Maximise Your Time-Share

Do you still own time-share or club point time-share?
First of all, from my own experience, flexible points time-share is definitely more user-friendly than a fixed week in a specific resort. Unless of course you don't like variety and you want to go back every year at the same time, then that will work for you. Another thing to consider, is that not all clubs are created equal. I have lots of points in The Holiday Club, South Africa, and what I love about them is that you don't pay any reservation fees, only a yearly levy and the rest is free. This is true even when they book you in through RCI or any of their other affiliates. That is also a major advantage above traditional time-share.

Availability can be a problem, and I believe, is the single most complained about issue in the industry, especially for last-minute bookings and also at special event times.
So, a serious request to all of you who own traditional weeks in these resorts - Please space-bank them to make it available to other guests! Even if you don't want to use the points you get in return, it's such a waste for those units standing empty when there are many people trying to get in..
I can of course only advise on Holiday Club and RCI, as that is what I know best, but the general idea should work equally well on all clubs

This is my advice on availability - plan your year in advance and book ahead for special trips. If you can't find what you are looking for, place your name on the waiting list, I have been able to get in that way almost always, provided you have enough time.

I have noticed with our points, that school holidays are very often not sold out and last-minute deals can be had for very few points, even over Easter and Christmas. My personal feeling is that the normal points needed for those times are so high, that the members don't use it, and then they have to find guests at the last minute to fill up the gaps.
Mid-weeks use much less points than weekends, and are normally more available. Within two weeks of the time, whatever is available, will get discounted up to 50% and sometimes even less. A great idea for last-minute getaway, but there are no guarantees.
A senior couple friends of mine, own only a very limited amount of points, but they utilise it in such a way that they stretch maximum out of it. For instance, they would book a mid-week out of season, in one of Mpumalanga's resorts, stay in Pretoriuskop Rest camp (National Parks Board) for the weekend, and take up another mid-week after that in another resort. In that way they have almost 2 weeks' worth of vacation with points that might not pay for a full week elsewhere.
Really, as you can see from above, I believe that holiday points are excellent for spur of the moment getaways when you can be flexible and go out of season.

Then, of course, there is the issue of paying levies, like any normal time-share or owning a property outright, some money needs to be available for maintenance and upgrading. I have to just note here that most of these resorts are kept in perfect condition. A great idea for making up some of your levy payments, is to rent out a week or weekend, as we do with events like Comrades in KZN and the Argus race in Cape Town.

I am sitting on the balcony of our lovely unit in La Montagne, Ballito on the 7th floor, watching the great view from up here, writing this article (lovely office views this week). Sunday is Comrades 2015, and my husband is running as well, which is why we are here at this time. We have also booked 3 units in Umdloti, which we have sold to fellow runners.
I asked at the reception about normal rentals in this complex (La Montagne) and almost fainted at the answer. The price for two people per night is R1 700 out of season and R2 800 in season. We have used 11 points for an 8 night stay, equalling about R1 400 of our yearly levies for the points - less than 10%. So, duh! More than 90% savings this week alone, definitely cheaper, even with paying levies!

My top 3 favourite resorts (all RCI resorts) are Ngwenya Lodge, on the South border of Kruger Park, Kiara Lodge, next to Golden Gate Highlands Park, Crystal Springs, High up in the mountains close to Pilgrim's Rest, Mpumalanga. If and when you do own some points, be sure to check them out! These are excellent show case areas of what our beautiful country has to offer.
There are, of course, many seaside resorts as well if the beach is what you are looking for.
So far this year, we have also been to Table View Cabanas and Royal Atlantic in Sea Point, Cape Town for the Argus cycle race. This, I hope, does prove that you can find accommodation even in full-packed weeks due to sporting events, if you do it right.
For overseas travel, I still prefer to go for Home Exchange, as explained in my blog, for the reasons listed, as well as the fact that it is also cheaper than the International booking fee, because it's free! We are using our points frequently, especially since my husband is an active marathon runner and cyclist. This works well for all of his out-of-town adventures and other break-aways. I will definitely recommend it as another way to travel at discount!
Please refer to my blog for more money-saving tips while travelling.

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How To Have the Time of Your Life Abroad!

This might seem like a given, but I have a few steps to having the time of your life while traveling. These steps are really the same no matter where you are, but you usually you do not take any of them into consideration when you are home. You feel safer being at home. When you are in a place that is unfamiliar you may become uncomfortable being yourself and it might become hard to have a good time. There are actually a lot of things to take into consideration. Things like your environment, people you are with along with the atmosphere. If you are at a club or bar at night you should be more cautious especially if you are alone. It can be just as much fun to travel alone as it is to travel with a friend but it depends a lot on your ability to be independent.
If you need others for support and recognition you should probably invite a friend or two to go with you on your journey. Having a friend guarantees you a drinking buddy and partner in crime which could also be a bad thing. However, I enjoy a bit of solitude so I did just fine by myself. I felt that I got a lot more out of my trip by going it alone. I didn't have to wait on anyone or deal with following their agendas. I did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it which is an amazing thing if you ask me. I am very blessed for having the opportunity and courage to do what I did. You should probably know the people you are with at least a little bit and the more people the better. You should also know the "vibe" of the environment. A good question you can ask yourself is; are other people around you having a good time or do they seem to be high strung? So this is everything you need to have a blast abroad;
Step 1: Meet as many people as possible. I am a big fan of "people watching" and while at multiple airports I realized to my delight my ability to have enjoyable small talk with strangers. You have to talk to lots of people because you don't know who you are going to click with and who you will not have any chemistry until you get to know them a little bit. Airports are actually amazing places for this. If you just sit back and watch you can see people of all walks of life. People embarking on all stages of life; moving away, coming home, trips to see family and friends, and people on business trips. The brief glimpse into their life was very interesting to me because of my people watching hobby. I loved chatting with people and hearing their life story. Where they were heading or coming from.
The best friend I met during my trip I met where I was boarding. Hostels are by far the best place to meet new people. People there are traveling and doing the same thing you are which makes it fun to swap stories. I also made some lifelong friends living in the international students building while studying abroad. They were people from all over the world. The students on my floor were from Spain, Italy, Poland, many Asian countries, and Ireland. Though we were all from different places and had completely different cultures we all connected. One of my friends said something that really touched me. He said that he was sad that I was leaving because I was the only person that could get everyone to hangout in the common area together and he was going to miss that. It only takes a small interest to spark a friendship which can be really fun.
Step 2: Don't worry! You have to relax and let things happen naturally. If you put your worries and stresses on the back burner it will be easier to have a good time. Traveling can wear you out and make you really tired and irritable if you aren't getting enough sleep. While you might just be sitting on the beach one day you could have to walk a few miles the next. Any moment can come with a challenge so you have to take a breath and just deal with it. Don't get caught up in the moment and overwhelmed. Slow down if you have to because your trip is about enjoying yourself.
Step 3: You have to go outside of your comfort zone. You have already done something amazing. You decided to go somewhere you have never been before to explore what is unknown to you. Now keep it up! This is how you grow and become who you are meant to be. You can't learn from something if you don't seek to learn. You have to follow your heart where ever it may lead you. As cheesy as that sounds it is just as true. Think of previous experiences from your past that have made you become mature and have grown your insights and perceptions of the world. They have most likely all been challenging.
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