My recent adventure with the nature trails of Wayanad left me quite refreshed and invigorated. It wasn’t just about spending the therapeutic time with nature. It was also, because I took it slow. There is no doubt that slow travel is really satisfying. There is a lot more you get out of a place than what you would if you were just rushing around. Nature and Wildlife especially, need that kind of pace for you need to really have that time and patience to spot the beauties. To make things even more relaxing, I had a great place to stay and all my activities well planned and sorted out for me. This I believe, is the RCI way of travel.
I had first heard of RCI (Resort Condominiums International) was approached by Club Mahindra and Sterling Holidays for their membership. A timeshare for me somehow did not make sense given the kind of locations I liked visiting and thus, I never took them up. However, I am beginning to realize that this might have worked out well for the nature holidays. I had two major stays that have made me reconsider – the first at Club Mahindra Kanha and the second and the most recent at Sterling Holidays Wayanad. Let me share my thoughts with you.
Concept of Timeshare Vacations
As Jermina – my friend and a timeshare owner says ” Timeshare is booking your holidays for the next ‘x’ years at the present day rate”. It allows you a week-long vacation per year at any of the resorts they own. Most of these properties are quite expensive if you were to book them off a website. A timeshare makes it affordable as you would prepaid for your booking a few years earlier.
If I were to simplify how the entire concept works, it would be as below –
- You purchase a timeshare with any of the known resort chains.
- There are several types of membership that you can avail of. These depend on your choice of room and season.
- Once you are a member, you can use your designated week at any of the resorts during the year.
- You can upgrade to a higher room or visit during an offpeak period as well. This will change the number of days or points that you have on a pro-rata basis. For example, if your membership allows you to visit during the peak season and you choose to go in the offpeak, some of your timeshare points are converted and added back to your membership, allowing you a few extra days or an upgrade to your room type.
- While at the resort, there are quite a few member privileges that you can enjoy. For example – As shared by me, in my earlier post on an Experiential holiday concept by Sterling Holidays, as a member of Sterling holidays, you get to enjoy their experiential packages as a part of the stay.
This is pretty much how most timeshares operate as a concept. The difference between the brands lie in what they have to offer as the membership fees and privileges.
The one hurdle that a lot of travelers think of and not opt for a timeshare is that you need to pay a large amount of money upfront to book your holidays. Sure there are loans to deal with it but you are in essence blocking that money. This is where you start wondering if it all worthwhile? What if you want to avail of destinations not offered by the chain? Assuming that being the case, it means shelling out additional money for that holiday. It that all worth it?
This is where you need to check if your timeshare company is a member of RCI resorts chain. That can solve your problem. How? For that, you got to read on.
Concept of Vacation Exchange
This issue of getting limited with your timeshare is quite timeless. In 1970s, a couple – Jon and Christel DeHaan discovered that it is possible to tackle this issue if you could exchange your timeshare with another who had a different timeshare. This allowed one to experience a different destination – one that was not offered by your invested chain of resorts. The concept took off and thus, was born RCI .
The company has been operating across the globe and has over 4000 resorts and holiday homes as a part of its network. In India, among the popular names – Sterling holidays and Club Mahindra are the popular timeshare companies that are a part of the RCI network. The company has been around for a while and in fact, is celebrating its 25th year in India now. Not surprising, considering the number of happy travelers who have holidayed with them, not just within India but also, abroad.
How does RCI Work?
RCI is like an additional membership that you need to sign up for.You get this free of cost for the first two years when you sign up with Club Mahindra and Sterling Holidays. After two years, you can renew it for as low as INR 20000 for the next five years. Adding on RCI opens up a whole new network of destinations across 6 different continents for you.
Think of RCI as a library of vacations. The way it works is as below –
- You deposit your one week of vacation in the library (RCI).
- You will be assigned trading points on the same based on the destination you are giving up and the original timeshare membership value you have
- These trading points can be exchanged for another vacation at any of the RCI affiliated resorts across the world.
- Your trading points are valued as per your membership type with RCI. The different types of memberships are again, based on your duration and room type that you opt for.
- Your exchange is with another member exchange. For example, you have a week in Goa that you have deposited. It goes into the RCI account. Let’s say you want a week in Phuket. If there is a corresponding RCI exchange already in the RCI account, you get it immediately. Alternately, RCI searches for the best option and gets back to you.
There are several other mechanics to this vacation exchange program and these are well explained on the on the RCI website. In essence, with this add-on membership, you have opened up a lot of places for yourself.
Benefits of a slow travel – the RCI way
I mentioned right in the beginning that my RCI holiday was a nice slow holiday. I did 3 nature trails over 2 days but not once, did I feel stressed or pressed for time. It was satisfying to take those long walks and wait in the bushes to capture the beautiful birds. I really wanted to see the Malabar Hornbill and the first day turned out to be quite disappointing as it did not appear anywhere. However, my nature guide was confident that we would catch it the next day. And we did.
This is where I got thinking along these lines about slow, immersive travel and nature holidays.
- Places like wildlife reserves are so unpredictable for travelers. You need to be able to stay in a place and keep patience to spot the moving animals. What is more is that everytime you repeat those trails, you see something different. You get enough time to interact with locals and understand the place fully.
- This is true for even those beach holidays where you want to just lounge around one beach and not do much. Or for a person like me, attempt repeated dives to see the beautiful underwater world.
- These multiple visits are the most convenient when you have a resort set at a destination for that uninterrupted access. If everything is taken care of by the resort for you, then you just have to step up and have fun. This automatically makes it a slow travel
- All of us need one such slow immersive holiday a year – no matter what you do.
If the above being the case, then investing into a timeshare with an RCI benefit, is possibly a good travel choice. Maybe, we neeed to think of it as an investment in a beautiful holiday home – with all your needs taken care of. And to give you a glimpse of that kind of a home, here is my own experience with an RCI resort.
My experience with an RCI Resort
My room at Sterling Holidays Wayanad – a RCI property
A one BHK is what I stayed in with a small foyer, a sit out and a luxurious bedroom. Add to that a relaxing swimming pool in its premises along with a Spa. It really felt good to get your muscles relaxed with that Swedish Body massage after 3 nature trails. 😉
Every holiday needs some binge eating and most of these resorts including the one I stayed in has an elaborate meal laid out for you. It is always a leisurely meal for you would actually feel guilty if you did not sample it all.
The Sterling Holidays Wayanad, had a games room along with activities planned every day for the guests. A cooking demonstration, a pottery session, bonfire at night etc – that involve all the members and break the ice between them so that they can have fun.
Most of the resorts affliated to RCI have, regular day-outings that are either arranged on demand or are a part of the stay itinerary. In my case, the tribal village experience was a part of the Sterling Holidays Experiential program and any guest staying there can join in. The Kuruva Island nature trail was arranged by the RCI team to give me a flavor of how it felt if it was all pre-arranged. Trust me, nothing like letting someone else take care of those details, while all you do is go and enjoy the experience.
In the end, this holiday home had me completely charmed and relaxed. It did make me wish for an RCI membership that would have made 3 – 4 more days here more affordable and pleasurable. I guess that is the benefit of a vacation exchange program with RCI – A nice, slow immersive travel – Don’t you?