December 11th, 2014 · Comments Off on Are Timeshare Presentations Worth It?
About ten years ago, on a trip to Las Vegas, my then-girlfriend (now wife) and her friends were stopped by one of the timeshare salesmen on the Strip. I was just out of college, they were in their last year, and so their offer of free show tickets for our group, in return for watching a timeshare presentation, was really enticing. Having never been to a timeshare presentation, I believed them when we were told it would only take an hour. In return, we’d get 10 tickets to a decent show, enough for our whole group. I was the only one with a job, which was crucial because that was part of the offer, so I had to go.
Fast forward to the timeshare presentation, which was for Polo Towers, and it was, as I’ve come to learn, standard fare. They talked about how timeshares worked, the amenities of the building, how you could trade weeks, the various fees, and that whole spiel. On the face of it, it seemed like a decent deal, albeit pricier than what we were used to staying at 2nd tier Vegas resorts. Ultimately, I knew that timeshares were not fantastic deals (if you want a timeshare, buy it on the secondary market) and so I passed.
The problem is that they keep passing you off to people and the promise of one hour ultimately became two and a half. They tried the soft sell, the hard sell, dropping the price, you name it. If there was a sales tactic to use, they used it. It was pretty Machiavellian if you ask me and it was pretty obvious they were racking their brains to try another tactic. In the end, they weren’t able to wear me out (I’m not the type to enter into a $30,000 agreement after an hour-long presentation!) and we got our tickets.
Was it worth it? In our case, no. We got 10 tickets and probably saved our group maybe $400-500? In college, that’s pretty awesome. Our own personal benefit as only $80-$100 – which meant Martha and I collectively were paid around $20-25 an hour to listen to a presentation. I’m not one to turn my nose down on $25 tax free but that’s when I’m at home with few alternatives. $25 an hour to do something I don’t really want to do is a horrible deal when I’m on vacation!
That said, there are timeshare presentations where you can get hotel stays, or stays on property, for a weekend in return for spending a few hours. I think those are entirely worth it. When I hear statistics that half of a timeshare’s sale price goes into marketing, I cringe at the thought of how cheap we were that weekend.
In the end, you have to calculate how much you benefit and estimate how long you’ll be stuck in the presentation and decide for yourself.
Tags: Money Tips
November 12th, 2012 · Comments Off on The Lenox Hotel Boston Review
This past weekend, while attending my sister’s wedding in the hotel, we had the pleasure of staying at The Lenox in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s an absolutely lovely boutique hotel located on the corner of Exeter and Boylston Street and a block from several Boston highlights (Copeley Square, shopping on Newbury Street), though given the events of the day we didn’t get much sightseeing done.
The service at the hotel was fantastic, which you should expect given the premium rates, but we were treated like royalty. Check in was a breeze, the staff was incredible, and anything and everything we wanted was provided. Traveling with an infant can be challenging but they provided a crib and even bath toys and stuffed animals for him to play with. It was the first time we’d ever been offered something like that at a hotel!
Our room was exactly the one picture above (that’s their photo) and it’s as spacious as it looks. I’d never stayed in a hotel room with it’s own chandelier before so that was a nice touch. The fireplace doesn’t work (says so in big letters) but we didn’t bring any of our own firewood so that was OK. The only difference with our room is that instead of the large chair by the fireplace we had a crib.
There are two restaurants in the hotel – City Bar (which is mostly a bar) and City Table, where you can order food. We only had a drink in the City Bar but it was set up more like a lounge and provided a relaxing atmosphere. City Table was more restaurant-like with tables and was much louder.
The hotel is part of the Stash Hotel Rewards network, so if you’re all about the points, you can still earn points staying there even though it’s a more independent hotel.
August 1st, 2012 · 1 Comment
Going on vacation? One of the many chores you have to remember is to hold your mail. In year’s past, this meant a trip to the post office and a wait in their ubiquitous line. Fortunately, the post office has entered the 21st century and now offers the ability to hold your mail online. You can set it up for same day stoppage if you enter it by 2AM Central (an odd time zone, but whatever) and the service is limited to certain zip codes but it’s worth a shot. No fee either, completely free!
Spend all this new free time planning for your vacation!
July 31st, 2012 · Comments Off on Challenges of Electricity Abroad & International Travel Chargers
We’re going to head off on our two week trip to China and Taiwan shortly so we’ve started the planning phases of our trip. Number one on that list, as you’d expect for a travel blogger, is how we’ll keep all of our various gadgets and gizmos charged and ready. We all know that the plugs in other nations aren’t shaped the same as ours but that’s not all you have to watch out for.
In North America, and parts of Central and South America, we use two parallel prongs. The sockets in the wall, if you check now, will have that and perhaps a third prong. Most other nations have similar setups, two or three prongs, but the shapes and orientation will be different. It can get really complicated so we typically bring along our set of adapters that should cover every major plug type. Even though we’ll only need the ones for China and Taiwan, we keep them together just so we don’t end up losing any adapters.
If you’re going to buy a new one, I suggest getting one that has all the adapters together in one unit. It makes it even harder to lose individual ones since they’ll all be connected. It’s often cheaper too, though that depends on how fancy you get.
Here’s the real tricky part – the United States uses an electrical system that provides 110 volts at the outlet. 220 volts is pretty much standard elsewhere, which means unless you have a converter, the excess juice will burn out your appliance. This is most important for small devices that draw little power, like a hairdryer or electric razor.
Take a look at the device and it should tell you its power needs. I took a peek at my AC Adapter for my laptop and it says INPUT: 100-240V ~2.4A 50-60 Hz. That means it can handle up to 240V at a frequency of 50-60 Hz. For my computer, in China and Taiwan, all I need is an adapter so my two prong plug will fit in an outlet there. The adapter will handle converting it to what my computer can handle.
Incidentally, China uses 220V, 50HZ while Taiwan uses 110V, 50 HZ.
July 17th, 2012 · Comments Off on Needles Found in Delta Flight Sandwiches
Imagine you’re on a flight and you’re hungry. If you were on a Southwest flight, you’d get some free crackers or peanuts, depending on the length of the flight. If you’re on Delta, you could buy a sandwich. If you bought a turkey sandwich, you might have gotten yourself a bonus needle. Sewing needles were found in turkey sandwiches served on four different flights but only one person was hurt. The needles have prompted the FBI to get involved and Delta has stopped all sandwiches prepared by a catering company in Amsterdam.
“Delta is taking this matter extremely seriously and is cooperating with local and federal authorities who are investigating the incident. Delta has taken immediate action with our in-flight caterer at Amsterdam to ensure the safety and quality of the food we provide onboard our aircraft,” the airline said in a written statement.
That’s scary stuff!
July 16th, 2012 · Comments Off on United Fliers Stranded in China for 3 Days, Staged Mini-Revolt
We’re going to China, not on United, in a few weeks and it turns out we’ll miss the 200 United passengers who just staged a near “mutiny.” United Airlines Flight 87 from Shanghai to Newark were supposed to leave last Wednesday but the flight was scratched because of mechanical failure. The next flight, the following day, was cancelled because the part hadn’t reached it. Then again on Friday, when the crew reached maximum flight time restrictions!
So the passengers actually forming a blockade so other passengers couldn’t get on that flight on the following days.
When officials then said another aircraft was on hand to take the Flight 87 passengers, some refused to go to the new gate for that aircraft. Others created a blockade to try to prevent the regularly scheduled passengers from boarding their flight.
“He was like if we’re not getting on that plane, nobody is getting on that plane,” Flight 87 passenger Steve Borowka says to ABC News about a flier who allegedly incited the blockade.
I can’t imagine how I’d respond after three days. I once spent a day in an airport because of a snowstorm and it was pretty bad. But I had food, it was just me (no family or kids to take care of), so I managed. I can’t imagine three days. Customers will get a refund plus $1,000 flight credit.
July 13th, 2012 · Comments Off on Living the Good Vacation Life
While going camping in the country or taking a trip to Wisconsin Dells can be enjoyable, these trips are nothing like the types of trips most celebrities take. Celebrities take trips to places that most people have only seen in books and magazines. The types of places celebrities go to for vacations offer experiences of a lifetime.
Here are several different vacations that are well known in popular culture:
Hawaii isn’t called paradise for nothing (and I know, it’s the only one on this list I’ve been to). Hawaii is considered one of the best vacation spots in the world because of its tropical water, sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Many celebrities nowadays take vacations in Hawaii. When you are in Hawaii, you can sunbathe on the white sand, swim in the blue waters, surf, snorkel and scuba dive. Celebrities love to visit the island of Maui in Hawaii because it is so close to the main lands. Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Jennifer Garner and Kate Hudson are just a few celebrities known for vacationing in Hawaii.
Necker Island, British Virgin Isles
Necker Island is a very secluded island, making it the perfect place for celebrities who want to get away from the public. There is only one villa on the island and it accommodates up to 28 guests. When you are at Necker Island, you can be as relaxed or active as you want. Necker Island is filled with a tennis court, gym, swimming pool horseback riding and several private beaches. Celebrities who go to this island include Mariah Carey, Harrison Ford, Pamela Anderson and Mel Gibson.
St. Tropez, France
Brigitte Bardot was one of the first celebrities to frequent St. Tropez, France in the 1950s. Many celebrities followed her lead and visited this beautiful place including Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Beyonce and Penelope Cruz. It isn’t the most private vacation spot, but the gorgeous beaches keep celebrities coming back every year. In addition to sunbathing on the beach, you can also visit great clubs, eat at tasty French restaurants and see historic sites.
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is another favorite vacation spot for celebrities because it’s just a short plane ride away. When you are in Cabo San Lucas, you can enjoy white sand beaches, international cuisine and great spa services. Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, George Clooney and Bono love going here for vacation.
These are just a few places celebrities love to go to for vacation. When they are at these vacation spots, they can relax and forget about everything. So can you!
July 5th, 2012 · Comments Off on Two Week Trip to China
In less than a month, we’ll be embarking on a two week trip to Shanghai with a few days in Taipei, Taiwan. After the birth of our son about a year ago, we’ve been wanting to take him to meet my grandfather, his great grandfather, in Taiwan as soon as possible. While our son won’t be a year old, and the long flight will certainly be a challenge, we felt that we couldn’t really wait much longer.
The first leg in the trip involves us flying from Baltimore, MD to Islip, NY to meet up with my parents. We’ll be staying the night and then heading to JFK Airport for the long flight to Shanghai. We’re traveling with my parents so we have four people to watch the little guy, which means a lighter workload for us!
We’ll be flying on China Eastern and the flights were a fairly reasonable $1500 a piece, with $300 for Alexander (our son) even though he doesn’t get a seat. We secured on the bassinets at the front of the coach sections and, without really knowing the dimensions, hope that he’s able to sleep on it for at least part of the flight. Maybe he can sleep on it for the entire flight! (ok, that’s unreasonable)
We’ll see how it goes!
Tags: Journey Notes
If you are planning a backpacking trip this summer, you should be prepared in case of an emergency. Having certain tools with you can ensure that you have a safe trip wherever you go. There are just some gadgets you cannot do without when out in the wild. Here are a few of them:
Having a smartphone with you will increase your chances of survival. Make sure you have a plan that won’t charge you for roaming. You can buy a dumb phone if you only think you will need it to make emergency phone calls. Using a smartphone gives you access to maps, directions and other features. You never know when you might need to use your phone as a flashlight. Companies such as Blue Sky Fun can give you protectors for your phone that will protect them against the elements.
This handy device makes the water clean no matter where you get it from. The pen will use UV light to kill off any bacteria that may exist in the water. This is a good thing because you do not want to get sick when you are out of the country. You don’t know how good the local health care facilities may be.
You need to make sure that your gadgets are charged at all times. Those who are going on a backpacking trip may not stay in a hotel room. Having the ability to use an outlet in a cafe or in your car can help you retain the use of your gadgets whenever you need them.
Swiss Army Knife
This is the greatest tool you can possibly have when you are mingling with nature. You have a blade, a corkscrew and other handy tools that can help you open cans of food or ward off insects.
Your phone may act as a compass in some cases. However, having a backup plan is never a bad idea. The last thing you want to do is get lost when you are outside. You may not be ready for the weather if you are separated unexpectedly. Using your compass will allow you to get back to civilization much faster.
Backpacking can be a lot of fun when you are prepared. Observe nature, enjoy the peace of being on your own and learn about yourself in the process. Just make sure you have the supplies you need before you go out.
A couple months ago I flew from Baltimore Washington International to San Diego, with a layover in Charlotte, NC. The flight wasn’t the cheapest but it had the fewest number of layovers for the day I wanted to fly, so I begrudgingly purchased it.
As I landed in Charlotte, I checked my email and US Airways notified me that our flight was to be delayed two hours with no reason provided. Later, I would learn that apparently there were “mechanical problems” and after a two hour wait, we were on our way to San Diego.
It underscores the risk of layovers and it was annoying that I had to spend two hours of my trip sitting in an airport. I usually fly Southwest, direct with at most a stop (but not plane change) in a city, and very rarely have I ever seen a two hour delay with hardly an explanation.
I’d really be interested to learn the statistics of layover delays because that would help me decide how much I’d be willing to pay to avoid wasting two hours.
All in all, Charlotte was a perfectly fine airport, though a little chilly at 8AM as the A/C was cranking on overdrive in anticipation of the likely high temps during the day, and I had a Quiznos sub while I watched Tiger Woods play the last three holes at the British Open.
Lesson of the day – avoid layovers. Avoid at all costs!
Tags: Money Tips