A common theme of this blog is that you need to be flexible and plan early in order to exchange into great timeshares. This general strategy is key to making great exchanges and truly maximizing timeshare ownership.
While I firmly stand by this general rule, there are times when some great exchanges or getaways become available at the last minute. Sometimes other travelers cancel at the last moment or the exchange company releases inventory at the last minute hoping that someone will fill an empty room.
I am sure that we all know that Christmas vacation is happening next week so most of the world will likely be traveling. Scoring a christmas week in a luxurious destination is generally difficult which is why you need to put in requests as soon as possible, generally at least one year in advance.
While planning in advance is absolutely key, one of my favorite timeshare strategies that I employ when I do not get a week through requesting early is through the use of booking a hotel and searching timeshares that get released at the last moment.
The general strategy is as follows when I do not get the desired resort or week:
1. Book a hotel at the destination that you desire to travel to. Try to get the best rate possible or ideally book with points. Make sure that the reservation can be cancelled 24 hours in advance. Booking with points is generally ideal as they can likely be cancelled 24 hours before check-in. Additionally, even if this strategy does not work, the vacation would be free!
2. Put in a Interval International Getaway alert for the desired timeshare week. If and when something becomes available, it will alert you. Book immediately if it is at a comfortable price book. Do not wait, as these will disappear in seconds!
3. Constantly search for exchanges up until the very last minute where you can cancel your hotel reservation.
As stated, Interval International and RCI will sometimes release very desireable resorts for key weeks at the the very last second. Here are a couple that I found this morning.
A prime ski week in Park City for less than $500 for the week!
While I strongly advocate planning far in advance, there are times that great weeks and destinations become available at the last minute. These last minute deals can be a fantastic value especially if you were prepared to book a hotel room.
I have personally used this strategy many times and have easily saved thousands of dollars for booking a getaway instead of a the hotel stay. In addition to saving money, we are generally happier with the additional space and cooking facilities.
Specifically, I was able to use this strategy in St. Kitts. The Marriott hotel and timeshare are part of the same complex. We booked hotel rooms for approximately $2500 per room but kept looking for availability through Interval International. We were able to book a 2 bedroom timeshare for approximately $1,000 for the week at the last minute, saving us $1500 and giving us a 2 bedroom units instead of a small hotel room.
In conclusion, BOOK EARLY but if that does not work out, have a plan to keep searching. You could be very surprised with some last minute availability!
Timeshares are great for getting great accomodations for relatively little cost. However, the cost to get to your destination should not be overlooked. While there are plenty of opportunties to get great timeshare weeks for absurdly low prices, getting to those destinations can be really expensive.
I am always suprised that when I speak to people while traveling, they are generally familiar with frequent flyer miles but don't focus on acquiring them since they do not travel a lot for work. This is a very common misconception.
The truth is that I use to travel for work and accumulated a decent amount of miles but there are actually much, much better ways to accumulate miles that do not invovle traveling at all. This may be very basic to some people but the vast amount of miles that I collect come from sources completely unrelated to flying.
The easiest and best way to collect miles is through credit card sign up bonus. Credit card companies offer tremendous bonuses in order to entice you to sign up for their credit card. There are tons of great opportunities to gain tons of miles that allow you to get free flights, free hotels, upgrades, club access, free global entry and more.
For example, one of the newest cards that is being offered by Chase is called the Chase Sapphire Reserve. They are currently offering 100,000 bonus points to get the card. The details are below.
This is just one example of some tremendous credit card sign up bonuses that are available. 100,000 bonus points can get you a minimum of 4 free domestic tickets (potentially even more with Southwest) or even more value through various transfer opportunities. At the very least, you can redeem them for travel worth $1500. There are better ways to redeem the points but they are essentially giving you $1500 of free travel just for getting the card.
Yes, there is a $450 annual fee but they give you $300 annual credit for travel (essentially cash) and $100 for Global Entry. The perks of this particular card actually justify the annual fee. Other cards may not justify the annual fee so you need to make sure that you are getting sufficient value from these credit cards before you apply and pay annual fees.
The goal of this blog is to show you how to travel in luxury for a fraction of the cost of retail purchases of vacations. Timeshares can give you access to great accomodations that are simply out of budget for most people.
Despite the poor reputation, timeshares are actually a hidden gem in travel.
However, as stated in many posts, the are not for everyone and can be difficult to understand the various programs and you need to plan ahead.
The point of this post is that you need to accumulate frequent flyer miles in order to give you the additional flexibility to be able to use timeshares. Frequent Flyer miles can be complex as well but they are very important in order to be able to travel for free or at least get to some wonderful destinations for a fraction of the airfare prices.
Flexibility is key in planning timeshare vacations. Additionally, one of the best things about using frequent flyer miles is that you can travel to exotic locations without worrying about the price of the ticket.
Frequent flyer miles can give you the travel to places that are simply cost prohibitive.
The combination of using timeshares and frequent flyer miles allows me to travel to wonderful destinations that would simply be unaffordable. Travel is extremely expensive these days as airfares keep going up and hotel prices become exhorbinant.
There are many ways to maximize timeshare ownership but in order to be able to truly maximize timeshare ownership, you need to have the ability to get to the final destination without breaking the bank. If airfare is too expensive, the fact that you can stay a week in a caribbean destination for $500 becomes irrelevant.
The ability to get free airfare for my family through accumulating frequent flyer miles is an important tool and strategy to be able to travel .
In other posts, we can explore additional ways to earn miles but there are tons of opportunities to get frequent flyer miles through non-travel.
Traveling is actually one of the worst ways to quickly accumulate miles!
While this is not an extensive list, you can obtain frequent flyer miles through the following:
1. Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses;
2. Credit Card use;
3. Rental Cars;
4. Hotel stays;
5. Online shopping;
6. Retail shopping;
7. Dining out;
8. Signing up for TV, Satellite, Cell phones, etc.
Again, the point of this blog is to show you how to maximize timeshare ownership but it also my goal to show you how to travel in luxury on a budget. If you are unfamiliar with frequent flyer miles, now is the time to begin to learn the basics on how to acquire them and how to use them to your advantage.
Timeshares and frequent flyer miles are complementary tools that can allow you to travel to awesome destinations without worrying about cost.
Stay tuned for additional posts on great ways to get frequent flyer miles and great ways to redeem them!
We recently stayed at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Hyatt Ziva is a relatively new concept by Hyatt which caters to family travelers. Next door is the Hyatt Zilara which is the adults only portion. All Hyatt Ziva/Zilara's are all inclusive resorts.
We traveled with our two kids (ages 6 and 4) and had a wonderful time. We had a one bedroom oceanfront butler suite which was nice.
The first question that you must be asking is why I am reviewing a hotel when I am The Timeshare Guru. The answer is that first, timeshares do not always work for traveling. While I definitely prefer timeshares to hotels, timeshares sometimes simply do not work due to locations, flights, availability, amount of points or lack of points, etc. In this particular vacation, we stayed 8 nights so it would have been difficult, but not impossible, to reserve a 1 week vacation and tack on a day. Sometimes tacking on one day can work but can be very expensive.
Second, Hyatt recently entered into a franchise agreement with Playa Resorts to manage their properties and the Hyatt Ziva / Zilara concept is what emerged. Playa Resorts offered timeshare/memberships to their program and existing members can still book into Hyatt Ziva / Zilara properties. We will cover the various intracies of booking through existing members in other posts. Essentially, timeshare/membership participants of the Playa Resorts do have options to book the Hyatt Ziva/Zilara hotels.
Additionally, the Hyatt Zilara Cancun and the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos can actually be booked through Interval International. In other posts, we will detail the Playa Resorts program as well as whether booking through Interval and paying the mandatory fees makes financial sense as opposed to booking directly.
The food at the resort was fantastic. There are tons of restaurant options.
The Hyatt Zilara which is really a part of the overall resort offers even more options. Since it is adult only, you cannot bring your children. Here are the options at the Hyatt Zilara portion.
As you can see, they offer the standard buffet, which was actually very good, Asian cuisine, brazil cuisine, a English style pub, deli, French cuisine, Jamaican cuisine and others.
We stayed in an 1 bedroom Oceanfront Butler Suite. This suite was in the older building so the rooms were not extensively renovated as the other parts of the hotel. Some parts of the hotel are brand new which has very nice modern/contemporary furnishings. Our room has the basic, old luxury feel. It was fine but not as nice as other hotels or timeshares that we have stayed at.
The 1 bedroom suite was spacious (for hotel standards) and had 2 bathrooms and a separate bedroom and living area. There were two balconies, one ocean front and the other looking over the pool area.
While the room was spacious, I still highly prefer our timeshares! The one bedroom timeshares units with full kitchens that we have stayed in are generally far superior to this room.
As stated, we traveled with our 4 and 6 year old. The resort offers the Kidz Club which is included in the all inclusive package. The Kidz Club was fantastic. The staff, especially Sonia and Monica, were fantastic and really cared for the kids. They have a decent size indoor Kidz Club with TV’s, playground, games, etc. as well as a separate Game Room located in a different building.
The Game Room was geared more toward older kids with foosball, air hockey and Xbox’s. The Kidz club was really fantastic in that they did activities throughout the day. They went out and took the kids to feed fish, build sandcastles, do arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, swimming, etc. They rarely stayed in the Kidz Club for more than 1 hour. It was great that the kids could get out and do activities as well instead of being indoors most of the day.
As part of our 1 bedroom suite, we had Butler Service. I have never had Butler service at any hotel so I was kind of expecting this to a be more of a marketing pitch than really something special. I have to say that I surprised and that it really made a difference in our enjoyment. They give you a phone where you can call your Butler throughout the day.
Our butlers, Ryan and Ricardo, were fantastic. They would call us in the morning to find our what we were planning and got us chairs at the pool, made reservations, brought kids snacks (without asking), checked in with the kids to make sure they were happy at the Kidz Club and brought a cooler to where we were sitting with cold water, beer and anything else that we wanted.
One of the biggest perks of having a Butler was that they would bring food to you at the pool or beach. If you did not have a Butler, the hotel did not offer food service at either location and you had to eat at the restaurant.
Our Butlers would bring snacks to room everyday at 5pm so the kids could have a snack before dinner. They also prepared the room for our kids birthday as a special surprise and left pieces of cake.
The beach was just okay. I was disappointed in the beach since the water was very rough. The have man-made rocks in front of the beach to make the water calmer but it was still rough. It could have just been this time of year but I anticipate that it like that year round. The sand was nice but overall, there are much nicer beaches in other destinations. I would not recommend this resort if you really enjoy the beach. There are far more superior options available.
The resort was doing major construction on one beach at the time of the trip were somewhat effected the scenery and relaxation.
The pools were very nice. They had two pools at the Hyatt Ziva (one upper and one lower) and one pool at the Hyatt Zilara. The pools were nice but were quite chilly. The upper pool had a swim up bar.
The resort also had two hot tubs at the Ziva side and one at the Zilara side. The Ziva hot tubs were barely warm and one was shut down for the construction. We were told that after construction, the hot tubs would actually be hot. This was disappointed as it was not very hot during our stay and the pools were really too cold to enjoy it.
Overall, our family had a fantastic time at the resort. The food was plentiful and delicious and the drinks were good and free flowing. The beach was a bit of a disappointment as I generally enjoy swimming in the ocean and snorkeling but this was not the beach to do this.
The Kidz Club was great and gave us and the kids a needed break from each other. The Butlers really cared about our well being and enjoyment. This was a great vacation and would definitely recommend the resort. The construction and chilly pools was a bit of a disappointment but overall had a very good vaction!
Stay tuned for more information concerning Playa Resorts and booking these types of resorts through Interval.
Unfortunately, in the world of timeshares, fees always seem to be going up. Today is yet another example of this unfortunate trend.
RCI's exchange fee is currently $219. Starting today, the fee has gone up to $230.
Here are the current fees:
Here are the new fees that become effective December 4, 2016.
In reviewing both charts, it seems as the only change has occurred to the exchange fee. Instead of providing any discounts for booking online versus over the phone, RCI has elected to make the fee equal and now charge $230 per transaction.
I am definitely not a fan of fees but this is fairly minor in the overall scheme of things.
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