Other Exchange Company Services
In addition to facilitating internal, external, domestic, international, deposit-first, and request-first timeshare unit trades, exchange companies now offer many additional services that are designed to make your entire vacation-planning experience an easy, one-stop-shopping effort — and to put more profit into the exchange company's coffers instead of having you work with another company on things such as airline tickets and travel insurance.
A lot of these services are similar to the ones offered by major cruise-ship companies nowadays. If you are among the tens of thousands of people who have ever booked an extended cruise package that includes airfare, hotel transfers, and travel insurance, then you have experienced the kind of service that timeshare exchange companies are now offering to their clients, as well.
Travel Planning and Discounts
Resort Condominiums International, Interval International, and even some of the smaller exchange companies that you learned about in Chapter 1 offer travel-agent style vacation planning services, as well as discounts that you cannot always find when shopping à la carte for items such as airfare, hotel transfers, and rental cars. In some cases, these services include everything from complete cruise-ship vacations to weeklong theme-park itineraries to spa vacations with entire days full of discounted treatment packages.
In some cases, your membership with an exchange company will include access to many of these discounts and services. In other cases, you can augment your membership benefits by purchasing an upgraded membership package. Interval International, for instance, offers a basic Interval Travel service agency as well as an Interval Gold package that gives you more year-round discounts, services, and options.
Is it worth it to pay for an upgraded exchange company membership?
It can be — if you think you will take advantage of the services it includes throughout the duration of your timeshare ownership. Simply buying access to discounts is not financially smart, but buying access to discounts that you will actually use can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars during a lifetime of timeshare vacations.
To give you an idea about the level of services available, the basic Interval Travel membership includes travel packages, travel insurance, car rental and airline discounts, entertainment and theme park coupons, and pre-purchase ticket options (for everything from Ticketmaster shows to Universal Studios attractions). With Interval Gold, you get all of that plus discounts on weekend timeshare getaways, buy-one-get-one-free coupons for restaurants and attractions, 50 percent-off discounts at participating hotels, 20-percent-off discounts at participating restaurants and merchants, complimentary memberships with car-rental companies, and concierge service for help with everything from sightseeing suggestions to dinner reservations, and cash-back deals on cruises, golf, and spa packages.
Resort Condominiums International, as well as some of the smaller exchange companies, offer similar travel services and discounts — which can be important to you if you travel frequently in general, or frequently at the last minute. If you think these services might be useful to you, be sure to do business with an exchange company that offers them.
Both Resort Condominiums International and Interval International — as well as some smaller exchange companies — offer last-minute getaways that you can purchase in addition to your regular week of timeshare use (or in addition to the timeshare-usage points that you already own).
The Resort Condominiums International options include extra vacations that last from one night to one week long, as well as “Last Call” travel options for vacations that are going to start within the next forty-five days. Last Call options, if your personal schedule allows you the flexibility to use them, can be real money-savers. Studio timeshare units are just $99 during Last Call vacations, while one-bedroom units are $149 and two-bedroom units are $199 — and those prices are for the entire week of timeshare use, not per-night fees.
Interval International calls its additional vacation time Getaways. Many are available up to a year before the date you want to travel, while some can be purchased as little as twenty-four hours before you head out of town. The prices change from resort to resort, and from Getaway to Getaway, but the rates are usually lower than you will find at hotels in the same area — and you will have the benefits of a timeshare unit, perhaps including a kitchen and larger living area.
Some timeshare exchange companies and resorts offer programs that give you discounts on everything from golf lessons to spa treatments. The Disney Vacation Club is an easy example to cite in this area, offering discounted theme-park tickets at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and more to its timeshare unit owners.
Resort Condominiums International has a program called RCI Activities that not only gives you discounts on certain things, but also lets you search a database to see which activities other members of the exchange company have enjoyed at or near specific resorts. By using the company's Web site,
Interval International's Web site,