Monday, July 18, 2005

on Timeshares

Since I had mentioned Fairfield Glade as where we stayed, I thought I'd do a semi-informative post about timeshares and such. We have owned in Fairfield now for about 10 years. We're what Fairfield calls "VIP GOLD" members. Means we own a lot of points and get extra 'perks' for it.

My definition of what we've purchased is that we have "prepaid" for our vacations pretty much for life. We have deeded timeshares which we can pass down to our kids (being careful how we do it). We technically own at Fairfield Myrtle Beach, though we love going everywhere. Since buying our timeshare we've gone to Fairfield Cypress Palms (Kissimee), Yellowstone Park (RCI Resort in Montana), Mount St. Helens, Mount Ranier, Glacier National Park, Gatlinburg, Virginia (and Washington DC), Cape Cod, and more. We can use any of the Fairfield or it's affiliate resorts. If for some reason we don't want to use those, we can bank our points with RCI and go to any of the RCI resorts.

Now, if we STILL don't like any of the options, we can use what Fairfield calls it's "Plus Partners" program and back our points on a hotel, rental car, airfare, tickets to Disney, and more. Note: there's an added fee to belong in the program, and each transaction has a fee. For example: last year we wanted to go to Anaheim and see Disneyland. There are no resorts RCI/Fairfield in the immediate area. For a $35 fee we banked points on a hotel stay <1mi from the gate. For an extra $35 fee, we had a rental car for the duration of our stay. We decided to stay a while, so we booked a room with RCI in San Diego and stayed there a week as well. We didn't do our airfare this way (too many points) so our costs broke down this way: airfare (AirTran ran a special), 4 day hotel $35, rental car $35, week long resort $35, food, souvenirs. The resort had a full kitchen, so we saved on food by doing breakfast/lunch in the room. In general, not too bad. I have one of the Disney points credit cards and had saved enough points to buy the kids' their souvenirs from Disney without having to "pay" for them. I also shopped around and found the Southern California City Pass which gave us a 3 day park hopper to Disneyland, a day at KnottsBerry Farm, a day at San Diego Sea World, and a day at the San Diego Zoo for about the rate of a 4 day park hopper to Disneyland. It also gave us a discount on AmTrak had we decided to use that.

So, if you're interested in timeshare, it can be a good investment. I'd suggest, though, that you do your research before purchasing. There are rules about purchasing resale (which is cheaper) vs. buying direct from the company (or developer) that you'll need to know first. Fairfield doesn't like resale, so they may or may not give you your upgraded status for amount of points you purchase (ie: the VIP perks stuff). We went to VIP Gold to give us the points to be able to take family with us on vacation (or friends if we decide). It also gives us the ability to make reservations earlier for our home resort than "standard" levels. We get more recognition from the staff and can check in earlier, etc.

Here are some resources to help you do some research:

  • TUG - Timeshare Users Group. Good overall information about Timeshares, not just Fairfield. Discussion groups, databases, ratings on resorts, etc. http://www.tug2.net/. Please mention my name as your sponsor and referring member when you join TUG ( I do get a member referral bonus when you join, so I would appreciate it if you mention my name ).
  • Fairfield Users Group. Fairfield specific with some discussion of RCI and whatever affects the owners. There are groups also for owners at particular resorts, though you have to already be an owner to join those extra groups. The primary group is open to the public. Please let Keith (moderator) know I referred you. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Fairfield_timeshare/
  • Fairfield Resorts - information about Fairfield itself. https://www.fairfieldresorts.com/ffr/index.do
  • RCI - Resort Condominiums International. One of the main timeshare exchange companies. Fairfield is associated with this one and is owned by the same company that owns RCI (Cendant). http://www.rci.com/index
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