It was early 2001 when I got a call from a telemarketer saying that we were selected to receive a free night's stay at Horseshoe Resort close to Barrie, Ontario. At the time, Aamir and I weren't making tons of money and our "vacations" were week-long stays at local motels. Going to a "fancy" resort in cottage country sounded very appealing, even if it was only for one night. The only caveat was that we had to attend a 2-hour information seminar in order to receive the coupon. What the heck, I thought. 2 hours for two full days and a night at a resort seemed like it was worth a shot.
Aamir and I went up north to Horseshoe Resort one Sunday morning (much too early) to attend the seminar at their presentation centre. Five hours, and some serious sales pressure later, we signed on the dotted line and the salesperson popped open a bottle of champagne. We had just purchased a 2-bedroom condo at Carriage Hills Resort, a Gold Crown RCI affiliate resort. We could use the unit for one week a year, at any time, depending on availability. If we didn't want to return to Carriage Hills, we could deposit our unit to RCI and exchange to go anywhere in the world. The catch: an $18,000 mortgage and annual maintenance fees for the resort (which, at the time, were $500 per annum)! Were we happy with the purchase? Absolutely! Could we afford it? Absolutely not!
Legally we had 10 days to cancel the transaction without any obligation. Everything looked great on paper but the cost was astronomical. How were we going to afford the additional monthly mortgage payment? After seven days of deliberation, we decided to call our sales rep and inform him that we wanted to cancel. Of course, the guy wanted to hear none of it. He met us at a coffee shop close to our house (we didn't have to travel all the way to horseshoe valley that time) and heard us out. He counter-offered to reduce the mortgage to $11,000 and offer us an "every-other-year" option whereby we would get the 2-bedroom unit every even year and could spread it out over a two year period. He was so darn convincing, we accepted his offer. After all, he just saved us $9,000!
So, that year, we split our week into a 3-night stay and a 4-night stay at Carriage Hills Resort and absolutely loved our time there. The place was serene, relaxing, we had our own kitchen, access to a barbecue, indoor/outdoor pool - it was the best vacation we'd had since our bank-breaking honeymoon. Needless to say we returned from both trips completely convinced that we had made a good decision. In 2002, we exchanged our bonus week for a 2 bedroom condo at Pompano Beach in Florida. This place was GORGEOUS!! And we were 100% sold on our decision.
Since then, we have been on numerous vacations courtesy of our timeshare at Carriage Hills Resort and RCI:
- 2002 - Pompano Beach, Florida - we visited Orlando (Disney World) and Miami (South Beach)
- 2004 - Weston, Florida - Aamir, my MIL, my SIL and her husband went to Florida for a family wedding and stayed at a resort exchanged through RCI
- 2005 - Carriage Hills - Camran's first vacation at 5 months
- 2007 - Carriage Hills
- 2008 - Carriage Hills
- 2009 - Carriage Hills
- 2010 - Malaysia - my MIL and FIL went to the mountains of Malaysia
- 2010 - New Hampshire - we toured all of New England (New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Boston
- 2011 - Quebec - toured Quebec City and Mt. Tremblant - also Rayan's first vacation at 2 months
We plan on taking many more vacations with our timeshare and, contrary to what others think about this "scam", I still firmly believe that it was one of our more valuable purchases. While the maintenance fees have now gone up to $925 every other year (eep!), it's still a fraction of the cost of hotels for 7 nights. We have a large variety of places to choose from and the only thing determining where we go is cost of flights and our own schedules.
I'll write more about traveling on a budget very soon.