Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Forgo the Hotel Room, Stay in a Villa, and Save Money

Stay at a High-End Resort for Less Than the Price of a Hotel Room

Yes, it's possible to travel in style AND save!


How to rent a timeshare if you don't own


Take-A-Trip Tuesdays: The Secret to Affording Luxury Travel


Save money on first-rate accomdations
Welcome to the first installment of our Take-A-Trip Tuesday Series! As promised last week, my travel-savvy husband, Ben, is guest posting for me today! Yay! He's figured out some awesome ways to travel at a HUGE DISCOUNT; I don't know how he does it, but I'm soooo happy he does! We make a great team, because he focuses on the big travel pieces, like airfare and lodging, which allows me to focus on the little details that help to keep everyone happy during the trip!

Just a note: this is a pretty content-heavy post, so be prepared! Lots of info about to come your way ;)





Upgrade Your Lodging to Save Money! What?!

Hi, I'm Ben. Ever since I was young, I've loved to travel. As a kid, I spent my summers between Cape Cod and the Outer Banks, and in high school and college, I even spent a few stints living overseas. Once we got married, Kristen and I were able to take trips together, and those are some of my best memories. When we started to have a family, taking trips became harder, but that made me even more determined to make it work, because it's important to us to give our kids the same opportunities to experience the adventures of travel.

But, in reality, vacations are expensive, especially booking flights and hotel rooms and paying for food. Plus, squeezing a family into a small hotel or motel room may not end up being the relaxing vacation you dreamed of taking. Starting today and continuing into two more posts over the course of the month, I’ll share some of my insights on how we get to travel to fun – and typically expensive – places on a thrifter’s budget.

First, a little background.

About three years ago, early August, Kristen and I were sitting on the couch dreaming of going someplace fun to go with the kids. We had about a week’s worth of vacation saved up, and figured, “No problem!” We grabbed our laptops and started searching. Granted, it was last minute, but everything we found was really expensive, even looking at “cheaper” places and private rentals. We only looked within driving distance, but still, nothing seemed reasonable, so we looked at each other with sad faces and gave up. We vowed, however, to plan much earlier for the following summer.

After a couple of days of sitting at home {doing chores}, twelve months seemed so far away. Over the next few weeks, I began researching for somewhere I knew we’d want to go for the winter: Captiva Island in FL. We’d been there before and quickly fell in love with it. The problem, however, was that it was pricey. With two little kids, we wanted at least a 1-bedroom (but preferably 2-bedroom) unit, which would cost over $300 per night plus taxes and fees, or somewhere between $2000-$3000 per week. YIKES!! Then we’d still have to pay for flights, food, and anything else we might need. Once again, this was turning out to be unrealistic. for Affordable Timeshare Rentals

As I was Googling for discount codes for the resort we wanted in Captiva (South Seas), I stumbled across, a place I’d never heard of but where people buy, and more importantly, RENT timeshares. Sure enough, there were weeks listed for rent during the time we wanted to go: $1000 for the week, 7 nights, no taxes; 2-Bedroom and FULL KITCHEN! Hmmmm, now that was in our ballpark. I contacted the person who had listed the week, and after going back and forth (and negotiating is OK here!) for about a week via email and phone, I sent a 50% deposit. We were on our way to Captiva!

Here's the number breakdown: instead of paying the $300+ per night that the resort asks, we ended up paying just $143 per night with a full kitchen. Not only did we save big-time on our lodging expense, because we had the kitchen were able to save a ton of money on food. Before heading over the causeway to Sanibel Island, we stopped at a grocery store (Publix) and stocked up on supplies for the week, from food to suntan lotion (Kristen will fill you in on those details in her next post). Although we did get takeout and went out for dinner once or twice, we did not pay anything more than we usually do at home for our breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

Although I was nervous sending a $1000 check to someone I did not know, it turned out they had our reservation and room ready when we got to the check-in desk, and we had a beautiful, Gulf-front (yes, we could hear the waves crashing as we slept!) unit for the week.

Where Do You Go to Rent Timeshares?

Since spending that week in Captiva three years ago, we’ve rented several people’s timeshares from places like Redweek, ebay, or DeniseTravels. During Presidents Week last year, we stayed at a really nice Sheraton Vistana resort for about $800 for the week, very close to Disney, and this past summer, we stayed in a gorgeous 2-bedroom Westin St. John suite for $1500. While none of these are “cheap” by any means, they are a fraction of the cost of paying full rack rate, or even discounted rates, for a regularly-sized hotel (without a kitchen) unit.

What I learned that surprised me was that many resorts, including Hilton, Starwood (Sheraton, Westin), and Wyndham, have timeshare components to them. You’d never know it, but some people actually “own” in the resorts where you may already stay on vacation. People buy these timeshares, but they can't always stay in them, and so they rent them out privately. But they can't get nearly the rate the hotels do.... and that's where YOU come in. We never dreamed of staying somewhere like the Westin in St. John – in fact, that same suite rented directly from Westin would have cost over $5000 plus tax. That's a 70% savings on {totally luxurious} lodging!

Like Everything in Life, There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

There are, however, some downsides to timeshare rentals. Typically, there are no cancellation policies; once you rent, it’s your week, and often it's non-transferable. Second, because many timeshares are bought in week-long intervals, you usually have to commit to a week’s time. Third, there’s always the risk that someone unsavory may be on the receiving end of your check. Nevertheless, if you take some precautions (e.g., ask for references, use a contract), you should be more secure.

But even with the risks, it's been totally worth it for us. We feel so fortunate to be able to take our kids to places we never dreamed of when we were little – and never thought we’d be able to afford as adults.

I hope you learned something new! Check out these other family-friendly travel posts for more valuable tips:

PHEW!  That was a lot of information! Clearly, you've got to put in some grunt work to be able to plan an affordable vacation, but for travel-lovers like us, it's SO worth it. Questions? Feel free to ask in the comment section--chances are, someone else is wondering the same thing!


Before I forget, I'm SO EXCITED to announce a new event on the blog in April, in honor of Earth Day: Spring Greening! We'll highlight earth-friendly tips and tricks, and have GIVEAWAYS from eco-friendly vendors! Right now I'm looking for fun, eco-conscious bloggers to join me with some cool posts! Are you interested? Just fill out the form here: Spring Greening Contributors.

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  1. I would of never of thought of time shares! Such a great idea. I'm jealous of all your vacation spots. Makes me want to plan something soon! Thanks for the tips! :)

    1. The timeshare rental experience would be perfect for your crew! Plenty of space for everyone!

  2. we have a time share that doesn't require a week's stay....and while it confuses us sometimes, it's allowed us to have super long vacations. I mean, would I really pay for 13 days in france if I was paying for it? probably not. but since we have paid for x amount of points, and if 2 weeks is covered by those points, then heck yeah!

    1. That's awesome! Well you're clearly a pro--learning how to work those points takes a while to learn. It's so confusing for owners to try to figure out all the different timeshare systems. {But for those who are just looking to rent someone else's timeshare, you don't have to worry about the points systems; renting is very straightforward thru Redweek!}


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