Family holidays can be costly and it can be a challenge finding quality accommodation with the right amount of space, especially for multi-generational family groups. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Looking back over 20 years of family travel using her timeshare ownership with RCI membership, well-travelled Donna Merrick shares her top tips for great family holidays.

Long-haul holidays are just as doable if you're a member of RCI - helping you travel the world is what we do best!

Don't think that you have to stay close to home to have an amazing family holiday. Long-haul holidays are just as doable if you're a member of RCI - helping you travel the world is what RCI does best!

The booking of holidays and, unfortunately, the holidays themselves, used to be a disappointing experience. My husband, Ashley, and I would spend hours sitting in travel agencies, explaining our preferences, only to find on arrival that the hotel was nothing like the pictures and descriptions we’d been given.

I had heard of timeshare, but hadn’t looked into it, until we were approached in Wales by a sales representative. He invited us to a presentation, which explained how we could purchase a yearly week at a holiday resort, alongside a membership with RCI allowing us to exchange into thousands of other resorts all over the world.

Donna Merrick and her family have travelled all over the world thanks to their RCI membership. Donna plans her RCI holidays well ahead of time to ensure she gets the exchanges she wants.

Donna Merrick and her family have travelled all over the world thanks to their RCI membership. Donna plans her RCI holidays well ahead of time to ensure she gets the exchanges she wants.

Straight away I bought into the philosophy of timeshare and exchange holidays. At this point, I was expecting my eldest daughter and thought that this could be the key to the kind of family holidays I wanted for us. I went home and started my research. I soon came across RCI, where staff helped me to find out how I could purchase timeshare and then subsequently become a member.

Since purchasing timeshare, I have never looked back. Each year I am fortunate enough to enjoy four or five weeks of foreign holidays, and my family and I have been all over the world. After almost 20 years of RCI membership - I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t own timeshare.

If you own timeshare, or think it might be for you, follow my seven tips to make it work for you and your family.

1. Fall in love with your home resort

We initially purchased two weeks at Beverly Hills Heights resort in Tenerife (2398), before going on to buy a further two weeks at the Elite Apartments at Pueblo Evita (3583) in Málaga, Spain. The two are very different, but equally as brilliant. We chose these resorts partly because we would get good exchanges from them, as they are very popular and high quality, but mainly because we liked them.

Donna and her family own two weeks of timeshare at the Elite Apartments at Pueblo Evita (3583) in Málaga, Spain.

Donna and her family own two weeks of timeshare at the Elite Apartments at Pueblo Evita (3583) in Málaga, Spain. They do return to this resort which they call their 'home from home'.

We now have two daughters, Francesca, 18, and Gabriella, 16. When the girls were young we took beach holidays, which worked for everyone. We returned frequently to Spain, simply because we love it. Besides our home resort, we have visited resorts in Alicante and Valencia, but we keep going back to the Costa del Sol. We have been so many times that many of the local restaurateurs recognise us and there is something to be said for such familiarity. When my husband and I holiday, we usually return to Elite Apartments at Pueblo Evita, our home from home.

It is important that you choose your resort knowing you can exchange and explore other places, but at the same time, you should envisage many happy holidays there.

Beverly Hills Heights (2398) resort in Tenerife was the first timeshare property that Donna and her family bought. Since then, she has never looked back and now enjoys four or five weeks of holidays a year with RCI.

Beverly Hills Heights (2398) resort in Tenerife was the first timeshare property that Donna and her family bought. Since then, she has never looked back and now enjoys four or five weeks of timeshare holidays a year.

2. Tour, explore, repeat

As the girls got older, we were able to be more adventurous. Orlando, Florida, became a family favourite for us; we have been six times in total. We love visiting the theme parks, especially Universal Studios, which is fabulous, even more so now that it has The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

To be honest, Ashley and I often feel that we are the ones dragging the girls around the parks - we are big kids!

Florida remains a firm favourite for the Merricks, especially now a certain wizard has moved into Universal Studios. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an exciting addition to Orlando's theme parks and the family love visiting.

Florida remains a firm favourite for the Merricks, especially now a certain wizard has moved into Universal Studios. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an exciting addition to Orlando's theme parks and the family love visiting.

One year we decided to turn our Florida holiday into a touring adventure. We spent four nights in Miami, then travelled to a resort in RCI’s exchange network - Palm Beach Resort (0616) - for a week, before taking a further week at another RCI resort, Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort - East Village (8896).

RCI has a wide-range of resorts in Florida, and the Merricks got the most out of their membership by seeing a different side to the popular holiday destination.

Rather than having one base in Florida, Donna planned her holiday very well and toured the Sunshine State! Using RCI's wide-range of affiliated resorts in Florida, she got the most out of her membership by touring around the State and seeing different sides to the popular holiday destination.

When our daughters were aged 14 and 12, we all went to Las Vegas. Although it’s not a typical family destination, we loved it. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Desert Club Resort (0110), close to the Strip, and spent our days exploring the vast hotels, many of which have waterparks, animals and theme parks inside.

For something a bit different, Donna took her two young daughters to Las Vegas for an epic family holiday. It meant the girls could experience a new destination and see the amazing hotels and shows along the Strip.

For something a bit different, Donna took her two young daughters to Las Vegas for an epic family holiday. It meant the girls could experience a new destination and see the amazing hotels and shows along the Vegas Strip.

After a week in Vegas, we hired a car and travelled via Henderson to visit the Grand Canyon and then on to the Hoover Dam; both were fascinating to see. We then spent a further week in Sedona Pines Resort (4968), which was the complete opposite to the hustle and bustle of Vegas.

The resort was nestled within 'Red Rock Country’ and was the perfect base for hiking, walking and horse riding.

When in Las Vegas, the Merricks couldn't miss out on a once in a lifetime trip to see the Grand Canyon. After spending a week visiting Sin City, they hired a car and headed out to see the beautiful Canyon.

When in Las Vegas, the Merricks couldn't miss out on a once in a lifetime trip to see the Grand Canyon. After spending a week visiting Sin City, they hired a car and headed out to see the beautiful Canyon.

Hoover Dam is another incredible US landmark the Merricks got to appreciate when visiting the Grand Canyon. They really made the most of their RCI membership during this holiday and got to see some amazing places.

Hoover Dam is another incredible US landmark the Merricks got to appreciate when visiting the Grand Canyon. They really made the most of their RCI membership during this holiday and got to see some amazing places.

Another year we visited Gran Canaria and stayed at Anfi Beach Club (3081). After a week, we were on the bus with the locals to get to the nearest ferry port, where we took a high-speed ferry to Tenerife, and enjoyed a relaxing week at Hollywood Mirage Club (2429).

People often think that owning timeshare equates to having the same holiday year after year, but it doesn’t have to. We’ve been all over the place and had many different types of holiday. Equally, we never rule out returning to a place we love.

Donna revealed that she island hopped the Canary Islands one year. Following a week in Gran Canaria, the family hopped onto a ferry and spent a week at the Hollywood Mirage Club (2429) resort in Tenerife.

Donna revealed that she island hopped the Canary Islands one year. Following a week in Gran Canaria, the family hopped onto a ferry and spent a week at the Hollywood Mirage Club (2429) resort in Tenerife. What a holiday!

3. Feel (secretly) smug about savings and extra space

It’s hard for me not to compare our holidays to those of others, especially in terms of cost. My family and a friend’s have visited Greece, staying in apartments of comparable quality. However, while they paid around £4,000 just for accommodation, we paid only £650, which included our yearly maintenance fee of £500. Getting accommodation of equal quality for the same price on the high street just isn’t possible. Of course, we had to purchase our timeshare weeks, 20 years ago, but that was a one-off payment and in giving us holidays each year for two decades we have more than got that money back!

As timeshare accommodation is often larger than the average holiday apartment, Donna relishes the space.

As timeshare accommodation is often larger than the average holiday apartment, Donna relishes the space. Even exchanges give her two- or three-bedroom apartments which means all the family can have their own space without tripping over each other.

Space is also very valuable to us, as I think it is to most families. Even when the girls were young, I didn’t want to have the whole family in one bedroom, although I know this is a popular way for families to keep costs down.

With timeshare ownership, I have never had to do this, because even when exchanging, my membership enabled me to access two- or three-bedroom apartments. I often bring my mum on holiday with us and she has her own apartment too.

4. Utilise your membership

As much as I love my family holidays, I will soon be taking a second holiday with a girlfriend at Sunset Beach Club in Málaga. We holidayed together for the first time in 2015, neither of us having been away on our own in 20 years. We had a week full of fun, relaxation and cava. This was a different experience to a family holiday, but I was able to utilise my RCI membership equally as well.

 Timeshare ownership doesn't limit you to just one destination - as long as you know how to use the system, the holiday options are endless.

The family have enjoyed holidays all over the world, including touring holidays. Timeshare ownership doesn't limit you to just one destination - as long as you know how to use the system, the holiday options are endless.

5. Make it fit your lifestyle

We relish the self-catering aspect of our holidays, as we love eating out and sampling local foods. Right now, an all-inclusive or meal plan package wouldn’t suit us. Plus, the great thing about a self-catering holiday is that it can be as luxurious or inexpensive as you like. However, we are able to access all-inclusive resorts with our membership, as well as cruise holidays if they take our fancy - RCI membership offers that flexibility.

6. Book and plan ahead for your family holidays

When I’m sat on the plane, returning from a holiday, I like to console myself by knowing exactly where and when my next one will be. I’ve always got one lined up - holidays are planned around 18 months in advance.

Booking as far ahead as possible is the best way to make RCI membership work for you. If I decide in May that I want to go to Italy in July, then I’m likely to be disappointed. But, by making a habit of booking ahead, I have always managed to get my choice of destination and resort through RCI Exchange Holidays.

The Merrick ladies enjoying one of their many visits to Tenerife. They love going back to their home resort in between all the long-haul and touring holidays.

The Merrick ladies enjoying one of their many visits to Tenerife. They love going back to their home resort in between all the long-haul and touring holidays.

Our two or three resort touring holidays also take a lot of planning, but it’s not as regimented as people might think, it’s just a case of booking in plenty of time and making sure not to pack the schedule. We make sure there is plenty of down time, so that everyone can relax and enjoy themselves.

We have lots of future holidays in the pipeline, the most exciting being that we plan to visit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when Francesca is 21.

Donna and Ashley Merrick enjoying a meal out on one of their many RCI holidays over the years. The family have got the most out of their RCI membership, by knowing the system inside out so they get the very best deals.

Donna and Ashley Merrick enjoying a meal out on one of the many RCI holidays they've taken over the years. The family have got the most out of their RCI membership, by knowing the system inside out so they get the very best deals.

7. Learn how the system works

RCI membership has worked amazingly well for me and my family, because I make it my business to know exactly how the system works, and how to make the best of it. Our membership has given us access to some amazing properties, and we trust that we will get quality accommodation through RCI every time, but it’s up to us to do some of the work to make that happen.

So if you are thinking of booking a holiday and want to experience somewhere new and exciting, visit the RCI Resort Directory below and start planning your next exciting trip away.

Click here to visit the Resort Directory

If you own timeshare and you're not an RCI member, you're missing out on travelling to some of the world's most incredible places. Find out how to join our Holiday Exchange membership in a few simple steps...

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