle, Umbria
Villa Co di Casle, Umbria

The most unique property you have on the site. What is it?

JM: Each property is so unique, it is hard to pick just one! But, one of my favourites is a beautifully restored 18th-century Italian farmhouse in the countryside of Umbria. The owner transformed a ruin with no roof or floors into a stunning family home – so much time and love has been put into this property.

TB: I’d have to choose the award-winning Eco House that my family and I stayed in during our trip around New Zealand, when we first tested the concept of Stay One Degree. The home was designed and built by University of Victoria architectural students, and won first place in an international engineering competition in Washington. The home is now permanently located overlooking the white sands of Waimarama Beach. The house includes a cleverly designed drop down bunk bed, which my children loved!

You have properties from over 40 countries; anywhere yet to be added that you’d love to see?

JM: For the ultimate escape, I’d love to include a property from Patagonia in South America.

TB: For me, it would be closer to home. I think Malaysia for its culture and food!

Give us an insider tip from one of your favourite holiday destinations

JM: Again, it must be in Spain. My perfect day would be a round of golf at the renowned Valderrama Golf Club, followed by dinner at the exclusive restaurant by Dani Garcia, BiBo Marbella.

TB: The Loft Club in Japan’s ski resort Niseko, has the best lamb. Another gem is a secluded place in Annupuri called Rakuichi Soba, this place gets really busy so make sure you get there by 11am to get a seat.

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