As you probably know, I a big proponent on using timeshares to exchange. As a Hyatt owner, I am given access to Interval International for exchanging. I find that I get tremendous value out of exchanges as oppose to using my timeshare week or even trading my Hyatt Residence Club points for other Hyatt properties.
A few years ago, Interval International implemented E-Plus. Here is a general overview of the E-Plus benefit. As a quick refresher, if you purchase E-Plus, which is $59, in addition to the exchange fee, Interval International lets you exchange your exchanged week for up to 3 times for no additional fee.
The availability of E-Plus significantly changed the ability to use exchanges. Previously, if you exchanged a week and your plans changed, you would cancel your week and be given a replacement week to use BUT you had to pay an additional exchange fee which is currently $219 per week (a sizable amount). Since you need to reserve so far in advance to get good weeks (2+ years), you were taking on a significant risk that you would need to cancel the exchanged week sometime in the future.
E-Plus solved these problems and created a great loophole to extend the use of your points and see inventory for over 2 years. You can read about that here.
For this post, I wanted to showcase my recent use of E-Plus and how I was able to score a fantastic week.
Hawaii for Christmas
If you read my blog, you should definitely read this post about my timeshare "fail". In that post, in addition to showing some unbelievable perks of hotel status, I explained that my plan to receive a timeshare for Christmas week failed and was "stuck" using my hotel points. While it was hardly a fail, I definitely did not receive a timeshare week in Maui during Christmas despite putting in a request a year in advance and searching constantly.
Hoping for a change of luck, I attempted to try to get a Christmas week in Hawaii for 2018. I used the same strategy and booked a hotel stay using points and put in a request first for Christmas week. I was hoping that this year was going to be different.
To my dismay, I DID NOT get a timeshare for Christmas week again. This goes to show you how hard it really is to get a great timeshare for Christmas week. If you are thinking of buying of timeshare with dreams of traveling anywhere you want during Christmas week, think again. The harsh reality is that even with advance planning, Christmas week in prime resorts is almost impossible.
Despite the odds being against me, I put in a request first and did not get Christmas week but did receive the week before Christmas in a one bedroom at the Maui Ocean Club. I have not been to the Marriott property but I have heard good things. There are newer properties that I attempted to get (Westin Nanea and Hyatt Kannapali) but was satisfied with the Marriott.
Despite being a Hyatt owner, I predominantly stay at Marriott properties and have yet to be disappointed.
While I was satisfied with my confirmed week in a one bedroom at the Marriott in Maui, I ALWAYS add E-Plus. While I hate the extra fees involved with exchanging, E-Plus has a lot of benefits with the most important being flexibility. Timeshares are well known for being not flexible and E-Plus has changed that. Despite having a confirmed exchange, you can still view available inventory and make exchanges for no fee.
I find that some prime weeks and resorts are available sporadically throughout the year but a lot of times, some truly spectacular weeks become available at the last minute. As you are aware, plans can change at the last minute and if they do, people have to cancel their confirmed weeks which they may have made 2+ years ago.
When this happens, since the check-in date is so near, these weeks usually get tossed into the general inventory. As a result, if you exchanged into one property but really want to stay at another, keep checking until the day before check-in. E-Plus allows you to exchange your week up to 24 hours before check-in. Some great weeks show up at that point and you can take advantage of it for no fee if you paid for E-Plus!
In my scenario, I had a great week at a very nice property but a one bedroom with a family of 4 is a little tight. I have altered my timeshare strategy to get more points / weeks because I find that for a family of 4, a 2 bedroom is ideal as everyone has their own bed, their own bedroom with TV and there is ample space for everyone to enjoy their vacation.
A studio or one bedroom just isn't big enough to fully stretch out without being on top of one another. While it is doable, a 2 bedroom is ideal and that is predominantly what I aim to get when traveling with a family of 4.
Since I had E-Plus on my confirmed reservation, I started searching periodically for other potential options. Since I know that a lot of good inventory gets deposited at last minute, I increased my searches about 30 days out and made sure to check for any other weeks that was superior to what I had already confirmed.
In another post, I can review Interval International's new app, but the gist is that they now allow you to exchange weeks on the app instead of just getaways. While we were out for dinner, I was playing with the app and saw that a 2 bedroom unit at Marriott Waiohai Beach Club became available for the same week that I had reserved in Maui.
I have never stayed at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club but we did visit the property about 10 years ago on our first trip to Kauai. It appeared to be a stunning property and the reviews are phenomenal. Since the exact week that I needed came up, I quickly exchanged my week on the app and got confirmation of a 2 bedroom unit at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club. SCORE!
It did not cost any extra in fees although I did have to "pay" the difference in points which was an extra 430 points.
Therefore, by having E-Plus, I was able to exchange 1 bedroom into a 2 bedroom unit at the last minute for no additional exchange fees and got the desired 2 bedroom at a very prime property in Kauai.
E-Plus is a fantastic addition to Interval International as it provides significant flexibility. Timeshares have never been very flexible but the timeshare companies realize the appeal of flexility which is why so many programs have gone to points instead of weeks and now allow single night stays instead of the historical minimum of 7 nights.
I use E-Plus for EVERY reservation that I do since I love having the extra flexibility. Even I end up getting a great week, I still add E-Plus as you never know when plans can change or life gets in the way of a vacation. Knowing that you have the option to exchange the week for something else in the future without added fees can be very valuable and find that the $59 for that peace of mind is well worth it.
Also, even if you are planning on using the confirmed week, spend some time searching close to check-in as something better could even come along!
Have you used E-Plus? Any wins that you want to share?