Monday, May 25, 2015

May Resort Spotlight - Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club

Las Vegas is a vacation destination unlike any other - there's so much to do, see and experience that it can be tough to cram all the excitement into one trip! One thing is for sure though - you'll be very, very busy! And you'll want somewhere plush, luxurious and utterly relaxing to come back to after your day in Sin City. The perfect choice? Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club!

HGVC's Elara towers over the center of the Strip in the very heart of Las Vegas, providing convenient and easy access to the area's best attractions. The 52-story is right across the street from the Cosmopolitan and adjacent to the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino complex. Adjoining access to Planet Hollywood makes exploring the hundreds of shops and restaurants along the Miracle Mile easier than ever. Traveling with a car of your own? Elara is conveniently located near I-15 and just four miles from McCarran International Airport.

Even with so much to do in the city, Elara is packed with a bounty of amenities to enrich your experience. Looking to kick back and relax after an exciting day on your feet? Cool off in the outdoor tropical complex, complete with whirlpools, private cabanas and a pool bar. A fully-equipped, modern fitness center ensures that your fitness routine won't suffer even on vacation. Before hitting the town, enjoy a cocktail or beer in the lobby bar. For an extra-indulgent experience, enjoy a massage and other spa services at the Mandara Spa right next-door at Planet Hollywood, also home to nine exclusive restaurants that cater to nearly any taste.

You'll enjoy every moment on Elara's sundeck!
Elara's studios, one, two, three and four-bedroom suites are undeniably luxurious. Each is decked out in ultra-modern, bold colors and prints while the decor is sleek and striking. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer breathtaking views of the city - especially at night! Studio units can sleep two individuals and offer all the essentials in a slick, attractive package. A well-furnished kitchenette, 42" plasma televisions, jetted bathtub, automatic curtains and a spacious seating area lend a luxe edge to the standard studio experience. Meanwhile, the larger rooms come with even more to make your trip as perfect as possible. Full kitchens equipped with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops are perfect for whipping up your own meal. Large living areas are furnished with leather sofas and even an eight-foot wide screen, projector and home theater system for serious entertainment. As for the bathrooms? Enjoy a whirlpool tub, separate shower and even a TV in there too! Every one-bedroom and larger suite includes in-room laundry facilities.

Sleek and modern - the perfect Vegas accommodations!
We could go on for days about everything there is to do in Las Vegas. Of course, the city is home to over 70 casinos where you can try your luck, each with a unique theme. But Las Vegas has much more than just gambling - there's literally hundreds of restaurants, a handful of malls and dozens of other shopping opportunities. Live entertainment is always in progress, whether you're looking for shows, concerts or something completely different. Don't think you're limited to the city, either - beautiful natural preserves such as Red Rock Canyon are just as exciting, as are attractions like the Hoover Dam!

Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club's perfect blend of convenient location, gracious amenities and breathtaking accommodations earns our May Resort Spotlight. But we want to hear about your experiences as well! How was your visit? And would you return? Sound off below!

Imagine waking up to that view!


Monday, May 18, 2015

The Best Beaches for Your Summer!

The temperatures are rising, the days are getting longer and May is in full-swing. As summer draws closer, we begin to think "beach" - on those long, hot days, there's no better way to cool off than with some sun, sand and surf with your family and friends! But which beach is perfect for your summer getaway? This week, we're looking at five often-overlooked beaches that are perfect for making awesome summer memories!

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Eagle Beach is the picture-perfect Caribbean retreat!
If asked to picture the perfect tropical beach, this is undoubtedly the one that springs to mind! Endless stretches of velvety, white sand melt into sapphire waters and cool breezes coming off in off the water help to stave off the heat. Without a doubt, this is the picturesque Caribbean beach that will leave all your friends back at home jealous! Cabanas and beach chairs are available for rent and due to the sheer size of beach, crowds are often at a minimum. Best of all, Eagle Beach and the greater area of Oranjestad are home to some of Aruba's finest resorts, making your stay just as enjoyable as endless hours soaking up that Caribbean sun!

La Jolla Cove, California

Tucked between beautiful sandstone cliffs, La Jolla Cove is one of Southern California's most beautiful beaches. While a bit smaller than other nearby beaches, La Jolla Cove makes up for it with a gentle surf that's ideal for swimmers, snorkelers, scuba divers and kayakers. The beach lies firmly within the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve which means visitors just may encounter local wildlife - including the area's resident sea lions! While you're there, don't forget to visit the Caves, whether by foot or by kayak!

Sanibel Island, Florida

Every shell you collect on Sanibel is 100% unique!
Sanibel Island is a unique getaway, a retreat that's both relaxing and family-friendly. On Sanibel's pristine beaches, time slows down and you can appreciate the natural beauty around you. One of Sanibel's best attractions can be found right on the sandy shores - thousands of seashells, making shelling and beachcombing near-mandatory activities. Unlike many beach getaways, much of Sanibel is not lined with hotels, making for a clean and tranquil horizon. Rather, the island is packed with nature preserves, making sightings of rare Floridian birds and other fauna very common.

North Shore, Hawaii

If you're looking to catch a wave, Oahu's North Shore is the ultimate beach destination! With intense waves in the winter and gentler waves in the summer, North Shore proves to be an ideal beach for surfing regardless of skill level. During the winter months, visitors can also glimpse whales moving through the waters. Regardless of why you choose to visit North Shore, one thing is certain - it's a fantastic break from the crowded hustle and bustle of Honolulu!

Akumal, Mexico

Imagine swimming with wild sea turtles!
Akumal is a terrific alternative to Cancun for those who want shimmering, pristine beaches but not necessarily the party scene that comes with them. Indeed, Akumal's waters are sparkling-clear and ideal for snorkeling, where you can catch glimpses of rainbow corals, beautiful fish and even the sea turtles that are the area's namesake (Akumal is Mayan for "Place of the Turtle). When you need a break from the water, plenty of authentic restaurants and unique shops without the tourist spin are within easy reach.


Of course, these are just our recommendations! Which beaches are your annual go-to's? Have you visited any of our featured locations? Let us know!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Florida's Newest Timeshare Bill Stirs Up Controversy

A new bill has made its way through Florida Congress that spells quite a few changes for timeshare owners. Known both as House Bill 453 and Senate Bill 932, the controversial legislation makes a great deal of technical changes to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act. The bill's passing
has ruffled some feathers among both individual owners and industry leaders who fear the vague language can be abused. Others hold a more optimistic outlook and believe the bill will provide more stability and inherent protection for timeshare owners. As an owner advocate, RedWeek is committed to providing you with the entire rundown.

The bill was conceptualized with the best of intentions - to streamline and simplify ownership for owners. HB453/SB932 introduces changes like eliminating doubled-up interest fees and providing ways for a contract to end or be extended when the plan does not specify a way to do so. In addition, backers of the bill hold that the changes will provide consumers with more protection and freedom in regards to the fate of their timeshare plan, as well as bring the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act up to speed with modern real estate law.

State Representatives Eric Eisnaugle and Kelli Stargel have spearheaded the crusade for the introduction of HB453/SB932, fervent in the belief that the changes will help owners. The bill is also backed by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee (RPAC) as well as Florida-based developers Orange Lake Resort Alliance (Holiday Inn) and Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. - all of whom contributed monetary donations to the bill.

This endorsement of HB453/SB932 has many skeptics raising their eyebrows, fearing the legislation only gives more sway to developers who already hold the lion's share of power in a timeshare contract. Others are not as concerned with what the bill does say, but rather what it doesn't. Neither compliance nor materiality are adequately defined, giving developers the ability to define exactly what these terms mean in regards to mistakes or omissions in a given contract. Additionally, "nonmaterial" errors would not grant the purchaser cancellation within ten days, as is permitted now.

It's not just owners who are concerned with the implications of HB453/SB932. Industry figureheads like Gregory Crist (CEO of the National Timeshare Owner's Association) are also expressing their concern, stating that the bill is designed to protect developers who have no intention of following the law and that the technical changes will strip away mechanisms intended to protect consumers. Others like Scott Smith (assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina) only see removing property taxes from the 125% cap on annual increases in assessment fees weaken the allure of timeshares as an affordable vacation option.

So what's an owner to do in midst of such changes? If you find yourself wary of the implications of HB453/SB932, we encourage you to check out and sign the Change.org petition to veto the bill. Also, be sure to keep an eye on our partner blog Timeshare Information and our Facebook page for more updates as we hear about them. And of course, let us know your thoughts on the issue!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Welcome to the New RedWeek!

Have you had a chance to explore the new RedWeek yet? With a sleek new look and improved functionality, the RedWeek redesign is packed with changes that we're sure will make posting and searching for timeshares easier than ever.

One of the biggest changes is one you're bound to notice if you're browsing RedWeek on the go - mobile functionality! Whether you're viewing from your phone or tablet, the RedWeek site is perfectly adapted to fit your device. No more pinching and zooming, or scrolling sideways to read minuscule text. Vertical scrolling, slick menus and quick loading times ensure that mobile RedWeek is every bit as great as the "full site"!

You might also notice the improvements to our search features when looking for a timeshare. After you type in a general location (think city, state or country), you'll have the option to refine your search on the results page. You can choose to specify results only within a certain date range or price range. Additionally, you can refine by unit size, RedWeek user rating or even features - perfect if you're looking for just all-inclusive resorts, or just resorts with internet or a pool, for example! Your results can also be arranged into list or grid views and sorted by user rating.

If you commonly post your own timeshare for rent or sale; rejoice! Our posting creation process has been greatly streamlined. Instead of navigating page by page, your posting is created on a single page with clean, expandable menus guiding you through each step. Photos are easier than ever to upload; drag and drop or upload them in bulk, with the option to review and caption them before your posting goes live.

Certain major pages were brought out of their more obscure locations into the limelight. The Timeshare Companies page - a hotspot for those looking to buy or sell a points system - is no longer just tucked away on the resales page, but rather accessible directly under the "Find a Timeshare" tab near the top of the screen. There's no need to visit the account page in order to view your postings, either. The "My Postings" link at the top of the page (left of the RedWeek banner) will instantly take you to the page where you can view and edit your postings.

While not active yet, we also have some great community features planned in the coming months! If you encounter any bugs, issues or something that just doesn't seem to be working right, please let us know at support@redweek.com. We hope you're every bit as excited as we are to experience the new RedWeek.com!

Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Speak Cajun

(A tip of the hat to my niece who calls up and says, "…Hi Annie (Auntie) Helen, how ya be darlin'?")

If you are "fixin to" go to yo (your) timeshare in “Looziana”, (Louisiana) you need to understand the local dialect in order to communicate yo (your) needs clearly. Here's a quick guide...

In Hotels

1. Mash not push: When stepping into an elevator at your timeshare, don't ask a local to "push" the button of the floor you want, you ask to mash it, like "…Mash number four please!"

2. Fixinto: Most sentences begin with fixinto mean "I was going to do it eventually" or "I was getting around to it", such as "I was fixing to begin dusting, or fixin to go to the pool." ...So when your wife says, I want to go shopping, remind her that she is fixinto go shopping.  

3. Lights and Lightbulbs: You don't turn them off and on, you "cut them off and on".  To the hotel clerk, "I was fixin to cut on the light above the desk in my room, but it won’t work. Can you send me a new bulb?"

Driving Around

1. Fresh air: You "crack" a winder (window), not "open it." Try, "It's hot in here, crack yer winder wouldja?"

2. Asking for directions: Don't ask how many miles it is to the nearest bait shop. It's all in minutes - "Bill's Bait shop is 5 minutes down the road. Or, you can go to Fontaineau's which is about six minutes the other direction.You fixinto go fishing?"

3. Backwards and Forwards: When a local says he knows you backwards and forwards that means he knows everything about you.  "Oh you fixinto go fishin today? Well that new reel and pole tells me backwards and forwards how experienced you are. Wan a book guide to fishin in Louisiana? Or a guide on how to rig yo line, or if y'all can wait about an aire (hour), I will be yo guide!"

In Cafes

Be aware that two types of "food" exist in Louisiana: Cajun and Creole. A common joke among the locals is that a Creole mama feeds a family with three chickens, whereas a Cajun family feeds three families with one chicken. Gator is a most delicious substitute for chicken, and most of the meals include okra. Creole's were generally looked on as the "rich" folks, who had access to markets where fresh foods were displayed and purchased but Cajun families often ate off the land and grew their own vegetables - usually onions and okra (the "french fries" of Louisiana). Single women, when assessing a male partner for the future, ask "is he a creole or a cajun boy?"

Another major difference between Creole and Cajun food is the type of roux that is used as the foundation of most food - which is usually in a "sauce". Butter and flour are the basis for Creole roux, while Cajun roux is made from lard and flour.  Cajuns often didn't have access to butter so they slaughtered their pigs and other animals and made lard from the skin.  

Gumbo is found in both cuisines. Creole gumbo has a tomato base (usually ketchup) and is more of a soup, while Cajun gumbo is more of a stick-to-your-ribs type of stew. Most everything has a distinct red base color.  

There are only three flavors in Louisiana: hot, hotter, and hottest. These are powered by Tony Chacherie's spice mix (right on the tables with salt, pepper, Tobasco, chili pepper and ketchup. It's not "cha-cherry" but "sash-er-ee". Pepper comes in colors in Louisiana: black, red, white, green and pink.  There is hot food, hotter food and "just the way I like it". Tourists can be identified wiping their foreheads as they eat, and locals will punch each other in the arm and snicker when they see these "sissies" eating their food. 

Favorite Phrases in Local Cafes

1. Jeet: Meaning, "you are hungry and want something to eat?" You will hear jeet a lot - this is short for "did you eat?"

2. Hey darlin’/bon ami: the waitress calls everyone darlin' in her cafĂ© - "jeet here bfo (before) darlin'?" Men call you "bon ami" - meaning good friend. "Ayyy bonami… jeet? Yo ere to camp? (spend some time in a vacation home or timeshare)?"  

3. Buster: A buster is a soft shell crab that just shed its shell. Don't be surprised to hear, "ay ave a good buster for lunch today!"

4. The other white meat:  Fried catfish is considered the "other white meat". Pork and gator are numbers one and two, and often accompanied by fired okra. Mudbug is another tasty delight served in many cafes - it's crawfish, boiled or fried.  

5. Food preparation:  "Ay mon ami, we have fried, bolled (boiled) deep fried, brolled, (broiled) or baked, which ya want?  The Chef was fixin to make a new pot of bolled coffee if y'all can wait for it!"

Local Activities

Major local activities involve gator hunting, crabbing, and "fais do do".  Gator heads mounted as trophies on the wall are not prevalent in the Bayou - instead, they're often used for various purposes. Many Cajun families make necklaces of gator teeth to sell to tourists. It used to be that you could take a boat down the bayou to see the gators. Guides would stick marshmallows on the end of a stick and gators would fly up out of the water, grab the marshmallow and fall back into the bayou. That was until a gator landed in the middle of a boat and then the tourists became gator food.  It is now against the law to "marshmallow" gators.  

Cajun families often feed their families by crabbing - they stick a piece of bacon on a string and lower that into a crab mud hole to entice it to come out for "dinner". 

 If you are invited to attend a Fais Do Do, be sure to go!  It is a wild party that lasts until morning. 

 “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”  

---

This article is by guest author Helen Sabin. Helen Sabin is a timeshare traveler and RedWeek member from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Monday, April 06, 2015

April Resort Spotlight - Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows


After months upon month of heated rumors and speculation, Disney Vacation Club's newest resort - Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows - opened its doors to guests on April 1st! DVC resorts consistently rank highly among vacationers, and the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows appears to be no exception! With an immersive ambiance, premiere Orlando location and that classic Disney magic we all know and love, this South Seas-themed resort is poised to become your next go-to for an unforgettable Orlando vacation!

Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows lies along the Seven Seas Lagoon and offers up first-class views of Magic Kingdom's "Wishes" fireworks display as well as the Electrical Water Pageant. Walt Disney World's iconic monorail system sweeps right through the resort, providing quick and easy access to the Magic Kingdom park, Epcot park, the Transportation and Ticket Center and several other resorts directly bordering the Seven Seas Lagoon. Other parks can be easily reached via bus.

The resort's grounds are shared with Disney's Polynesian Village Resort - the standard, non-timeshare sister resort. Swathed in palm trees and tropical flora, dotted with tiki torches and koi ponds, Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows feels every bit as exotic as its namesake. These "longhouses" are shaped in the classic oceanic style and embellished with deep, red woods and exotic patterning. The lobby and shared interior areas are every bit as tropical and bright as the exterior - breezy, open-air areas and indoor greenery add life and vibrance.

The resort's distinct facade is immediately recognizable.
Even if you never plan to hit the parks, the DVC division of the Polynesian is set with enough to packed with more than enough to keep you busy. The Lava Pool winds around a faux-volcano and includes a waterslide, and the Polynesian East Pool is quieter, ideal for a relaxing swim. Lilo's Playhouse gives kids the opportunity to participate in a myriad of activities while the adults enjoy time to themselves. Several different dining options can be found on site - character dining at the 'Ohana restaurant, casual Asian-infused fare at Kona Cafe and snacks and drinks at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and the Tambu Lounge.

Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows' new Deluxe Studio unit elevates the average studio with more storage space, "longer" rooms and a kitchenette. The Deluxe Studio isn't the only new concept to be found, however - the Bora Bora Bungalow unit is set to become a hit for guests with large parties! These free-standing units are built right over the lagoon and feature two bedrooms, a full kitchen, separated living and dining areas, gorgeous lake views and even a private plunge pool that overlooks the lagoon. Whether you choose the Deluxe Studio or Bungalow for your trip, count on the warm colors and custom-crafted Polynesian decor that made the original Polynesian Village Resort so iconic.

Bright, vibrant and perfectly Polynesian!
Staying at a Disney Vacation Club resort often goes hand-in-hand with experiencing all the entertainment offered by Walt Disney World. However, Orlando has so much to offer beyond just WDW. Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows is just a drive away from other major area theme parks, such as Universal Studios, Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld and Wet'N'Wild.  Orlando is also home to a staggering array of shopping experiences - The Mall at Millenia, Orlando International Premium Outlets and The Florida Mall all lie within reach by car. For a more cultural experience, Orlando proper is quickly blossoming with a multitude of specialty museums and galleries as well as upscale dining.

The wait for the opening of Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows has been a long one, but now the door is open to both DVC owners and guests! Are you excited to give Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows a try - perhaps even have a trip of your own planned? If so, don't forget to leave a review on RedWeek!

That's right - a picture-perfect beach in Orlando!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Is it Time to Sell Your Timeshare?

Timeshares are a fantastic, reliable investment for many vacationers. But sometimes - after the initial honeymoon period has ended - owners might decide they no longer wish to keep their timeshare, or that it's not as useful as it once was. So many owners remain locked into a timeshare that they're no longer getting their "money's worth" from - how do you know when it's time to sell your timeshare?

An owner's interest in their timeshare might decrease for any number of reasons. One of the most common we hear about it an inability or decreased ability to travel. Be it for health, financial or personal reasons, reduced ability or interest in travel saps much of the usefulness out of timeshares. if the problem is temporary and you'd plan to resume travel after its resolution, you may consider renting your timeshare out instead - this can be an excellent way to recoup the year's maintenance fees and ensure that your week doesn't go to waste.

Many owners may find themselves struggling with the financial burden of a timeshare. Timeshares are definitely a luxury product and demand quite a bit of payment both upfront and on an annual basis - even more so if you made your purchase directly from the developer! Factor in the additional costs of travel (such as airfare, gas and food) and you're committing a very significant amount of money to that yearly vacation. Again, renting your timeshare can help mitigate annual maintenance fees, but if you find yourself gritting your teeth every year, trying to work your timeshare into your finances, it may be worth reconsidering if you want to keep it around.

A lack of flexibility might also be a cause for decreasing interest in a timeshare. While points systems and vacation clubs that allow owners a multitude of destinations are growing in popularity, the limited nature of many ownerships can be off-putting. Perhaps wild summers in Cancun are no longer your thing, or you've just seen all Orlando has to offer. If you find yourself a feeling bored on your next timeshare trip and own at a singular resort, it may be best to sell and use that time and money to explore new destinations. If you're the type who lusts after a new vacation spot every trip, you can also consider renting out other owners' weeks after you sell for incredible discounts.

Should you decide to take the leap and give selling a go, it's best to make sure you're prepared and have all your bases covered. RedWeek's "Posting and Selling Your Timeshare" guide gives you an idea of how to get things started, and you can use the free "What's My Timeshare Worth?" tool to feel out the pricing of your sale. If the resale process seems a bit overwhelming, RedWeek's full-service resale option takes all the stress of out of the process and puts your resale in the hands of full-service agents and licensed brokers. 

If you've sold your timeshare, ring in with your experience below - how did the process go, and were you happy with your decision? What was your motivating factor?