Monday, March 17, 2014

Luxury Accommodations at a Reasonable Price

Oahu Windward Shore

One of Oahu’s beautiful Windward Shore Beaches



We just returned from a week in Hawaii and we had one of the best vacations that we have ever taken. Up until now I have not written an article on my planning for this vacation for one simple reason. We got a deal on the Hotel that just could not be beat. So, it felt a bit like cheating to write about the best way to afford Hawaii when we had essentially paid less than half of what we should have on this vacation. But, I learned a great deal on this vacation about planning for a trip other than a “Disney” trip and it became apparent that I should indeed write about some of my observations.

 

Marriott KoOlina Beach Club Villas Marriott KoOlina Beach Club Villas

The Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club Villas

 
Marriott KoOlna Beach Club Villas Marriott KoOlina Beach Club Villas

Interior Views of One bedroom Villa

 

First, in the interest of being honest, I’ll tell you about what made this trip possible for us. I have a wonderful friend of mine who owns a timeshare in Hawaii who generously offered her week for the cost of her annual maintenance fees. Many owners of timeshares make arrangements with people like this when they simply cannot take advantage of their week themselves. This used to be far more common when timeshares allotted specific weeks to their owners. So, if the owner simply could not make it on that week they either lost their week or sold it to someone else. Now days, many of the timeshares are adopting Disney’s practice of buying “points” rather than weeks that allow for far more flexibility in vacation planning. Now owners can vacation when it is convenient for them rather than what is convenient for the timeshare. As a result we were able to score a one-bedroom suite for a fraction on the cost of your average hotel room in Honolulu. While I lucked out on this deal, I want to want to share with you how, (if you don’t have a great friend like I do) you can take advantage of a similar deal.

Since I really know Disney Vacation Club and their rules, I’ll focus there. But the idea is similar with many other timeshares. First off, look for the best time for you to go on your Hawaiian Vacation. For us, it was mid-February. Our children get a week off from school during this month every year and I LOVE IT! Travel during February is often much cheaper than other times that they are out of school. Once you have your time frame down you can start to look for a place to stay. A simple Google search for “timeshare rentals” will net you dozens of websites that are designed to put owners together with renters for vacation homes that far outshine any hotel room that you may come up with. One such website that I like to search on is www.vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner.) You can also book your room directly with timeshare property you would like to stay at. I highly discourage this practice as you will often not save any money this way. I’ve found that Disney or Marriott will inflate prices a great deal for non-owners. Like I said, I’m going to stick with what I know so let me introduce you to Disney Vacation Club. If you want to be an owner be prepared to shell out about $150 per point and you’ll need about 200-250 points to take an annual vacation in a one-bedroom villa. (Disney says you can buy as little as 160 points but having done the math, you need more than that for a one bedroom and after all, why buy into a luxury resort to stay in a hotel room type studio?) That makes your buy in somewhere between $30-38 thousand dollars. Plus annual maintenance fees of about $100 per month. Ouch! That’s a steep price tag for a vacation! Now, you could save some money and buy on the resale market but that has its problems too. Let me teach you how to secure first class accommodations for a fraction of the above price.

Let’s say we are taking a vacation in Hawaii for one week in July. (common enough month) with our family of four (two children aged 9 and 12) Here’s what you can count on spending in a hotel. Prices from Expedia.com

  • Average 3 star hotel $244/night total $1708 for 7 nights.
  • Average 4 star hotel $355/night total $2485 for 7 nights.
  • Average 5 star hotel $473/night total $3311 for 7 nights.

Remember that this is for a Hotel. Single room. Two full or Queen sized beds. No kitchen or even kitchenette. In Honolulu which is very crowded and very big city-like and not very Hawaiian Island paradise feeling at all!

Now, if you want to stay in a standard room at Disney’s Aulani (a DVC resort) during the same week , located in the Ko Olina area of Oahu and amazingly situated on the beach (see my review on the Aulani) then count on spending $532/ night for a total of $3724. This room will allow you full access to Disney’s amenities and includes a small kitchenette. So for a mere $400 more than the average 5 star hotel price above you get SO MUCH more. Still pretty pricey though, right? Okay, let’s look at what a room at the Aulani costs an owner in DVC.

Deluxe Studio (pretty much like a hotel room with a kitchette) 154 points

One-bedroom Villa (Sleeps 5, separate bedroom, living room with a couch that converts to a bed, a hide away bed, a full kitchen, and a washer and dryer cost an owner a total of 308 points for a week in July.

Large Family? Two bedroom villa sleeps 9 and has above amenities for 441 points.

This is all really great if you’re an owner but how does one who does not own DVC get these rooms? Easy. You rent points from an owner. There are a number of firms that will connect you with owners that for one reason of another need to rent out their points and this can mean BIG savings for you.

Check out:

On these sites you can rent the points of an owner for approximately $14 per point. Which means that the above rooms would cost:

  • Studio: $2156
  • One Bedroom: $4312
  • Two Bedroom: $6174

Seems pricey but believe me the accommodations at the Aulani are 5 star quality and are located in a beautiful area of the island where even a “bad view” is lovely. No big city. And No crowded beaches.

Now, going rate for direct from owner runs $12 per point making the prices even more attractive:

  • Studio $1848
  • One Bedroom $3696
  • Two Bedroom $5292

Does this still look high to you. Think of this. That Studio will sleep 4. So, 4 people in a hotel room in Honolulu in a 5 star hotel runs you $3341 whereas a 5 star hotel in Ko Olina with a kitchenette (think money savings with some meals eaten in room) will cost you $1848. Heck, that’s only $100 higher than the 3 star hotel. (if you are not sure if this is worth it, I again ask you to read my review of the Aulani) Now, do you have a family of 5? Most Hotels only allow for 4 people to a room which means for that extra person you’ll need to rent another room. In Honolulu that’ll run you $3416 to $6622. At the Aulani, 5 will sleep comfortably in a one bedroom for $3696 plus you get a full kitchen and dining room thrown in. That means that EVERY meal can be a money saving meal in your room. In fact if it’s 5 star accommodations that you are looking for you’d still save money with the two bedroom which will sleep 9 people.

Pricey, yes, but any way you slice it Hawaii in peak season is not going to be cheap. Since we were able to go off season the price was quite a bit lower. Think $300 less for that studio and $700 less for that one-bedroom. That makes your savings even more significant.

For direct to owner rentals I suggest you start looking at this website:

Now, for a moment I want to show you how this will save you money at Disney World. In addition to the Aulani in Hawaii, DVC has hotels all over the Disney World area as well as one in Vero Beach, Florida, Hilton Head, South Carolina and the Disneyland resort (Grand Californian.) So if you’re looking to spend a week in Disney World and you don’t want a typical hotel room here’s what you can expect to pay for a one bedroom during the busy season of July.

  • Animal Kingdom Villas: 170 pts for a cost of approximately $2040 at $12 per point
  • Old Key West: 202 pts for a cost of approximately $2424
  • Saratoga Springs Resort: 229 pts for a cost of approximately $2748

Or you can go all out and splurge on Bay Lake Tower with a Magic Kingdom view: 343 pts for a cost of approximately $4116

Compare those prices to a simple hotel room in one of Disney’s 5 star resorts remembering these are hotel room only and really don’t compare with the near apartment-like Vacation Club one bedrooms:

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge room only: $3063
  • Port Orleans, Riverside: $1785 (Moderate with many 5 star amenities)
  • Or splurge on the Contemporary Theme Park view: $$4149

Seeing is believing: here are the floor plans for Saratoga Springs Studio and One Bedroom units:

Disney Vacation Club Villas

Now compare them to the floor plan to the standard Deluxe Room at WDW:

Disney Standard Hotel Room

This really makes me think twice before paying for a package deal ever again! Now, do you want me to really blow your mind? Can you travel with fairly short notice? Say two months. If so, you can be on the lookout for “Distressed points.” Distressed points are points that are in great danger of being lost by the owner. For one reason, or another, the owner just couldn’t use them and they can no longer bank them. These owners are willing to sell them at a crazy low price just to recoup the annual maintenance fees. I registered on this website: http://www.dvcrequest.com/default.asp to get the skinny on these points and when they are available. These points typically go for $9 a point! Now, to be fair at that late date you’ll not have your pick of resorts, particularly in peak months. You’ll probably have the best luck reserving a Villa at Saratoga Springs Resort. Last December I got an email from Dave the owner of the DVC Request website stating that he had almost 300 points on sale during the Christmas season. So, if you’re lucky enough to snag one of these deals, that one bedroom could be as low as $2061. Crazy low.

Besides, the extra room, as I mentioned before the DVC rooms have full kitchens, which will save you hundreds of dollars. I learned on our Hawaii vacation, dining out was far more expensive than eating in our room. And when you have a kitchen and dining room table cooking and eating in was very easy.

Disney Aulani Vacation Club Villa Disney Aulani Vacation Club Villa
Photo Mar 11, 4 07 44 PM Disney Aulani Vacation Club Villa

Interior Views of Disney’s Aulani Vacation Club Villas Photos Courtesy of Cass, a Mouse World Vacation Specialist at https://www.facebook.com/disneycass

 

When we stayed at the Aulani in Hawaii for one night this was exactly how we were able to afford it. Instead of paying nearly $500 for the one night I rented points from the DVC Rental Store mentioned above and paid approximately $250 saving 50% on our one night stay. We will be using this method for our future vacation in WDW and Hawaii. I hope this gives you some ideas about your next vacation.

Thanks, Steve

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