If something is worth doing, it's worth doing properly! RCI subscribes to that theory too, which is why we have put together our top tips to help you organise the best holiday yet. It starts with planning ahead, from the minute you return from your last holiday!
1. List the things you love
Start planning straight after you return from your last holiday - while everything is fresh in your mind. What did you love about your last holiday? And what would you change? Put together a list of those essentials that you would never be willing to sacrifice to ensure your next break ticks all those boxes.
Was your recent stay in too quiet a location? Would you prefer to have been more central to the action, or vice versa? It’s questions such as this that will form the basis of your holiday needs, so invest plenty of time in thinking about your last holiday adventure - what you loved about it, and what you liked least.
2. A time and a place for everything
And that includes your holiday planning, so get cracking on your research! Not just to get the best chance of securing the perfect holiday, but to ignite the buzz and excitement that builds as you start to think about all the fabulous locations and stunning resorts you could be calling home for a week or so.
If you are an RCI member, then visit RCI.com to shortlist your favourite destinations, and then research each of these on tourist board websites. You can narrow your list down as you learn more about the places, from the weather to any key events going on which you may - or may not - want to be part of.
RCI members who may not find their ideal holiday right away can always place an Ongoing Search on their member website, RCI.com, to let RCI do the looking for them, alerting them as soon as they find a holiday match. Whether you are an RCI member or not, expanding your destination horizons by looking at different places offering your favourite things and activities can take you to some unexpected places where you will have a fantastic holiday and perhaps find a new 'favourite' holiday getaway!
3. Dedicate time to planning
If you’re already an RCI member, you know all too well how often we advise you to plan and book early. This is not just to get the best value and benefit from having more destination choice in our holiday exchange pool, it is also because you get out of the experience what you put into it and as our time away from daily routine is precious, we need to be sure our holiday is the best it can be. It is worth setting aside a few hours at the weekend or in the evenings to do your research.
RCI members Susan Collie and her husband Brian, enjoy the benefits of planning ahead using their RCI membership. For them, the bonus is getting more holidays out of the timeshare holiday weeks they own. Planning ahead with RCI got the Collies 11 weeks of holiday this year from their four weeks of timeshare ownership. Each owned week of timeshare has a value allocated to it, for it to work in the exchange system. A week's ownership is given a value known as trading power and, depending on a number of criteria such as accommodation size, seasonality and demand for that resort, that trading power will vary from higher to lower amounts. Susan knows how to use hers to get more time away with her family, as she explained:
"I trade up and down, booking lower value weeks than our owned ones to get, say, two weeks in a lower value unit than our own. I also look out for the RCI deals and sales. We got an RCI offer on a week's stay at an RCI Gold Crown resort in Spain for an exchange trading power of only four. As one of our owned weeks in Scotland has a trading power value of 25, you can see how far it can take you with a little planning!
“This year Brian and I got four weeks holiday in Portugal, four weeks in Madeira and three weeks in Spain at an RCI Gold Crown resort - all out of our Kilconquhar week's ownership in Scotland and the deposit trading power it gives us, simply by being organised and depositing our week into the RCI exchange pool well in advance."
4. Learn from your RCI community
Not only are the TripAdvisor resort reviews on RCI.com useful for narrowing down your holiday search, but members of your RCI community are also good travel advisors, often sharing lots of holiday preparation ideas and insight into different holiday experiences. Read the reviews they leave on RCI.com - in the Resort Directory - and don't forget to leave your own reviews too. With more than 4,000 resorts around the world to choose from with RCI membership, a bit of advice and guidance goes a long way.
So, we’re just going to throw it out there and suggest you follow the rule of four. Find four destinations you are eager to visit, and for each one, compare up to four resorts you would like to experience.
Also if you’re a bit of a bargain hunter, check out the offers and benefits on RCI.com so you can instantly discover any deals which might cinch the top spot on your wish list.
5. A flying start
Your flight costs will no doubt take up a chunk of your holiday budget, especially if you are taking a family group away with you.
If you’re holidaying as a group or need extra legroom, you’ll want to plan early to get the best rates and seats, especially if you’re travelling long haul.
Tuesdays are believed to be the best day to book flights, as airlines tend to release sales and offers on a Monday evenings, so by Tuesday, all airlines are competing to price match.
You can also use this handy tool from SkyScanner which analyses the best month to book based on where you plan to fly to.
Check your airport options carefully, as some destinations have more than one option to choose from. Going for the closest airport isn’t necessarily the cheapest as, in certain cases, even by adding airport transfers into the mix, a different airport can work out to be more cost effective.
And remember, for RCI members, RCI Travel is on hand to help book flights, car hire and attraction tickets too.
6. Budget, budget, budget
We all like to get the best deal on tickets and dining experiences.
City Discovery offers RCI Platinum members a range of the world’s top sights, while making savings of up to 20% on selected attractions, so be sure to include them in your search if you are a Platinum member.
Factor in the different ticket combinations if you’re booking a multi-ticket package, and pay attention to any 'freebies' that can be thrown in, such as dining cards. For example, one leading dining card programme in Orlando can save you up to 20% for up to four people, leaving you more money to spend on the things you really want to splash out on.
Many resorts available to RCI members partner with the local attractions, such as golf, spa, theme parks and dining venues, to get great value deals and discounts for their guests during their stay. It's always worth checking with your resort concierge or reception what is on offer for the duration of your holiday.
Look at cashback, voucher and deals sites to see if there are any activities or restaurants you’d like try out for a more localised, authentic experience. Love fine dining? Make a lunchtime reservation for a set lunch, which will usually find the venue less crowded and the meal more affordable than in the evening. You will still get the delectable food experiences, just at a lower price.
7. Ensure everyone leaves happy
Always leave a destination with somewhere or something undiscovered we say, as it gives you all the more reason to return at a later date.
A key tip, especially if you’re visiting with younger ones, is to split your attractions list to include the absolute, non-negotiable sights against the 'nice to have' ones, but you wouldn’t leave disappointed if you didn’t fit them into your itinerary on the holiday.
RCI member, Philip Hakim, took his family on holiday in Finland on his first RCI Exchange Holiday. Because it was a winter holiday, they stayed close to Father Christmas in Finnish Lapland at Holiday Club Yllas 2 (2425). Philip's planning paid dividends in ensuring it was an extra special time for his family, as he told us: "I would recommend contacting an activity centre to plan your trips. Our resort put us in touch with reputable companies and our trips were well organised, leaving us nothing to do but to enjoy ourselves."
8. Holiday packing preparation
Picture the scene. You arrive at the airport excited that you are, at last, off on holiday and are already looking forward to getting into Duty Free for your holiday treats. How quickly that feeling disappears when you’re told at check-in that you’re luggage is over the weight allowance.
Luggage fees can be hefty, so to keep that smile going well into Duty Free, check your luggage allowances carefully before you leave home and research some tips to make the most of your valuable luggage space.
It is also useful to research the destination you're visiting for any cultural considerations you need to be mindful of. For example, you may need clothes to dress more conservatively when visiting religious sites in some countries. It's always worth packing a shawl for any such occasions - plus it's a fabulous multi-wear luggage item which can double up as a scarf, sarong, evening accessory...The list goes on.
9. Keep records
Holiday research and planning takes time, so invest in a notebook to record all the little tips, details, deals, great resorts or bars, and anything else you discover while researching your upcoming break or while on holiday. This little black book could save you time and effort when planning holidays in the future.
If you have any great tips around holiday planning, why not share them with others looking for ideas and inspiration on Facebook.com/euro
10. Stay in the loop
Sign up to a range of travel sites and newsletters to find out about the latest travel trends and receive exclusive previews to sales. Apart from possibly saving yourself some money, you will be well informed about new holiday products, such as new cruise itineraries and flight routes, as well as important travel announcements.
For example, if you are a Three mobile phone customer, that network provider has teamed up with easyJet to offer customers a free 'hands-free' baggage service allowing you to check your hand luggage in at no extra cost and receive priority boarding, after the speedy board passengers have boarded the plane. Another benefit is that your luggage will be among the first off the aircraft.
Websites such as Travel Mole or Breaking Travel News are some of the first to announce these types of updates. While RCI members should check their website, RCI.com regularly, as well as their monthly RCI account statements and other communications from RCI, if they want to be sure they catch all the RCI special offers and great value deals.
11. Get yourself covered
How devastated would you be to know that after all the hours you spent planning your perfect holiday, it has to be cancelled due to unforeseen events? Happily, there are travel insurance options that will protect you from the moment you book your holiday, and not just while you are away?
Be super savvy with your holiday planning and make booking your insurance a top priority. Take time to read the small print and ensure your cover level will protect you from the moment you book, and for travel to your destination, as well as for any activities that you may be enjoying while away, such as skiing.
If you are and RCI member ready to book your RCI Exchange Holiday, look online on RCI.com or ask your RCI Guide about RCI Trading Power and Points Protection. This will preserve your trading power or points value, should you have to cancel the holiday exchange accommodation element of your getaway. Your trading power or points values will be put back on your RCI account so you can use them for another exchange booking, once your situation has improved.
Insurance may seem a waste of money sometimes, until you really need it of course, so make insurance one of your holiday non-negotiables!
For more in-depth tips on how to book, sign in and check out the Help Library on RCI.com.
If you own timeshare but are not a member of RCI, you could be missing out on visiting some of the world's most amazing places. Click Join RCI below to see how you could become an RCI member in a few simple steps.
Whether you love sun, sea and sand, or enjoy flying down the slopes, there are over 4,000 RCI-affiliated resorts worldwide to choose from. Click on the RCI Resort Directory below and search for your next holiday.