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Alternative Stays

06/30/2008 05:00PM, Published by Super Admin, Categories: In Print




So you want to go away on vacation, but you’re tired of the hassle and inconvenience of staying in a hotel; you want to stay in accommodations that feel more like home. You’ve dreamed of renting a houseboat and floating down the French Riviera, or of buying a timeshare on a beach in Fiji, but you’re not sure about the risks involved. This quick guide is all you need to get started planning your perfect summer getaway.


Home Exchange

Maybe you already own property near a tourist area. Whether it’s an amusement park, a beach, a ski area or a national park, your place may be the perfect destination for someone else on the other side of the world. Why not swap houses with a family in Italy, for example, so you can spend the summer in Rome?

The Good:

  • You can see another part of the world and stay in a “real” house.
  • There’s no long-term commitment.
  • It’s the cheapest option – it could even be free.
The Bad:
  • It can be risky – you could be renting to the Osbourne family. If the family causes property damage, you have little legal recourse.
  • If you are as possessive as the three bears when Goldilocks was around, it might not be the best idea to let strangers violate the privacy of your home. Someone else will be sleeping in your bed.

The Bottom Line:
A great option, but make sure you take the time to communicate with the family first and agree upon the terms of the exchange in writing. If you’re interested, check out home exchange Web sites such as home forswap.com, sabbaticallhomes.com or homeexchangevacation.com. Some charge membership fees, but many are free.

Timeshares

Timeshares are a scary proposition. Nearly everyone has a friend of a friend with a nightmare story about shady timeshare dealers, hidden fees and buyer remorse. Yet despite their bad rap, many vacationers find timeshares to be the perfect option for their needs.

The Good:
  • Timeshares are comparatively cheaper than hotels in the long term.
  • Flexibility. Some timeshares allow for change of location and even dates, depending on the contract. You can also swap timeshares with other people, in case you get bored with going to the same place year after year.
  • It feels more like home. Most come with kitchens, laundry facilities and other home-like amenities.
  • You can take timeshares for a test drive – some companies allow you to rent before buying, so that you have time to make up your mind.

The Bad:
  • You might have bought your timeshare, but you aren’t done paying up. You will have to pay cleaning fees and other charges monthly, as long as you own the property.
  • Timeshares typically depreciate in value – don’t count on making a big profit by selling it in a few years.
  • Because of their loss in value, they are notoriously difficult to re-sell.

The Bottom Line:
Buyer Beware. Purchasing a timeshare is like buying a used car – you never know if it will live up to all the hype. Do your research, read the contract carefully, and above all, be realistic about the long-term responsibility involved. Go with a reputable dealer that is known internationally, such as Mariott (Mariott-timeshare.com), Starwood (Starwoodvacationownership.com), Hyatt (Hyatt.com), or Disney (Disneyvacationclub.com).When you do purchase a timeshare, you will pay monthly fees in perpetuity, and should your economic situation change, the timeshare may become an albatross around your neck.

Renting a Home or a Hotel-Owned Condo

This is one step up from getting a room at a hotel, with the added bonus of increased privacy and more amenities.

The Good:
  • It can be cheaper than a hotel, if you rent weekly or monthly.
  • Prices vary depending on the level of luxury and proximity to the beach or other attraction.
  • If the hotel owns it, the hotel cleans it (and it’s free!).
  • There’s no long-term commitment.

The Bad:
  • It can be more expensive than a hotel for shorter stays.
  • You may not have access to all the usual hotel amenities, such as concierge services, bar services or a lobby area.

The Bottom Line:
This one is for families wanting more privacy and independence than a hotel can offer.

Owning a Resort-Style Condo

You want to own property that’s truly yours – the dream house on the beach, or that apartment in Paris. Is it merely a pipe dream? You decide.

The Good:
  • With the current economic downturn, prices for U.S. properties are dropping lower than they’ve been in years.
  • It’s a good investment for the future. Vacation property can be rented out weekly, monthly, or long-term for the times when you are not using it yourself.

The Bad:
  • Buying a house near the beach or an attraction isn’t for the faint-hearted. You need significant capital to make this work. If you rent it out, you get a return on the investment, but it can take a very long time, and requires careful financial planning.
  • You will need a good property manager to maintain the property if it’s far away from where you live, and monthly property taxes and maintenance fees must also be taken into consideration.


The Bottom Line:
Real estate close to a vacation spot rarely goes down in value. Take advantage of bargains when you find them, and your property could double or triple in value over time. Talk to an agent in the area that interests you for more information.


At the end of the day, real estate values go up and down. Do your research, and beware of bargains that seem too good to be true. Whatever vacation style you choose, all it takes is a little planning to turn the dream of a perfect summer getaway into a reality.


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