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Your Location: Timeshare Users Group Advice: Ride with Ray   |updated: 1/23/08

Ride with ray

Last update: 5 November 2002 (Steve Nelson)  darlene and ray harper

Come along with Ray and Darlene Harper as they reminisce about and plan extended living in timeshares.  This series is written for members of the Timeshare Users Group who are interested in extended travel in timeshare resorts.


Part One - Preparations and Packing

Everyone packs for trips to timeshares, but extended travel for a number of months suggests some special measures be taken.  The car is loaded the afternoon or evening prior to the drive to the next timeshare.  A dull, black felt piece of material, at least twice the size of the entire back seat area, is used to cover all that is placed there.  Wherever the car is parked, this material causes the back seat area to appear empty to anyone glancing in a window.

Many items are routinely placed in the back seat area before this black felt is used as cover.  Most every item is placed in the same location for travel.  The kitchen box has handle openings and fits between the back of the driver’s seat and the back seat of the car, covering about one-half of that side’s floor space. This box has been loaded and unloaded so many times that holding it together required putting gray electrical tape around it a few times while being careful not to cover the handle openings on each end.  This box holds some favorite staples (pasta and sauce, rice, peanut butter, crackers, spices, cooking oil, popcorn, Pam spray), aluminum foil, plastic wrap and zip-lock bags, a can opener, napkins, hurricane candles, and favorite recipes.  Fresh and frozen foods are preferred over canned goods.  A plastic case with lid stuffed with computer manuals rests to the left of the kitchen box on the floor behind the front seat.   Resting on top of the case and kitchen box is Darlene’s favorite pillow.  On the rear seat behind is an ice chest (with a pull handle and wheels) containing refrigerated items.  Packed items that will not fit into the trunk are placed on the floor and seat to the right of these items.  Packing includes a bag of toiletries, partially filled suitcases for her clothing, for his clothing, for cooler weather clothing for both, and a garment bag containing one set for each of more dressy clothing (e.g. sport coat and slacks; silk blouse and dress slacks as well as silk dress shorts which look like a skirt).  When beginning travel one week’s supply of casual clothing has been packed; by the end of a six-month travel period local purchases have increased this clothing supply to two-weeks.  Shopping is an enjoyable retirement activity!  Darlene has her “desk”--a briefcase full of income-tax papers, paid bill statements, stapler, scissors, pens/pencils, envelopes and stamps, and our Christmas address book. Packed also are books, electronic hand-held games, laundry supplies and a dirty clothes bag.  We use a laptop computer and an online service to keep up with developments shared by TUG members and to maintain records of our activities with RCI and II.

Part Two - Mail

Mail is sent to our daughter’s home in Massachusetts and she forwards it to us about every three weeks using postage and large three-day priority envelopes that we have provided.  While traveling between and at timeshares we seek to avoid becoming a target and victim in an unfamiliar locale. Our top selling four-door beige-colored automobile is as common as can be purchased and is equipped with an alarm system and killer switch.  An emergency situation has not occurred, but a cellular phone connected to AT&T ‘s national One-Rate plan is ready for emergency calls while keeping us in touch with others.

Part Three - Exchange Strategies and Scheduling

We make decisions about where to stay based on season, resort quality, amenities, and location.  We tend to follow the sun and warm weather.  Darlene is in charge of accepting or rejecting resort choices.  My task is to provide her with good options at reasonable costs.  For 1999-2000, RCI Escapes have been available at lower costs (Deep Discounts) and many were booked through them for that reason.  We avoided the higher-priced II weeks.  Five weeks deposited with II brought bonus weeks.  Then, we extended our membership two years and earned another bonus week.  For 2000-2001, we have units with pending expiration dates, which will mean that we will need to use more of our purchased weeks for II exchanges.  Currently, seven of our II requests are still pending; all four RCI exchange requests have been filled.  RCI fills exchange requests earlier because weeks banked more than a year ahead have more trading power than those banked later, so members tend to bank earlier.  II exchanges are closer to the use date because II often awards bonus weeks that are good for one year after the deposit date.  Weeks are deposited later by members so as to have bonus weeks available for wanted dates the following year.  As a consequence, II seldom obtains deposited weeks to exchange until closer to their use dates.

1999-2000 Season Resort Use

Below is a synopsis of our 1999-2000-travel schedule:

        10/30 - River Village II Shawnee (PA), 2br unit R108 (Week 44) $99
Beautiful and quiet days in the Poconos.  Delightful walks through woods viewing fall colors.

        11/6 - Fairfield Kingsgate (VA), 1br unit 7-101A (Week 45) $99

        11/13 - Fairfield Kingsgate (VA), 1br unit 7-101A (Week 46) $99
Unit overlooks one of three ponds, other two at entrance.  Lovely water fountain.  Short walk to clubhouse, pool, hot tub, and tennis courts.  Variety of quality restaurants available, some within walking

        11/20 - Coconut Palms (FL), 2br unit 1031 (Week 47) $104
An older unit due for maintenance and across street from newer resort buildings and beach.   Pleasant beach walks.

        11/27 - Vacation Village at Bonaventure (FL), 1br unit 3107A
(Week 48) $79

        12/4 - Vacation Village at Bonaventure (FL), 1br unit 3107A
(Week 49) $79

        12/11 - Vacation Village at Bonaventure (FL), 1br unit 3107A (Week 50) $79
Excellent unit design; single bath has two sinks, enclosed toilet, large shower w/two heads.   Delightful.  Hot tub always hot.  Pleasant walking around perimeter of golf course.

        12/19 - Fairways of Palm Aire (FL), 2br unit 462 (Week 51) $118

        12/26 - Fairways of Palm Aire (FL), 2br unit 462 (Week 52) $118
Large Deluxe 2br w/den unit featuring long curving balcony in newest building. One could live here.  More sidewalks needed for safe walking and jogging.

        1/2 - Marriott’s Sabal Palms (FL), 2br unit 4515 (Week 1) $109
A favorite with us and local phone calls are free, not the usual Marriott seventy-five cents.  Large pool, two hot tubs, tennis courts.  Easy walk to World Trade Center and two other Marriott resorts.     Golf course renovation has been completed.  New construction underway at World Trade Center.

        1/8 - Vacations Villas at Titusville (FL), 2br unit 1B (Week 2) $179

        1/15 - Vacations Villas at Titusville (FL), 2br unit 1B (Week 3) $179

        1/22 - Vacations Villas at Titusville (FL), 2br unit 1B (Week 4) $199
Older complete and comfortable units in quiet residential setting.  Best location for visiting space center.  Paul’s Smokehouse overlooking Intercoastal has excellent food at moderate prices.  A favorite with us.  Pleasant walking around perimeter of golf course in an area of exclusive homes.

        1/29 - Marriott’s Grande Vista (FL), 2br unit 2103/4 (Week 5) $109
One of TUG’s Worldwide Top Ten.  Construction continues, but walkway around lake is complete.    Popular golf course.

        2/5 - Polynesian Isles (FL) 1br unit 401 (Week 6) $199
Large Phase I unit (Bldgs 1-6).  Plase II units (Bldgs 7-12) are smaller.

        2/12 - Polynesian Isles (FL), 2br unit 404 (Week 7) $104
Comfortable, but somewhat dark interiors.  Many activities. Two pools and four hot tubs!  Showers in two-bedroom master bedroom bath have two showerheads.  Delightful.

        2/19 - Blue Tree Resort (FL), 2br unit (for son & family) (Week 8) $109

        2/19 - Westgate Lakes (FL), 2br unit (with daughter & family) $109

        2/26 - Marathon Key Beach Club (FL), 2br unit A202 (Week 9) $104
Unit overlooks Marina and Florida Bay.  Resort amenities of pool, hot tub, and tennis courts are shared with Banana Bay Resort.  Delightful walking on old seven-mile bridge.

        3/4 - Oyster Bay (FL), 2br unit 20A (Week 10) $179

        3/11 - Summer Bay (FL), 1br unit (Week 11) $179

        3/18 - Summer Bay (FL), 1br unit (Week 12) $179

        3/25 - Summer Bay (FL), 1br unit  (Week 13) $179
600 sq. ft. unit with FK except for dishwasher.

        4/1 - Westgate Vacation Villas (FL), 2br unit PP 309 (Week 14)$109

        4/8 - Marriott’s Cypress Harbour (FL), 2br unit  (Week 15) $199

        4/16 - StoneBridge Village MO), 1br unit  (Week 16) $179

        4/23 - Visiting grandchildren in Iowa and Minnesota (Week 17)

        5/2 - Home (Week 18 through October 26, 2000)
$104 and $109 are II Exchanges or Bonus Weeks.


RCI Escapes at $79, $99, $179, $199  (15):  10/30, 11/6, 11/13, 11/27, 12/4,12/11, 1/8, 1/15,1/22, 2/5, 3/4, 3/11, 3/18, 3/25, 4/16

II Bonus Weeks at $109 (5):  1/2, 1/29, 2/19 (with daughter’s family), 2/19 (for son’s family), 4/1

II Bonus Weeks at $199 (1): 4/8

II Exchanges at $104 and $109 (3):  11/20, 2/12, 2/26

RCI Exchanges at $118 (2): 12/19, 12/26

RCI Instant Escapes (0)

II Getaways (0)

Eleven Owned Weeks (0)

Booking RCI Escapes and II Getaways

1.      Be alert for RCI specials.  Easy to miss, these might be found, for example, in a card attached to a cover on an Endless Vacation periodical.  This cover might have one’s mailing address and may be regarded as excess and removed from the publication without benefit of perusal.

2.      Be alert for Interval International specials such as one Vacation Getaway at regular price and a second at $99.

3.      Watch postings on TUG bulletin boards for information about current RCI and II special offers in case these were missed.

4.      Learn which weeks available for travel are high demand or low demand.  While holiday weeks usually have high demand, those following holidays frequently are low demand.  In Florida, the first three weeks in January are low demand as are the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Holiday weeks are high demand.

5.      Plan ahead as far as permitted.  RCI typically allows one full year in advance for booking of Escapes at Deep Discount Escape prices as low as $39.  Phone frequently and have a variety of location options and dates. And when the price is high, wait until it drops, unless the week is
within two months or so. If too late, use Instant Escape.

6.      If one plans to schedule more than two RCI Escapes in one year, join RCI Plus and receive a $20 discount on Escapes and one free Guest Certificate. Interval International offers $25 discounts on Getaways for Preferred Membership, but prices usually remain higher than RCI Escapes

7.      Enjoy the chase for the values you seek. Success is a big part of your fun.

 Ray Harper (March 11, 2000 - Orlando, FL).  All rights reserved.

2000/2001 Planning and Schedule

RCI Relation Numbers

Each transaction with RCI is assigned a relation number, whether it is tentative (e.g., placing a unit on hold) or final (e.g., accepting an exchange).  When first assigned it remains even when a subsequent change is made.  Upon initiating a transaction one should ask for this number. When again phoning RCI one can mention the relation number for the transaction to be discussed.  This tells the VC one is experienced, indeed, in our case, the high count of our relation numbers also reveals this. A high amount of activity with RCI has a plus and a minus.  The plus is that one usually receives clear and quick service because communication between the two parties is clear and easy.  This likely is true for most TUG members.  The minus is that RCI regards such business as rather certain, so few new offers may be extended.  With RCI, every season is different.  RCI's denial of more low-cost Escapes caused more business to be given to Interval International.  Thus, our 2000-2001 season is more costly than the 1999-2000 season, while resorts tend to be of higher quality.  This twenty-six week schedule contains twenty-four timeshare weeks and two weeks visiting family in Arizona.

2000-2001 Season Resort Use

        Below is a synopsis of our 2000-2001 travel schedule:

        10/28 - Sunterra Powhatan Plantation (VA) 2br unit 298C (week 44) $100

        11/4 - Sunterra Powhatan Plantation (VA), 2br unit 312C (week 45) $50

        11/11 - A Place at the Beach--Windy Hill (SC), 1br 2ba unit 104 (week 46) $100
Ocean front unit.

        11/18 - Marriott's Harbour Pointe at Shelter Cove (SC), 2br unit 511 (week 47) $109

        11/25 - Harbor Club at Palm Coast (FL), 2br unit 4D (week 48) $150

        12/2 - The Resort on Cocoa Beach (FL), 2br unit 802 (week 49) $124
Ocean view unit

        12/9 - Las Olas Beach Club, Satellite Beach (FL), 2br unit 301 (week 50) $124
Large ocean front unit with pounding surf.  Review submitted.

        12/16 - The Resort on Cocoa Beach (FL), 2 br unit 716 (week 51) $124
Ocean front unit.

        12/23 - Star Island Resort and Club (FL), 3br unit 2813 (week 52) $109

        12/30 - Star Island Resort and Club (FL), 3br unit 2813 (week 53) $109
Youngest daughter's family of six joined us for holiday weeks.

        1/6 - The Palms (FL) 2br unit 15308 (week 1) $309
A new resort following the Westgate model in terms of design, furnishings, and marketing and with slightly larger units.  A golf course is under construction.

        1/13 - Westgate Lakes (FL), 2br unit 2413A (week 2) $199
Oldest son joined us while attending a business conference at Disney.

        1/20 - Westgate Lakes (FL), 2br unit 2413A (week 3) $199

        1/27 - Westgate Lakes (FL), 2br unit 2413A (week 4) $199
Review submitted.

        2/3 - Parkway International (FL), 2br unit B101 (week 5) $309
This older resort was a pleasant surprise as was the Parkway
area itself.

        2/10 - Visiting family in Phoenix (AZ) (week 6)

        2/17 - Visiting family in Phoenix (AZ) (week 7)

        2/24 - Grand Seas Resort (FL), 2br unit 1002 (week 8) $109

        3/3 - Westgate Lakes (FL), 2br unit (week 9) $109

        3/10 - Grand Seas Resort (FL), 2br unit 1020 (week 10) $109

        3/17 - Santa Barbara Resort and Yacht Club (FL) , 1br 2ba unit (week 11) $124

        3/24 - Santa Barbara Resort and Yacht Club (FL) , 1br 2ba unit (week 12) $124

        3/31 - Santa Barbara Resort and Yacht Club (FL) , 1br unit (week 13) $124

        4/7 - Plantation Beach Club at Indian River (FL) , 2br unit 301 (week 14) $109

        4/14 - Hibiscus (FL) , 2br unit E202 (week 15) $124

        4/22 - Fairfield Kingsgate, 3br unit (week 16) $179
Oldest daughter's family of five joined us.


RCI Half-price Escapes (1 each early banking at $50, $100, $150(4): 10/28, 11/4, 11/11, 11/25

RCI Escape at $179 (1):  4/22

RCI Instant Escapes (0)

RCI Bonus weeks at $124 (3):  12/2, 12/9, 12/16

RCI Exchanges at $124 (5):  2/10, 3/17, 3/24, 3/31, 4/14

II Bonus Weeks at $199 (3): 1/13, 1/20, 1/27

II Exchanges at $109 (8): 11/18, 12/23, 12/30, 2/17, 2/24, 3/3, 3/10, 4/7

II Getaways at $309 (2): 1/6, 2/3

Nine Owned Weeks (0)

Guests of Family (2): 2/10, 2/17

2001-2002 Season Resort Use - A Marriott Season

Nine of 24 timeshare weeks beginning November 3 and ending April 21 were in Marriott resorts.  Six weeks were at Cypress Harbour:  two consecutive weeks, first in building 52 (to the left of the main pool area when facing the club house from the front) and then four weeks in building 53 to the right of the main pool area.  Hot tubs and a large pool are just steps away!  We found the folks at the counter to be very helpful in assigning for consecutive weeks unit locations to our liking.  We asked a couple of weeks prior to our arrival and were able to remain in the same units for both visits.

Two granddaughters who live in Kissimmee joined us whenever their school schedules permit.

This is the last season for which Escapes will be mentioned as this label has been changed to Bonus Vacations by RCI.  Exiting also with the Escape label are most low-priced weeks.  Bonus Vacations tend to be higher priced.

        Nov. 01

       03 - Ventura, 3BR unit D5, RCI Bonus Week $189
    Large, comfortable units.

       10 - Marriott’s Grande Vista, 1BR unit 1119, II Getaway $274

       17 - Vistana, 2BR unit, RCI Exchange, $124

       24 - Vacation Villas at Titusville, 2BR unit 2A, RCI Escape $109

        Dec. 01 

       01 - Vacation Villas at Titusville, 2BR unit 2A, RCI Escape $109

       08 - Vacation Villas at Titusville, 2BR unit 2A, RCI Escape $109

       15 - Vacation Villas at Titusville, 2BR unit 2A, RCI Escape $109
Titusville began to feel like home.

       22 - Calini Beach Club, 2BR unit 305, RCI Exchange $124
Good Gulf view.   

       29 - Longboat Bay Club, 2BR unit 303, RCI Exchange $124

        Jan. 02    

       05 - Silver Lake, 2BR unit 112, RCI Escape $109

       12 - Marriott’s Grande Vista, 1BR unit 2221, II Getaway $274

       19 - Marriott’s Cypress Harbour, 2BR unit 5222, II Bonus Week $199

       26 - Marriott’s Cypress Harbour, 2BR unit 5222, II Bonus Week $199  

        Feb. 02 

       02 - Marriott’s Grande Vista, 1BR unit 129, II Getaway  $274

       09 - Summer Bay, 3BR house 320, RCI exchange $124 

       16 - Marriott’s Cypress Harbour, 2BR unit 5313, II Exchange $114
Family of five from Massachusetts join us February 16-25.

       23 - Marriott's Cypress Harbour, 2BR unit 5313, II Exchange $114

        Mar. 02    

       02 - Marriott's Cypress Harbour, 2 BR unit 5313, II Exchange $114

       09 - Marriott's Cypress Harbour, 2BR unit 5313, II Exchange $114

       16 - Marina Village at Snug Harbour, 2BR unit 505, RCI Exchange $124
Pleasing harbour view.

       23 - Charlotte Bay Resort Club, 2BR unit 106, RCI Exchange $124
Small resort with friendly folks.  We would return.

       30 - Sutherland Crossing, 2BR unit 10, RCI Exchange $124
Individual houses.     

        Apr. 02

       06 - Sutherland Crossing, 2BR unit 10, RCI Exchange $124
Many water views from some resort areas.

       14 - Clover Ridge, 2BR unit 320A, Panora, IA, RCI Bonus Week $189
Family from Arizona and Iowa join us.

Summary: (24 weeks)

RCI Escapes at $109 (5): 11/24, 12/01, 12/08, 12/15, 1/5

RCI Instant Escapes (0)

RCI Bonus weeks at $189 (2): 11/3, 4/14

RCI Exchanges at $124 (8): 11/17, 12/22, 12/29, 2/9, 3/16, 3/23, 3/30, 4/6

RCI Second Exchange at $75 (1):  2/9

II Bonus Weeks at $199 (2): 1/19, 1/26

II Exchanges at $114 (4): 2/16, 2/23, 3/2, 3/9

II Getaways at $274 (3): 11/10, 1/12, 2/2

Nine Owned Weeks (0)

Summary of 1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 Seasons


1999 - 2000

2000 - 2001

2001 - 2002

Visiting Family




RCI Escapes




RCI Instant Escapes




RCI Bonus Weeks




RCI Exchanges




II Bonus Weeks




II Exchanges




II Getaways




Use of owned weeks




Total Weeks




*Thanks to DMK

Ray Harper (March 11, 2000; November 5, 2002 - Orlando, FL) All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

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