How to Survive a Time Share Presentation with Your Wallet Intact

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Are Time Share presentations and gifts a scam?

I’ve heard this question from so many people so many times.  I concede that they have all the ‘markings’ of a scam.  They call you and offer deals that seem too good to be true.  They ask for money upfront (a deposit) and that sets off the scam alert for many people.  However, I will tell you,  (as someone who has been to a LOT of these) they are not scams.

Everything they promise to give you, you WILL RECEIVE.  We’ve gone to MANY of these and always received what we were promised.   The only “lie” they tell you is that it will only take 90 min. Count on 2  hours…minimum.     

Why would we go to these?  Well, they CAN help out the travel budget – with offers of free accommodations, tickets, meals, etc…  Sometimes the value of these packages can be as much as $300-400…  but ONLY if you know how to ‘survive’ them.  If you go to a Timeshare presentation to save a few hundred dollars on your vacation…then buy a Timeshare for $15K, you have NOT come out ahead….  hmmm…

Sooo…How do you get the bargain while avoiding the pitfall?

First…Know Who Should…and Who Should NOT… attend a Timeshare Presentation.

Who SHOULDN’T:  Answer: The person who is easily swayed – or has no will-power to say ‘no’.  While I will say over and over that these presentations are not a scam…owning one absolutely is!!  Read more about that in TimeShares – The Good, The Bad and The (REALLY) Ugly


Getting the best deal begins when they FIRST contact you – that FIRST phone call

  • Know that you CAN negotiate with the ‘gifting’.  There have been times when they’ve offered me a hotel room and meal voucher.  I replied with “We’re on restricted diets.  We can only stay in condos with kitchens for meal prep.”  Sometimes I’m told ‘no’, but more often than not, they give me what I asked for.  Now…they take away the free meal voucher, but I’m ‘ok’ with that.  I preferred the condo and kitchen over a pre-determined menu item of ‘so-so’  quality in a mediocre restarant.
  • NEVER pay the first price quoted:  They never intend for you to say ‘yes’ (and possibly laugh at those who do…).  Say ‘no’ to that first offer to get to the ‘real’ price.  Say ‘no’ TWICE and you MIGHT (no guarantee) be offered the ‘basement price’ (one that not everyone gets….)
  • When they offer you that ‘extra free vacation’, ignore them…It’s just a certificate which you then have to jump through 15 hoops to use. (they’re almost unusable)  The value in what they’re offering is not in that extra vacation…it’s in the room/condo, free meals, tickets..whatever they’re offering for THEIR location.  Base your decision on that.  Ignore everything else.

How to Survive the Actual Presentation:

  • Show Up!  You’ve given them a deposit to reserve your place.  If you don’t show up, you’ll lose that money.  If you check in to the hotel, then don’t go to the presentation, they’ll charge your credit card for the full price of your package.  Yes, they’ll keep their end of the bargain but you have to keep your end too….   Furthermore, all the extra gifts (meal vouchers, tickets, etc…) are given to you AFTER that presentation….not at check in.
  • The salesman’s goal in that first 15 min is to figure out who you are, what you do for a living and therefore,  your income (i.e. how much can you pay for the timeshare)  Be vague…  They’re also trying to build a connection with you so you’ll let down your ‘defenses’ and ‘allow’ them to reel you in. There’s no need to be rude (at this stage), but don’t be BFF’s either.
  • Don’t Ask Questions or Show Any Interest!  Any interest at all and they’ll jump on it. They see this as “vulnerability” and they’ll keep you there thinking you’ll cave to their pressure and buy.  Don’t give them any hope!
  • Lastly, my normal mantra about most things is “Be polite”.  However, if there’s ever a time when we’re not polite, it would be when dealing with a particularly pushy Timeshare salesman.  In a few rare cases, we have had to get forceful with our “NO!”   Don’t jump to that extreme the minute you walk in the door, but be prepared to take it to that level if needed.

 

Bottom Line:  If you are interested in the incentives offered by the Timeshare company, there’s no need to fear it.  Go ahead and give it a try….but ONLY if you have the fortitude to resist the sales presentation.  If you don’t, then you’ll probably want to Stay Away!  🙂

 

 

 

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Can You Get Rid of a Timeshare?

We have asked this question more times than I can count.  The answer ALWAYS came back a resounding “No”!

Until this year!  🙂

We bought our timeshare 11 years ago. We knew within 2 yrs that it was NOT a good decision; however, at that point, we owned it.  We were paying the annual maintenance fees.  If we didn’t use it, that money would go to waste. We had to just make the best of it.

Now, before this goes to the depth of negativity, I will say that we DID take some very nice vacations and stayed in luxurious accommodations. However, the planning of those vacations was often quite a challenge.  More times than not, timeshare availability determined our destination rather than our family’s preference. We chose to be excited about any vacation destination, but we rarely chose them ourselves. When we couldn’t use the timeshare, our points expired. Money paid in maintenance fees went to waste.  When we discovered that renting from VRBO, HomeAway or purchasing a Groupon was less than those maintenance fees, we REALLY regretted owning.

Every time we attended an “owner update” (another word for sales presentation) they would try to entice (another word for pressure) us to buy more points. We typically 20150429_150304responded with  “How do we get rid of this?”  (a question they usually didn’t appreciate…haha)  The answer always came as  “That’s not possible.”  Once in Las Vegas (company headquarters) the answer was “There’s NO WAY (expletive expletive) you can relinquish ownership”.

We gave up…we were strapped in this –  as would be our children when we died as it was ‘deeded’ and would be part of their inheritance – a burden!  ugh!!!

THEN….things changed this year.  During our annual call to the company asking about relinquishment… they GAVE US AN OPTION!  I was completely shocked – thrilled…but shocked!!!  Perhaps they just got tired of us asking???  ha!   At any rate, if we met their criteria, we could relinquish..

The Criteria:  (Note:  This may not translate to all companies; this was just our experience)

  • Paperwork (for relinquishment) signed and notarized
  • Payment of the current year’s maintenance fees WITHOUT using any of the point allotment.  UGH!!!
  • Payment of a processing fee equal to 25% of our annual maintenance fees.

It was irritating to pay maintenance fees and not be allowed to use the points…and even more irritating to pay the processing fee for someone to spend 5 min. clicking on a computer.  But it got us what we’d wanted for a LONG time!!  We immediately started jumping through their hoops!!!

After the paperwork was completed and payment submitted per the instructions, it took another 3 months for our online account to be deleted (I checked regularly to see if we were still in their system)   However, almost immediately, they cashed our check – and that qualifies as acceptance of the ‘contract’/paperwork.  Finally, THREE MONTHS after submitting that paperwork/money, we were NO LONGER OWNERS!!!   IT WORKED!!!!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It would be wonderful if all Timeshare companies made this option available to their customers. I do not know if that’s the case.

A Word of Advice to Those Considering Purchasing:

  • Do NOT buy a timeshare on a ‘Let’s try this out” basis. Scammers Beware Timeshare talk is here Yes, we were able to relinquish…but not before paying THOUSANDS of dollars in maintenance fees (and that irritating relinquishment fee). And realize, that just because we were able to relinquish doesn’t mean other companies will allow their owners to.
  • Only purchase if you KNOW you’ll want it forever…and your kids will want it forever…and your grandkids will want…etc…..  If you purchase a ‘deeded’ property, it and it’s (ever-increasing) maintenance fees will be passed down to your heirs and become their financial responsibility…or burden….

How can YOU relinquish?

  • First, Go into this process prepared for an uphill climb. Don’t expect it to be easy.  (We’ve been trying to relinquish for 8-9 years)
  • Read over your original paperwork carefully. That’s where we found the loophole that got us out.  It involved a buy out and the fact that we’d never ‘converted’…
  • Ask about relinquishment over and over and over…..and over and over. Be firm and consistent without being rude or hateful  (Rude or hateful rarely ever works!!!)
  • Send lots of emails asking about relinquishment.  (again, business-like and firm, but not rude)
  • Go to the “Owner Updates” (i.e. sales presentations) every chance you get (our company allowed us to go every 6 mos.)  and within the first 5 min. ask how you can get rid of it.  Drive them crazy with your (polite but persistent) inquiries!!!
  • NEVER under any circumstances sign anything or purchase MORE points or ‘time’.  Never ‘convert’ if there’s a buy out of your company.
  • There are companies that advertise that they will sell your timeshare….if you pay them…sometimes as much as $2000. I’ve always wondered if they were scams –  They MAY be legitimate, but honestly, I can’t imagine that they could sell it.  Think about it….have you ever heard of anyone buying from those places?  If they were selling, someone would need to be buying, right?
  • Some people hire lawyers to try to get out of these. We never did that as we saw that as another way to SPEND money on the timeshare.  I can’t speak to how successful (or unsuccessful) that would be.

Bottom Line:  Try to do this on your own without getting another party involved….certainly a party who will charge you MORE money.  Look for loopholes. Then, just be repetitive.  Drive them crazy with your inquiries.

Will that tactic work?  I don’t know. It did for us. It’s certainly worth a try.

I wish you the best of luck in getting rid of your timeshare if that is your choice.  Hopefully what worked for us will work for you too.

8 Things to Do When Checking into a Hotel Room

 

As with most things in life, it’s necessary to find a balance between safety/cleanliness and not going overboard or becoming paranoid.  ha!  Take this list for what it is…suggestions.  Most of these things take less than 30 sec. to do and can save you either time (from unpacking THEN changing rooms)   OR headache (from taking bedbugs home with you)  OR illness (from a room not properly sanitized)….and certainly save you from danger if danger lurks.   Ten minutes going through this list (or portions of it) may end up being time well-spent.

1. AT CHECK IN Confirm that your room is what you reserved:  Check the rate, room type and any special requests (N/S, location, floor, etc…) and CHECK OUT DATE.  Once you ‘accept’ everything at check in, you have no recourse later.  ALWAYS have your confirmation e-mail – either printed or electronically.

NOTE:  Women traveling alone should always request two room keys.  A well trained clerk will automatically give you two,  however, if the clerk is not quite up to par and asks the question,  don’t alert anyone nearby that you’re traveling alone.  

2.  Security Checks:  Before locking the door, check the bathroom, closets, under the bed and behind the curtains. It’s unlikely that there will be an intruder, but checking just takes a few seconds. Once you confirm the room is ’empty’, secure the  door.

3.  Place your luggage on a hard surface.  It’s tempting to throw the suitcase on the bed or chair, but if there are bedbugs in the room, THAT’S where they’ll be. Instead, put your luggage on the luggage rack.

This hotel put the remote in a holder indicating that it was properly sanitized. That’s Great! I still wiped it down.

4.  Quickly use an antibacterial wipe on  frequently touched surfaces like door handles, bathroom fixtures (handles), TV remote, lamp switches, telephone, temperature controls and alarm clock. (whatever you plan to use) While there’s no need to go overboard with this, it really only takes about  90 seconds…. and be aware that hotel TV remotes are often the dirtiest thing in the room.  Yes, housekeeping SHOULD clean these, but you never know if they really take the time to do it.  🙂

NOTE: Purchase a small package of 15 Clorox wipes at the Dollar Tree for $1. It will last through several trips (just seal in a ziploc bag between trips).

5.  Quick Checks:  

  • Check that windows and terrace doors are locked. (Unless you have mobility issues and there’s no elevator, request an upper floor)
  • Check the hot water and the toilet flush as well as the heat or a/c .  (It’s easier to move to another room BEFORE you’ve settled in.)
  • Make sure the alarm clock is turned OFF. 🙂  You don’t want to be awoken tomorrow morning at a time set by the previous guest.

6.  Check for Signs of Bed Bugs:  A telltale sign of these creatures is brown specks around the headboard, mattress seams, and bed frame. Check as briefly – or in depth— as you wish. (We encountered these on our last hotel stay…in a very nice hotel with raving reviews. From now on, I’ll check VERY carefully!!!  Lesson Learned!!)

I minimized this as much as possible (it’s not something I would want to see)  but for those who NEED to know what these creatures look like… Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki – Lic. :Publ. Dom. via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/

Quick Check:  look around the headboard, the seams of the pillowcase or under the alarm clock or lamp

Detailed Check:  (If you’ve ever taken these critters home you’ll be more apt to do an in depth check the next time you’re in a hotel….)  Lift the corner of the sheet and check the seams. Check under the bed around the legs and edges and seams of the mattress.

After determining there are no bed bugs, it’s ‘safer’ to put your luggage on the bed or chairs.

Note:  Bedbugs do NOT spread disease…they’re not dangerous in any way. They’re just very difficult (and expensive) to get rid of if you bring them home with you.

7.  Remove the Comforter  Most hotels do not wash bedspreads, blankets, etc…after each guest.

8.  Wash Glassware before using:  Have you seen the YouTube video of housekeeping staff in a hotel wiping used glasses out with the used hand towel, then putting them out as ‘clean’ for the next guest?  There’s no hot water, no soap, no heated drying to sanitize…just a wipe…with a dirty towel…and it’s ready for you.  The only way to be truly assured these are clean is to clean them yourself….  You can use hot water and the bar soap in the room…or a drop of shampoo.  Honestly, ‘soap’ is ‘soap’.

Undercover news report filmed at a Hilton, Embassy Suites and Sheraton:

I always prefer the single use cups  – wrapped in plastic.  They may not be as ‘luxury hotel’ but at least I know they’re clean.
Again…some of these things may seem over-board to some. However, if you’ve fought the battle of bed bugs at home, you will be more likely to check for them in a hotel. If you’ve ever walked in on housekeeping while they were in your room and seen something that turned your stomach, you’ll be more suspicious of cleanliness in the room. If you’ve ever returned from a trip only to spend a week in bed with the flu, you’ll be more likely to wipe surfaces with a disinfectant wipe. (no you can’t be certain the flu came from the room…)  It all goes back to your personal experiences.  (Isn’t that the way it is with everything in life?  haha!!)
Just take from this what you find necessary and disregard the rest.  🙂

TimeShares – The Good, The Bad and The (REALLY) Ugly

20150429_150304I should probably start with a disclaimer. We own a timeshare. I guess everyone, at some point in their life, makes a bad financial decision.

This. Was. Ours!!

While there are always going to be various opinions on these, personally, I would give ANYTHING if we had NOT bought it.

Unfortunately….we did. Since we haven’t been able to get rid of it, we have made the decision to just use it.  Otherwise those maintenance fees (which we MUST pay every year) will go to waste…

Why are timeshare such a bad idea (imho)?

The Maintenance Fees!! No matter how many times they tell you these won’t go up unless owners vote to increase it, that’s just not true. They go up every single year.  You’re not the one voting….it’s voted on by the Board of Directors and they have a tough decision to make:

Do they want more of your money?  hmmmm…….Guess how they answer that one….

Since purchasing ours, the fees have more than doubled.  No exaggerations! I have the records to prove it!!

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Yes, the condo/apartment set up for vacations is GREAT!!!  Having separate rooms, larger bathrooms (sometimes 2) and a full kitchen and dining room table…possibly a washer and dryer or Jacuzzi,  make vacationing MUCH easier…..not to mention more luxurious.  However, it’s not necessary to purchase a timeshare (or pay the annual maintenance fees)  to get these types of accommodations.   You can stay in accommodations like this through  VRBO or their sister company Home Away  (and there are others too) for about the same cost as annual maintenance fees….   BUT, with these rentals, you only pay when you use it.  If you don’t vacation for a year…or vacation in an area without timeshare properties (National Parks for example) or decide to take a cruise, you don’t pay for it. With timeshare, you pay every year whether you use it or not.  For more information on VRBO et al check out Finding Frugal Accommodations

How can OUR mistakes help you?   TUG (Timeshare User’s Group) http://www.tug2.net/ is a site where time share owners rent out their weeks.  Figure out the week # of your vacation (wk 1-52 beginning Jan. 1)  and search for availability from one of those “unfortunate owners”.  Now, these won’t be “steals”, but they will be reasonable rates for nice accommodations with kitchens, bedrooms, and various amenities.

20150429_150313Expect it:  🙂  If you’re staying in a Timeshare condo, you’ll be invited to a Timeshare presentation…… (this doesn’t happen at VRBO rentals – just fyi)   Of course, you can say “no”…They might pressure you, but you’re under no obligation.   Just don’t be shocked when the “invitation” comes.

I’ve written a post How to Survive a Time Share Presentation   to let others know that these are not necessarily scams to be avoided as long as you know HOW to not get duped. While they can be irritating…time consuming and a host of other things you might not want to deal with on your vacation, they are NOT scams.

In the meantime….

https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/3260505604/in/photolist-5Y7WHS-8UaDZA-8UashA-8U7tmx-8Uasvd-8U7zMn-8Uaobq-8U7FyP-8U7kDB-8UavDf-8UatrW-8U7pLD-8UarS5-8U7A2a-8UamrW-8UaJvU-8U7kqz-8UaAQ1-8UaqgW-8UaMjW-8U7D2e-8UaBko-8UarXE-8UapdE-8U7iHF-8UapG1-8UavTo-8U7iQc-8U7qyz-8U7jqg-8Uap6y-8U7tAp-8U7i9D-8U7EMt-8U7wmR-8U7n2R-8U7iBc-8U7jin-8U7oYB-8U7ttg-8U7G7i-8U7kiV-8UaoiL-8U7QJp-8UaqTC-8UaL71-8UaMsW-8U7h2k-8Uam2S-8U7nhT/

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr CC Lic.

If after all this, you still want to buy a Timeshare:   Go to TUG again: http://www.tug2.net/    As mentioned above, this is a reputable site that has been around for 25+ years. (there are many scams in timeshare)  These are those same timeshare owners who are trying to rent their weeks – but in THIS section of the website, they’re trying to sell the whole thing!!  These owners list these for as low as .01!!  Why?  They just want to get rid of their properties for ANY price, because they know that with the timeshare comes the annual maintenance fees.  If you really want to buy one, at least, buy it on TUG…  NOTE: Prices range from .01 – $500.  Those listed for $500 can be used 52 wks a year. If you’re going to buy one of these, that’s a better choice than a fixed week…imho.  🙂  Just don’t pay $10,000 …..$20,000……$30,000 for something you can buy on TUG for $500!!!

Bottom Line: Buying a timeshare  is RARELY a good decision unless you have more money than you know what to do with.  Instead, travel in these condos by renting from owners.  BUT….If you must buy, at least buy for .01 instead of $25,000.

…and that’s my ‘take’ on TimeShares.

Update to this Post:  We were FINALLY able to get rid of our Timeshare in 2016. We turned it back to the company & PAID THEM $250.  I would have GLADLY sold it to anyone for .01.  We would have saved $250.01!!  If you want one (I don’t recommend it, but If you do) check out TUG!  🙂

Finding Frugal Accommodations Part 2

Finding Frugal Accommodations Part 1.

  1. Hotelcoupons.com   Pick up this brochure at Travelor Information Centers at state borders on Interstates. They advertise hotels – both chains and mom-n-pop businesses at (significant) discounted rates. The “catch” is that these rates are for THAT NIGHT only.  It is rare that we don’t have reservations when traveling…however, occasionally happen on impromptu weekend trips or on that last night of vacation when we don’t really know how many miles we’ll be able to cover that day.  To take advantage of this, I will make calls while we’re driving down the road, then make a reservation right before we arrive in town. The website has good rates, but not as low as those in the booklets (probably because they’re ‘last minute’ reservations).
  2. Call hotels at various times of day:   In  Finding Frugal Accommodations Part 1,  I suggested calling hotels directly (rather than at the 1-800 Call center #)  however, in addition to that, make that call during different shifts (daytime vs. nighttime) to speak to different managers. The “financial” manager’s goal is to increase the bottom line, and he/she best does that by filling rooms! Don’t expect to get a room for a “steal”, but you can sometimes get a small discount.  Begin the conversation by asking “What is the BEST rate you can offer me?”
  3. Check out Vrbo.com or it’s sister company Home AwayThese are privately owned condos/vacation homes rented by their owners…These used to directly by owners so there was no processing fee.  That is no longer the case. Now, they are ‘managed’ by VRBO and there is an additional fee added to all rentals.  It’s still a better deal than resort pricing, but figure that into your price.  😦
    Kitchen in condo

    VRBO Property. Each property is different with varying levels of luxury or simplicity – all priced accordingly

    Traveling off-season as we do, we have gotten some excellent rates at VRBO properties over the years.  Several years ago, we rented a 2 bdrm condo in the FL Keys from a couple living in Minnesota They purchased it to provide for their retirement income…and were renting it out in the meantime – renters made their mortgage payment. Ingenious!!  🙂   We thoroughly enjoyed their condo with its balcony overlooking the water. With these rentals, you deal directly with the owner, often having a long conversation with them as they ascertain if you are trustworthy, honest, “clean” ha! before handing over the keys to their property. Lately, I’ve found a few properties that allow you to ‘self-clean’ the unit and save the cleaning fee.  This is a nice savings if you have time to clean on your last morning.  I LOVE the savings of being able to prepare meals!

  4. A room with a microwave can also save money on snacks and meals. Microwave everything from popcorn to easy “heat up” meals. 🙂
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    Basic hotel room, but with a fridge and microwave

     

  5. Groupon  and Living Social :have accommodation certificates for hotel/resort stays.  My experience is that these can be challenging to use…there are lots of restrictions, but  I still check them out.  Someday, if I find one that fits our needs, I won’t have a problem purchasing it  Check out Vacation By Groupon  for more tips/details on purchasing Groupons for many areas of vacation planning but ALWAYS read the fine print on these before buying.  🙂 .
  6. There are several hotel chains that specialize in units with kitchens or kitchenettes.  By far, the most economical I have found is Extended Stay America. It’s usually “no frills”, but clean and standardized in their amenities and rooms. Sign up for their loyalty program for discounts on stays as short as 2 nights.  There are even deeper discounts for stays of 7 nts or longer. They will send emails (FREQUENTLY) when you sign up so I usually do that before we’re traveling, then unsubscribe afterwards. However, the savings is worth the time that takes. Of course, again, the REAL savings is the ability to prepare meals.  Now, in the past they have not offered a breakfast (rooms have a kitchen after all)  however, recently, they’ve begun offering a VERY BASIC continental breakfast (packaged items and coffee) too.

Other Topics of Interest:

Reading Between the Lines on Hotel Reviews

Hotels

Trip Advisor, Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak…  They all have customer reviews of hotels.  Like me, you’ve probably read them as you made travel plans.  Perhaps you’ve even written a few online reviews or learned the value of reviews or social media in resolving issues with a company.

However, have you ever wondered HOW LEGITIMATE these online reviews are?  We need to answer that question…HOW to read them….how to read between the lines to get the most value from these reviews. They can’t always be taken at face value. 🙂

Let’s face it…there are some disgruntled people out there.  There are people who expect employees to move mountains…expect perfection around every turn…. If they have gotten upset or angry over anything during their stay, they may attempt to hurt the business by writing a negative review.

How do we sift through these and separate  the legitimate from the disgruntled?

  1. Look for majorities.  One bad review does not a bad hotel make.  Ten bad reviews and it’s wise to take note.  Are the majority ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
  2. Look at the date on the review. Managers have a LOT to do with how a hotel is run…it’s cleanliness, attitudes and professionalism of staff, et al.  If the reviews are several years old, you want to find out if there’s been a managerial change since then. You can call the hotel and “fish” for information by mentioning the negative reviews.  If there’s been a recent managerial change, the person on the other end of the line will almost ALWAYS volunteer that information.

    Photo Credit: Christopher Thomas on Flickr CC Lic.

  3. Look on multiple reviewing sites before you ‘write off’ a property….   Remember, “One bad review (or site) does not a bad hotel make.”
  4. Does the website ‘verify’?  Some websites verify that the reviewer actually stayed at the location (only accept reviews from people who reserved THROUGH their website so they can safely assume that person stayed there.  Other sites do not…(In other words, anyone can write a review)   Find out the policy of your reviewing website.  Obviously, only sites that verify should influence your decisions, right?  Sites that I KNOW verify:  Booking.com.  As of this writing, there were no others I could confirm.  If others come up in time, please leave comments in the comment section and I’ll edit this info.  🙂

GOOD REVIEWS:  By the same token, just as you can’t base a decision on just negative reviews, be very careful about basing decisions on “flowery” review as well.  Some managers/staff will actually post {raving} reviews of their own hotels.  Once you are aware of that, you’ll be able to spot them.  They just SOUND like advertisements. They’ll mention things no ‘reviewer’ ever mentions.  Here’s a review I copy/pasted from a site about a vacation home rental….See what you think about it….

“This gated, private estate is beautifully maintained and manicured. The suites are well-appointed and decorated with Europeanesque/old- Hawaiian charm. Most importantly, the hostess is the most gracious and hospitable kama’aina (native). She is a wealth of information and genuinely concerned for her guests’ well-being. Before you start your daily island adventures, stop by Cinnamon’s Cafe & Restaurant, located right in Kailua town. Since 1985, they have been nurturing locals and visitors alike with their scrumptious delectables. Don’t forget to take home a bag of their Hawaiian blend coffee beans. If you forget to pack your ‘tropical’ wardrobe, no worries. Just visit Kailua Verde Boutique for an assortment of consigned designer clothing, accessories and jewelry.”

Note:  This review went on in this same style…my gag reflex just wouldn’t allow me to copy/paste any more.  As I read it, I couldn’t help but laugh…  🙂 It couldn’t have been more obvious if they had just SAID “Hey…read my raving review of this business…then go to my business page and read the raving review they wrote for me.”   That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad location.  Just be aware.  As a disclaimer, I reserved this location (on Oahu)  and we stayed there 4 nights.  Obviously our decision was based on more than just this review.  It was a pleasant stay and everything the OWNER claimed it would be on her website…..no surprises.  I just thought it was funny how the review ‘read’.

Final Words:  Don’t take anything at face value….Read between the lines…look for majorities….and be on the lookout for “fake” reviews or disgruntled customers (or employees).  With these tools in hand, you can read reviews and make good decisions.

Happy Reading!

Finding Frugal Accommodations Part 1

 

hotel room- doubleSelecting accommodations can be challenging as I try to find a place that’s clean, safe and comfortable while still staying within budget.  Of course, hotel websites make many claims about their quality but the claims   may or may not be accurate. 🙂 .

My signature worst experience (and my incentive to NEVER let that happen again) was when we attended a funeral in a small town. There were very few options available and money was particularly tight for us at the time.  I based our decision SOLELY on price and it was NOT a good experience.  :/   After that, I vowed that would never happen to us again.

Please Note: There is a BIG difference between “frugal” and “cheap”.  “Frugal” is using the blessings you’ve been given with wisdom….getting the most value for your money.  “Cheap” means lowest cost no matter what –with decisions/choices based ONLY on price. After our experience that night, I concluded that I don’t much care for “cheap”….I prefer “frugal”.

Finding Frugal Accommodations:

  • Make a Chart: To simplify and clarify the process of ‘hotel shopping’ I’ve created a basic gridform in Excel (easy to create grid lines).  It took about 2 minutes to create.  🙂  Because I’m ‘visual’, once I can see all the info about the hotels/amenities on the chart, I have clarity in the decision making process. I begin by deciding what’s important for that night – pool? laundry facility? ease of access? microwave?  Breakfast?  Those things become the column headings and I’m ready to begin gathering information.  Of course, this could be written on a blank sheet of paper…or opened on 12 windows on the computer, but that isn’t ‘organized’ or easy to assimilate. A grid form is. The generic form is saved on the computer so I can change headings as necessary and use over and over.
  • Call the Hotel Directly:  When checking rates, always call the hotel directly. The employees at the 1-800 call center are not authorized to reduce rates.  The only person who can do that is management AT the hotel. Before making that call, find the best rate on a consolidator website (Kayak, Trivago, etc…)  Ask the person at the hotel to beat that rate.  They are actually VERY interested in reclaiming the business they’ve lost of late to these consolidators. They (Kayak, Expedia, etc…)  have become the ‘necessary evil’.  Hotels HAVE to use them to get the business, and yet, they lose money every time someone books through them….necessary evil.  Give them the chance to ‘win you back’.   
  • Hotel Breakfasts are a bargain:  These have become almost standard in mid-range hotel chains though you won’t find them in the upscale downtown hotels.  These save alot of money over the course of a vacation…especially if you have hungry boys in the family.  🙂

    More and more you can find hotels offering a HOT breakfast. Even though the cost MAY be higher for that hotel, the savings can be significant if you have hungry boys to feed. One more note while we’re on the subject of breakfast: In an effort to reclaim business from the consolidators, some hotels are ONLY offering the breakfast to those who book through them.  Read the fine print

  • Check out Budget Traveling 101   for more tips and a list of questions to ask when calling the hotel directly.

What about Bidding Sites such as Priceline or Hotwire:  These sites seem to have lost popularity in recent years, though they ARE still around. The thing I found was that the rates weren’t that much better than you could get with a reservation and avoid the gamble of a ‘blind’ and non-refundable bid. I’ve actually only used Priceline twice in all my travels.  On one of those experiences, I ended up standing in line behind a couple checking in who got the same room that we did –for $4 less. I had risked ‘blind’ bidding on a random hotel…and they got the exact same room for less money!!  While we were happy with our night, I realized it wasn’t worth the gamble.  I preferred to be able to shop for and purchase a hotel with the amenities I wanted.

So, that’s my ‘take’ on Hotel and Travel Bidding sites…just not enough savings to justify the ‘gamble’.

Accommodations are a huge part of any vacation budget, but with research and a little work, it is also where you can find some of the greatest savings.

Happy Traveling!

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