Friday, June 17, 2005

Our Timeshare Experience

We just got back from spending a week at a timeshare resort in Park City. Last year, we bought a week of annual time at the Marriott Mountainside, and this was our first full week of staying there.

I used to think there was something unsavory and tacky about timeshare, and I still don’t like the sales hype that goes with it. But overall I like our experience so far, and I don’t feel much buyer’s remorse. (Whenever I do, I remind myself that we spent about $12,000 remodeling our basement and about $9,000 on the timeshare, and I get a LOT more enjoyment out of the timeshare, whereas the basement is mainly just a place where I pass through on my way to the garage and where we store stuff, although I do like the bookshelves and food storage room.)

Things I really like about our resort: the location right next to the Alpine Slide at the Park City Mountain Resort, the six hot tubs connected by little waterfalls, the comfortable king-sized bed, and the fully equipped kitchen, which is SO much nicer than eating out for every meal. I think I actually enjoy ANTICIPATING the trip as much or even more than experiencing the trip.

The reality of the trip turns out to involve a fair amount of work to keep the kids entertained (we have kids aged 10, 8, 6, and 1), to cook and clean up after them, and to plan things well so we take advantage of all the opportunities and don’t waste TOO much time lying around the unit, although it’s nice to have plenty of time to relax, read, and watch DVDs. So much of the time, the kids are begging to go swimming or watching their DVDs in the same room where I’m trying to relax or asking for snacks or fighting over something.

On a couple of days, I felt a little bored and lethargic, and I would have liked to arrange to go on a horseback trail ride, rent some motorized scooters, or something. Of course, that costs more money, and since our week is the last week of the off-season, we would have had to drive farther to find that kind of stuff to do (for example, the stables at the resort didn’t open until today). But one day I took the two older boys on a little river rafting trip down the Weber, and that was definitely fun and worth doing. Otherwise, our out-of-the-unit activities consisted of swimming once or twice a day, riding the Alpine Slide twice, and taking a very enjoyable evening walk over to Main Street in Park City. We bought restaurant food only three times!

Another thing I like about the timeshare is that we can put half or all of our Park City time into the pot and try to pick time somewhere else. The units are two bedrooms, and we can lock off one of the bedrooms and trade that time somewhere else. I was a little skeptical about that at first, but we successfully traded our extra bedroom for a week at a resort in Newport Beach, CA, this October during the UEA holiday, and since that resort doesn’t have the lock-off option, we get the full-sized unit there. Yes, we made the trade a full year in advance, which is probably why we got it, but to me that just allows more time to look forward to it. Next year, when we’re expecting to have a new baby, we’re planning to just keep the full two-bedroom unit in Park City, so we’ll have an extra bedroom to absorb all the kids a bit better.

Another thing that helps is that they gave us 175,000 Marriott reward points for buying the timeshare, and my understanding is that we should get a pretty decent vacation out of that, since it applies to air travel and other things. I’d like to trade the extra bedroom and use points for a week in Hawaii in 2007, and then I hope we have enough points left over to pay for most of a trip to Hong Kong in 2008 to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

On the downside, we have to pay a $700 maintenance fee each year, and that will add up over the years (if we put the $700 into savings for ten years, we could take a fantastic trip to Europe or somewhere). I don’t think the timeshare actually saves us money, although the average per-night cost will grow smaller and smaller as the years pass. But what it does is force us to take at least one weeklong family retreat each year, which we otherwise would not be likely to do, and we stay in nicer, more spacious accommodations, with our own kitchen. In the past, we’ve taken trips to places like Yellowstone and California, but those are usually only 4-6 days, a lot of which is eaten by driving time, and we usually stay only one night or two in each place. There’s something really nice about driving 45 minutes to a place where we stay put for seven days. I like the fact that it’s always the same base resort, which builds a sense of tradition and continuity over the years.

I’m not actually much of a traveler; for me, the idea of travel almost always turns out better than the reality, and I usually return from trips thinking I could have lived without it. But then after a few months I start thinking it would be fun to go on another trip. The kinds of trips I enjoy most are when we’re visiting somebody in an interesting place; either element by itself doesn’t make for as good a trip for me. Well, now we’ve invested in a particular kind of vacation for our family, and we damn well better enjoy it! Overall, I think we have and will continue to do so.

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