Travel Clubs – Can They Save You Money On Your Next Vacation?
The Travel Dilemma:
Each year thousands of people join travel/vacation clubs in hopes of saving money on vacations and travel. They believe that by paying a fee to a private club, they will be privy to some “insider” information and have access to discount travel options which will in turn save them money. Travel Clubs aren’t new, but their popularity is rising. As the travel industry hikes up its prices year after year, consumers are eager to find new options to afford the vacations they want to take. In today’s economy, only the elite can afford to spend a week at a corporate beachfront luxury resort. The rest of us take what we can get and make the best of it.
How Discount Travel Works:
Basically, it goes like this. Large travel industry companies own millions of properties which they rent out at retail prices to the consumer (you and me). A large portion of their properties remain vacant every week of the year. So, after they get as many consumers to pay top dollar price for as many rooms as possible, they then sell off the remainder of their “empty” rooms to discount brokers. If you have ever shopped on Priceline, Kayak or TravelZoo, you have probably noticed their prices are less than what you would pay if you booked through the actual property itself. These discount brokers pay a certain price for the properties and then increase the pricing before they market them to the public. The consumer must pay the discount broker more than they obtained the properties to offset advertising, personnel management and web rankings. So, while you can pick up some good deals through these discount travel brokers, options are generally limited and you still aren’t getting the “steal” you may be looking for.
How is a Travel Club Different?
Unfortunately, some travel clubs act like the discount broker. They will acquire large lots of properties, mark them up and then offer them to their members. But, there are a few travel clubs that go about discount travel in a whole new way. These elite few will charge you a one time fee for a lifetime membership. As a member, you are then welcomed into the inner workings of the company and exposed to travel deals that you can’t get on the open market. A good travel club will never mark up their properties before they offer them to their members.
How to Tell a Good Travel Club from a Bad One:
Of course, price is the largest determining factor. You should look for a travel club which has a “one time join fee” of under $1,000. Steer clear of travel clubs that charge renewal fees. You should never pay maintenance fees, association fees, Red Week Fees, prime vacation week fees, or dues of any kind. A good travel club will have thousands of properties available from a large geographic area….possibly world-wide. Make sure the club only carries high-quality properties. If the club offers properties at the Motel 6 or Howard Johnson’s, this is not an elite club. The best clubs will offer 3,4 & 5 Star resorts and condos at prices you are currently paying for a 2-star hotel room. Be choosy, and expect great service at an affordable cost.
Some clubs do not advertise themselves at all. The club members advertise for them, which saves the company money which they in-turn pass on to members. One particular club allows its vacation club members to become club associates at no additional charge. Many members choose to only to take part in saving money on vacations, and enjoying club benefits. But, others will choose to be an associate and advertise for the company for a commission on new sales. As such, this particular travel club has very little operating expenses which allows them to offer club memberships at a low price with no recurring fees or dues of any kind.
So, area Good Idea or Not? As long as you sign up under a quality vacation club, it can absolutely be a good decision. You can save as much as 30-80% on each vacation you take from now on. Of course, there is an upfront cost to belong to a club, so you need to determine if it’s affordable on your budget. If you are really lucky, you might be able to join a good travel club, and take that first vacation for less than what you typically budget for a vacation in the first place. My advice is to do your homework. There are a few great travel clubs out there, but you need to be able to distinguish them from the
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