Holiday research, planning and booking takes considerable time and effort, but using RCI.com is a great way to manage your account 24/7, and to search and book for that dream holiday. RCI member Susan Collie, shares her tried and tested methods of getting the maximum value and more holidays for her and her husband, Brian, out of their timeshare ownership, when used in conjunction with RCI membership. This year alone they managed to secure 11 weeks of holiday from their four week's of timeshare ownership.
Here are some of Susan's top tips to help you get more great getaways out of your timeshare purchase.
1. Invest the time
"I visit RCI.com every day, once in the morning and again during the evening, to search for holiday options. I only search for a quick ten minutes each time, but it's so easy in the evening to just sit down with a cup of tea and get the iPad out to have a quick look at what accommodation is available to us, at that time.
"Recently we have been looking at a week in Madeira to add onto a two-week RCI Exchange Holiday we have already booked for the Christmas and New Year period. Obviously things can change quite quickly in the RCI exchange system, with members making deposits all the time, so I always make sure I check morning and night to be sure we don't miss out on the accommodation and resorts which become available.
"I could use Ongoing Search of course, and I have done so in the past. However, I like to use RCI.com to search for myself as well, because you never know what might crop up that catches your eye.
"That's another reason why it's good to deposit early, as then there's more in the holiday accommodation pot at RCI for everyone to choose from. It also gives you the maximum time to plan when and where you want to go."
2. Be flexible with your search
"RCI regularly tells us this, and it's true - the more flexible you are with your search, the more options that will obviously emerge.
"For us, the most important things to search are the dates, as we like to chase the sun in winter, so that's really our only essential search criteria.
"While there are the RCI resort ratings and status awards, I don't believe it means that the RCI Hospitality-rated resorts are going to be any less fabulous than an RCI Gold Crown one, and that's where the resort reviews come in for us."
3. Use - and leave - resort reviews
"We use search filters on RCI.com, but more often we just search by date. We tend to place more importance on resort reviews from other RCI members to help our holiday decision; these resort and destination reviews are a really useful source that you can rely on.
"For us, our timeshare exchanges are very much like a holiday lifestyle, so we always look for information on the quality of the kitchens, and we like to have the sun on the balcony in the afternoons too, so we look for that.
"This is very specific criteria of course, and you will soon notice the difference between a timeshare owner's review versus a general holidaymaker's review because the needs between the two are very different. For example, we make full use of the kitchen when we holiday, whereas the standard holidaymaker often won't do that, preferring to eat out each day.
"I guess my point is that reviews are very subjective, but by spending a little time on RCI.com to scroll through them, you will soon discover the ones from like-minded travellers, which you can depend on more to find the resort and accommodation that best suits your own holiday needs.
"That's why when we leave a review, we make sure that we are quite detailed, right down to tips on what we think are the best apartments on resort. It's this information that helps us make our booking decision and to be a little bit more savvy when we travel, so we like to do the same to help other holidaymakers - and RCI members - of course."
4. Manage your account online
"I forget the last time I called the call centre, as I manage everything online.
"The RCI Guides do, of course, contact me with any updates such as RCI sales, or when I add an Ongoing Search, but I tend to use these telephone calls as prompts to get online.
"The 'My Account' area on RCI.com is really easy to use for depositing and combining, but you need to be clever in the way you manage everything. Pay close attention to the expiry dates of your trading power values as, naturally, it makes sense to use up the ones that are going to expire first.
"I have three deposits on my account at the moment, and I have one with a considerably lower value, but I will probably save this for when RCI launches its next trading power sale, so I will most likely end up with two weeks away in Spain from that one trading power value.
"However, if it expires before then, I will just combine it - use it or lose it as they say!"
5. Check your inbox to stay in the loop
"RCI has trading power sales every month so you should check your inbox regularly to see what the latest offers are. This is the most effective way to get the best RCI deals and to be more savvy in the way you manage your holiday planning with RCI.
"The values and the resorts will vary in each sale, so you never know what's going to come up. Generally the sales start at a trading power of 5, but I have seen some sales which have gone lower, so it pays to have an eagle eye as it could make the difference between having a two-week break versus one week - and I know which I would rather have!
6. Remember, the resort information is there for a reason
"Each resort page on RCI.com includes the resort information, and also the resort contact information too, so you can get in touch with the resort directly.
"The minute I confirm an exchange, I'll contact the resort to request a room with a balcony, if possible. You stand more chance of getting what you want if you ask at an early stage.
"The urgent information is in there too, and you should always pay attention to this. I like to consult with the resort's website directly to get more detail as to what's going on at the resort during our stay. I have even been known to download floor plans so I can assess the position of the unit!"
7. Keep note of what you're seeing in the system
"We're planning a trip to China next year so we can experience the Great Wall of China. I was amazed at the number of resorts in that country - RCI members now have access to 183 resorts in China.
"That's why it's good to search regularly for places to stay, as well as different times of year to take a holiday, as you can stumble upon some really fabulous destinations and resorts that you perhaps wouldn't have considered visiting before."
8. Be realistic
"If there's one thing I know about RCI.com it's that you have to be realistic with your search.
"It can sometimes be frustrating when you discover that you can't always get exactly what you want, for when you want to get off on holiday.
"This is when you should get really clever with your planning and turn to the likes of RCI Extra Holidays and Late Deals to see if there is any late availability at those popular holiday destinations. I read the RCI Our Blog recently, on RCI.com, about RCI Extra Holidays and it highlights what a great perk they are. RCI will 'buy in' Extra Holidays to give its members greater opportunity to enjoy some of those fabulous much-in-demand places, without having to use our weeks or points. Even though these holidays are competitively priced, if you book online you will then get a further five per cent discount on that price."
If you are a member of RCI and would like to book your next getaway, click on the RCI Resort Directory below to see where you could be heading.
If you are a timeshare owner and like what you have read about RCI membership - but you are not a member of RCI - you can widen your holiday horizons by exchanging into different resorts all over the world. To join the Holiday Exchange community, click Join RCI below to sign up to membership in just a few simple steps.