RCI Adds Transparency to their Timeshare Exchange Program

RCI, the global leader in timeshare exchange and one of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands, has significantly enhanced its RCI® Weeks program to allow members to know the trading power value of their vacation interval once deposited with RCI.

For the first time in its 36-year history, RCI Weeks members are able to compare the trading power value of their deposited week to the trading power value of the timeshare they want to exchange into. Plus, they can combine deposited timeshare intervals, allowing them to transact into higher-valued vacations. And to provide even greater benefit, RCI will for the first time be providing its Weeks members with a “Deposit Credit” if the trading power value of their deposited interval is greater than the interval they have exchanged into.

“In the increasingly transparent online vacation planning world that we live in, this is something our members have been consistently asking for. It’s one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done for our members”, said Geoff Ballotti, CEO, RCI (shown in photo).

“Transparency is important because people want to have more control over how they trade their timeshare vacation for another vacation they’d like to take. From our customer service, marketing and technology teams – we’ve brought together our entire company to solve for our members’ request to give them what they want in terms of knowing the trading power value of their deposited timeshare week and what it will take to get them to where they want to vacation, allowing them access to vacations that they might not have been able to book in the past”.

RCI began educating members on these new developments on RCI.com and in the October edition of its Endless Vacation magazine, explaining how trading power transparency, deposit credits and combining deposited weeks will greatly assist them in their future vacation planning and provide them with more choice, flexibility and value in their future vacation planning.

These significant upgrades follow RCI’s continuous work to develop new innovations for its members that make vacation planning fun and easy.

(News Source - Perspective Magazine)

What you Should Know About Airport Pat Downs

There's a veritable firestorm in the media regarding the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) full body scan and pat-down airport security checks. All of this sudden hoopla regarding TSA security checks is due to the change in procedure in how pat-downs are conducted, put in place by the TSA the beginning of November. The new methods, says ABC News, are much more invasive, with same-gender screeners feeling under breasts and up passengers' thighs to their crotches.

A November 23, 2010 ABC News article attempts to calm the media frenzy a bit by pointing out that the TSA estimates that 2 million people fly each day but that the agency has received only approximately 2,330 complaints specific to these pat-downs since the procedure went into effect nationwide on Nov. 1. Roughly 340,000 people have been subjected to more intense searches - just 1% of the 34 million travelers since the new procedures took effect.

And the truth of the matter is, most passengers will not have to undergo the intensive, privacy-invading, scanners and pat-downs. And if you want to be one of them, ABC News offers this suggestion:

Don't set off the metal detector. Plain and simple. There's certainly no way to ensure that a TSA official won't deem you a candidate for the more intensive security checks, but not triggering the alarm of the metal detector will definitely minimize the possibility.

As reported in the ABC News article, Anne Banas, executive editor of travel web site SmarterTravel, said "there's not a ton you can do" to avoid the pat-downs but that good preparation can lower your odds. "Be really, really smart before leaving the house," she said.

That means putting any spare change and jewelry in your carry-on bag long before the security line. Take off your belt, avoid clothing with excessive zippers, and women - don't wear an underwire bra. If you have screws or plates in your body, declare that upfront to the screener.

ABC News also pointed out that children 12 years old and under who require extra screening will receive a modified pat down; all passengers have the right to request private screening at any point during the screening process; and everybody has the right to have a traveling companion present during the private screening.

For more information about the pat-downs, TSA carry-on rules or anything else about airport security, check out the TSA's traveler tips section.

(Photo credit - theage.com.au)

JW Marriott Phuket Resort Launches Ginja Cooking School

Do you like to try exotic food? Over the past couple of decades Thai cuisine has become more and more popular across the United States. When you rent a timeshare in Thailand you can learn first hand how to prepare Thai food in your own home. The Thailand city of Phuket and Phuket Island, is renowned for its many cooking schools, developed with the foreign visitor in mind.

You learn to prepare such Thai favorites as Som Tum (spicy green papaya salad), Tom Ka Gai (chicken coconut milk soup) and Nhue Phad Prik Thai On (stir-fried beef tenderloin with young peppercorns in oyster sauce).

"A Thai meal is a feast for the senses, a medley of flavors, textures and aromas, it is a mastery of herbs and spices borrowed from many cultures and blended especially for a distinctly Thai taste," said a JW Marriott Ginja Cooking School spokesperson.

The JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa in Phuket, has launched Ginja Cook, "a contemporary learning facility which introduces rich Thai cuisine heritage." Ginja Cook’s “Everyone is Welcome” approach offers personalized individual, family and group culinary courses.

Another cooking school on Phuket Island is "Pat's Home Thai Cooking," globally renowned as the first and the best Thai cooking school in Phuket. Owned and run by Khun Patcharin, these cooking classes are actually taught in Pat's home, giving "home style" a whole new meaning. Having spent 8 years in California working as a chef, Pat knows what ingredients are available for American home cooks in their local supermarkets. So while Pat will suggest basic cooking ingredients that may be hard to find in your home town, she will always offer alternatives that can be substituted.

Saowaluck Wongpong runs the Phuket Thai Cookery School which offers 1-5-day classes. Each class is designed as a one day class so you can select which classes most interest you. The comprehensive course includes introduction to Thai ingredients with an actual market tour.

Other Phuket cooking schools include Kangsadaan Thai Cooking School and the Pum Restaurant Cooking School. At the Desserts Workshop you'll learn how to make such traditional Thai desserts as Sangkhaya (egg custard), Luk Chup (fruit-shaped desserts made of mung-bean flour), and Kluai Buat Chi (banana in coconut cream).

A timeshare rental on Phuket Island gives you a fabulous beach vacation, with an exotic cooking flair. A perfect vacation for foodies.

(Photo credit - phuket.com)

Commercial Aircraft adds New Flight Paths for Holidays

A press release out of Washington, D.C., has announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) are working to prepare the nation for a busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week. The two government agencies will be working in tandem to clear the way for commercial aircraft to fly in airspace that is normally restricted to military use.

As you prepare to fly to your Thanksgiving timeshare rental destination, you'll be glad to know that under the agreement, the DOD will release airspace off the east coast above 24,000 feet, and that this added capacity is expected to ease delays during one of the busiest travel periods of the year, saving time and money for passengers and airlines while reducing fuel burn.

“We want to do everything we can to make it easier for people to travel so they can spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We appreciate the military’s help in making this happen.”

The FAA has developed dedicated routes off the east coast to allow airlines to plan their flights through the normally restricted airspace. Normal inland routes will still be available. Weather permitting, the combination of both sets of routes is expected to ease congestion.

“The FAA is using all the tools available to try and give airlines the most efficient routes so air travelers can reach their destinations safely and on time,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

“The nation’s air traffic controllers are committed to upholding the safety of the system while working the most efficient airspace system in the world,” said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi. “Over the past year we’ve experienced a movement toward collaboration at all levels of the agency and we look forward to continuing to work together to improve air travel for the flying public.”

The DOD is also allowing commercial flights to use restricted airspace in other parts of the country, including airspace over the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in California, and airspace over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The FAA suggests that air travelers interested in flight and airport status visit www.fly.faa.gov for real-time updates.

(Photo credit - boeing.com)

J.W. Marriott, Jr. Wins Lifetime Achievement Hospitality Award

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) has chosen J.W. Marriott, Jr. as recipient of the Albert E. Koehl Award for lifetime achievement in hospitality advertising and marketing. He will be accepting the award at HSMAI’s annual Adrian Awards Gala on January 31, 2011, at the New York Marriott Marquis. The award is given to people who have made a sustained and lasting commitment to excelling in the travel and hospitality industry.

“Mr. Marriott is an innovator and represents one of the most globally recognized brands in the world,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president and CEO of HSMAI. “HSMAI is honored to be able to recognize Mr. Marriott, as Marriott epitomizes the definition of brand marketing.”

J.W. Marriott, Jr. is chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International, Inc., a leading lodging company with more than 3,500 lodging properties in 70 countries and territories. Marriott International operates and franchises hotels under the Marriott, JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, The Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Residence Inn, Courtyard, TownePlace Suites, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites and Bulgari brand names.

It also develops and operates vacation ownership resorts under the Marriott Vacation Club, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Grand Residences by Marriott brands; licenses and manages whole-ownership residential brands, including The Ritz-Carlton Residences, JW Marriott Residences and Marriott Residences; operates Marriott Executive Apartments; provides furnished corporate housing through its Marriott ExecuStay division; and operates conference centers.

Known throughout the industry for his hands-on management style, JW Marriott has built a highly regarded culture that recognizes the value of Marriott employees. Today, approximately 300,000 employees are serving guests in Marriott managed and franchised properties throughout the world.

The HSMAI Adrian Awards honor creative brilliance and best practices in hospitality, travel and tourism-related marketing. In its 54th year, the competition has evolved into the world’s most renowned and prestigious advertising, public relations and digital marketing competition customized to the hospitality, travel and tourism industries. For information on the HSMAI Adrian Awards and the Gala, visit www.adrianawards.com.

HSMAI is the hospitality industry source for knowledge, community, and recognition for leaders committed to professional development, sales growth, revenue optimization, marketing, and branding. With a strong focus on education, HSMAI has become the industry champion in identifying and communicating trends in the hospitality industry and bringing together customers and members.

(Photo credit - wttc.org)

Getting Your Children through Airport Security – Part 2

Are you flying this holiday season to a timeshare rental vacation or family get-together, with a disabled child? To help you prepare for the security screening process at the airport, Part 2 of our 2-Part series on traveling with children will give you tips offered by the TSA on how to navigate that experience as stress-free as possible.

The TSA is made up of parents just like yourselves, who are very aware of parents' concerns and children's fears when presented with the airport security screening process, especially when the child is disabled.

It might seem to many people that insisting that a disabled child go through security check is unwarranted, but the TSA has many examples of dangerous items being hidden in the undercarriage of wheelchairs, in hollowed-out canes, and even in prosthetics.

Parents or guardians of children with disabilities should:
  • Inform the security officer if the child has any special needs or medical devices.

  • Inform the security officer if you think the child may become upset during the screening process as a result of their disability.

  • Offer suggestions on how to best accomplish the screening to minimize any confusion or outburst for the child.

  • Ask the security officer for assistance during the process by helping you put your and the child's carry-on items on the X-ray belt.

  • Know that at no time during the screening process will you be separated from your child.

  • Know that if a private screening is required, you will escort and remain with your child during the private screening process.

  • Tell the security officer what your child's abilities are. For example: can the child stand slightly away from equipment to be handwanded, walk through the metal detector, or needs to be carried through the metal detector by the parent/guardian.

  • Know that at no time will the security officer remove your child from his/her mobility aid (wheelchair or scooter). You are responsible for removing your child from his/her equipment at your discretion to accomplish screening.

  • Know that if your child is unable to walk or stand, the security officer will
    conduct a pat-down search of your child while he/she remains in their mobility aid, as well as a visual and physical inspection of their equipment.
"We specially train our Security Officers and they understand your concern for your children," stated a TSA official. "They will approach your children gently and treat them with respect. If your child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult you about the best way to relieve your child's concern."

Read Getting Your Children through Airport Security – Part 1

(Photo credit - tsa.gov)

Tips for Getting Your Children through Airport Security – Part 1

The holidays are a time when many families will be flying, but for whom flying might be something done infrequently enough that it can be a stressful experience. If you are one of these families and you're headed to a holiday timeshare rental vacation or family get-together, knowing ahead of time some of what to expect in managing your children at the airport security check can help things go smoothly.

Our 2-Part article offers tips directly from the Transportation Security Administration on traveling with children.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the government agency that has the responsibility of protecting the nation's transportation systems so you and your family can travel safely. To that end, with the high terrorist threat that the country is now under, airline passengers must be screened prior to boarding an aircraft. That includes everyone, even babies and disabled children.

Many people question the need to include children in the security check, but the TSA has examples of box cutters being hidden in baby carriers, knives hidden in babies' diapers, and the like.

Part 1 looks at what to expect when passing through security with children.

If your child can walk without your assistance, you and your child will be asked to walk through the metal detector separately. If you are carrying your child through the metal detector and the alarm sounds, the security officer will have to additionally screen both you and your child.
  • Remove babies and children from their strollers or infant carriers so that our Security Officers can screen them individually.

  • You may not pass the child to another person behind you or in front of you during this process.

  • Do not pass your child to the security officer to hold.

  • The security officer may ask for your help screening your child.
Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are now allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml) and are not required to be in the zip-top bag, but must be declared and offered for inspection.
  1. Separate these items from the liquids, gels, and aerosols in your quart-size and zip-top bag.

  2. Declare you have the items to one of our Security Officers at the security checkpoint.

  3. Present these items for additional inspection once reaching the X-ray. These items are subject to additional screening.
You are allowed to bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, and canned, jarred, or processed baby food in your carry-on baggage aboard the plane.

Read Getting Your Children through Airport Security – Part 2

(Photo credit - tsa.gov)

A Closer Look at Breckenridge Grand Vacations

Breckenridge, Colorado, is home to world-class skiing, an historic downtown built during Colorado's 1850's Gold Rush, and some great timeshare resorts. Even through the economic down-turn of the recession, Breckenridge Grand Vacations is one company that has continued going onward and upward and never looked back.

Started in 1985 by brothers Mike and Rob Millisor (see photo), Breckenridge Grand Vacations operates three timeshare resorts in Breckenridge: Grand Lodge on Peak 7, Grand Timber Lodge and Gold Point Condominiums. From 2009 to 2010 Breckenridge Grand Vacations experienced an 8 percent increase in gross sales dollars from 2009 to 2010 and a 5 percent boost in sales transactions over the same time.

Mike and Rob are committed to creating great family vacations. Their solid, 4-component business philosophy, comprised of investors, owners & guests, employees and the community, has given them the focus for their incredible success in the vacation ownership business in Breckenridge.

“We are encouraged by the continue growth in our owner base, and we believe our product fits the needs of our clients who want deeded ski-in, ski-out ownership without paying millions of dollars for it,” Breckenridge Grand Vacations chief financial officer Nick Doran said.

The leadership team at Breckenridge Grand Vacations is very involved in the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), the national organization that "fosters and promotes the growth of the vacation ownership industry and serves its members through education, public relations and communications, legislative advocacy, membership development, and ethics enforcement."

The company was recognized by ARDA in 2003 and 2005 with Circle of Excellence awards. In 2010 Breckenridge Grand Vacations was again recognized by ARDA as outstanding in various categories. Awards are given "to those employees acknowledged by vacation ownership industry leaders as the “best of the best” in the $10 billion dollar business worldwide." Seven Breckenridge Grand Vacations employees, ranging from members of the marketing department to the housekeeping manager, received the coveted awards

Breckenridge Grand Vacations has also received the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, given for consistently fair and honest treatment of customers, owners, guests and employees.

To this day, Mike and Rob believe in a hands-on management style that ensures the level of excellence. The brothers have made Breckenridge home for their families during the past two decades, and are actively involved in the community.

Learn more about Breckenridge in the winter and in the summer.

(Photo credit - breckenridgegrandvacations.com)

Hilton Grand Vacations Takes over Grand Pacific MarBrisa Resort

Grand Pacific MarBrisa Resort and Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV) have announced the expansion of their relationship. Building upon the strength of an affiliation agreement that began in 2007, Hilton Grand Vacations will now assume responsibility for Grand Pacific MarBrisa timeshare sales and marketing, as well as many resort management services.

According to David Brown and Tim Stripe, co-presidents of Grand Pacific Resorts, the new structure combines Grand Pacific’s long tenure as the leader in the Southern California timeshare marketplace with the global strength and hospitality expertise of the Hilton Worldwide timeshare brand.

"The enhanced synergy between the two organizations begins with the renaming of our spectacular Grand Pacific MarBrisa Resort as Hilton Grand Vacations Club at MarBrisa," Stripe said.

“Our strengthened alignment with Hilton Grand Vacations enables us to enhance the guest experience," said Brown. "The depth of experience that HGV brings to our resort operation is tremendous. The enhanced relationship will positively impact the resort’s visibility and prominence both locally and nationally.”

According to Mark Wang, President of Hilton Grand Vacations, “The time is right to take our affiliation with Grand Pacific Resorts to the next level. Our expertise in sales, marketing and resort operations is an ideal complement to this magnificent Grand Pacific development."

"We look forward to igniting the demand for this extraordinary destination through our Club membership of more than 165,000 and at our global sales distribution centers," continued Wang. "We feel confident that the structure of this agreement will enable both organizations to achieve optimum results as we build on our respective brand strengths and capabilities.”

Built in 2008 and situated on 41 prime acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Hilton Grand Vacations Club at MarBrisa is located near the quaint coastal village of Carlsbad and offers year-round appeal as an idyllic vacation destination. The classic Spanish Mediterranean-style resort features luxurious studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom vacation villas, each with a private patio or balcony offering panoramic ocean or park views.

Hilton Grand Vacations Club at MarBrisa offers guests direct access to nearby LEGOLAND® California, SeaWorld, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Golfers will delight in dozens of excellent nearby courses, including The Crossings at Carlsbad Championship Golf Course adjacent to the resort.

(Photo credit - marbrisaresort.com)

Get Your Flu Shot at the Airport

What will they come up with next? Its flu season, and its holiday travel season, and time is flying and everybody is in a rush… why not take care of your Flu Shot at the airport? It'll be just one less thing you have to do before leaving on your timeshare vacation.

Harriet Baskas, special correspondent for USA Today, reported on the growing trend of health clinics in airports available for travelers who are glad to stop, roll up a sleeve, and get their annual flu shot with an attitude of "Now is as good a time as any."

As one passenger said, "Talk about convenient!"

This concept was first offered to travelers a few years ago at a medical clinic at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Now you can get covered for the 2010 flu season at any one of 28 airports across the country.

"Making vaccinations available at the airport insures that even the busiest travelers can take steps to stay healthy and productive." said Jeff Hamiel, executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

“We’re happy to offer this convenient service during the flu season,” echoed John L. Martin, Director of San Francisco International Airport. “We are committed to keeping our passengers and employees safe and healthy so that they can better enjoy their travels.”

San Diego International Airport is also making sure that people who are at the airport to meet incoming passengers can get their flu shots while they wait. The airport has located a flu shot kiosk outside security at the baggage claim area.

Some airport officials might be having second thoughts after a warning was made by Dr. Josesph Diaco to the Tampa International Airport governing board. Dr. Diaco warned that airline passengers given the vaccine shouldn't be stuck in a plane in case they have adverse reactions and need to see a doctor.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that life-threatening and other serious reactions to flu vaccines are rare. More typical symptoms are soreness where the shot was given, fever, aches and hoarseness. They usually begin soon after the shot and last a day or two, the agency says.

At most airport locations, people receiving a shot must fill out a short form asking for their medical histories, and warning of possible reactions. Nurses ask that customers taking their first flu shot to wait near the kiosk 15 to 20 minutes.

Most major airports in the U.S. now provide flu shots including Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, Baltimore Washington International, Boston Logan International, LAX in Los Angeles, JFK in New York, and Honolulu International.

(Photo credit - usatoday.com)

Traveling by Car this Holiday? Read these Child Safety Tips.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced its holiday campaigns for 2010. Since a survey by American Express Travel has shown that 74% of us will be driving to our Thanksgiving destination, many of us with our families, it's a good idea to pay attention.

"Safety is NHTSA’s number one priority. Our mission is to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our nation’s roadways by getting drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to change their behaviors once they get behind the wheel or on the streets," stated an NHTSA spokesperson. "High-visibility campaigns, supported by state and national advertising, help us achieve our mission."

The billboard campaign for Thanksgiving holiday travel reads: "Too much turkey is no excuse for not buckling up." For Christmas the campaign slogan is "If you drive and drink, you'll get more than a piece of coal in your stocking."

Another NHTSA holiday campaign is "Family Travel Safety." The NHTSA is joined by state highway patrol officers across the country in an attempt to prevent unnecessary traffic accidents due to alcohol.

Also in relation to the "Family Travel Safety" campaign the NHTSA has identified 5 child safety issues that it wants you to be aware of, not just during the holidays, but all year round.
  1. Backover
    A backover incident typically occurs when a car coming out of a driveway or parking space backs over a child because the driver did not see him/her.

  2. Power Windows
    Many children are injured when a window closes on their finger, wrist, or hand, and some have even been strangled by power windows.

  3. Seat Belts. A child within reach of a seat belt may become entangled if he or she pulls the seat belt all the way out and wraps the belt around the head, neck, or waist, with the locking device preventing escape.

  4. Trunk
    Children are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. Hide and seek can turn deadly if they get trapped in the trunk.

  5. Heatstroke
    Children die each year from heatstroke in hot cars. Even though holiday time means winter, the southern 1/3 of the country will continue to have warm temperatures. So be aware that when left in a hot vehicle, a young child's body temperature may increase three to five times as fast an adult. High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death.
Keeping safety in mind while driving to your timeshare Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation will help your entire family to have a fun and blessed holiday.

(Photo credit - www.nhtsa.gov)

Interval International Broadens its Relationship Grand Crowne Resorts

Interval International has announced that it has broadened its relationship with Grand Crowne Resorts. Interval International is a prominent worldwide provider of vacation services, and Grand Crowne Resorts is an industry-leading developer of points-based vacation ownership and comprehensive travel planning services. The long-term relationship renewal comprises Grand Crowne resorts in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, as well as a property in Biloxi, Mississippi.

In addition, the agreement stipulates that any club or non-club resorts developed in the future will become part of the Interval Network. The expanded relationship also includes reservation services provided by Interval Resort & Financial Services (IRFS), an affiliated company of Interval International.

“As an independent developer, our company has found Interval International to be a great partner. Its executives are hands on and work in partnership with our team on a regular basis,” said C.J. Perme, president and CEO of Grand Crowne Resorts. “We are committed to providing our owners with exceptional vacation experiences and are confident that Interval is uniquely qualified to meet our future needs and those of our discerning owners.”

“We are delighted to renew and enhance our longstanding relationship with Grand Crowne Resorts,” said Craig M. Nash, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Interval Leisure Group, parent company of International Interval. “Its dedication to guest service and its quality resorts combine to provide Interval members with access to memorable vacations in some of the top family destinations in the country.”

The Branson-based properties include The Surrey Grand Crowne Resort(see photo), The Surrey Vacation Resort, The Carriage Place at Surrey Vacation Resort, Crowne View Heights, and The Lodges at Crowne View. Branson, MO, is well known as a year-round vacation destination, perfect for both families and retirees, offering a wide variety of activities from fishing and boating to theme park thrill rides to live stage entertainment offered at more than 50 theaters along the "Strip."

Grande Crowne Resorts has vacation properties located in two other popular destinations, as well. Owners and guests can stay at the Ocean View Vacation Villas and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Biloxi, MS, as well as numerous casinos, concerts and entertainment shows in this special beach vacation area. Or, you can head to The Lodges at Great Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where you can visit Dollywood, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited National Park in the U.S.

Owners who purchase at one of the Grand Crowne Resorts will continue to be enrolled as individual members of Interval International, as well as Interval Gold®, an upgraded level of membership.

Do’s and Don’ts of Holiday Travel Revealed

PhotobucketIf you're planning a timeshare rental vacation for the holidays, you'll recognize yourself in at least one of these statistics provided by American Express Travel:
  • 40 percent of Americans plan to travel this holiday season
  • 64 percent will travel to see family
  • 2 percent will travel to avoid seeing family
  • 88 percent will stay in the United States
  • 74 percent will drive for the Thanksgiving holiday
  • $1,800 = average travel spending for family of four
One thing is for certain about these numbers - they indicate that a lot of other people will be traveling at the same time you are. Traveling for the holidays is supposed to be fun. To keep your travel experience as stress-free as possible, here are some Dos and Don'ts:

DO buy your airline tickets Now. The watchdogs of airline fares say that from here on out, the cost of an airplane ticket could go up as much as $5/day. That, coupled with added "holiday travel fees" tacked on by some airlines, as well as the over-all increase of fares by as much as 20% over last year, and it would behoove you to lock in those airline reservations without delay.

DON'T give up on finding a good fare. Be persistent, and be flexible. Check out near-by regional airports for better deals. Fly on the holiday itself. If you just want to get away for the holiday but don't care where you go, consider non-traditional destinations such as Las Vegas, San Francisco, or New Orleans.

DO pack light. Almost all airlines are now charging extra fees for checked baggage. Pack a light carry-on to save money, and to also save time trying to find your checked bags among the hordes of other travelers. Consider mailing bulky clothing and gifts to your destination.

DON'T wrap presents you are taking with you on the plane. That's a waste of time, money, and effort on your part, as all gift-wrapped items will be unceremoniously unwrapped by TSA officials.

DO get to the airport early. Arrive in plenty of time to get through security - especially now that many airports have the full-body scanner. (If you don't want to go through the body scanner you can opt for a full pat-down, but that takes time, too.) You'll also want to get checked in early so you aren't one of the ones bumped since most planes will be overbooked.

DON'T expect everything to automatically go well with your reservation and flight. Always double-check your reservation status, and your flight's on-time status, online before leaving for the airport. Also make sure that your name on your reservation perfectly matches your name on your government ID - a new TSA regulation.

DO have fun. After all, this is a holiday!

(Photo credit – photobucket.com)

World Travel Awards – The Oscars of the Travel Industry

What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Beckham, and Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickenson have in common? Or 3-time Olympic gold medalist Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (see photo), Spanish tennis pro Rafael Nadal, and Kevin Spacey? And what do they have to do with travel news?

They were all among the favorites to win the World Travel Awards "Face of Travel 2010" award. The winner was announced on Sunday, November 7th, during the 17th annual World Travel Awards ceremony, which took place at London's posh Grosvenor House Hotel.

The World Travel Awards (WTA) organization "serves to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel and tourism industry." This year was the most hotly contested yet. Over 5,000 individuals and businesses representing 162 countries were nominated in numerous categories ranging from best airport to best beach resort to best safari. And, yes, best travel ad.

The new “Face of Travel” award acknowledges the celebrity endorsement that has made the biggest contribution to the travel and tourism industry over the past year.

Nominee highlights included Usain Bolt’s “Once You Go You Know” campaign and its role in boosting Jamaica’s tourism profile; David Beckham, serving as ambassador for England’s 2018 World Cup bid, earned him the nod for boosting his nation’s tourism profile; and Iron Maiden frontman and airline pilot Bruce Dickenson was nominated for his new job as marketing manager of Astraeus Airlines.

Rafael Nadal, also a hot favorite, fronted a hugely-successful campaign highlighting the sport tourism credentials of his native Balearic Islands. California's "Governator" was nominated for the popular "If California seems like your kind of work when can you start?" tourism ad with his wife, Maria Shriver.

Kevin Spacey touted the comforts of American Airlines' business class with "you'll know your seat when you find it." And English ex-soccer star Jamie Redknapp and his pop-star wife, Louise, were nominated for their hit ad campaign that led to a surge in summer bookings for England's venerable tour company Thomas Cook.

Hailed as “The Oscars of the Travel Industry” by the Wall Street Journal, the World Travel Awards is recognized globally as the ultimate travel accolade. The WTA 2010 Grand Final in London marked the climax of a year-long search to find the very best travel businesses in the world.

Oh, and the winner of the Face of Travel 2010 award? Jamaican Usain Bolt. Other awards included: World's Leading Travel Destination - London (beating out such luminaries are Bali and Dubai); World's Leading Airport: Singapore Changi Airport; and World's Leading Honeymoon Destination: St. Lucia.

(Photo credit - chron.com)

What You Must Provide Your Airlines to Make a Reservation

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that as of November 1, 2010, it will now require a full name, which includes first, middle name or initial, and last, exactly as it appears on your government issued ID (such as a driver's license or passport), date of birth, and gender for all passengers traveling on or after November 1, 2010, regardless of when the reservation was booked. Failure to provide this information could result in a reservation being refused by the airline. Airlines may cancel any record which does not contain this information at least 72 hours prior to travel.

To avoid cancellation, potential delays at check in, denied boarding, or additional costs, make sure that all required information is entered into your reservation.
This is part of the federal program Secure Flight. Secure Flight is the TSA's behind-the-scenes watch list matching program that fulfills a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

"By establishing a consistent watch list matching system, Secure Flight enhances aviation security and more effectively facilitates air travel for passengers," states the TSA blog. "By providing complete information, passengers can significantly decrease the likelihood of a watch list misidentification."

The TSA web site lists the objectives of the Secure Flight program as: identify known and suspected terrorists, prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft, facilitate passenger air travel, and protect individuals' privacy.

Regarding privacy protection, the TSA states that the personal data that Secure Flight collects is protected by the highest set of security protocol standards established by the federal government. "Secure Flight guards the privacy of individuals by adhering to the letter and spirit of privacy law, by treating individuals and their personal privacy information with respect, ensuring a high standard of privacy protection, and responding effectively to public concerns."

If the name you use to make your reservation and that exactly matches your Government-issued ID, but not your frequent flyer account, the airline's frequent flyer system will not recognize your name. If this is true for you, consult the airline frequent flyer program regarding the process to update the frequent flyer account information.

American Resort Development Association Fall Conference November 10-12

The American Resort Development Association (ARDA) will be holding its annual fall conference this year November 10-12 in Washington, D.C.

The ARDA, based in Washington, D.C., was established over 40 years ago to represent the vacation ownership and resort development industries. Today the ARDA has over 1,000 members, including timeshare owner associations and resort management companies. Almost 1 million timeshare owners are represented through the ARDA Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC). Through ARDA-ROC owners "can be part of an effective grassroots lobbying coalition of timeshare unit owners dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enhancing vacation ownership."

Since the conference occurs this year just a week after mid-term elections, one of the key speakers will be Stuart Rothenberg, "who has embodied the rare ability to report on all the political happenings in the nation with unbiased clarity and non-partisan precision." His publication, The Rothenberg Political Report, is a biweekly newsletter that provides honest reporting and analysis of American elections.

Keynote Speaker Kevin Hassett will discuss "The Road to Economic Recovery." One of the country’s most respected and renowned economists, Hassett will give an overview of the timeshare industry's current economic situation, its most pressing challenges for growth, and talk about policy changes that would address some of those challenges.

ARDA's President and CEO, Howard Nusbaum, will lead a breakfast roundtable discussion on the current state of the timeshare industry with the industry A-list, including Jim Lewis, President & CEO, Disney Vacation Club, Mark Wang, President, Hilton Grand Vacation Club, Franz Henning, President & CEO, Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Jon Fredericks, President, Welk Resorts, Craig Nash, Chairman, President and CEO, Interval Leisure Group, and Geoff Ballotti, President and CEO, RCI.

For further information about ARDA visit its web site.

Top Airlines Determined by Airline Quality Rating Report

There's good news and bad news for the 18 domestic U.S. airlines rated by the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report. In its 20th year of reporting major airline performance in the United States, the AQR is a statistical study conducted jointly by Dr. Dean Headley, professor at Wichita State University, and Dr. Brent Bowen, professor at Purdue University.

During 2009 the U.S. airline industry actually improved in quality in the four areas that the study tracks, say Hedley and Bowen in their AQR 2010 report. Those four areas are on-time arrival, mishandled baggage, involuntary denied boardings, and customer complaints.

For the good news, we'll look at the airlines that came out on top out of the 18 airline companies in the AQR study.
  1. Hawaiian Airlines
    Ranked at #1 this airline got its passengers to their destinations on time a record 92% in 2009. A customer complaint rate of 0.74 complaints per 100,000 passengers is against the 2009 industry average of 0.97. Its mishandled baggage rate of 1.90 per 1,000 passengers (second best of all airlines rated) is well below the industry rate of 3.88 bags per 1,000 passengers.

  2. AirTran
    This airline came in second in the overall rankings of the AQR report. It ranked best in getting your baggage back to you on time and in one piece, having a mishandled baggage rate of just 1.66 per 1,000 passengers, and it decreased its customer complaint rate from 1.10 in 2008 to .97 per 100,000 passengers in 2009.

  3. JetBlue
    At Number 3, JetBlue saw the best over-all improvement in all categories during 2009. On-time performance in 2009 was 77.5% in 2009 compared to 72.9% in 2008, and its mishandled baggage rate was 2.56 in 2009 compared to 3.47 in 2008. A customer complaint rate of 0.85 complaints per 100,000 passengers was lower in 2009 (1.02 in 2008), and Jet Blue’s denied boarding performance (0.00 per 10,000 passengers in 2009 and 0.01 in 2008) is the lowest of the airlines rated.

  4. Southwest Airlines
    Ranking #4, Southwest Airlines scored big in one of the more important categories, with the smallest number of consumer complaints, averaging a scant 0.28 per 100,000 passengers. Southwest Airlines is consistently the airline with the lowest customer complaint rate in the industry, stated Hedley and Bowen. In addition, its on-time arrival rate of 83.0% in 2009 is among the industry’s highest.
And now the bad news. Cutting to the chase, the worst ranked airline was Delta, who led in delayed arrivals at 78%, and was also first in consumer complaints, averaging 2.23 per 100,000 passengers.

The other airlines at the bottom of the list were United, Alaska Airlines, American and US Airways.

Marriott Vacation Club Teaming up with Audubon

Marriott Vacation Club is teaming up with Audubon International to further the “greening” of its resorts in North America and the Caribbean region, through the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program for Hotels.

The Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program "provides the assurance that the lodging company meets environmental best practice standards." The program began in 1998 to meet the lodging industry's desire to provide quality guest services while minimizing the impact of those services on the environment.

In order to achieve a “Green Leaf” rating, resorts must meet requirements for water quality, water conservation, waste minimization, resource conservation and energy efficiency.

"Our resorts have been utilizing green practices for years and the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program will take it a step further by providing consistency through a respected environmental group like Audubon International,” said Dirk Schavemaker, senior vice president of resort operations for Marriott Vacation Club. “By enrolling our resorts in the Green Leaf Program, we’re confirming our enduring commitment to the environment, our communities, and our Owners and guests who stay at our resorts.”

Marriott’s signature timeshare brand currently has 28 resorts enrolled in the Green Leaf program, and expects to have all 43 resorts in the region participating in the program by next year. With average occupancy rates over 90 percent, Marriott Vacation Club resorts in North America and the Caribbean region collectively took care of over 696,000 guests in 2009.

“We’re pleased to have Marriott Vacation Club work with us to better protect and sustain our land, water, wildlife, and other natural resources,” said Fred Realbuto, Director of U.S. Green Leaf Operations at Audubon International. “Our program is unique in that it is international in scope, uses a standardized process for evaluating environmental performance, provides environmental education and conducts visits to verify eco-rated practices.”

This latest endeavor is part of Marriott Vacation Club’s larger Green Initiative which began at its corporate headquarters, and is being rolled out to its resorts worldwide. In addition to these most recent steps, each Marriott Vacation Club resort has established its own “green team” which manages its environmental efforts.

In 2009, MVC demonstrated its continued commitment to green operations by eliminating waste from landfills through implementing recycled key cards, pens and Forest Stewardship Council certified paper for guest arrival packets at its resorts.

“By promoting sustainable tourism, we have the opportunity to educate our Owners and guests while protecting our most valuable resources and ensuring a more environmentally-friendly future - a true win-win for everyone,” said Schavemaker.

(Photo image - greenleaf.auduboninternational.org)

Interval International adds Bay Gardens Beach Resort

Interval International has announced that it is adding Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa in Saint Lucia to its exchange network. This Caribbean island is well known for its spectacular beaches, unspoiled tropical rainforests, and majestic mountains.

“In evaluating vacation exchange providers, we concluded that Interval’s high-quality membership and exchange benefits would meet the needs of our discerning clientele,” said Joyce Destang, owner and managing director of Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa. “Interval’s executives have dedicated significant time and resources to support our entrance into shared ownership and we greatly value the relationship. We know that we can continue to count on them to provide sales, marketing, and operations expertise.”

The resort sits on one of St. Lucia’s most beautiful scenic beaches where you have access to a spectacular 2-mile beach with activities such as swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. An in-house tour operator is available to customize your land or sea tours.

The two-bedroom vacation ownership units are housed in three-story buildings with timbered balconies and verandas inspired by French Caribbean and Georgian plantation architecture. With 1,300 square feet of space, each air-conditioned unit has a balcony or patio with a pool and ocean view and a full kitchen. Interiors combine an elegant tropical décor with sleek contemporary finishes, such as granite kitchen counters.

As a guest you can expect state-of-the-art technology, with DVD/CD players and high-speed Internet/Wi-Fi that is available everywhere on the property, even the beach. You'll also enjoy hotel-style luxuries such as bathrobes and slippers, room service, and daily linen change.

In addition, Bay Gardens Resorts is partnering with the Saint Lucia Football Association (SLFA), as the official host for the 2010-2011 football season as part of its plan to elevate the country’s standing in the sport by 2014.

“It has been a tremendous pleasure to work with Bay Gardens as it enters our industry with this exceptional property,” said David Gilbert, executive vice president of resort sales and marketing for Interval International. “We look forward to introducing their purchasers to the many benefits of Interval membership, including access to our Quality Vacation Exchange Network. We are delighted that all of our members will now have the opportunity to visit this premier-level resort in such a stunning location.”

Interval International operates membership programs for vacationers and provides value-added services to its developer clients worldwide. Based in Miami, Florida, the company has been a pioneer and innovator in serving the vacation ownership market for more than 34 years. Interval International is an operating segment of Interval Leisure Group.

(Photo credit baygardensbeachresort.com)

RCI Announces Affiliation with Hotel Hacienda La Purisima

RCI, the global leader in vacation exchange and one of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands today announced an affiliation with the Hotel Hacienda La Purisima in Ixtlahuaca, Mexico.

“We are very excited about this new affiliation as we believe this property will attract many international members who want to enjoy a Mexican vacation,” said Ricardo Montaudon, president of Latin America, RCI. “We look forward to a mutually successful relationship with Hacienda la Purisima.”

Located one hour from Mexico City and 20 minutes from the City of Toluca, Hacienda La Purisima has 12 units complete with hardwood floors, a fireplace and a soaking tub. The property offers a lake with boating, 18-hole golf course, entertainment and game rooms, an indoor pool, spa and barbeque facilities. Also onsite are tennis, soccer, volleyball, basketball and badminton courts.

The property sits on a working "leisure," or "recreational," farm where you can interact with cows, sheep, rabbits, geese, and turkeys. A state-of-the-art equestrian center offers horseback riding along wooded trails, and a lovely chapel is on-site for your use.

Nearby attractions include Nevado de Toluca, a large extinct volcano peak 15,000 ft high with a caldera almost a mile across; and The Otomi Ceremonial Center, one of the most beautiful palaces of the Mexican Republic.

“It was an easy decision to affiliate with RCI,” said Alfredo Casar, general manager of Hacienda La Purisima. “We are confident that this affiliation is a great business opportunity and that our facilities and services will be a major attraction for domestic and international members."

RCI is part of Wyndham Exchange & Rentals, the worldwide leader in vacation exchange and the European leader in vacation rentals, with access to more than 80,000 vacation properties in approximately 100 countries. Wyndham Worldwide Corporation is one of the world’s largest hospitality companies with leading brands in lodging franchising, vacation ownership, vacation rentals and vacation exchange.

(Photo credit gpodesarrolladores.com.mx)