Q. Do I need VIP status?
A. I’m sure that the customer service rep (aka salesperson) talked to you about the VIP program. If you got a decent salesperson, he probably gave it to you straight and said that points discounts and upgrades apply to new reservations within a certain time frame of check-in. If you got a semi-shady salesperson, they probably led you to believe it was easy to get those discounts and upgrades in that time frame. If you got a shady salesperson, he either said or implied that all reservations were discounted and automatically upgraded, but didn’t specify that it was for reservations made within a certain time frame and never mentioned that prime season discounts and upgrades are hard to come by. It is common knowledge, that you should take everything a commissioned salesperson says, with a grain of salt. This isn’t just for timeshares. It’s anything in general, but you already know that. That’s probably why you are here. So here it is…the short answer is No, you do not need it. You can have plenty of great vacations without it. VIP is not a “need”, it’s a “want”. So, the question you should be asking yourself is, is it worth it to you? I cannot tell you if it’s worth it to you. It’s your money, your life. You know what works for you better than I do. I can say it was worth it to me because I get a lot of value out of the benefits. Here are some other things you should be asking yourself when determining how much value VIP has to you.
- When will you be traveling? If it’s during prime season, discounts and upgrades will be hard to come by. I get most of my discounts and upgrades in High season. I did get a prime season upgrade once. I am VIP Gold, so my upgrade window comes after Platinum. If you are platinum, your odds are better for an upgrade. If you book a studio or one-bedroom, your odds are better for an upgrade. The odds of you getting upgraded, get lower as you go up in room sizes because there are fewer big rooms then there are the smaller ones. So, if you need a three-bedroom, book the three-bedroom. Consider it a pleasant bonus, if you get upgraded to a four-bedroom. If you travel during low season, there is plenty of inventory in the discount window, and likely plenty of inventory to be upgraded to.
- Do you travel late in the year, and can those plans change? For many years, we would travel to Florida over New Year’s week. We would often book multiple rooms. If we had a family drop out, and we didn’t need the room, we would cancel it. The problem is, we had points leftover we had to find a use for. The points deposit feature allows you to move points forward to a future year. However, if you are not VIP, you only have until the third month of your use year to do it. For example, if your use year started January 1, you have until March 30th. The problem is, plans can often change throughout the year. How many times, have you had to cancel a trip or drop a room from a multi-room trip? Of those times, how many were within your three-month deadline? When they were outside the deadline, what did you do with those points, since you could not move them forward? The extra time VIPs have to move points forward gives you more time to plan and more flexibility to change your plans, without having to worry about not being able to use those points.
- Do you plan on traveling to Margaritaville resorts? VIPs are given better booking privileges to Margaritaville. Silver, Gold, and Platinum can book 6, 8, and 10 months out respectively. The CWA trust has some Margaritaville inventory in its system, which gives CWA owners the ability to book CWA units 13 months out. However, inventory to CWA owners is extremely limited. Non-VIP can book Margaritaville Saint Thomas and Rio Mar 5 months out. Usually, you can get a studio or one-bedroom at Rio Mar without issue at 5 months. St. Thomas is a little harder, but it does happen. Pigeon Forge is not available to non-VIP. If Margaritaville is important to you, consider buying a Margaritaville contract resale. They don’t come up often, but they do occasionally come up on eBay. That will give you 13-month booking rights to your home resort, and 10 months to the rest of the Margaritaville resorts, even if you’re not VIP. 50% of Margaritaville inventory is held for Margaritaville owners, so you will also have better access. You will only be competing with other Margaritaville owners for that 50% instead of Margaritaville owners AND Wyndham VIP owners.
- Do you plan well in advance? VIPs get Reciprocal Advance Reservation Priority(RARP). This gives VIPs the ability to book outside their home resort, 11 months from check-in. It gives you an advantage because you can book one month sooner than non-VIP. This comes in handy when it comes to prime season reservations. Especially if you need a larger room. The catch is, you are limited to a certain number of times you can do this per year. Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Founders can do it 1,2,3,4,5 times respectively. Also, not all resorts participate, although the majority do. If you need a 3 bedroom at Bonnet Creek the week of Christmas, this would give you an added edge. Even if you are CWA or already own at Bonnet, RARP gives you an added advantage. At 13 months, deeded owners can only book deeded inventory. CWA owners can only book CWA inventory. At the 10-month window, everyone has access to all the inventory. If you have RARP booking privileges, you have access to both, one month sooner than everyone else.
- Do you take a lot of short trips? Legacy (grandfathered) VIPs have unlimited housekeeping. Non-Legacy VIPs do not get unlimited housekeeping. They get extra housekeeping credits in addition to the 1 per 70,000 points they own. Non-VIPs have 1 credit per 70,000 points. You need 1 credit per reservation. It doesn’t matter if you stay 1 night or 14 nights, it is 1 credit per reservation. The room has to be cleaned the same way regardless of if you stay 1 night or 14, so the cost to clean is the same. The problem is, people who do short trips, tend to burn through them faster. If you run out, it’s $159 per credit regardless of unit size or length of stay. That can add up quickly. Even still, if VIP only costs you $50k, that’s over 314 Housekeeping credits. So you would need to travel 314 times to make up for that cost. That doesn’t factor in the ones you get for free already. The value in getting extra housekeeping credits is being able to take more short stays before you have to pay that $159.
- Do you plan on sending friends and family on trips? If you book a reservation for someone else, it requires a guest certificate to put it in their name. If you will not be there in person to check them in, or you already have one reservation in your name at the same time, you need to use a guest certificate. Note: you do not have to use a guest certificate to put the reservation in the owner’s name. If you have three owners on the account, you don’t need to use a guest certificate to put any of their names on the reservation. Non-VIP gets two of those a year. Silver, Gold, and Platinum get 5, 10, and 15 per million respectively. When you run out, they cost $99 online or $129 over the phone. If you think you will use more than two a year, then you should count this as a benefit to consider.
- Are you a flexible traveler? If you’re able to travel where ever or whenever you can easily utilize the points discounts and upgrades and stretch your points much further. As I mentioned earlier, prime season discounts and upgrades are hard to come by. However, if you’re flexible, you can go during the low season, or even in the high season in a lot of cases. You can make high season bookings on short notice, but if you want a specific place during high season, that might require a little more diligence, but it can happen. You may need to check daily or even twice daily for a new inventory that gets released back into the system from cancelations. Not all inventory is released at the same time, and it’s mostly random on when it’s released. So a resort in Florida may release their inventory at 8:30 am and 12 pm, while one in Branson releases everything at 10 pm. It takes some trial and error to figure out when it’s released. It sounds daunting, but once you get the hang of it, it only takes a few minutes to check availability. When I have had to be diligent, I usually get something within 1 – 3 days from the time I start looking. It shouldn’t take long for you to see something pop up. Whether or not it’s what you were looking for is a whole other story. If not, keep looking.
Those are questions you should be asking yourself for all VIP levels. If you’re looking to go to Gold or Platinum VIP, there more benefits to consider.
Unlimited reservation transaction credits – these come in handy if you are going to cancel and rebook a lot. I always book early, but I check inventory again at the discount window (60 days out). If what I want is available, I book it FIRST, then cancel my old one. I check again in my upgrade window, in the slight chance that the upgrade system is not working. If I see there is an upgrade, I’ll book and upgrade first. Then cancel my other one. So, for one vacation, I could end up using a total of 3 reservation transaction credits. If I had a limited number of them, I would have to be more strategic with how I used them. They are $19 each if you run out of them. Think about how often you travel, and how likely you would be to rebook a reservation. If you travel once, maybe twice a year, you probably will not go through your yearly allotment. If you travel only during prime, you probably won’t be able to rebook at a discount much, so you won’t go through as many reservation transaction credits.
Ability to request specific units- There will be times when you go to a resort where the room has the perfect view or has some other feature that made your trip perfect. If you are Gold or Platinum VIP, make note of the room number. When you book at that resort again, you can ask for that specific room number. Another situation where this is helpful is if you’re booking multiple rooms that you need to be close to or next to each other. If you need to book 3 rooms, you can call the resort and ask them for the room number of three rooms that are together, and you can request them when you book. Provided no one else asked for those rooms during that time, it should accept it. However, I would highly recommend you call two weeks out to verify they see your request. There have been occasional reports of resorts not getting that information. I would call again a few days before just to be sure.
Mid-week clean and tidy – Just so you’re aware, this is not a full clean. At a minimum, it’s usually taking out the trash and replacing the towels. However, in some case, you may have to request the towels. They do this to reduce the need for laundering, which saves water and electricity. Why bring new towels if the owner does not need or want them? If you know you will want them, let the front desk know when you check-in.
VIP Cruise – This cruise is NOT free, and you cannot use your points for it. It’s a different cruise every year, and they usually announce when the new one will be in late fall. The most recent one is going to Alaska. Others have been in the Caribbean. The past two cruises have been in September. It’s pretty much a normal cruise, but there are some added specials and a few events onboard for Wyndham VIPs who signed up for it. It’s a great way to meet other VIPs in person.
RCI Instant search and book feature – If you believe you will be using your points in RCI to book reservations (for a $239 fee), this feature is handy. Normally, if you want to book a reservation in RCI, you have to search to find what you want, and how many points it is. Then go back to the My Club Wyndham website and initiate the free RCI deposit process for the points you need. Then go back to RCI and book the room you need. With this feature, you find what you want, and book it. The transfer happens automatically. It simplifies the whole RCI booking process. Just remember, if you have to cancel that booking, you don’t get your $239 back. You get your points back, but they stay in RCI. They do not go back to Club Wyndham. So, make sure you are 100% certain, that’s what you want to book because the points transfer is nonreversible.
There are more benefits to consider, but these are just some of the major ones. Be sure to read the details of VIP in the Wyndham directory before making your final choice. Remember, only you can decide what’s right for you. Do not let anyone tell you what it’s worth, especially the sales guy. It’s your money. Your opinion is the only opinion that matters when it comes to your money. If you decide to go VIP, be sure to read my article on the Wyndham PIC program. It will save you tens of thousands of dollars on VIP.
One last word of advice. If you are trying hard to justify the upfront cost of VIP, don’t. Stop trying to justify it. You never will. As I said, VIP is a want, not a need. VIP enhances your ownership but is not a requirement to enjoy your ownership. Trying to justify a “want” that has such a high price tag, will make you go crazy. If you have done your due diligence, still want it, and can afford it, just get it. Just don’t forget about those pesky maintenance fees. The more points you buy, the higher they go. Those are constant and will continue for as long as you own the timeshare. If you are a newbie, I would highly recommend that you try out the system, before committing such a large amount of money to it. Wyndham offers a “Discovery” package. It’s a two-year no-commitment trial program that lets you try out the system. You’ll get to experience the benefits and limitations first hand, and walk away after two years if you’re not happy. You have to buy it at a resort, and you have to tell a salesperson “No” for each of the 12 different offers they present you for full-fledged ownership before they allow you to buy the trial. If they ever come up with a way to buy it, without having to go through all that nonsense, I’ll update this article.
Hint, Hint Wyndham.