Hotels and airlines have gone crazy with all the fees being charged. Resort fees, baggage fees, upgrade fees, extra person fees, seat assignment fees, etc. The list goes on and on.
While I hope that these fees will end and get reigned in to something more reasonable, unfortunately, we are stuck with these fees for the foreseeable future. I can go on and on about the various fees which I detest but the one fee that truly gets me agitated is luggage fees with airlines.
There have been a lot of articles written about baggage fees and the airlines are having a great time charging for them. A recent article just came out that indicated that the US airlines have made over $1 BILLION in revenue from baggage fees alone.
Since I detest baggage fees, I am always trying to figure out the best way to avoid them all together. Luckily, there are some fairly easy ways to avoid them.
I have written about Southwest Airlines in the past, and they are a fantastic airline. They provide many benefits which most, if not all, of the other major carriers do not provide. One significant benefit is that they do not charge baggage fees for the 1st or 2nd bag. This is a tremendous perk and potentially the last airline that offers free baggage for any flyer.
Delta is a fairly good carrier. They have spent a lot of money and effort in making their in-flight experience better than the other carriers. I generally like Delta even though their frequent flyer program has significantly been devalued over time. Delta does not even publish award charts for their program so they are free to charge you any amount of miles they deem for redemption of skymiles.
Delta also charges baggage fees. They charge $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag. These are high and are very frustrating to me especially when I purchase an expensive ticket.
In order to avoid these fees, I carry the Gold Delta Skymiles Card from American Express.
This card does come with an annual fee of $95 but is waived the first year. For this annual fee, you will receive the first checked bag for free for up to eight passengers on the same itinerary.
While a lot of other cards claim to offer free checked baggage, the Delta cards are actually the best since you can book the flights from any travel agency, you do not need to pay for the flights with the actual card and it is valid on ANY Delta flights including international itineraries.
Additionally, as of today, they have increased their signup bonus to 70,000 miles for the Platinum card. This is one of the highest offers and definitely worth it for the free baggage fees and signup bonus.
American Airlines charges $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag. American also offers free baggage with their co-branded credit card. You can receive up to 4 free bags for all passengers traveling on the same itinerary. The various offerings are described below.
I currently hold the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card but have been disappointed with it. The material item is that the first free checked bag is ONLY FOR DOMESTIC ITINERARIES.
A lot of my travel is done internationally so this card does not help alleviate those fees on international trips. I think that this is an issue so you need to know this before you move forward with obtaining this card.
However, if you normally fly domestic, this card can help with the annoying baggage fees on American Airlines.
United Airlines, like most of the other carriers, charges $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag. Again, like the other carriers, you can obtain the first bag for free for the primary card holder and one companion.
United's MileagePlus's Explorer Card is actually one of the most restrictive cards that offer free bags. While their free baggage policy is available for both domestic and international itineraries, you MUST PURCHASE THE TICKET WITH THE CARD TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR FREE BAGGAGE.
This is a very important issue that you must purchase the ticket with the specific card to be eligible. Many cards offer additional bonus points for airline purchases so it does not always make sense to book airline flights with the United Card. However, you need to do so if you want free baggage.
Obtaining credit cards can be a great way to avoid baggage fees. While all of the above cards do require an annual fee, it actually may make sense to get these cards solely for the free baggage benefit. There are plenty of other cards available that may make more sense for daily spend but the free baggage perks that these cards offer can provide a lot of value. It does not take too many trips for the annual fee to pay for itself.
Additionally, the baggage fees are just annoying and frustrating so getting them for "free", even with the annual fee, makes me feel better when traveling. We can also pack what we need without trying to fit everything into a carry on bag.
The Delta cards provides the most flexibility but the other cards can be useful provided that you understand the restrictions and requirements of their free baggage policy.
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Must Have Gadget to Travel - The New Amazon Fire Stick - Limited Time - Get up to $65 of free digital content
When we travel, there are a few electronic items that are always brought with us. Phones, Ipads, cameras, etc. I recently starting bringing the Amazon Fire TV Stick with us on all our trips.
This is an awesome gadget. It is slightly bigger than a USB drive and has so many different functions.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, it is a USB size gadget that will fit into the HDMI port of any TV. The Amazon Fire TV Stick has various apps that allow you to watch movies, TV shows, HBO, Showtime, Sports, etc. The list goes on and on.
I ALWAYS bring the Amazon Fire TV Stick with us for a few reasons. We travel with kids a lot so having Netflix and Amazon Prime is essential to keep the kids happy on vacation. I love being able to plug this in to the TV and the kids have all the comforts of home with their shows and movies. It can provide my wife and I with a much needed break.
Additionally, I rarely get the opportunity to catch up on shows and movies while at home. There seems to be always something to do. On vacation, it is different. With the Amazon Fire TV Stick, I can rent TV shows and movies from Amazon or watch Netflix and other sources and relax.
Instead of having to pay hotel prices to get their movies on demand, I can rent movies directly through Amazon or other provides for a fraction of the cost.
We recently stayed at a hotel and my wife and I wanted to watch a recently released movie. We reviewed the On-Demand functions and found a movie.
The hotel wanted to charge us $17.99 to rent the movie!
Instead, I plugged in my trusted Amazon Fire TV Stick and found the movie on Amazon and rented it for $3.99. An easy 77% savings.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick has just been refreshed and will be released on October 20th. It is a bargain at $39.99. With my example above, it will pay for itself from the savings of not renting two movies from a hotel.
With the refresh of the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon is offering an amazing deal where you can get up to $65 of free digital content. This more than pays for the initial purchase price!
Activate your All-New Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote by October 31st and receive 1 month of Sling TV, 2 Months of Hulu (Limited Commercials), and a $10 Amazon Video Credit.
I have already ordered mine so that we can travel with two - one for the kids and one for the adults.
This is a great deal especially with the added bonuses!
Check it out below!
Interval International uses various designations of its members resorts to show the quality of the accommodations. When exchanging into different resorts, these designations are very helpful to ensure that you are getting a quality resort.
Additionally, it is a must to review tripadvisor's reviews before booking.
As taken from Interval Internationals magazine, "the Interval International Elite Resort status is awarded based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative scoring elements, including:
A Quality Rating System (QRS) resort inspection conducted by LRA by Deloitte, a leader in the field of customer experience measurement
Elite Qualifying Criteria (EQC) points, based on multiple combined factors from location to luxurious features and appointments at the resort
A high Consumer Satisfaction Index (CSI) score
Additional considerations, such as positive consumer reviews on external travel and leisure sites."
After staying at many timeshares, all timeshares are not created equally. There are some awful properties as well as some fabulous properties. You need to do your research but generally, the Elite Designation is a great tool to make sure that you are picking good exchanges.
My goal is to travel at luxury properties for significantly less than booking directly or at other comparable properties. I tend to always look for the Elite Designation as I feel more confident that these properties will be stellar.
As stated in this post here, you can perform one search to find all the great properties. In going one step further, you can follow the instructions in the previous post and you can do one search for all properties. At times, I was receiving an error on Interval in doing this search so if that occurs, take some of the properties off the list and do two separate searches.
Here is the list of all Interval International's Elite Designation properties:
CEU,BUR,MAO,MSU,KTH,MSK,CXP,MFC,GVR,WSJ,WE2,WQ1,RWM,VRM,TYL,LBP,MPN, VGR,WLR,ITZ,VDT,LX2,LQL,VDF,SPZ,AZB,FVE,FVA,AZS,GKR,GBM,GBN,LXR,MCZ,DI8, MBE,GSE,HEC,RCQ,RDI,WKO,VLS,IPS,ITD,SMW,SMY,GP8,GP7,WGC,WGX,SCT,ITV,BLK ,ITB,CWX,TRM,HYI,VBL,VB2,MDS,MPD,MRD,MR2,WDL,WMH,WMX,FSA,NCV,WSM,
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Exchanging your timeshare can be one of the best methods to maximize its ownership. Today, I wanted to explain how I am able to use one low demand week to create three luxury vacations in prime seasons.
The Hyatt Vacation Club is one of my favorite programs since they have very nice resorts, their hotel reward program is one of the best and the point value associated with their weeks are very beneficial to trade outside of their program.
In another post, I explained Mountain Season and showed how you can turn one week into over a month of stays. This is definitely one of the sweet spots of the program but you are traveling during very low season.
In contrast to this, I want to explain how to take one 2 bedroom Hyatt unit and convert that one week into three weeks at luxury resorts. I have done this many times before and it a great way to maximize and leverage timeshare ownership to get multiple weeks of vacation at a cost of less than one week in a hotel.
As explained in the complete guide to Hyatt Vacation Club, Hyatt is a hybrid system where you own one specific week. You can use that specific week or convert that week into a certain amount of points. Depending on the size of the unit, resort, week owned and demand for that week will determine the amount of points allocated.
In my example, I own a 2 bedroom unit that is located in Bronze season. Bronze season is fairly low season with only copper and mountain season below. A 2 bedroom unit during bronze season is allocated 1300 points.
1300 points is not a lot of Hyatt points and you will be significantly restricted if you exchange your points in the Hyatt internal system. For example, you will never be able to exchange your points for ski weeks at Hyatt High Sierra Lodge or summer weeks at Hyatt Siesta Key Beach.
In contrast, if you use those allocated points and exchange the points through Interval International, you can use 1300 weeks to get three prime weeks in a studio units!
As you can see in this chart, the left column explains the TDI index which is the travel demand index. The highest TDI correlates to top row and the amount of points required for travel in prime season is listed on top.
As you can see, you can exchange 1300 points for one week in a 2 bedroom or you can exchange 430 points for one week in a studio during the highest demand weeks.
You can exchange 1290 points (430 x 3) for three prime weeks in a studio!
You could even obtain more weeks are lower demand weeks! For example, you could exchange 1300 points to obtain 5 weeks in a studio during low season!
Studio units are generally the size of a hotel room but can be slightly bigger. They usually have some a small kitchenette or at least a fridge. A 1 bedroom or larger unit generally comes with a full kitchen. In comparing timeshares to hotels, I would view a studio unit as a direct comparison.
For a couple, studio units are more than sufficient and are generally even nicer than standard hotel rooms.
The economics of using a 2 bedroom low season week and converting it to three studio weeks during prime season can be absolutely tremendous.
As stated else, the ongoing maintenance fees for the 1300 points costs approximately $1200 per year. In order to exchange with Interval International, it costs $179 per trade.
Therefore, the aggregate amount spent to receive three weeks of prime vacation is $1737 or $579 per week!
$579 per week can be a decent value but can really be a tremendous value depending on the weeks you exchange into.
Additionally, if you exchange your 1300 points for low demand studio weeks, you would obtain 5 weeks of vacation. The aggregate amount spent to receive five weeks of vacation is about $2100 or $419 per week!
In the past, I have used this exact strategy to reserve a studio unit in Park City, Utah during January, reserved a studio unit in Kauai, Hawaii during the summer and a studio unit in Aruba during Thanksgiving break.
These units were reserved at the Westgate Park City, Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club and the Marriott Ocean Club.
All three of these properties are extremely nice and are comparable to the top tier hotels in these locations! You can literally exchange one week into three weeks at very luxurious properties for a total cost of $579 per week.
If we simply reviewed similar weeks, we can see that retail cost of these vacations are many times this cost.
One Week in a Studio in Park City
As you can see above, one week in a studio at the Westgate Park City during ski season is $437 per night, almost the cost of the entire week. This week costs over $3,000.
One week in a Studio in Aruba
As you can see above, one week in a studio at the Aruba Marriott Resort in Aruba during Thanksgiving is $300 per night. This week costs about $2100.
One Week in a Studio in Kauai Hawaii
As you can see above, one week in a studio at the Kauai Marriott Resort in Kauai Hawaii during the summer is $329 per night. This week costs about $2300.
If you take all these weeks together, you would have spent $7400. I fully understand that there are deals to be had and you could likely whittle down these weeks to something lower than $7400. Even so, I do not foresee how any of these types of weeks can be had at 4 or 5 star hotels for less than $579 per week.
Most nice accommodations generally run at least $200 per night ($1400 per week) and they will tack on taxes, resort fees, and other expenses.
I love to travel but would never be able to travel as much as I do if it was not for these types of opportunities through timeshares.
Timeshares are not for everyone as they require a lot of diligence and planning but I think that the rewards more than justify the time spent to learn the systems and plan far in advance.
This is just one mechanism that can be done to get multiple weeks out one timeshare! Getaways, Accommodation Certificates, Bonus Weeks and other items are also available to get even more weeks for the same maintenance fees.
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It is hard to believe that it is September and labor day weekend is upon us. For many, it marks the end of summer. It is definitely bitter sweet that the end of summer is here, kids are back in school and the weather is about to turn into winter.
While this is definitely unfortunate, this is a great time to think about the past summer and what was great and what you would want to do differently next week. Perhaps you didn't take a vacation or didn't get the requested week off from work. Maybe you didn't do all the things that you had planned to do.
With all these memories fresh in your mind, this is actually the best time to begin making plans for Summer 2017!! A lot of people just can't plan that far in advance but if you have any desire to get prime weeks and prime resorts, now is the time to begin the planning. Believe it or not, most of my entire summer is currently planned with various options laid out which will ultimately depend on whether certain exchanges comes through with my timeshare.
As explained in this post concerning timeshare planning, it is essential to plan far ahead and have multiple options so that you can get the desired vacation and be able to travel to luxurious destinations in luxurious accommodations on a tiny budget. If you want to achieve this, here is what you need to do!
STEP ONE: SET UP AN EXCHANGE REQUEST
If you own a timeshare and want to make excellent trades, put in a Request First with Interval International or do an Ongoing Search with RCI.
For Interval International, you can do a search for the desired week and include the specific resorts that you want to travel to. THINK BIG!
Put in a request for the Four Seasons property in Carlsbad, California or the Marriott property in St. Thomas or the Westin in St. John or the Marriott properties in Hawaii. Request the ultimate vacation of your dreams. This is the fun part of vacation planning!
When you make the Request First reservation, Interval will charge you the exchange fee of $179 and I highly recommend getting E-Plus as discussed here. This can give you even more flexibility down the road. Remember that this is fully refundable if the exchanges does not occur. The fees are refunded and your deposited points or week is refunded.
For RCI, in order to do a Ongoing Search, follow these steps:
Again, THINK BIG and try for the Hilton in Waikoloa, Hawaii, Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta or the Pueblo Bonito in Cabo San Lucas - all highly rated luxurious timeshare properties.
STEP 2: SET UP AIRFARE ALERTS
Use Hopper. As discussed here, Hopper is a great tool for monitoring airfare. Put in the various times, dates and destinations for the specific weeks that you requested above. Hopper will track the cost of all these flights. Ignore the cost of the flights for the moment as you will continue to monitor them until the point that the airfare reaches a price point where you are comfortable spending. Put in multiple destinations so that you can track costs for all potential options that you chose in Step 1.
STEP 3: BOOK BACKUP HOTEL PLANS
Book hotel accommodations for the desired weeks. If you end up booking airfare first, you will need to have a good backup plan in case the desired timeshare does not go through. Again, ignore prices at the moment but do make sure that the reservations are fully cancellable.
I will discuss various methods on how to get hotel accommodations for reasonable prices so that you can truly have a good backup plan in case the the timeshare does not get confirmed. If you have hotel points, this is a great time to book a speculative week on points so that you are assured a free week of accommodations. Again, getting these points are achievable and we can discuss various methods to do so in other posts.
STEP 4: SET UP GETAWAY ALERTS
Set up Interval Getaway alerts if you are an Interval International member. I currently have a saved searched called "Summer" for 2017 where I inserted all the top properties within Interval so that I can view when availability comes up and I can make a decision on whether to book with cash immediately or continue to wait for the desired week or timeshare property to become available. Using this method, I already saw a prime week in Hawaii for a Marriott property where the one bedroom cost under $600 for the week. I didn't grab it and it disappeared within a few minutes. If you see a deal like that, book immediately. Be aware that these Getways are non-refundable and non-changeable so make sure you can actually use it before booking.
STEP 5: RENT A CAR AND USE AUTOSLASH
Use Autoslash if you will be wanting to rent a car. As discussed in this post, Autoslash is the ultimate car rental reservation tool. You can make a reservation without using any credit card and Autoslash will automatically track the reservation and either alert you of a lower price or automatically rebook you for the lowest price available. Make multiple reservations that coincide with the various destinations that you chose in Step 1. Since there are no fees, credit card requirements or cancellation fees, book multiple weeks and once everything comes together, you can cancel the unused rental reservations.
STEP 6: MONITOR EVERYTHING
Monitor everything. Since everything is generally now on autopilot, just monitor everything so that when a exchange gets confirmed or a Getaway becomes available, you can quickly review the flights and determine if the costs are doable. In other posts, I will explain how to obtain and use frequent flyer miles so that the flights will be free but for now, the above steps should work well in order to set yourself up for a fantastic summer for 2017.
STEP 7: SIT BACK AND RELAX
Remember the summer that just passed and be excited for next summer. Travel planning can be difficult but when you plan ahead, you have a much better chance of getting awesome vacations in luxurious places and resorts for a fraction of the retail cost.
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Exchanging your week is one of the best ways to maximize timeshare ownership. Many times, you can exchange your owned week for other properties that are nicer and more in demand than your own week.
Exchanging is great but availability is sporadic and you need to be very flexible with your travel plans in order to get highly desirable weeks and resorts. I have previously explained the benefits of doing an ongoing search with RCI or a Request First or Deposit First with Interval International.
Another great way to quickly access what exchanges are available using Interval International's search tool. The search tool allows you to search current inventory by destination, all destinations or by Resort Name or code.
As shown in the attached image, you can choose by Resort Name. One great tip in using this search is that you can input ALL the highly sought after resorts in one search and Interval will bring up the matches.
Even if you are looking for a specific week, I generally put in the earliest travel date as the current date and the latest travel date for as long as Interval allows which is generally 12 months in advance.
The reason for doing so is that Interval's system can be a bit buggy and I have seen additional inventory come up for a specific week when doing a broad search only to find that the inventory does not show up when I do a narrow search. Doing a broad search requires a little more review of the result but can result in you seeing more available weeks.
Additionally, even if you are set on traveling one week, seeing availability for a highly sought after destination or resort for an alternative week can get you thinking on revising the initial plans.
INTERVAL INTERNATIONAL RESORT CODES:
In order to simplify the process, I have included the following list of resort codes
HRP, HNS, HWP, HYS, HSH, HYK, HYN, HBK, HMS, HSL, HYP, HYA, HCC, HYB, HYI, HRA, LFP, SXP, STW, SDI, VTA, PGA, PGN, SRM, FSA, SCT, VIO, VO1, VIT, SVV, VKW, VVM, VCC, VIS, VS1, WDL, KAA, KA1, KAN, KA1, WKV, WLR, WMH, WPV, WV1, WRF, WEJ, WSJ, MAW, MFC, MGO, MMB, MPU, MKO, MOW, MAO, MCP, MBY, MMC, MSE, MSF, MDS, MPD, MGR, MSK, MCV, MMO, NCV, MSU, MKW, MPB, MUZ, MGA, MG1, MG3, MG5, MOU, MCU, MGC, MC1, MGK
This list includes most of highly sought after resorts in Interval International. This list includes most Marriott properties, Hyatt Properties, Four Season properties and Vistana properties (Formerly Westin and Sheraton).
There are other high quality resorts within Interval but this list is good overview of the top quality resorts.
In order to perform this search, simply copy and paste the above codes and place them in the search box. You can then see the results. In performing this search, I found over five pages of availability for these prime properties.
A couple of things to note.
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Nobody likes it when the time comes to pay your maintenance fees. They usually are more than last year and it always feels like a surprise even though you knew it would be arriving.
In order to get the maximize value out of your maintenance fees, it is essential to use the proper credit card. All maintenance fees are generally categorized as “travel” within the credit card category and many credit cards provide bonus points for expenses relating to travel.
However, most of the major timeshare companies such as Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood each have their own branded credit cards. All of these co-branded cards give you bonus points for spending at their properties.
The best secret is that the maintenance fees will generally trigger this bonus!
If you use the right credit card to pay your maintenance fees, you can generally receive a free night at many hotels.
Depending on the how you choose to redeem that night can essentially result in a 10-25% discount off your maintenance fees. In some circumstances, you can get even more value out of a hotel redemption.
In order to show you how this is possible, I will assume that the maintenance fees are $1200 per year. Based on this amount, if I owned with Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt or Starwood and I used a specific co-branded credit card, I would receive bonus points.
The Hilton Hhonors reserve card is one of the Hilton branded hotel cards. It currently offers 2 free weekend night certificates after making $2500 in purchases within 4 months of the account opening. I have this card and used the initial bonus at the Grand Wailea in Maui. We can discuss the value of the initial bonus later but this saved me close to $1000 off hotel nights.
For these purposes, the Hilton Hhonors reserve card provides 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Portfolio.
A $1200 spend would result in 12,000 Hilton Hhonors points. As per the following chart, 12,000 Hhonors points would get you almost to a free night in a category 2 hotel. There are approximately 76 category 2 hotels to choose from. Based on a few examples, I would say that this easily equates to about a $120 hotel room, therefore saving 10% off your maintenance fees.
The Marriott Premier card is one of Marriott’s branded hotel cards. It is currently offering 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 80,000 bonus points is quite good as this is on the high end of recent bonuses.
For these purposes, the Marriott Premier card provides 5 Marriott bonus points per $1 spent at over 4,000 participating Marriott® locations worldwide.
A $1200 spend would result in 6,000 Marriott points. As per the chart here, 6000 bonus points would almost get you into a category 1 hotel or would definitely get you in on a pointsavers reward night for a category 1 hotel.
Assuming that you can secure a pointsavers night in a category 1 (this is not difficult), I would value the Marriott points at about $100, potentially more depending on the redemption. In this scenario, I would say that paying with a Marriott Premier card would result in about an 8% discount to your maintenance fees.
Additionally, you should be aware that card members receive an annual free night for category 1-5 hotels which can be very valuable.
The Hyatt Credit card issued by Chase is the only Hyatt branded credit card. It currently offers 2 free nights in ANY hotel worldwide after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. The initial signup offer is fantastic since there are no restrictions on use. These two free nights can be used at very expensive hotels such as the Hyatt Ka’anapali in Maui, the Park Hyatt New York or the newest arrival, the Park Hyatt St. Kitts.
Nightly rates can be close to $1000 per night so this initial signup bonus can be tremendously valuable.
For these purposes, the Hyatt credit card provides 3 points per $1 spent on purchases at all Hyatt properties.
A $1200 spent would result in 3,600 Hyatt points. 3,600 points is just shy of minimum of 5,000 points for a category 1 hotel. However, 3000 points does get you a club upgrade on a paid night which can be very valuable. Club rooms do get you access to the Regency club which offers complimentary food, beverage (sometimes alcohol) and breakfast.
Based on a few examples, I view the upgrade as potentially worth $150. If you assume that that you will obtain the additional points for a free night at a category 1, I would view this to be worth about $150, again, potentially more depending the redemption.
The Hyatt card also offers an annual free night for category 1-4 properties. This can easily be worth a few hundred dollars, again depending on its use.
I personally have this card and typically use my free night for a ski trip in Park City, Utah which usually would cost $500 per night in a hotel.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is the credit card for Starwood. Their current signup offer is 25,000 bonus starpoints. It has gone as high as 30,000 but this is generally their signup offer. Starpoints are very valuable currency as there are not as many ways to receive starpoints as other hotel currents.
The initial bonus offer is very valuable and could offer you 8 nights in a category 1 hotel, 6 nights in a category 2, 3 in a category 3 or 2 nights in a category 4 or 5. The award chart is found here:
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card provides "you up to 5 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® hotels – that's 2 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as a Card Member in addition to the 2 or 3 Starpoints for which you may be eligible as an SPG member. Get 1 Starpoint for all other purchases."
Basically, you will receive 2 Starpoints for each dollar and potentially receive an additional 2 or 3 points per dollar if you have Starwood Status.
For this example, we should assume that we don’t have status. A $1200 spend would result in 2400 Starpoints. As per the chart above, 2400 starpoints is just shy of a free night in a category 1 hotel. Based on a review of their category 1 hotels, I would view the free night to be worth approximately $100. Again, this gives you an 8% discount off the maintenance fees.
CHASE SAPPHIRE RESERVE:
If you are involved in the credit card travel game, you have definitely heard about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. This is a new awesome card that offers 3x points on Travel and Dining. The initial signup offer is huge and gives you 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points.
Chase Ultimate Reward Points are transferrable currency that allows you to transfer into frequent flyer accounts and hotel award programs. While it carries a $450 annual fee, it provides a $300 annual credit for travel related charges.
A key perk to the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that the travel credit applies towards your maintenance fees! Basically, this is a very easy way to get $300 off your maintenance fees. The travel credit gets replaced in January so if you get the card now, you can save $300 now and $300 again in January. $600 easy savings!
The initial bonus is easily worth $1500 but if used properly, can be worth thousands. Without too much work, this can easily be worth $3,000.
In our example, a $1200 charge for your maintenance fees would be categorized as travel and you would earn 3,600 Chase Ultimate Reward Points. This can be used for travel and redeemed for $54.00 through Chase or can be transferred into various programs including Hyatt.
I would value 3,600 Chase Ultimate Reward Points at about $75 but this is just a guestimate. The value would depend on how you use them. You could transfer them directly to Hyatt and get a club upgrade as discussed above.
Chase Ultimate Reward Points are very valuable and in later posts will describe how to use these in relation to timeshare vacations.
This is a stellar card and is highly recommended. The 100,000 sign up bonus is huge as it is rare for sign up bonuses to be that high.
The Citi Premier card is a solid card that earns Thankyou Reward Points. You can earn 3 points per $1 spent on Travel including Gas plus 2 points per $1 spent on Dining Out and Entertainment and 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
Citi’s Thankyou Reward program has gotten much better in recent years and you can now transfer points into various partners. These can provide tremendous amount of value if you redeem them properly. The Citi Premier is not offering any signup bonus so I would not apply at the moment but wait until a bonus appears.
In this example, a $1200 charge for maintenance fees would result in 3,600 Thankyou Reward Points. Redeeming these points for travel expenses would result in them being worth $45 since Citi values them a 1.25 cents when redeeming for airfare and other expenses.
As discussed in other posts, you could also transfer these points to Citi’s partners that could result in better redemption rates.
As stated above, if you use the proper credit card, a $1200 maintained fee would result in the following amount of points and potentially give you a material discount on your maintenance fees.
As shown, using the right credit card for your maintenance fees can essentially result in a significant discount. You should definitely make sure to use the right credit card when paying your maintenance fees.
Even if you own a timeshare not affiliated with the companies stated above, these charges still are categorized as travel and you can earn at least 3x the amount of points which can easily result in a meaningful discount.
This blog is not meant to show you how to maximize frequent flyer, hotel or credit card points. There are already plenty out there to do so.
However, if you travel each year, which I anticipate you must if you own a timeshare, you need to get reasonably versed in these types of program. They can be complicated but I know that they save me thousands of dollars per year in travel and you can use these tools for your advantage and to travel to some great destinations for much less or even free.
More importantly, they provide me with the ability to travel to exotic locations for free.
Over time, I will discuss the basic mechanics of these programs and how to use these programs, miles and points to complement timeshare ownership to allow you to travel in luxury for less.
Additionally, as discussed in other posts and as I will discuss later, you always need to have a Plan B for timeshare planning. Since availability can be difficult to get in prime weeks or resorts, you need to be able to book airfare reasonably in advance to secure reasonable prices or use your frequent flyer miles.
You can use hotel points to book a hotel room for the desired destination and be confident in your ability to book non-refundable airfare. We will discuss these types of strategies in other posts but it is absolutely necessary.
Otherwise, if your desired week becomes available, the cost of airfare can quickly derail that vacation and you will need to start the planning all over again.
Reservation windows detail the time period when you can begin making reservations for your timeshare. Reservation windows are very important since prime weeks and resorts can go very fast.
In order to maximize your timeshare, you need to plan as far in advance as possible. The reservation window will detail when you have the ability to make a request or an actual reservation.
As discussed in the Hilton guide, Hilton provides various reservation windows depending on your status with Hilton. Hilton provides its higher tier members with greater reservation windows so that the can have the first opportunity to reserve their desired weeks.
Hyatt has various reservation windows that is discussed in the Hyatt guide. Basically, you will have six months from the start of your specific week to decide whether to use your specific week for the next year. You will also have 12 months from the start of the week to make reservations within Hyatt's internal system.
Each program has differences in their reservation window. It is important to understand these reservation windows in order to be able to begin planning the moment that the window opens. This will give you the most flexibility and change to get desired weeks.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EXCHANGE YOUR DEPOSITED WEEK OR YOUR POINTS FOR AN ALL INCLUSIVE RESORT. DETAILS BELOW
We currently travel as a family of four with 2 young children. For the past couple of years, we have done a few all-inclusive vacations. It has worked out well since the kids can eat whatever they want as often as they want and the adults can eat and drink without worrying about the price.
Daycare and/or kids activities are generally included which allows for some much needed kid-free time.
All inclusives have come a long way and it is no longer just a bland buffet for each meal. All inclusives have five-star dining, room service, specialty restaurants and more. We have been very happy at a few resorts but some are definitely lacking in their offerings and food quality. You need to do your research when choosing an all inclusive resort.
Interval International current offers all-inclusive resorts within its inventory that are designated by the following symbol.
You need to be aware of the symbol BEFORE booking and understand what it means. The all inclusive resorts within Interval International usually have very low costs per seven night stays which immediately grabs your attention. Take a look below at some of the offerings in the Riveria Maya (Playa del Carmen location). I have personally been to the Royal Haciendas and Cozumel Palace and we will describe them in more detail in other posts.
For example, a look at Cozumel Palace in Cozumel, Mexico for the week of September 20 to September 27 appears to cost $229 for a regular member for a week. When you book through, the terms and conditions are then presented which details the cost per night per person for food and beverage. The costs will change depending on the season.
The first thing that you need to be aware of with all the all inclusive resorts in Interval International is that you are required to pay the all inclusive fees for all seven nights, regardless of how many days you actually use!
The second thing is that the fees quoted will be for a minimum of 2 adults. If you are traveling solo, you are still going to be required to pay for 2 adults.
In my Cozumel Palace example, the fees PER ADULT for the week of September 20, 2016 is $129 per adult, per night. The fees for children between 4-12 are $415 per week.
The fees for food and beverage will be $258 per night, already more than the cost for the seven day stay. For this particular week, the total cost would be $1806 for food and beverage and $229 for the accommodations for a total cost of $2,035 with 2 adults.
$2,035 is materially different that the advertised cost of $229 for the week so you need to be aware.
Spending $2000 for a week at an all inclusive resort may appear like a lot, but is actually fairly reasonable considering all your food, drinks, alcohol, and snacks are paid for. This particular resort also offers some activities and credits.
The activity credits can be worthwhile but you need to understand the additional taxes and limitations. We will discuss in additional posts.
Since I have stayed here, I can describe these resorts in more detail in other posts. I can say that we really enjoyed both of these resort. Cozumel Palace was smaller than most resorts that we usually go to but we had a great time!
As an example, I looked at Thanksgiving Week at Cozumel Palace. Booking with Interval International was $239 per week for accommodations and $129 per adult per night. Thanksgiving week would cost $2,045 through Interval. In comparison, booking directly with Cozumel Palace would cost $2,734.20. In this example, you would save almost $700 booking directly with Interval International.
This can actually be a great perk of owning a timeshare.
If you are actually looking for an all inclusive vacation, the question arises on whether this is a deal or if you are better booking directly. We personally booked directly since the Cozumel Palace was not available on the days that we wanted within Interval International and we stayed 8 nights instead of 7 so we could not book through Interval without occurring the food and beverage expenses for 6 additional nights that we were not going to use.
The Palace resorts runs promotions quite a bit so this may or may not always be the case. We will do further trials later to determine if this is always the case. The Palace Resorts is also a sponsor of The Timeshare Guru so perhaps a special deal will be offered in the future!
The key take away is for you to be aware of the symbol and understand that it is an all inclusive resort. You need to read the fine print to determine the total cost of the stay. The weekly prices are a fraction of the overall cost.
IN ADDITION, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EXCHANGE YOUR DEPOSITED WEEK OR YOUR POINTS FOR AN ALL INCLUSIVE RESORT.
This is very important since you will essentially be giving away your deposited week. If you exchanged your week for the Cozumel Palace above, you would be trading your week for a week valued at $229. If you paid maintenance fees of $1000 for this week, you would be trading a week “worth” $1,000 for a week “worth” $229.
There are tons of better exchange opportunities to get much more value out of your week!
Overall, all inclusives are a popular way to vacation and my family has thoroughly enjoyed these types of vacation. I personally love not have to worry about the cost of every drink and every meal.
It is not as relaxing when you are drinking $15 drinks at the bar and you food and beverage bills gets to be in the thousands. It can be a lot more fun to have as much as you want without thinking of the price. In addition, I like letting my kids order what they want without having to worry about the cost so that they can enjoy their vacation as well!
All inclusives are not for everyone as you will tend to stay on the property for the entire trip. This can be good or bad depending on your vacation style.
If you want to book an all inclusive vacation, Interval International is a good starting point. However, you should never exchange your week for an all inclusive resort and you should always book it as a Getaway if the price makes sense.
You need to read the fine print and do the math. It may or may not make sense to book with Interval International or it may make more economic sense to book through some other online travel agency.
All inclusives tend to do a lot of promotions so you need to be vigilant on deals. When they pop up, I will make sure to include them in the Guru Deals. Make sure to subscribe to get alerted first!