Monday, April 4, 2011

Snowbirds on The Timeshare Trail

Snowbirds about to land
j.smith photo, c, 2011
Snowbirds are those folks -- okay, older folks, like us -- who live in the north and, like birds, wing our way towards sun and warmth during the northern winter's nasty weather.

This winter this pair of snowbirds followed The Timeshare Trail.  

'No, not timeshare!' you are probably thinking, eyes rolling, as your finger aims for the delete button.
Wait! Give me a minute. . .
and don't worry, I haven't gone into marketing and this isn't one of those famous 90-minute sales presentations for which timeshares are famous.

I do understand your reaction as we used to be the same way: 'Timeshare? Not us!'
Just like we said we 'weren't into cruising'.
Famous last words. 
You know by now that we love cruising and guess what?
We've decided the timeshare life is pretty darn nice as well.

Of course timeshares aren't those stark, cramped, worse-than-college-housing places that originated a half century ago. Can you believe they've been around for a half century? The first timeshare can be traced back to a 1960's French Alps ski resort.

One of three pools at the
Scottsdale Four Seasons Club
j.smith, (c) 2011
These days with the likes of Four Seasons, Marriott and Hilton  all  in the timeshare business, this travel niche has re-branded into upscale Residence Clubs and Vacation Clubs with equally upscale accommodations and furnishings.

On the Timeshare Trail

Our timeshare stays provided us ' second homes' on a Hawaiian beach, on the Las Vegas Strip and on a Scottsdale golf course.  Our goal was to make each stay as much like having a real second home as possible so we skipped tourist attractions and made outings to grocery stores and farmer's markets.
Although for those who were wanted an action-packed vacation, each place offered plenty of organized activities from classes to card games and exercise to excursions.

In Hawaii, we set up housekeeping at the Marriott Ko Olina Vacation Club.  Our days were much like those back home, except that when our daily chores were done (loading the dish washer, cooking, and maybe a grocery store run) we'd head to the beach for an afternoon of lazing in the sun. (No cleaning toilets, washing windows, shoveling snow. . . you get the picture.) 

Full disclosure (for those that didn't read last year's entries): We fell for this responsibility-free timeshare life several years ago. As owners, we can use our time at any number of locations around the world from winter-ski resorts to beaches - the selection is quite mind-boggling. Our ownership comes with membership in Interval International, a company that manages the trades and reservations. It was from them we found the deal on the week at the  Jockey Club, overlooking  the Las Vegas Strip that I wrote about a few weeks back.  Again, we set up housekeeping, rode their free shuttle to a super market and ate 'at home' several times during the stay.

We traded palm trees for Palo Verde trees and Saguaro cactus in Scottsdale, Arizona when we traded part of our Hawaiian time for the desert. We ended up at the Scottsdale Links Resort in a place so large that we could easily lived there year round:  two-bedrooms, two-baths, large patio, living room and dining room. (The spaciousness of these places would be a real plus for those traveling with children.)

Saving Money and Stress

We saved both money and calories by eating 'at home': a bottle of wine for $11 vs. a restaurant's $11 per glass; two steak dinners for the price of a restaurant's single fillet, refrigerator bins filled with fresh fruits and vegetables for the cost of a restaurant 'side'. Eating in wasn't a big deal. When the only 'chore' you have each day is getting a meal together, even it becomes a stress-free experience unlike the hurried, oft-uninspired preparations back home.

Renting a timeshare

Four Seasons Scottsdale
j.smith, (c), 2010
You don't need to buy a timeshare to vacation in one.  The Web is full of timeshare rental sites, which include: Diamond Resorts, Vacation Timeshare Rentals and Sell My Timeshare Now (don't be put off by the  name, it also offers rentals).  You can also rent directly from the resorts by going to their web site.  In some cases, you might see a real deal from the resort for 'introductory package' -- but be forewarned, those deals will likely require attendance at one of those 90-minute sales presentations and may come with other strings attached.  If you choose that route over a regular rental, read the small print.

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