Posts Tagged ‘florida’

Frolicking in Orlando

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Many months ago, I was trying to change a hotel reservation for my uncle when I unwittingly agreed to a discounted vacation in exchange for a timeshare presentation. I chose to go to Orlando since it had been so long that I don’t remember last time I was there. Everything actually worked out really well – Panda and I got a nice little vacation out of it and right before we went, he was able to earn some free Disney gift cards that we could use on our trip. Plus, he actually had some training out there a few weeks before we went so he got to scout out the area first. Here’s a picture tour of our trip:

annie's mini hot dogs wrapped in pretzel bread

Our trip started with a snack I’d never tried before! Hot dogs + pretzel bread = delicious!!

old school united plane design

Our plane had a cool retro look.

rainbow arching over planes at iad dulles international airport as seen from window seat of plane

As I buckled in for takeoff, I saw nearly a full rainbow!

planes stuck on tarmac waiting for storm to pass

After leaving the gate, we found ourselves stuck waiting for a storm to the south to pass.

sitting waiting on plane with other planes on tarmac grounded due to storm

We waited for nearly three hours! I was lucky Panda gave me his first class seat so I got served drinks the whole time.

united first class meal collage with shrimp salad and hot tea

Once we finally took off, I got a nice meal to tide me over. The pattern in the tea reminded me of cirrus clouds!

collage of dragonfly on ground right side up and upside down

The first thing we saw upon arriving at the hotel was this dragonfly! I went to poke it and it flew off only to land upside down. That can’t be good.

tiny frog blending in with wood chips

Then we nearly stepped on this little guy as he hopped on by!

bright moon over hotel in distance

The moon was super bright and our parking spot was rather far, but it was a nice walk.

collage of anole lizard on porch

The next morning, I found myself a new pet!

square outline created by mirror light in pupil of eye

The mirror in the bathroom made square outlines in our pupils. Fun!

lush green grass growing thickly

I haven’t seen such thick grass in years! I miss that.

downtown disney marketplace entrance

Off to Downtown Disney!

taking a go at the t-shirt designing machine

The first shop we stopped in had these t-shirt designing machines! We just had to play around with one.

giant mickey face rice crispy cake

Goofy’s Candy Shop included all sorts of yummy sweets.

giant world of disney store at downtown disney orlando

Here we go into the Disney store, gift cards at the ready!

testing out the basin lip scrubs

I loved the Basin store with all its skincare goodies, like these lip scrubs that I tried.

collage of basin store products

Panda knew right away I would love this store! Can I bring it all home??

collage of various bath bombs at basin store

They had so many bath bombs, including adorable mini ones!

basin sinks with body scrubs and body butters to test out

Everyone enjoyed the sinks the middle, where you could try out their body scrubs and butters.

caffeine and mosquito fighting soaps

I found some pretty cool soaps with other purposes too – one with caffeine and one to ward off mosquitos!

large soap logs stacked up

I wonder if they ever sell their soap by the log.

basin products including solid shampoo, conditioner, and facial soap

I got two solid shampoo bars, two solid conditioner bars, and a charcoal facial soap.

bird standing by waterfront with wings outspread

That random bird stood motionless with wings spread out for so long I started to think it might be fake.

collage of fulton's crab shack in day and night

Panda made a reservation weeks ago so we could eat here. 🙂

view of sunset, clouds, and water from fulton's crab shack

A great view where we sat!

collage of bread, crackers, seafood pasta, and crab leg meals

The bread and crackers with dip were delicious! I also gobbled up my crab legs. NOM

collage of bird on tip of pointy tree and bird poo on table

The area was plagued by birds. They even attacked a squirrel!

string of lights at dusk on boat

These lights are so nice; I want some for my own home!

collage of pleasure island area of downtown disney

The Pleasure Island part of Downtown Disney is much more adult-oriented.

la nouba cirque du soleil mug

Love the pattern on this mug. If we actually saw La Nouba I probably would have gotten it.

twinkling lights in trees at downtown disney

They had twinkling lights in the trees to make it feel like there were fireflies. I wish there actually were some!

disney institution graduation mickey ears cap with tassel

We brought along Panda’s graduation cap that he got just a week or two before.

minnie mouse red and white polka dot bow tank top

One of the very first items I decided to buy. So cute! See what else we got.

comparing murano glass on tous ring to disney mickey ears

I just had to compare my Murano glass to theirs. I like mine. 🙂

sonic's chili cheese tater tots and hot dog

I love all things chili cheese. I’d never had chili cheese tots before and they are my new fav!

bright sun shining over dark cloud

You never know when you’ll get sun or clouds around here.

red car with crazy air fresheners

That red car strung up like 50 of those tree air fresheners. Can you see it? Hilarious.

disney boardwalk lake

We arrive at the Boardwalk area and explore the stores overlooking the lake.

small turtle in lake among plants

I found some fish and a turtle to feed!

disney tugboat on lake

As we crossed a bridge, this tugboat came scootin’ along.

collage of girl feeding ducks bread

On the tiny beach they created, there were ducks eager to eat my bread. I had so much fun feeding them!

mickey golf globe

These fun globes tested your ability to get the ball to balance on the peg.

disney character pens with ends bent into head shapes

Such cute pens!

disney credit card swiping machine

Even the credit card machines have Mickey’s head on them.

collage of handicapped room features including automatic door, bars in restroom, and no closet doors

We got a handicapped room, which I quite liked – our door had an auto open button!

collage of buena vista palace rooms

We stayed at the Buena Vista Palace and our suite was nice and spacious.

collage of buena vista palace public areas

Here are some of the public spaces at the Buena Vista Palace.

collage of exterior spaces at buena vista palace

And here are some of the exterior spaces at Buena Vista Palace.

large three-row golf cart outside buena vista palace

That golf cart is practically a tour tram!

ming court dim sum

Before heading to the airport, we stop for some dim sum at Ming Court.

anole lizard blending in with sidewalk

Tons of lizards around here (or anoles). Masterfully blending with the sidewalk.

silver tea pot with spill-free spout

This tea pot’s spout is perfect for spill-free pouring!

long escalator going up multiple floors

After returning the rental car, we took a super long escalator up to the gates.

collage of disney character-shaped crayons and green turtle t-shirt

We did a little more browsing at the airport before checking in.

disney tron-themed airport tram terminals

The tram terminals were Tron-themed, I believe.

hangers in first class seating

If you need to hang up your coat in first class, they’ve got that handled.

reflection of sunlight on ring

As I wait for takeoff, I admire how my ring catches the light.

jetway outside airplane viewed from window of plane

Back in Dulles, I actually see the jetway from my seat. And soon enough we were home!

Hilton timeshare presentation

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever attended a timeshare presentation? I had never heard of such a thing until after I was convinced to sign up for one with Hilton Grand Vacations. I mean, they offered a really cheap rate to stay at one of the Hilton hotels and I thought it’d be a nice little vacation for Panda and I. Afterward signing up and paying, I started to hear horror stories about experiences with timeshare presentations and read through some articles outlining how to “survive” one. I got concerned, but I figured since it’s Hilton and it’s in the US, it can’t be that bad, right? In fact, my experience was pretty painless! I’ll walk you through it in case you’re curious and perhaps even signed up for your own tour soon.

First, to orient you, the grand tour of the place, with some tidbits of info:

[skip straight to details about the presentation]

entrance sign for parc soleil hilton grand vacations club property timeshare in orlando florida

The presentation was at Parc Soleil in Orlando, which is one of three resorts that Hilton has in the area.

driveway of parc soleil hilton grand vacations club property in orlando florida

The driveway leading up to the property includes parking spaces on either side, perfect for guests like us who are visiting for the presentation.

lake and swamp region by parc soleil hilton grand vacations club property in orlando florida

There are tons of lakes in the area and the resort is off on its own, away from the crowded areas.

parc soleil hilton grand vacations club buildings

Right now there are two buildings up, with five more to come.

parc soleil hilton grand vacations sales center entrance doorway

As you head in towards the building, you’ll find the Sales Center on the left. All timeshare presentations are through there.

parc soleil hilton grand vacations sales center entrance foyer upstairs

Once inside, everyone is directed up to the 5th floor as far as I could tell (they also have a 4th floor but that might be for staff only). Here you’ll find the waiting area.

parc soleil hilton grand vacations las vegas mini model

In the waiting area, they had a large mini model of Las Vegas, showcasing their new Elara property.

parc soleil hilton grand vacations sales center welcome sign with message from founder conrad hilton

Representatives came to the waiting room to call you and lead you to the back, passing by this welcome sign. A kids area was available to keep the children entertained.

parc soleil hilton grand vacations sales center food area with hot dogs, drinks, and snacks

Free food and drink were offered to enjoy before your presentation. They had hot drinks, fountain drinks, juices, hot dogs, and chips.

parc soleil hilton grand vacations sales center presentation tables

In each segment of this long hallway were tables for each representative to sit down with their potential clients one-on-one (or two if you came with someone).

view of surrounding area at parc soleil hilton grand vacations sales center

From the tables, you could look out the windows for a serene view. I love all the lakes/swamps and gorgeous spotted clouds!

So the actual process went a little like this (note that details I give will likely go out of date so just take them as a general guideline):

Step 1: Getting to know you

This is where you sit and chat about your background, including what you do, where you’re from, what kind of travel preferences you have, and what kind of travel you’ve managed to do so far. Here they get a good idea of how to sell you later on, whether you’re already traveling in ways that fit owning a timeshare or you’re at just the stage to enjoy the benefits of it.

Step 2: Promoting themselves

With a baseline established, you are then escorted to the theater for a promotional video. It features tons of happy people enjoying vacations in beautiful resorts across the globe. Of course there are also glowing testimonials. Who wouldn’t want to be like them? Then it’s off to the gallery next door for some info and pics about Hilton Grand Vacations timeshares, including its history (established 1997 after observing the industry and designing a program based on features cherry-picked from other brands) and benefits (yes, vacationing is good for you! and so is owning, right?).

Step 3: See it for yourself

Armed with all this knowledge, it’s time to show you what these timeshares could look like. You’re taken through models of the studio, 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom options up on the 12th floor, all beautifully furnished. The walk-throughs offer lovely immersion experiences so you can imagine yourself there in the lap of luxury, enjoying the fully furnished rooms.

Step 4: Reviewing the program

Then it’s back down to the table to discuss the property offerings and points system. A 7000-point per year option would cost about $48k and would allow you to book something like a week or two for a 1-bedroom, 3-4 weeks for a studio, and of course less for a 2- or 3-bedroom. The length of time you can book depends on the time of year – weeks are split into on- and off-season. Points are deposited in your account each January and you can roll them over but it costs $49 to do so. You can also borrow points from the upcoming year, which doesn’t cost anything. You can stay at the various Hilton Grand Vacations properties but also get the ability to convert with RCI (a third party company) to stay at properties with other brands. This conversion costs $199 for domestic locations, $209 for international ones, and of course your points may be worth less (aka get you fewer days or a smaller timeshare). Each year there’s a $1300 cost for maintenance, taxes, and dues on top of what you’re paying for your timeshare.

Purchasing a timeshare actually gets you a deed to a studio/1bed/2bed/3bed, depending on what you pay of course. We were offered space in the Elara that just opened up in Vegas because they’re doing some major promos at the moment and are giving better deals than other locations. That would be our “home” location but when it comes to booking a vacation to put those timeshare points to use, all the properties are pretty much the same and offer the same rates. You can start off getting a lower tier and then upgrade, at which point you basically sell your deed back to Hilton Grand Vacations and get a new deed to the larger space. Oh, and these points can be converted to Hilton Honors point at 1:25, so that 7000 points would get you 175,000 HHonors points that would never expire.

After all this, our representative asked if we were interested and we explained that our finances are being directed towards buying a home, holding a wedding, and relocating me out east in the next couple of years. Basically, we don’t have the budget for something like this. She was disappointed but didn’t press too hard, but she did bring in a financial manager to try to convince us. She also asked me about incentives I was promised and went to check on those.

Step 5: The hard sell

The financial manager came by to go into a bit more detail the financial situation and offer a much lower plan – 3500 points every other year. It boiled down to just over $2000 down today and payments of around $200/month. As part of the promotion for the Elara, we could also get a ton of bonus points – over 10k at first, but when we still didn’t jump at it, he offered 14k. I liked that he was upfront and said that they can offer that because they count on people enjoying their timeshares so much that they upgrade in the future. That 10k in points was well worth the $14k cost that 3500 points every other year would have cost, so it’s a pretty good deal. Still, we’re just not at a stage in our lives where we can spare money for this kind of thing, so when we rejected that final offer, we were thanked and asked to wait for the marketing manager.

Step 6: Giving feedback

The marketing manager stopped by with a survey for me to fill out, just giving some feedback and ensuring that everything had been handled well. They also asked for my annual income for their records I guess.

Step 7: Wrapping up and getting rewarded

The final step was to stop by a counter where my rewards would be processed and given to me. This included 15,000 HHonors points, a $100 Stay A Night On Us voucher, and a $200 reimbursement towards my plane ticket. They also offered tickets to the local theme parks so you could get that all taken care of if you wanted.

All told, we finished within the promised 2 hours and I never felt too pressured to say yes. My representative actually said three or four times that it was totally fine if we didn’t do it but they’d love to have us. My appointment was scheduled for 12:30 and apparently that’s one of the last time slots, since when I was leaving around 2:30 the representatives were heading out for the day as well. I learned quite a bit so I can ponder owning a timeshare perhaps when Panda and I retire. And I’m really enjoying my stay at the hotel we got, despite it not actually being a Hilton!

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