6 Ways You Overpaid for Your Last Family Vacation

6 Ways You Overpaid for Your Last Family Vacation

6 ways to save on a family vacation.
6 ways to save on a family vacation.

You’ve read all the updates about America, the under-vacationed nation. You already know that most of us leave vacation days on the table—time off that we could be spending jet skiing at the lake, relaxing by a pool, or hiking in a cool, fragrant forest. And the reasons we do this are more complex than vacation costs alone, involving demands at work, job insecurities, and other workplace dynamics. But if taking vacation time was more affordable, don’t you think people would try harder to find a way around the challenges of getting away from their jobs and their daily routines?

Here are 6 ways that many people leave family vacation dollars on the table, paying more than they need to for accommodations and travel services that others are enjoying for much less.

  1. Need to rent a car? Don’t just book it; bid for it or negotiate a rate. Hotwire and Priceline both offer options for you to bid for a rental vehicle from most of the major car rental companies. A website you may not have discovered yet, Breezenet.com, offers rental deals that include local car companies as well as national brands. And most companies offer specials, coupons, and membership discounts for groups you already belong to such as alumni associations, AAA, professional associations, and even warehouse or buying clubs.
  2. Airfares really are cheaper on certain days of the week. This is more than urban legend; airfares are at their lowest on Tuesday afternoons and begin to creep up throughout the week, with buying airfares on weekends being the most expensive time to shop.
  3. Renting a timeshare, as most include eat-in kitchens, can save you a ton on dining out and also make it easy to pack snacks for days you will be spending at places, such as theme parks, where on-site food costs drive up the price of your daily fun.
  4. Consider alternate airports. If you have to rent a car at your destination anyway, you might find the best price on air travel isn’t to fly directly to your destination. Most online travel booking websites offer the option to “search nearby airports” and many even let you set a distance by miles for how far from your target destination you are willing to travel. One example of using an alternate airport is the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, which is located within an hour’s drive of the theme parks and attractions in the popular Orlando-Kissimmee family vacation area. Served by a limited number of airlines, you’ll find that this Orlando travel alternative not only offers highly competitive prices on domestic carriers to US destinations, but also on travel from Europe and South America through international carriers. And although it is a full service facility, it’s smaller size makes this airport one you can move through quickly, saving time to offset the fact that it may not be the closest to your timeshare rental or the parks you plan to visit.
  5. Renting a timeshare typically means you can pack lighter. Since most timeshares include either an in-unit washer and dryer, or laundry facilities convenient to your timeshare unit, (such as in a common hallway and shared by a few units), you can buy less and pack less, reducing luggage fees.
  6. When you plan a family vacation in a timeshare rental, you have options for how much money you want to save. You can rent directly from a resort and you will save over the cost of a hotel room, because you can accommodate more people, more comfortably, without the cost of renting additional timeshare units. But that is only the beginning of the savings possible on timeshare rentals. You can rent timeshare directly from the person who currently owns the timeshare, either in a rent by owner transaction or by working with a company that specializes in timeshare resort rentals. Renting timeshare from the owner or the owner’s representative, often means you are working with someone who is only looking to cover or offset the costs of his annual timeshare maintenance fee. These drastically reduced rates on accommodations are in fact, a win-win for timeshare owners and vacationers.
The Insurance Issue for Summer Bay Resort Timeshare Owners

The Insurance Issue for Summer Bay Resort Timeshare Owners

Summer Bay Resort
Summer Bay Resort (photo credit: Orlando Sentinel)

This week got off to a dramatic (and traumatic) start when a sinkhole caused the collapse of two adjoined buildings and the condemning of another one at Summer Bay Resort, just outside of Orlando, Florida. (See: Is the Orlando Summer Bay Resort Timeshare Sinkhole Growing?)  For the guests and owners at Summer Bay Resort, all are physically unharmed and it appears they will be, for the most part, fiscally unharmed as well.

Most importantly, all occupants of the building were safe. This fact alone seems amazing considering that the event became apparent around 11 PM in the evening, meaning that some occupants were already sleeping, others were in varying stages of preparing for bed, and many had sleeping children to roust and gather before evacuating. One woman was even enjoying a relaxing soak in the tub when the room around her began to collapse.

The staff at Summer Bay Resort deserves tremendous praise for its successful evacuation efforts and effectively dealing with the relocation of guests and timeshare owners who had lost everything they had with them. But the problems facing Summer Bay Resort vacationers didn’t end when the ground stabilized.

Displaced guests were without medications, eyeglasses, car keys, wallets, and credit cards. There was a temporary interruption of utilities that impacted other buildings on the property. Guests and owners throughout the resort were awakened, frightened, and were no doubt, peppering the Summer Bay Resort staff with anxious questions. And then there was the ongoing stream of news coverage, reporters, helicopters, repair crews, police, firefighters, and other emergency workers called onto the scene. This was a summer vacation gone wrong in the worst way for many people.

But when the dust, literally and figuratively settled, the obvious question on everyone’s mind is: who pays when a sinkhole swallows you timeshare, or it is damaged or destroyed by lightning, flooding, wind, tsunami, or any other type of natural disaster?

The answer to this important question can vary significantly, depending upon the resort at which you own timeshare and the type of disaster. This blog post looks only at the Summer Bay Resort sinkhole situation.

Who Picks Up the Cost When a Natural Disaster Impacts Your Timeshare Resort?

In the case of Summer Bay Resort, let’s put this situation into perspective. This resort property is very large occupying some 3,000 acres with approximately 900 timeshare units, vacation houses, and a hotel located on the resort grounds. Most of the more than 4,500 guests who were at the resort this week, were unaffected by the sinkhole and the resort has experienced few cancellations for upcoming weeks.

Timeshare owners at Summer Bay who own units in the buildings that were impacted, report that the resort management is telling them insurance will cover damages from the sinkhole. This should prove to be reliable information, backed by recent legislative changes pertaining to Florida sinkholes.

Florida Sinkhole Legislation Changed

Sinkholes were already a hot topic in Florida this year, even before the earth opened up the 120-foot wide chasm on the resort grounds of this popular Florida vacation ownership resort. Last year, Florida legislature approved a law defining that any catastrophic collapse caused by a sinkhole is fully covered under Florida property insurance. This is great news for the timeshare owners at Summer Bay Resort.

It is not such great news for other Florida timeshare owners and owners of residential property whose timeshare, homes, garages, or other structures are damaged over time by slow or small shifts in the earth. The new law clearly states that there must be an “abrupt land collapse, structural damage, and a condemned property.” However, for purposes of this blog post, let’s consider only the type of collapse and damaged experienced by Summer Bay Resort.

Many Florida insurance experts are commenting to the press that the resort’s property and casualty insurance should cover the loss and should prevent the need for any related special assessments against the timeshare owners.

Breaking Down the Insurance Issue for Summer Bay Resort Timeshare Owners

Timeshare owners and guests directly effected by the sinkhole, experiencing the loss of personal property, and who have insurance that covers their residence elsewhere, will likely find that their homeowners insurance also covers their personal property when they are traveling. Others who took out vacation insurance will probably find aspects of their time or personal property loss covered by their vacation insurance policy. And this is not to imply that personal property lost in the building collapse won’t be covered directly by the resort’s insurance that is covering this event. But some owners and guests may find they have additional types of insurance that they personally carry that also will benefit them in this situation.

Right now, Summer Bay Resort says it plans to rebuild the damaged buildings on some other part of its large property. So are the owners off the hook, for paying a special assessment or an increase in their maintenance fees?

Not necessarily. Insurance will cover the property as it was before the loss, plus depreciation, which is the difference in the cost today to replace items and property as compared to what it cost originally. But if the resort looks to update or upgrade the timeshare units in the rebuilding process, and there is added cost in so doing, that cost will be above any insurance coverage.

For example, what if the timeshare units being replaced had carpeting and the decision was made to update and upgrade to an engineered wood or other type of flooring that in the long run is more durable and perhaps more aesthetic? In that case, the insurance dollars allowed for replacing the carpet might fall short of the amount needed to switch to a more currently preferred type of flooring.  This cost could logically be borne by the thousands of Summer Bay vacation owners, in an apportionment equal to the number of units or weeks they own and the size of those units.

The Bottom Line

Most Summer Bay Resort owners who have commented publicly on the sinkhole have expressed relief that no one was harmed and have shown great compassion for anyone who was directly part of this bizarre event. Yet a few have demanded that the resort “guarantee” this won’t happen at other buildings on the property.

Let’s let Summer Bay Resort, and all other hotels, timeshares, and vacation properties off the hook on this type of demand. No one can offer guarantees against natural disasters, nor should we expect them to try.

Assuming that a resort makes all reasonable efforts to protect its guests and timeshare owners, and that to any degree determined by logic or law, the resort structure and property are safe, stable, and functional, then the resort has done all it can possibly do.

Things happen. You can personally procure insurance to protect you against most of them, including inclement weather and loss of vacation. If your peace of mind is enhanced by knowing you are covered against all possibilities, then you should explore the options for the many types of insurances that are available.

Is the Orlando Summer Bay Resort Timeshare Sinkhole Growing?

Is the Orlando Summer Bay Resort Timeshare Sinkhole Growing?

Summer Bay Timeshare Resort
Summer Bay Timeshare Resort (photo credit Orlando Sentinel)

The massive sinkhole that severely damaged the Orlando timeshare, Summer Bay Resort on Sunday evening (August 11), appears to be stable say officials today.

A 100-foot wide sinkhole collapsed Summer Bay Resort buildings numbers 103 and 104, which are connected by a breezeway and actually counted as one structure. The Orlando Sentinel reported that all of the timeshare units damaged were two-bedroom, two-bath units. Also impacted was building 105, which on Monday was condemned by officials.

First the most important news: no one was injured. But you can bet this is one Orlando timeshare vacation that the guests at Summer Bay Resort will never forget. More than 100 of the vacationers who were occupying the resort were rousted from bed around 11 PM on Sunday evening by the sound of the buildings beginning to break. Some described it as a sound, “like multiple people with aluminum baseball bats who were swinging them against the windows,” others likened the sound to cracking, popping, booms, or gunshots.

Whatever the noise seemed to be, it didn’t give the occupants of the buildings affected much time to respond. Most fled their timeshare units without pausing to collect car keys, medications, wallets, or other personal items. One couple and their child were even forced to break a window in order to escape when the doorway to their unit collapsed. The approximately 35 vacationers housed in buildings 103 and 14 can thank the resort’s onsite management and security for running through the corridors, banging on doors, and spreading the word to abandon the building immediately.

All occupants of the Summer Bay Resort timeshare were safely evacuated, (Photo source: Orlando Sentinel)
All occupants of the Summer Bay Resort timeshare were safely evacuated (Photo credit: Orlando Sentinel)

Within roughly 30 minutes of the successful evacuation, the building had buckled under its own weight, leaving, as one guest said, her belongings buried deep in the ground. Even occupants of building 105, which sustained little to no visible damage, were not immediately permitted to return to their units to collect their possessions.

Summer Bay Resort  is working with the timeshare owners and guests who have been displaced to arrange accommodations there at Summer Bay or in nearby properties. The Red Cross and other agencies are at the Summer Bay Resort timeshare, providing trauma counseling, and helping people with issues such as replacing driver licenses, credit cards, and other documents necessary for travel.

While Summer Bay Resort has not, as of the time this is being written, added any update to its website, it has posted the following statement on its Facebook page:

“In an unforeseeable natural disaster, one of the 26 buildings on our Summer Bay Resort property was affected by a sinkhole.

Thanks to the quick response of our staff and first responders, there were no injuries, and all guests were able to leave the building safely .We are working diligently to relocate and assess the needs of all of our guests.

Geologists are onsite assessing the area to ensure that the damage is contained.

If any current or future guests have any questions or concerns, please contact our customer service staff at 1-800-654-6102 or [email protected]

Thank you for your well wishes and continued support.”

Resort owner and President Paul Caldwell says,  “After the geologists’ initial survey here, they’ve indicated it is what they describe as a classic Florida sinkhole about 100 feet in diameter and on a preliminary basis, they do not have a concern that it is growing or will grow.” Caldwell adds, “We are open for business … we are attempting to make this as normal an experience for our guests and our team as we possibly can.”

Later today, the U.S. Geological Survey team is expected to have more specific information on the sinkhole’s stability. Summer Bay Resort is actually southwest of Orlando, a few miles from Walt Disney World, and located in the city of Clermont, one of the areas in Florida that is most susceptible to sinkholes. High levels of limestone in the soil and underground cavern formations  allow the soil to shift with  rising and falling ground water levels eroding the bedrock beneath the soil’s surface.

Summer Bay Resort occupies approximately 300-acres.

More on Summer Bay Timeshare from The Timeshare Authority blog:


DVC Timeshare in Orlando

DVC Timeshare in Orlando

Disney rumors are not always accurate, but so many resources reference this one, it leads you to believe that it is the next big news for DVC timeshare. Earlier this summer, Disney filed permits with the South Florida Water Management District (one of the state of Florida’s five legislatively created agencies for overseeing water management issues) and the permits describe “a rehabilitation project at the Polynesian Resort.”

The language of the permit states: “The work to be conducted on this site includes new parking, vehicular circulation, pedestrian pathways, utilities and fire access. It also includes the installation of pilings along the neighboring lagoon that will support future structures, redesigned landscaping and new amenity areas to serve the building expansions for this resort hotel.”

But this is where it gets difficult to sort out fact from fiction. Some sources have the additional DVC timeshare project as a big build out that even includes grand timeshare villas built out over the water of the lagoon, with private docks for each villa. Other rumors say the project has already been greatly scaled back (before it is even begun) and only will be a renovation of existing accommodations there and an upgrade of amenities.

Expansion of DVC timeshares at the Polynesian Village certainly makes sense in terms of Disney Vacation Club logic. The Polynesian Village, which was the first resort open at Disney World (beating out the Contemporary Resort on opening day by minutes) is part of iconic Disney culture and was said to be a favorite project of Walt himself. And almost all of the current easy-park-access resort properties at Walt Disney World (via monorail or boat) have a timeshare component.

Trader Sam’s Will Be Part of the Fun

One detail does look like a certainty and that is that Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Resort will be home to Disney’s future Trader Sam’s. Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar has already found a home at the Disneyland Hotel (California). Immensely popular with Disneyland guests, Trader Sam’s is a classic tiki bar, with more charm and personality than it seems possible to pack into a single property.

You remember who Trader Sam is don’t you?

He’s the “(Shrunken) Head Salesman” you’ve known from your adventure’s on Disney’s Jungle Cruise. Profiled as a wheeler-dealer entrepreneur of the jungle, Trader Sam will make you a deal on anything in his eclectic collection, especially if you are interested in the purchase or trade of a few shrunken heads.

Supposedly, Trader Sam, with help from his friends at the Jungle Cruise Navigational Company, built and decorated his bar, rich with artifacts and bric-a-brac collected from his years as a jungle trader. True Disney fans can lose themselves exploring the minutiae of Disney history and pop culture details woven into the décor and story theme of Trader Sam’s. With a colorful drink menu, (all supposedly mixed from a base of “Sam’s Gorilla Grog”) and a menu of meal-worthy appetizers, Trader Sam’s will be a delightful addition to the Orlando park whether it winds up at the Polynesian Village or perhaps (as otherwise rumored) at Disney Springs.