Monday, January 26, 2015

Those Enticing, Enchanting Timeshare Tour Incentives

This article is by guest author Helen Sabin. Helen's take on timeshare incentives is very clever, but keep in mind that salespeople are very good at their jobs and caution is recommended if you decide to   give her methods a try!
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Free! Free! Free! In order to market or sell timeshare points or weeks, resorts offer "incentives" to entice tourists, guests of a resort, or timeshare owners to come and take a tour. To the owners of the resort, these promotions are called "marketing". To those receiving the offers, it may be a bribe or sales pitch. Either way, it can be to your benefit to accept these incentives for the amount of time you spend on a tour.  Here's why...
  

Promotions Are Money in Your Pocket

Promotions are advertising. Rather than stick an ad into a local paper, resorts will hire promotion salespeople to reach out and bring in potential buyers. For example, in Mazatlan, Mexico, visitors were once offered a minimum of $300 to take tours of seven new resorts. 

If you had taken advantage of the $300 offers, you could have earned up to $2,100 if you opted to join the tour every morning. Free breakfasts were also included, saving you some additional expense. Some of the breakfasts were lavish while others were just coffee and rolls - either way, you benefit.  The free meal leaves a bit of extra money in your pocket and $2,100 would more than pay for a vacation for seven days.  

Instead of ignoring these "offers", or thinking that a resort is going to "take advantage of" or do a high-pressure sell, you might actually like what you see on a tour and if you do decide to purchase, you will have a place you really like to visit when on vacation. 

In some cases, the incentives will help pay for or allow you to do something special you could not otherwise afford. Mrs. John Grosso of Colorado used her promotion money to buy silver necklaces for her sisters for their birthdays. Jack Gregory of Georgia used the money to buy a straw hat that he could roll up and stick in his suitcase without worrying about crushing it. His wife, Jackie, bought herself two dresses, three shawls and a necklace in the El Central bazaar in Mazatlan. And a young man who wouldn't give this writer his name used his entire $300 to buy an extra piece of luggage to take home two bottles of tequila and canned potato chips to share with his fraternity brothers. 

Remember, instead of feeling pressured to buy, all you have to do is say no, then stick to it! Say goodbye, collect your money and enjoy the time you spent learning about a resort into which you might exchange some time in the future.  

Being Street Wise

Of course, you must be careful.  If anyone asks for money or a credit card upfront, do not give it and walk away.  These are scams and you should never give your credit card number or ID to anyone.  Remember… if it is too good to be true, watch out. Typically, if approached on the street, be careful.   If you agree to take a tour, do not give the "salesperson" your driver’s licenses or credit cards.  If they say it is only to make sure you show up, still do not agree. All you have to do is say you will be at a certain place to be picked up and transported to the new resort then double check with your resort's concierge to make sure the new resort is not a scam. The hotels usually have a list of resorts that are selling timeshares and can provide some assurance that the resort offer is legitimate.  

Typical tours include a breakfast or lunch and involve meeting a salesperson who will take you around the new resort and point out features. Be wary - if the resort is advertised as "new", make sure it is. Mold on the outside of the windows as you ride up in an elevator indicate that it is a refurbishment of an older building. Spaulding or "crumbling" concrete on the walls can also speak to the age of the building, as does rusted piping on the outside of the building.

Make note of these "defects" and at then end of the tour point them out to the salesperson. You probably will be politely ushered out and given the $300 with no objection or anger that you didn’t buy. While the salesperson may be upset that you didn’t purchase, you walk out with an extra $300 in your pocket. And after all…that should be the objective of you accepting a tour invitation. You are merely accepting an invitation and helping resorts use their advertising dollar as they designed.

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Helen Sabin is a timeshare traveler and RedWeek member from Colorado Springs, Colorado. She and her husband attended seven tours in three weeks in Mazatlan Mexico and earned enough to pay for their vacation.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

RedWeek Reaches Out to Manhattan Club Owners

If you follow news in the timeshare industry, there's little doubt that you've heard of the Manhattan Club lawsuit. The case came to life in 2011, the crux of issue being that owners were unable to book reservations despite their ownership status. Banded together in a class-action lawsuit, owners alleges that the New York City-based timeshare deliberately oversold ownership and then went on to rent the remaining indeustry to travelers through its rental program. The Manhattan Club denies the accusations, holding that the risks of ownership were disclosed and it's clearly stated that owners might not be able to obtain the weeks they want. Additionally, The Manhattan Club states their rental program is beneficial to owners as it keeps maintenance fees down.

Since it's advent in 2011, word of the lawsuit has spread like wildfire and and continues to spark discussion among owners. In July of 2014, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed his own suit and obtained a court order that blocked any new sales at The Manhattan Club and prevented foreclosures against owners who refused to pay maintenance fees. The case even dipped into mainstream news in November on CNBC's "Power Lunch" program. Both events only added more fuel to the fire, and the heated discussion around the issue reached fevered levels. 

It's now 2015 and only time will tell what becomes of the lawsuit. RedWeek is committed to informing owners as the case progresses - penning several in-depth articles surrounding the subject and keeping an updated report thread where owners can get quick, easy to read coverage on the subject without the legalese. Now, RedWeek is asking owners to get involved. Since The Manhattan Club will not disclose an ownership list, we're seeking to compile a record of all owners so we can keep them in the loop with the newest updates on the case, including forum updates and our findings from the Attorney General's, the resort itself and owner groups. Even if you're not an owner, you can still opt in to receive the latest news.

Whether you're an owner, know an owner or are just interested in the lawsuit and what it means for the timeshare industry, we encourage you to help share the Owner's Page so we can reach every owner! If you're looking for even more ways to get involved, check out the Yahoo! discussion group (open to owners only) as well as the Disgruntled Manhattan Club Owners' page on Facebook (request an invite to join). And of course, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Is Travel to Mexico Safe?

With international travel, safety should always be at the forefront of your mind. Mexico is a favorite destination of many vacationers for it's beaches and exotic flair, but it's also gained as reputation as a very dangerous country where organized criminal groups run rampant. Many of Mexico's resort and tourist destinations can seem entirely safe - but are they?

The U.S. Department of State recently issued a Mexico travel warning that aims to inform travelers about high-risk areas of the country. While U.S. citizens have been the targets of violent crime such as robbery, kidnapping and carjacking, there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. citizens are targeted solely by their nationality. Rather,  many individuals are reported to be caught in the crossfire or used as leverage as criminal groups vie for control of the most lucrative drug trafficking routes. Bystanders have been caught in the middle of gunfights in seemingly safe locations such as restaurants or clubs in broad daylight, and tourists traveling by car have had their cars stolen to create roadblocks intended to bar law enforcement from responding to criminal activity.

Thankfully, many resort areas and tourist destinations have been deemed safe by U.S. Department of State and see much lower rates of the drug-related crime that plagues the border and central routes. Even so, it's still recommended to exercise caution in some major travel destinations. Caution is advised in the states of Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur (Cabo San Lucas remains fairly safe, however), Chihuahua, Durango, Estado de Mexico, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz and Zacatava. 

Certain states represent an even greater risk, and it's recommended that all travel is deferred in the states of Coahuila, Colima, Guerrero (Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are relatively safe, but should only be accessed by air or cruise ship and visitors are highly advised to remain in tourist areas), Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Sinaloa (Mazatlan is marginally safer but caution is advised and visitors are cautioned to remain in Zona Dorada and the historic town center, and to only enter via air), Sonora and Tamaulipas. As stated, some select tourist areas remain fairly secure, but it's important that travelers do not enter by road.

Finally, there are no advisories in effect for Campeche, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querataro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tlaxcala and Yucatan. This indicates that reports of crime in these states is relatively low.

Mexico can still absolutely remain a fantastic vacation destination, but it never hurts to exercise a bit of extra caution even if your trip is confined to an area with no advisory. When traveling, it's best to lower your profile and minimize signs of wealth, such as expensive jewelry, watches or cameras. Try to remain within your particular destination and stick to tourist and resort areas for maximum safety. Travel by air and cruise ship directly to a tourist/resort area is the absolute safest, and traveling by car is highly discouraged - especially if you're crossing the border yourself. If you do rent a car or bring your own car, try to minimize your profile in vehicle as well. Large and dark vehicles are most often targeted by carjackers, as are luxury cars. 

What's been your experience with traveling to Mexico? What areas have you visited and do you feel safe? Does the U.S. Department of State's travel warning influence your future plans at all?

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Best Time to Buy DVC Points on Resale?

We already know that owner resales are a fantastic way to save on timeshare ownership, especially if you're looking at the larger vacation clubs like Disney Vacation Club (DVC). If you're really looking to maximize your "bang for the buck", however, you might also be asking when to buy. For a long time, there was no data on the subject - merely conjecture. Just recently, however, Fidelity conducted an analysis to determine the average sales prices of DVC resales by each month. To obtain their data, Fidelity analyzed over 3,000 DVC transactions spanning the years of 2010 to 2013. All the sales occurred through Fidelity's own resale division, and market changes like inflation are not accounted for.

graph reveals their findings. Over the course of the year, the number of sales starts off slow in January, begins to escalate in March before peaking in June and holding steady through the summer months. September sees a sharp decline in sales, a small rise in October, another drop in November and December sales rise just a bit before the cycle repeats. Summer clearly sees the most successful sales, but interestingly this is not when prices per point are the lowest.

February sees the absolute lowest prices at just an average of $58.86 per point, lending credence to the commonly-held idea that many owners will drop their prices around maintenance fee season, hoping for a quick sale. From there, prices steadily rise before peaking in September and leveling off through the autumn months and up to January where they fall begins again. Even so, the prices aren't terribly varied - we never see more than a $2.68 difference per point. While enough to make a marked difference on a large resale, it isn't likely to break the bank if you're planning on purchasing anyway.

Taking a look at the resorts sold is also quite telling. Anyone who frequents DVC resorts will know that Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Disney's Old Key West Resort often have quite a bit of availability, save for peak holiday weeks. This is also represented in the graph - Saratoga Springs and Old Key West each occupy a very large chunk of total sales, followed by Disney's BoardWalk Villas. Disney's Vero Beach Resort, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort and Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel represent the lowest number of sales. This may be partly due to their smaller amount of villas when compared with the larger Orlando properties partly as well as their respective locations experiencing lower crowds and demand when compared to Orlando. The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Aulani saw so few resales they were not represented in the graph.

Can the data revealed by Fidelity be applied to other major point-based vacation clubs? It's unlikely - converted Marriott points are reverted to their deeded weeks upon sale, and Diamond (DRI) points are tough to analyze due to the Collections system. One must also keep in mind that traditionally Orlando is traditionally a summer destination when families can vacation. Per month sales and point prices might vary wildly in areas with different high seasons - think a ski resort where high season might be December or January!

Check out the full analysis on Fidelity's blog for a more in-depth look at the data, and share your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Take a New Year's Resolution Trip!

We've all been there - we start off every new year with an earnest proclamation of our resolution. You're really going to do it this time! As great as our intentions might be, however, it's often not too long before something goes awry and we slip up, our resolution abandoned in suit. The trick is staying focused, delving in with a plan. Believe it or not, travel can be a fantastic way to help mentally reinforce your resolution and to immerse yourself in the mindset. We've taken some of the most common New Year's resolutions and matched them to an environment that can foster your intention.

Get Healthier in Palm Springs!

Palm Springs is home to dozens of hiking trails!
Looking to clean up your diet or get a little more active in 2015? Look no further than Palm Springs, California! With perennially warm temperatures and clear skies, this sun-soaked destination is ideal for keeping active. Hiking, rock-climbing, cycling, golfing and even more traditional sports like tennis, baseball and soccer can be enjoyed - just be sure to stay hydrated under that desert sun! Palm Springs' diverse array of international dining options allows for healthier options to be embraced as well. Many establishments even boast organic, preservative-free or vegetarian/vegan options if that's what you're looking for. Finally, Palm Springs is home to twenty different spas. Book a reservation and enjoy the pampering you'll receive - you'll be all the more motivated to take care of your body if you're feeling great!

Spend More Time with Family in Stowe!

Picturesque with a warm and welcoming atmosphere, this mountain town is the perfect place to reconnect with your entire family. Stowe, Vermont is often revered for its ski scene but has plenty to offer families regardless of the season. Summer offers gorgeous biking trails, zip-lining opportunities and the much-beloved Gondola SkyRide for breathtaking aerial views. In addition to skiing, winter activities include dogsledding, snowshoeing and sleigh rides. Regardless of the season, families can also learn how cider is mad at Cold Hollow Cider Mill, enjoy a factory tour (and samples!) of ice cream giant Ben & Jerry's, sip malts in the 50's-themed Depot Street Malt Shoppe and learn a little something new at the family-oriented Appletree Learning Centers.


Be More Green in Maui!

The Hawaii Nature center is
geared towards all ages!
If you're hoping to make your life a little more green and learn how to be environmentally friendly, Maui, Hawaii is a great place to start. Maui has a long history of preserving its beautiful environment while also allowing others to experience it. The Hawaii Nature Center offers programs where you can not only learn about Maui's unique environment but also play a direct role in its preservation. The Sierra Club also offers two Maui volunteer vacations where you can help with dedicated projects while also experiencing local attractions. Even many of the area's timeshares are in on the effort to stay environmentally friendly - The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas details its green efforts while the Hyatt Ka'anapali Beach was awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification!

De-stress in the Florida Keys!

The Florida Keys are very much the epitome of relaxation and time seems to slow down just a bit as you unwind. The Keys' slogan "come as you are" speaks of the destination's laid-back and easygoing manner, no matter whether you choose Key West, Key Largo, Islamorada, Big Pine Key or Marathon. Whatever your idea of relaxation is - boating, fishing, golfing, a spa treatment or even just lounging on the beach - you'll find boundless opportunities. The Keys certainly epitomize the "lazy summer days" atmosphere, but don't let that fool you. There's still plenty of high-adrenaline activities to be found - it's hard to remember your day-to-day stressors when you're parasailing hundreds of feet in the sky!

Get in Touch with Your Spiritual Side in Sedona!

Sedona's red rocks are said to house energy vortexes
with the capability to heal and energize.
Sedona, Arizona has long been considered a spiritual retreat rife with energy and mysticism. If you're hoping to re-energize and reconnect with your spiritual side, you can do no better than the famed red rocks. Sedona's mysterious "vortex sites" are said to be ideal for meditation and inspire a sense of peace and harmony with the world. Sedona is also home to a strong alternative medicine community as well as practitioners of astrology and shamanism willing to pass on their crafts. 

Get a Makeover in New York City!

If you're resolving to reinvent yourself or spruce up your style a bit, New York City is the place to visit. New York will always be a shopping wonderland - SoHo and Union Square are the places for all your favorite brands, while Madison Avenue is home to the ultra-stylish and ultra-expensive stores if you're seeking to really treat yourself. New York is also home to countless salons and spas to complete your makeover, as well as plenty of unique dining options to take a break and keep your energy up for even more shopping!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Major Airline Changes Reported for 2015

As vacationers, many of us are all-too-familiar with air travel. Oftentimes, it's a love-hate relationship; we love the speed by which a plane can deliver us to our destination, but few travelers find the journey itself pleasant. Between crowded airports, ever-changing air rates and typically FlyersRights.org, an organization dedicated to protecting consumers of air travel.
uncomfortable seating in the plane, it makes sense that air travel can be a bit of a pain - and things are about to change quite a bit in 2015 according to

This year, both Delta and United Airlines have announced changes to revamp their mileage programs to reward miles based off the amount spent rather than the actual distance flown. For many flyers just taking the average vacation, this can result in a significant devaluation of miles. While no other announcements have surfaced yet, other major airlines can be expected to follow suit. The new consensus seems to be that miles are effectively irrelevant when considering your airline choice - shop by price and consider non-US carriers when possible. 

FlyersRights also announced that American Airlines plans to spend nearly two billion dollars put towards product improvements on planes. These improvements are intended to improve the flight experience of first and business class passengers, including the implementation of fully lie-flat seats. Some fear, however, that these changes will come at the expense of standard flyers in the rest of plane. To be fair, however, American Airlines also announced changes that will benefit the entire plane, such as improved Wi-Fi and power outlets in every row.

Free bags are also becoming a relic of the past. JetBlue recently quit offering free checked bags, leaving Southwest as the lone carrier that still does. At first blush, many might be inclined to choose Southwest under the assumption that the free checked bag represents a better deal. Compare fees before purchasing tickets; even with that free bag, Southwest's fees might be the same or more than a competitor with lower ticket prices and a separate bag charge.

Flyers of American carriers are also advised to keep their eyes out for holiday surcharges. While many European airlines are notorious for seasonal surcharges, it's a trend that's largely been absent in the states until Spirit announced $2.00 surcharges for each bag checked on Christmas or New Year's day. Whether other carriers intend to follow suit is not yet known.

If planes already felt a bit claustrophobic for you, get ready for an even tighter squeeze. Many of the big-name carriers are overhauling planes and pulling out the big, bulky seats in favor of newer "slimline" models. These models and their slighter profiles would allow for planes to house an extra five to six seats from front to back. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of consumer legroom.

Finally, Delta announced the debut of a new class - Basic Economy. Basic Economy is a bare-bones class choice that sacrifices flexibility to lower prices. Basic Economy will not allow for ticket changes, seat assignments or upgrades. This represents an interesting change - will consumers be willing to accept the limitations of Basic Economy to secure a lower price?

What do these changes mean for you? Will you alter your travel plans in light of these changes? Let us know! For more up-to-date information on goings-on in the air travel industry, we recommending checking out FlyersRights directly!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Get Ready for Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows!

Artist's rendering of the new Bungalow accommodations. 
Disney Vacation Club has quite the reputation in the realm of timeshares - and for good reason! These resorts are beloved by millions of vacationers and consistently rank among RedWeek members' favorite timeshare resorts. So, when Disney Vacation Club announces a new resort, it's big news! While rumored for a few months prior to official announcement, the notion of a new DVC resort in Walt Disney World had vacationers chomping at the bit - what would follow up the success of Disney's Bay Lake Tower in 2009?

The official announcement in September of 2013 had DVC owners elated. A portion of the ever-popular Polynesian Resort would be receiving a DVC renovation with an unannounced opening. Little else was known, but speculation was rampart nonetheless. Fast forward more than a year later, and just now most of the details have come to light, and the newly titled Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows seeks to stand out.

In addition to the batch of existing Polynesian rooms that are being converted into DVC units, Disney is also testing the new Disney Vacation Club Bungalows. This concept borrows a page from the vacation home concept and allows travelers the full "home-away-from-home" - their own private bungalow instead of a sectioned-off room. These bungalows can sleep up to eight individuals, and sound undeniably lavish. The Polynesian's famed South Seas vibe resonates loud and clear, and touches like the private plunge pools and Seven Seas Lagoon view seek to elevate the experience. While only twenty bungalows are planned for opening, it's certainly possible that Disney will integrate the concept into future DVC developments if it proves to be a hit.

The bungalows aren't the only interesting concept to be we'll see upon opening. New Deluxe Studios will also make their debut. These units can connect to another Deluxe Studio and sleep five each, making it an affordable alternative to multiple bedroom units for large groups. The addition of a kitchenette and expanded storage help alleviate the crowded feeling that studios can run the risk of.

With the DVC developments also come a refreshment of the Polynesian's Great Ceremonial House, where guests will first experience the resort. We'll see updated and expanded pools on property, as well as new dining options. Pineapple Lanai will provide guests with the much-beloved Dole Whip treat, and Trader Sam's Grog Grotto will offer plenty of cocktails and Polynesian-themed appetizers and small plates.

There's still a bit of unclarity regarding the opening or sale of Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows. All we know is that the doors are scheduled to open at some time during 2015, with many predicting spring. However, this is just speculation, and it's best to hear from Disney first. We recommend keeping an eye on the Disney Parks Blog for more information as it's released. Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows is sure to delight both DVC owners and family vacationers come its much anticipated debut!


Photo Credit:  http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2014/12/new-details-announced-for-disneys-polynesian-villas-and-bungalows/