Vacation Clubs & RCI Vacation Plus Membership

Aug 10, 2000

As we do a lot of traveling, when we received an invitation from a family member to join a "vacation club" I was very interested to see if I could do better booking our trips through them. As it turned out, we joined, however soon learned that many of their "specials" were greatly exaggerated, and that I can obtain better rates on my own. However, one aspect of our membership has made the $1400 (down from $3000) fee work for us; it is the RCI Travel Plus membership given to us for 18 months.

We have been looking to invest in vacation property for a long time, but found timeshare was not the way to go for us (we are currently looking at property in Mexico.) The Travel Plus program (which is good for only 18 months) allows us to book excess condo inventory through RCI anywhere in the world for $90 a week. Our $1400 investment has already paid off, as we have utilized this option of our membership several times in the 6 months we have had the program.

The vacation club boasted about greatly reduced cruise rates, which have not been comparable to what I have been able to garner on the net; discount hotel packages, which is comparable to Entertainment Book rates; and prices on tours and packages, so greatly exaggerated at the presentation, that I have yet to find one that's a decent deal. But the RCI Travel Plus program has been worth it, but only because we travel so often.

The way RCI's Travel Plus program works is quite simple. I go into RCI's website and download condo information about a particular resort destination. I then call RCI with my date and see if any properties I like are available. I can take care of everything over the phone, and get a booking in a matter of minutes. I won't often have a choice in properties, but I can, for the $90, obtain up to a 2 bedroom condo, for a week. I have been consistently lucky in finding Gold Crown properties, the highest rated 5 star accommodations.

Unfortunately, we have only a year of this left, as it's only 18 months in length. I have made good use of this, but know of no way yet, to see about extending this membership. Our vacation club membership allows us to book condos (under their own similar database) for around $400 for the week, which isn't a bad deal. But I don't have lots of faith that the vacation club will be around long enough to provide this kind of service forever!

We were very reluctant to buy and did so only because the salesman kept dropping the price. We figured for our investment, we did okay, even if we never utilize the vacation club's services and stick to RCI. But I've since heard of people paying $4000 and more for identical memberships without the RCI component. We travel more often than the average member, but those people that travel only once a year will find a membership like this will not pay off.

Would I recommend a vacation club membership to my family and friends? Absolutely not, at those high prices, but only because I don't think they would travel enough to use it. Would I recommend a vacation club package to a frequent traveler? Maybe. If the price fell below $2000 and included a Travel Plus membership, then I would say a resounding yes!

I have been warned about these programs, as they might be a scam. Before attending a sales presentation, I contacted the attorney general's office and learned these programs in general are not a good deal, as they tend to run $3000-$6000, but thus far, they have few complaints and are on the "up and up". I'm not sure why we were able to get the price so low, but for us it hasn't been a bad deal. Keep in mind, I have only been able to utilize the RCI component. The vacation "club" benefits, in my opinion, are a joke. And I honestly don't expect them to be in business for ever.

I decided to write this review mainly because although many people are familiar with timeshare promotions, these vacation club's are a new phenomenon, and are promoted the same way. Their claims are inflated and without RCI's Travel Plus, I wouldn't even consider it.

It's interesting to see the group of people in attendance, mainly young couples with average incomes, who live in debt, and probably shouldn't be plunking down $4000 (which is financed). The invitation usually includes a useless vacation certificate, that is so highly restricted, one will be hard pressed to use it. Don't go, unless you are truly interested in what they have to sell you. We did not receive a formal invitation to attend; rather we "crashed" this event with a family member who did not buy the program.

I have had trouble finding any input about our particular vacation club (there are several out there), but you should continue to research this aspect of travel, if you are seriously considering joining one. I'd be happy to reply to any email inquiries. Good luck!

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