When it comes to organising a villa holiday, you can do all the research you like — on the location, the best local restaurants, whether there’s little or no noise.
But, if you are going in a group, this can all be in vain unless you remember one equally important factor — room envy.
It’s all very well booking somewhere with hypnotic views and romantic sunsets. But if half of your party are seething over your master bedroom mega-suite because they’ve ended up with a shoebox overlooking the car park, then there will be an atmosphere — and not the sort you had in mind.
Perfect location: Cap de Formentor and its beach, a favourite spot for filming
I once booked a French villa for a dozen old university friends only to find that two couples had connived at getting through the door first.
One pair even flew in a day early to stay at a hotel next to the letting agent and to lay first claim to the keys. It became rather like the race for the South Pole.
By the time I arrived, only the shoebox remained. Yet it was a hollow victory for the winners. Having nabbed what they imagined to be the best room, they soon found they were billetted just above the hi-fi and a very whiffy drain.
So, inspect the layout as carefully as the view.
That was certainly my approach when seeking a villa big enough for two families in Majorca, king of the Balearic Islands. There would be ten of us — four adults and six children aged from 15 down to seven. I wanted to make sure all five rooms were not only roughly the same size but that, if one room had air conditioning, then the others should, too.
Fortunately, James Villas are experts in their field. Over many years, they have hand-picked more than 3,000 villas of every size in 60 different destinations, most with private pools and everything you are going to need.
As well as a ‘classic’ range, James have ‘signature’ villas with what they call an extra ‘wow’ factor plus a ‘luxury’ range which lies at the top end of the market.
I have always liked Majorca’s northern coast. We opted for the Son Duri, a ‘signature’ villa with a beautifully maintained garden around a big pool a couple of miles from the beach resort of Ca’n Picafort, an hour’s drive from Palma airport.
There was what was clearly a master bedroom, with a fabulous first-floor open terrace with great views, but all the other rooms were of a similar size. All had air con and lots of storage. No one would feel hard done-by. And what’s more, we did not overlook another soul.
Having arrived late on a Saturday night, there was another important touch: a proper welcome pack. With some rentals, you arrive to find a teabag and half a loo roll to last until Monday morning.
Robert and his family at Son Duri villa, which has a beautifully maintained garden around a big pool
James Villas, however, provide what you actually want — tea, coffee, milk, soap, binliners, lots of water, bread, butter and, crucially, beer and wine.
That first drink on the terrace, however late it may be, is one of life’s great delights — though I did jump out of my skin when the garden sprinkler system suddenly exploded into life at midnight (top tip: do not leave your half-finished holiday book on the grass).
Even on a Sunday, there were freshly stocked supermarkets while, for most of the week, there would be a market going on somewhere on the island. And when Majorca has a market, it is like an army taking over an entire town.
Do not do what I did on our first market expedition, dropping off my family on the edge of Arta and saying: ‘I’ll just find a parking spot and meet you at the cheese stall.’
There were hundreds of stalls lining dozens of winding streets, and it took nearly an hour to round up all the children.
One of the prettiest places in this part of Majorca is the medieval town of Pollenca. Watch the bustle of the main square over a drink and then walk to Bar Nou for platefuls of meatballs, squid and lamb in the cool of an ancient townhouse.
For beaches, we had plenty of options (and no trouble with parking) along the vast sandy crescents around Ca’n Picafort and Port de Pollenca.
Robert’s villa was located a couple of miles from the beach resort of Ca’n Picafort (pictured)
The latter is at the foot of the mighty Cap de Formentor, a seven-mile long slab of rock which rises a thousand feet above the sea.
It has inspired everyone from Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie to the producers of 2016 hit drama, The Night Manager, which was mainly set in La Fortaleza private villa. But the children were just as happy sploshing around in the pool while the grown-ups flipped sausages and steaks on the huge grill built into a brick garden wall.
Son Duri has the perfect, shady spot for big family meals around a long table beneath a bougainvillea-draped portico (and a kitchen with all the kit, not least a very busy dishwasher).
With no room envy and lots of space, everyone got on famously. And there was no one around to be annoyed when the children put on their own noisy ‘Majorca’s Got Talent’ production at the end of the week.
Or was there? All of a sudden, I heard a strange thrashing sound on the other side of the garden wall. Perhaps we had upset someone.
I looked over the wall to find two sheep launching themselves at the fruit on the overhanging branches of our fig tree. They were the only neighbours we saw all week.
Robert and family travelled with James Villas. Seven nights at Son Duri costs from £349 pp based on four sharing, including flights from Gatwick (jamesvillas.co.uk, 0808 159 8315).