Vacation Travel Clubs – How Much Do They Cost And What Are The Benefits of Membership?

My travel club story: Last year, my family took a “free” vacation with the obligation to attend a 90 minute Vacation Club Sales Presentation. We told ourselves before the meeting that “there is no way we are buying”. We planned to listen to what they had to say and then politely decline. At that time, taking a “freebie” vacation was about all we could manage. My husband and I are self-employed and the economy had hit us hard. So, when I received a call offering free beachfront accommodations, in exchange for 90 minutes of our time, I accepted.

The Meeting: When we arrived at the meeting (Florida Destinations) in Daytona Beach, we were served coffee and doughnuts. Each couple was assigned a sales rep and brought into a larger room to watch a video presentation of the benefits of Vacation Club Membership. By the end of the video, and the sales pitch that followed, my husband and I were wavering on our decision to “just say NO”. However, when they disclosed the price of $7995, we had to decline, because it simply wasn’t in our budget. We were then passed off from one high pressure salesperson to another where the price dropped from $7995 to $1595.

But what about all those people in the large room that had paid the full price? It didn’t seem fair to me that simply by saying “no” a few times, the price declined by 80%. When the sales manager left the room for a moment, I turned his computer around and did some quick research on the BBB. He had told me they had a “B+” rating, but when I checked, it was an “F”. That made a “no” much easier! When he came back in the room, he was embarrassed and released us to go, but if we changed our minds, his offer would hold until the following morning. At this point, he just wanted us to leave.

I made the decision that IF there were a Travel Club out there that was reputable and economical, I would consider joining. We loved the idea of vacationing for less but weren’t sure if there was a better alternative to what we had just witnessed.

So, when we got home the following week, I began to research. I found 3 legitimate travel clubs, and for two days I read reviews and found as much information as I could on each one. Although all three companies held high standards, had a large club membership and quality properties, there was one club that seemed better than the rest. This particular travel club had an enrollment fee that was a fraction of the other two, and when I learned that it had more resorts, condos, villas and hotels than all other clubs combined, it became my favorite.

Can a Travel Club Save You Money?

Absolutely, but the wrong travel club could charge you too much and have little to offer after enrollment. Before considering a travel club, consider the following:

Enrollment Costs: This can vary from a few hundred dollars up to $10,000. A good quality travel club shouldn’t charge you a fortune. It’s a good idea to stay under 1,000 for enrollment fee.
NO fees, dues or up-charges of any kind: You can’t save money on your vacations if you have yearly or monthly fees. If you want to pay fees of this kind, consider a timeshare.
Selection: A high quality travel club should have thousands of quality properties all over the world, not just one specific location.
Customer Service: Look for a club where you can call a representative or at least expect a call back if you have a question. Concierge Desks can be invaluable when planning a vacation, but not all travel clubs have a concierge desk.
More than one type of resort they represent: One of the top 3 vacation clubs ONLY represents Crown Resorts. Since they don’t have the top 9 Resort Companies, prices tend to be higher than at a club where all 9 companies are competing against each other for your business as a member.
Properties offered to members at the cost they were acquired: Resorts and condos should not be “marked up” before they are offered to its members. Public travel brokers like Expedia, Priceline, and Kayak have to mark up their inventory before offering it to the public to cover advertising and management expenses. A good “private” travel club will not mark-up inventory, the members have full access to bottom-dollar pricing.
Quality Resorts: Make sure your travel club is offering top line destinations. Don’t settle for anything less than 3,4 & 5-Star Resorts, condos, hotels and villas.

Benefits of a High Quality Private Travel Club:

Save Money: Of course, everyone wants to save money. You should expect to save 30-50% on each vacation, and sometimes upwards of 80-90%, especially on last-minute travel to specific destinations.
Low Effort: A good travel club will have done all the research for you. Instead of spending hours comparing prices between sites, all your options will be in one location for you to browse online or talk to a travel representative.
A Concierge Desk: This is a great perk some travel clubs offer. Use them if they are available, they can save you additional money on everything from rental cars and limousines to Operas, Dinner Shows and Rafting Tours.
Members only perks: Enjoy 2 for 1 Cruises, Kids cruise free, All -Inclusive Resorts, coupons and travel tips.
No Black Out Dates: You should be able to travel during any holiday or high travel week without exception.

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