Last week was spring break for many schools around the nation. It is a very hectic time to travel. Unfortunately, when you have children in school, if you want to travel, you are forced to travel on their schedule.
We usually take a ski trip during spring break and this year was no exception. As you may know, we are very fond of Park City.
The issue with this year was that our school district changed the standard week of spring break. Instead of it occurring during the 2nd week of March, they changed it to the 3rd week of March.
As an avid planner, this thoroughly disrupted my timeshare strategy of booking 2+ years in advance. I had various weeks and resorts selected for the second week of March and was patiently waiting for a match. Once the school schedule came out about a year ago, I had to revise the request first and only had one year to make a match.
Since this was almost the end of ski season, I wasn't extremely worried as I did not think that it would be very desirable week. We generally go to Park City for various reasons (easy travel, great skiing, good restaurants, and plenty of timeshare options) and we made the trip last year for the second week of March. Last years ski season was horrible and we skied on slush while it was 70 degree weather.
Fortunately, this year was much, much better but didn't think that getting a desirable timeshare would be an issue.
Unfortunately, I was wrong and nothing came through. I was quite surprised with that but I only put in requests for the top resorts in Interval International, which for Park City are the Marriott Summit Watch, Marriott Mountainside and the Westgate Park City. There are some nice properties with RCI including the Wyndham Park City, Sundial Lodge and Hilton Grand Vacations but do not exchange my week with RCI and only use RCI for Extra Vacation (cash bookings).
If I chose lesser desired properties, I may have had better luck.
In any event, this was a timeshare fail for this year. For those of you that need to travel during peak times such as Christmas and Spring Break, this is a good example of why timeshares may not be ideal. Getting top quality resorts during these peak time periods can be difficult, if not impossible, so if you have to travel during these time periods, you may be disappointed with timeshare ownership.
If you are flexible and can travel during cusp seasons or off-peak times, timeshare ownership can be very worthwhile.
As I have explained before, timeshare availability can be difficult which is why you need to always have a "plan B". Many times, my plan B entails making a reservation using hotel points so that in the event that my timeshare does not get confirmed, I still have a hotel reservation to use and can therefore buy my non-refundable airfare or use frequent flyer miles without worrying about accommodations.
Generally, hotel points have flexible cancellation policies so you can reserve a week using points and once you get confirmed into a timeshare, you can cancel the week and get your points back. If nothing gets confirmed, the worst case is that you use your points for a "free" vacation.
Here is a post I have done on the topic.
Here is also another one of my "timeshare fails" which actually worked out extremely well. This is a great strategy and definitely encourage you to use this strategy.
For this week, while a timeshare did not come through, I had booked a week at the Hyatt Place in Park City. The hotel is located on the main road and about a 2 minute drive to the base of the Canyons, 5 minutes to the base of Park City and about 10 minutes to Deer Valley. The location is ideal.
The hotel use to have a complimentary shuttle that would bring you to any of the above resorts but apparently discontinued it. Without the shuttle, you generally need a car or you can use the free bus system. While the bus system is free and convenient, a car is generally easier to go around the area when and where you desire.
The hotel is fairly new but without the shuttle, it is hard to recommend.
Regardless, the hotel is a category 4 hotel (will likely decrease if there don't reinstate the shuttle) which requires 15,000 points per night. During ski season, rates can be $300-$400 per night so it is a decent return on points.
Since I needed to buy non-refundable flights, I used my strategy and booked a week on points waiting for the timeshare to get confirmed. As months went by without any activity, I started to get a bit nervous and was thinking about alternatives. While doing so, I came across rates at the Hyatt Place for $132 per night for my needed week.
Hyatt points are very valuable to me and have been lucky enough to get almost 8 cents per point on some hotel redemptions. You can read about our recent stay in Maui at the Andaz Maui where we had $28,000 vacation for about $1,200 out of pocket.
Getting less than 1 cent per point is awful so I cancelled my points stay and booked using cash. I'll save my points for a better redemption value.
While I still wanted to get a timeshare, the "plan B" was to stay at the Hyatt Place for $132 per night. Not a bad alternative even though I really wanted a timeshare.
As you can see, you need to use a strategy to ensure no issues. If I didn't have this as a back up plan, I would have either lost my non-refundable tickets and not went on vacation or would be forced to book last minute rates during ski season which likely would have been astronomical in price.
Timeshare availability can be unpredictable so you need to have good backup plans in place to avoid an undesirable expensive vacation or be stuck at home.
Despite not getting a timeshare, we had a great week in Park City. The conditions were great and the weather was perfect. It was ideal spring skiing.
We headed to the airport on Saturday, checked in and patiently waited for our flight. The airport was extremely chaotic as there were a lot of people traveling. It was spring break in a lot of destinations. The customer service representatives indicated that the flight was oversold and they were looking for volunteers. I immediately sprang up and ran to the desk and put our family of four on the list.
The entire day of flights back home were full so they offered to book us on the next flight or would give us additional compensation if we wanted to fly out the next morning. Being a Sunday and flexible, we took them up on their offer. We got a decent amount of compensation, gave each of us $15.00 per meal voucher (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and put us up in a hotel for the night. We were very happy with the deal.
In the past, the airlines generally offered vouchers to be used for future flights. After the United incident where they dragged a passenger off the plane, the airlines re-thought their compensation offers and now offer about a dozen options for gift cards. This includes retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Gap and others. They also allow you to receive an Amex prepaid card which is basically good as cash.
We all chose an Amex gift card for our "troubles" and had an enjoyable day exploring Salt Lake City.
The next day we returned to the airport and found the same chaotic airport. We again headed to the gate and were again greeted by customers service representatives requesting volunteers. Again, I sprang up and volunteered again. Unbelievably, they needed our seats again and offered us even more compensation. We again got Amex gift cards, meal vouchers and another hotel stay. We headed back to Salt Lake City for another enjoyable day of sightseeing.
As you know, we fly a lot and travel a lot and if we are flexible, I am always looking to get bumped and receive some compensation. I have probably volunteered about 3-4 times in the past year and they never seem to need me. Getting bumped 2 days in row was lucky and extremely beneficial and extended our fantastic spring break without too much inconvenience.
The next day we went to the airport again and were met with the same situation. I couldn't even believe that they still needed volunteers but they did and we volunteered again and they gave us even more compensation. 3 in a row. We got our hotel, meal vouchers and compensation and went on our merry way yet again.
By day 4, we were a little tired of this routine and our kids were missing school so we were prepared to get on the plane and finally make it home. It was unbelievable but they still needed volunteers. My wife and I looked at each other and said why not. We put our name on the list and went for 4 bumps in a row. Instead of offering overnight accommodations, they put 2 of us on the next flight and 2 of us on standby with us confirmed for an evening flight.
I didn't think it was possible and was prepared to go home. However, they needed our sits again and we received even more compensation and more meal vouchers. WE GOT BUMPED 4 TIMES IN A ROW!
We all proceeded to the next flight and it was truly unbelievable but they were still asking for volunteers. We were on a roll and put our name on the list again. Unfortunately, another family beat us to the list and we didn't get bumped again. However, 4 bumps in a row was great and we were nicely compensated for our troubles and enjoyed our added time in Salt Lake City.
The craziest thing about all of this was that our original flights were FREE! I booked us all using frequent flyer points so they essentially paid us to get back their free seats! Crazy!
I hate traveling during the busy time periods as everything is more of challenge. Getting timeshares, getting to your destination, getting rental cars, getting restaurant reservations and just getting around is more difficult. However, when you have school age children, we don't have much choice if you want to travel.
For those of you that need to travel during this time, plan as far in advance as possible and use my timeshare / hotel point strategy. It has saved me multiple times and highly recommend it. Take a look at this post for some good ways to get a bunch of points quickly.
While I hate traveling during these peak times, this ended up working in our favor. I won't give you the final tally of our compensation but we arrived home with large smiles on our face having had our entire week paid for by Delta plus much more! This was definitely a very memorable spring break! I'm not sure whether we will ever experience a similar windfall but it was fun while it lasted.
Have you been bumped multiple times before? Share your story below!