Tag: Worldmark

My Sunny Vacation Days

Let’s face it. I didn’t have a vacation in 2015, and after everything that befell me (mostly good), I deserve to have two in 2016. Come along with me on my second sunny vacation in three months.

I wrote a tad about how this vacation came about earlier.

In fact, my class reunion in July 2015 became the springboard for a jaunt to a resort we’ve been eyeing for ten years.

The Resort

Indio, California is about twenty miles south of the famed Palm Springs, vacation home to numerous celebrities.

The town proper includes everything you might want for a vacation. We bought groceries at a WinCo located a couple miles from our home base. There was also a pharmacy and numerous restaurants in that shopping center.

A few miles in the other direction, we found the rest of our supplies at a WalMart Supercenter.

Worldmark Indio is a gigantic place. Fifteen buildings, three or four stories tall, house various condominiums. There are two large pools situated at either end of the lovely green space on the back side of these stucco monsters.

Thirty-six greens and fairways circle most of the resort. Palms whisper overhead. Birds offer up early-morning catcalls. Duck families enjoy the central pond network.

Since it was Easter, bunnies even hopped around the place. (Actually, I’m sure they live there full-time.)

Two basketball courts and a double tennis court offer outdoor recreational opportunities. A large recreation center houses billiards, Ping Pong, air hockey and a dozen video games-even classics like Centipede and Space Invaders.

The pool nearest our room (which included two hot tubs, wading pool and swimming pool, also featured a lazy river. This is a winding path of water with its own current. You plop onto the provided tubes and let the river do the rest.

Joshua Tree National Park

Obviously, there was plenty to do at the resort. Especially if you’re like me and think the best vacation involves a lounge chair and a good book.

However, a number of national parks are nearby, and one of them features forests of Joshua Trees.

Don’t know what a Joshua Tree is? Let me help you out.

And it’s Spring, so the desert flowers are blooming. On our outlined plan of action for the week, a trip to Joshua Tree National Park was a must for three out of four of us.

This is what the itinerary looked like:
Monday: Hang out at Resort
Tuesday: Joshua Tree
Wednesday: Spa and 18 holes of golf
Thursday: Palm Springs
Friday: Pool Day

I planned to hike a few trails in the park, so I dressed in tennis shoes. My friends warned that it would be ten to fifteen degrees cooler in the park, so I should dress warmly or bring warm clothes.

We left at 9AM and returned around 7PM. Here are the photographic highlights of the day:

Laurel and me by the South entrance sign
Laurel and me by the South entrance sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

Us girls on the climb up Ryan Mountain
Us girls on the climb up Ryan Mountain
Proof I climbed the 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet
Proof I climbed the 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Living Desert I didn’t see

Come back on Thursday to hear the whole story, but the Thursday itinerary got an overhaul. Namely, only my friends went off to Palm Springs.

I’d been to The Living Desert-the local zoo-during our first trip to the area on our second honeymoon. I loved it and looked forward to a repeat.

After all, they had a baby giraffe now.

But I saw a real live desert on Tuesday and that was going to have to tide me over until my next trip this far south.

If you love dry sunny days, you should plan a trip to Indio (or Palm Springs or Palm Desert). I highly recommend using the traditional Spring Break timing for this trip. (In fact, a teacher I work with has been going there for a decade during Spring Break.)

The desert was in bloom, giving color to the brown canvas. Breezes cooled the high temperatures of 90 degrees to feel like a balmy, Hawaiian 75.

In fact, my husband enjoyed the location so much, he’s trying to convince our kids to take a family vacation there with us next year.

A sunny vacation is my ideal. What about you? What’s your ideal vacation getaway?

On Vacation Again

Reason number ONE for attending a class reunion: it might lead to a vacation with your best friend.

Yep. This is what happened at my some-number year class reunion.

My BFF and I are both owners (with our loving husbands, of course) of the Worldmark by Wyndym Vacation Club.

For several years, we’ve been talking about taking a vacation together. Each time we get together to catch up on life, we say we’ll have to book at the same resort. Some day.

In July 2015, at the reunion, my friend’s husband said, “Where do you want to go?”

My husband and I have been checking out the resort in Indio, California for a few years. Him because it’s on a golf course. Me because and there is a HUGE pool and guaranteed sunshine.

Then her husband said, “We’ve been there. It’s nice. Pick a week.”

And so we decided to go on his Spring Break (he’s the principal of a school district in Idaho).

I made the reservations and texted her. She texted back that they reserved their condo. We were really going to do this thing.

Spring Break is here.

I’m sure I’ll have updates about the trip when I get back, but in honor of me being on vacation, I thought I’d share a few snapshots of me enjoying former vacations in sunny locations.

You know, to get you in the mood for your next trip.

The water really is that color off the coast of the West Indies
The water really is that color off the coast of the West Indies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because everyone's birthday should be like this
Because everyone’s birthday should be like this

Some things are worth losing sleep over

Some things are worth losing sleep over

 

 

Maui View
Talk about a room with a view. Find me on the lanai

 

The last time we were in Palm Springs
The last time we were in Palm Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man, I’m so ready for vacation now.

Wait! I’m already there. See you next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timeshare Vultures

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) Preflight Warmup

Sparkling aquamarine waters lap hungrily at the coarse beige sands of Cabo San Lucas. Quite an incongruous locale for vultures. Unsuspecting first-time visitors incite a feeding frenzy among the seemingly innumerable masses of timeshare salespeople.

If you’ve never flown into Los Cabos airport, you have no point of reference for the scavenger-like feel created by the flock of well-groomed marketers descending upon the innocent. It’s worse than being circled by sharks.

“Don’t talk to anyone,” my friends warned us. “They will say they can help you, but it will cost you hours in a timeshare presentation.”

Even inside the airport at the stand clearly marked “Taxi”, the carnivorous salespeople are after blood. Or make that money. Lots of it. More than $40,000 – and we’re not talking pesos here.

We reached the rental car company van and believe we’re saved. It’s an island of refuge from the sea of bottom-feeders. Until you step out at the rental agency’s headquarters.

That good-looking guy chatting you up about where to go for shopping and activities? Yep, he really wants to corner you for hours and badger you into purchasing a timeshare. Points or weeks, I don’t really know. I don’t want to find out. I just came here for the sunshine, to escape the constant dreariness of Oregon in December.

Mexico-6706 - Black Vulture (large is good)

Whew! You make it out of there without agreeing to listen to a “short” spiel. We must be home free. We have our $2.30 for the toll road. Things are looking up.

We pull into the well-groomed grounds of what appears to be an enormous Spanish hacienda. Arches, pink stucco, marble floors and a Christmas tree to rival the one adorning the Macy float greet you. Shoulders relax and you can imagine the kiss of equatorial sunshine on your face.

This nice lady, Elisa, she’s a hotel representative, your personal concierge. I must be an imbecile! She’s the front man for the evil timeshare mobsters.

“We’d like to invite you to breakfast tomorrow. It’s a beautiful buffet and afterward, you’ll take a 90-minute tour of our sister property. In return, we’ll give you a fabulous Gold card which guarantees you discounts of 15% or more on all your food and activities.”

Save money? Do I really need to hear more? The kids will sleep until 11. We’ll be back from the 90-minute deal by 10:30 at the latest. Why not?

Oh foolish, foolish Americano! You’ve been stabbed in the thigh, near the femoral artery with the gilded knife of anesthesia. You feel no pain.

Until you can’t even enjoy the buffet breakfast because the lovely Adrianna is quizzing you about your vacation habits.

“You own a timeshare. What are your biggest complaints about it?”

Next time, I swear I’m going to say, “I can’t ever use it without being hounded about buying more time.” Forget about not getting reservations where I want at the time I want (number one complaint, apparently).

I want to vacation without being circled by carrion-eaters.

Adrianna smiles and promises she will be finished with her tour in 90 minutes or less. I should have started the timer on my smart phone. Even after 15 years as a timeshare owner, I still believe this fabrication.

She did finish before the time limit. The penthouse was jaw-dropping, but I’ll never be able to afford to rent it. Or if I finally save up enough points, all the weeks will be booked for three years solid. And yet, I imagine myself entertaining my editor or agent while the Sea of Cortez sings in the background.

“This is my teammate, Lisa.” And the lovely Adrianna disappears, handing us over to the drooling pack of hyenas without a backward glance.

“We’re buying a house.” This is our legitimate – and truthful (not that these people understand anything about honesty) – excuse.

It sounds good. We’re considering trading our current membership on seven Mexican resorts and Interval International Chairman-level exchange privileges.

But, we’re buying a house. “Amigos. We don’t take social security numbers. It won’t appear on your credit report.”

Except there’s no way we’re paying 12 percent on any amount for even three months. Refinancing in the states will show up on the credit report and undo all of the progress we’ve made in the loan process thus far.

So our friend Lisa passes us off to a young blonde thing who wants to “make sure we were treated right.” And she presents a different, less costly plan for buying into the resort.

Really? We’re still smiling at the end of this, but we’re beginning to feel the pressure. The hungry snouts are pressing against our calves. The slavering beasts make my forehead bead with sweat.

Black Vulture

And smiling Fernando, “I can’t sit as long as senora is standing” proceeds with an offer that will just guarantee that in a year we can come back and get the same pricing for this unbelievable vacation spot. Doesn’t no mean no – even in Spanish?

He actually does let us rate our experience before he tries to give us this “final offer.” If he would’ve asked afterwards, the scores would not have been above 5.

“We’ll get your incentives,” he says, still pretending to be a polite boy who cares about us. The proverbial crow in sparrow wings we discover as Pedro enters the room.

How about six weeks free? How about eight weeks anywhere in the world? We’ll knock the price down even more and double the point value and give you eighteen months to consider our offer.

No.

What about ten weeks? No sane person would turn down such an offer. Surely you can afford $1,000.

No.

And finally, we exit the den of thieves. “This lovely lady will get your discount card and you’ll be on your way.”

It’s another ruse. The prices highlighted in yellow are good only if you book the events right at this moment. If you walk out the door, you will lose this incredible discount. We are traveling with four other people and haven’t discussed our schedule.

“I will give you six tickets on that sunset dinner cruise free if you take a taxi over to the Pacific side and view our resort.”

WHAT?!?

turkey vulture

Yes, it’s another red-headed vulture staring us down with beady eyes. We pretend not to hear her offer of free taxi rides and additional discounts.

Do these people think we came to sunny Cabo in December to sit inside and listen to presentations the entire time? Maybe they’re as misguided as we were.

We book our dinner cruise (for my birthday) and run away. Is it my imagination or do I feel hot breath on the back of my neck?

There’s no escort out of the labyrinth into which we’ve been lead. But I see the sunlight. Soon we find the sparkling waters and make a break for the beach.

Time 12:30. Elapsed time spent on this 90-minute tour: 4 hours. I should feel lucky. A couple who bought, spent four-and-a-half hours with the flock of buzzards.

Three hours lounging sea-side with a book and a bottle of water, surrounded by my family, almost redeems the day. Almost.

Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson. The timeshare vultures are all around you in Cabo.

Trust no one – especially if they smile and offer to help you.

Budget vacations and how a timeshare spoiled them for me

Like many people, my life drastically changed when I had children. In fact, I don’t think I went on anything resembling a “vacation” for the first four years of my children’s lives.

I’m not complaining. We had our own home, and I was able to quit my job after my second son was born and become a full-time domestic engineer. My situation blessed me and my sons. I know plenty of other mothers wish they had a similar option.

Recently, I posted about scrapbooking some of our family vacations. The first one in the book is a camping trip my husband and I took with our six-month-old son to Fort Stevens.

This trip never would have happened if: 1)Jeff’s parents hadn’t loaned us their camper; 2) gas prices were then what they are now: and 3) renting a campsite cost as much per night in 1991 as it does in 2014. Good grief! Even for just water and electricity it’s as much as half a hotel room back in the day.

My childhood vacations were few. They never varied. We would take our canvas tent into the woods and pitch it near a stream where we could fish for trout. We dug a hole for our “bodily functions” and ate what we caught.

Okay, one time we took a road trip to Oklahoma. Best time I ever had once we got there, but the trip itself is probably why the idea of being trapped in a vehicle for a thousand miles gives me stomach cramps.

My sons have great memories of camping. Sleeping in a tent is an adventure to every boy on the planet. Seriously. They would ask us to set up the tent in the yard so they could “go camping” at home.

Image from tripadvisor.com

Because this was our main vacation outlet, my husband and I purchased a trailer. (Need I mention that we had to purchase a new TRUCK first because the old one didn’t have enough torque to maintain the speed limit up steep inclines? *rolls eyes*) Camping is fine, but camping in an RV is my preferred method.

 

Top reasons why I prefer an RV:

  1. I always have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Walking a few steps in the trailer beats clonking across a spooky campground. Nothing wakes you up faster than coming face to face with glowing eyes in the middle of your sleepy-eyed trek to pee.
  2. Cooking with an RV is much easier than fighting with a propane-powered camp stove. Also, a microwave expands snacking options. Yes, we still want a campfire for making s’mores.
  3. Sleeping on a real bed makes for a more alert me. Even with an air mattress, sleeping in a tent on the ground is sleeping on rocks. Yes, I am the Princess and the Pea princess. Plus, have you ever known an air mattress to hold its shape and size under the weight of two grown adults?

All of my contentment with camping changed when we bought into a timeshare. Seriously, no packing up all your dishes, towels and bedding and then unpacking and washing it all on your return. Isn’t that a big enough selling point?

Of course, there have been drawbacks to the timeshare – not getting into the place we wanted. No condos near a destination we wanted to travel. Thousands of dollars up front and then yearly maintenance fees that keep going up year after year.

As far as the accommodations during an actual vacation? We have never been disappointed with either the property we owned or one we rented by exchanging ours. We have been in condos in Palm Springs, Phoenix, Anaheim (and it superseded the earlier trip staying at the HoJo by a landslide), Orlando, West Yellowstone, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Leavenworth, Long Beach and Seaside.

Other than the whole laundry landslide, having a kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every meal is the biggest plus (aside from clean sheets and a private bathroom).

What is your idea of a “budget vacation”?