Category Archives: Timeshare Resorts

SharonINK Joins The Trades Publishing Company

By Sharon Scott Wilson

Jack Richardson at The Trades Publishing Company gave me a call in 1993 to ask if I would begin writing a monthly column for its publication Resort Trades. I had met Jack and his boss, Trades Owner/Publisher Tim Wilson, in 1989 while I worked for ARDA (or, ARRDA at that time). Jack passed away several years later; Tim and I continue to remember him fondly.

After I established my PR and content marketing company, SharonINK in 2006, I continued to write for The Trades. Tim and I married in 2013 and in 2017 Tim asked me to take over as publisher of The Trades’ two publications, Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades. Resort Trades’ audience consists of vacation providers, including timeshare resorts, travel companies, membership clubs, and rental companies. Readers of Golf Course Trades are course owners, operators, and superintendents interested in staying current with their industry.

With the advent of digital media, both titles began to explore the opportunities inherent with the ability to offer a full marketing mix. Because The Trades can now offer a multi-channel approach to help vendors use both the power of print and the reach of the Internet to promote their products, it made sense to add another feature – Content Marketing – to the company toolbox. Engrossed as I was by my duties as publisher and media director for Tim’s housing development, I decided to fold the writing and promotional services from SharonINK into The Trades as THE TRADES INK with its access to a fine team of writers, copy editors, graphic designers, and digital experts.

Perhaps the most significant initiative of THE TRADES is our investment in search engine optimization (SEO). We recently promoted Carrie Vandever to the position of Digital Media Manager. She will be in charge of managing and leading content for the company’s various digital assets including ResortTrades.com, the Resort Trades Weekly eNewsletter, GolfCourseTrades.com, the Golf Course Trades Supplier Directory, the Golf Course Trades Weekly eNewsletter, and all social media platforms. She will also provide leadership in directing the development of The Trades’ search engine optimization (SEO) activities.

The Trades’ SEO Initiative

At our home headquarters, we have been passing around a game-changing book by Will Coombe entitled, 3 Months to No. 1. Resort marketing and human resource professionals who excel at ranking at the top of Google searches are finding the effort to learn this craft extremely useful.

Coombe appropriately bills his masterpiece as “the ‘no-nonsense’ SEO playbook for getting your website found on Google.” Besides recommending it wholeheartedly to our readers, we’ve made the book — particularly his step-by-step, week-by-week “SEO Blueprint and Checklist” — our new corporate user’s manual.

The reason we’re giving this so much of our attention should be evident: We want to serve our readers, to give them enough value that they’ll keep coming back. As they continue to review our material, we receive our reward — higher Google ratings. And as Resort Trades receives higher ratings, so do our advertisers…. Win-win!

I don’t know why it took me so long to fully appreciate the value of SEO; to ‘get it.’ But since I’ve been through my Great Awakening, I’ve taken on the mantle of evangelist. I find myself talking about it to everyone I know!

 My message is perhaps being preached to the choir: In online marketing — whether you’re appealing as a vendor to professionals in the resort/vacation/resort rental business, or you are marketing a resort product to consumers, for example — you can compete virtually with any competitor. It’s just a matter of appearing higher on a Google SERP (search engine results page) than others.

When resort marketers or vendors become complacent and feel their reputation is well established and they are being followed by loyal customers: Bang! Along comes a disruptive interloper. And these days, more often than not, the obtrusive intruder grabs your customer’s attention by appearing above you on a SERP!

Try This at Home:

First Step: Keyword Research. You’ll want to use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool whether or not you are buying an ad. It’s free, but you have to work around a pretty persistent series of landing pages insisting you sign up for an advertising campaign. Visit Joshua Hardwick’s blog post https://ahrefs.com/blog/google-keyword-planner/ for a step-by-step guide to avoid the expense. Another really helpful site is Neil Patel’s blog, https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/

How important is Content Marketing? It is 100 percent, absolutely, totally vital. There is a delicately balanced mixture of art and science involved in pleasing the Google algorithm deities and one of the major offerings you must present at its unholy altar (no offense, Google…just trying to make a point) is a consistent, intelligent, and keyword-clever volume of content.

If perhaps you’re wondering where to start, my advice is simple: study the blogs and books coming from the most notable SEO gurus and, meanwhile, start building a volume of work in the form of blogs and posts.

Just a few tips:

  • Be likeable; show you’re human. People buy from those they know, like and trust.
  • Create a sense of belonging. Resorts are often very good at making their guests feel they are part of an exclusive group. Wine and dine them, woo them like a lover.
  • Use storytelling whenever possible. Your blogs, your collateral and your social media will be most effective when you tell a story featuring people. Storytelling is the most compelling promotional tool you have.
  • Use events whenever possible. Ask a car salesman or a realtor. They will tell you that the words “Grand Opening” or “Super Sales Event” draws a crowd, even though the prices and offerings are the same on a non-event day.
  • Being different is better than being better (unless you get weird). Here’s where having a sizable volume of good, solid content can set you apart.
  • Focus on leads, not sales.

Blog Away, Oh Pilgrim!

How do you build content? Blog! Here are some more tips:

  • Pay careful attention to writing attention-grabbing headlines in your blog and social media posts. The best headlines create surprise, ask a question or create curiosity.
  • Use your keywords in headlines and the text whenever possible. Use pictures everywhere. Pictures and videos with people telling their own stories, your story…any story…are hot these days.
  • If you’re studying this post, you are probably a perfectionist seeking to produce highly researched and well-written materials. While it is important to create as grammatically correct and accurate posts, try to not procrastinate. Experts say, get it out there..
  • We didn’t have a chance to discuss cross linking in this post; I guess that’s worth a post all by itself. All of your online efforts are intended to drive traffic to your website.

It has been suggested you should add a landing page to every URL.I confess to be behind the times when it comes to adding these to my own sites. (Do as I say; not as I do!) Offer some special information in exchange for contact information. People are accustomed to being asked to give something to get something. But provide a landing page as an option for viewers to fill out, whether it’s gated or open.

All in all, remember that SEO is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Make it your marketing priority and don’t assume you will ever catch up totally with All Knowledge. Things are happening too quickly out there; just do your best. And good luck!

Sharon Scott Wilson is Publisher and Managing Partner at The Trades Publishing Company, a media and digital content marketing company located in Crossville, Tennessee. The Trades produces multi-media channels supporting resort and rental marketing professionals, golf course owners and superintendents, and a niche community of luxury homes with attached, fully-enclosed RV garages. GardensRV.com; ResortTrades.com; GolfCourseTrades.com.

Timeshare Exit Companies Under Fire

The timeshare industry and companies that help you exit your timeshare are at war, according to a MSN.com 50-second video: http://a.msn.com/01/en-us/BBRsPMn?ocid=se. According to freelance writer and longtime resort industry veteran Sharon Scott Wilson, “Timeshare exit companies have popped up everywhere, it seems. Many of them attempt to mislead consumers who have entered into legally binding real estate agreements by persuading them to essentially lie. Often these companies advise consumers to make claims that they were misled in the sales process and, in so doing, they are told they may then refuse to meet their mortgage and annual homeowner fee obligations.”

“While the legal system needs to protect individuals who have legitimate complaints, it does not condone fraudulent claims,’” she added. “Before attending a timeshare presentation, I would advise people to do some research. One informative resource is BayTreeSolutions.com, a timeshare resort resale provider. (By way of full disclosure, Bay Tree Solutions is a client of mine and the company’s CEO, Doug Milbrath, is one of what I would call ‘the good guys.’)

“In addition, I recommend reading Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Vacations for Dummies, which I have found to have plenty of good information. You can also visit VacationBetter.org, a consumer-oriented website managed by the American Resort Development Industry.”

About Sharon Scott Wilson

Wilson writes print/online content for blog posts, feature-length articles, and social media. She is experienced in planning and implementation of online marketing strategy, and is a prolific business writer. Her timeshare industry-focused B2B articles have appeared on numerous occasions in Resort Trades, DEVELOPMENTS (ARDA’s magazine) and other media.  Sharon is Publisher of Resort Trades and Golf Course Trades magazines.  Her PR and marketing firm, SharonINK, recently became a subsidiary of The Trades Publishing Company.

Media Contact: Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP;  SharonINK.com; 310-923-1269

Bluegreen Vacations stocks jump

Bluegreen Vacations made the news last week: “The Motley Fool” ran an interesting article on November 27, 2018, “Why Spirit Airlines, Bluegreen Vacations, and StoneCo Jumped Today.” As you might imagine, it was all thanks to clever stock moves. Here’s what they said, “Bluegreen Vacations saw its stock climb 17% in the wake of the decision of its board of directors to implement a share repurchase program. The vacation ownership specialist and resort manager said that it would buy back as much as 3 million shares, paying no more than $35 million toward repurchases. With the company already 90% owned by BBX Capital, the limited float means that the 3 million share authorization represents more than 40% of outstanding shares held by the public. Interest among investors in companies specializing in timeshares and other vacation real estate has been solid lately. However, with the share price jumping so far, Bluegreen might choose not to make any repurchases under the program unless the stock falls back.”

Our Future in the Timeshare Industry: Only the Paranoid Survive

Tradition dictates that each ARDA World convention presents a “Meet the Leaders” session during which prominent developers provide an ‘in-the-trenches’ view of the state of the industry. This year attendees heard from Maurizio Bisicky, COO of Anantara Vacation Club (headquartered in Thailand); Michael Flaskey, CEO of Diamond Resorts [and a frequent contributor to Resort Trades, by the way]; Jon Fredricks, President & CEO of Welk Resorts and Tom Nelson, President & CEO of Holiday Inn Club Vacations.

The session moderator, ARDA President and CEO Howard Nusbaum, led a frank discussion about topics ranging from what is the most pressing legal and regulatory concern in the industry today, to how is the consolidation trend affecting the industry. In answer to the former, the replies were unanimous: Fredricks had coined an acronym for the thorny issue of cancellation/lawyer/relief company issue, “GOOYTs” for “Get Out of Your Timeshare” activity. The entire room appeared to groan in agreement. Nelson observed that the constant barrage of aggressive ads from lawyers, wannabe lawyers and other sharks offering to help hapless owners was upsetting to the public and, particularly, to owners who were being prompted to question their purchase. Flaskey admitted to seeing a dramatically rising incidence of default. ARDA is certainly seeking answers, but while the GOOYT activity is mean-spirited and, in the opinion of resort shareholders, unethical, it may be that it skates too close to the outskirts of the law to be successfully challenged.

Consumer Protection: Fair & Balanced?

Nusbaum observed that the consumer protection laws affecting sales and marketing practices are continuously being changed over the years and he wondered if the group found them reasonably balanced or running a little off-kilter.

The panel agreed with Tom Nelson who said he felt they were more balanced than ever since there has historically been so much pressure over the years for timeshare developers to ensure consumers are well informed. Nelson said Holiday Inn’s policy is to have buyers review and sign off on each of 20 points of an owner clarification document. Fredricks mentioned that Welk Resorts’ policy is to videotape closings if owners agree, which is becoming a common practice.

In Asia, a handful of developers feared the introduction of unfair consumer protection. In response,  Maurizio Bisicky said, the group launched a trades association in the region that will function like a ‘mini-ARDA,’ as he put it. The idea is to help control the introduction of legislation in the various jurisdictions through educating regulators rather than risking overly aggressive action.

Industry Shrink From the Survivor’s Viewpoint

Consolidation remained a hot topic again at this year’s convention, as it has previously. Where once there were dozens of independent developers, now there are much fewer, said Howard. Is it good for the industry? Mike, Tom and Jon see the trend as being positive when larger, more financially stable developers acquire smaller, possibly under-collateralized, resorts and add services, including refurbishment, management and prospective buyers.

Resort Trades advertisers have found it to be a challenge. On the one hand, resorts with better bottom lines can now refurbish, expand and enhance their services, which means increased purchasing. On the other side of the coin, many have found that their old standby contacts have disappeared or been reassigned. As one senior Marriott executive observed, you typically still have a number of decision-makers at the various properties. However, she observed, now you frequently have personnel changing their roles and the manager with whom a vendor previously worked may no longer be the supplier’s most appropriate connection. In our advertising sales calls, we are finding that the most successful advertisers are the ones who consistently appear in each month’s issue. They’ve found it’s no longer healthy to rely on their current book of business. “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive,” said the late Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel.

The Paranoid Are Watchful

Paranoia is what prompted the early American Land Development Association, supporting retail land developers, to morph into the American Resort Development Association. The early timeshare developers recognized the need to protect the nascent industry from scammers and miscreants. They also were early adopters of research, conducting studies to track consumer interests, financial performance and regional variances.

It’s healthy paranoia that calls for the AIF (the ARDA International Foundation) to conduct and advance industry research. Research is a tool to wave in front of authorities when they question whether or not to tax our business model, for example. Or, in Maurizio’s case, an irrefutable resource to prove the industry’s value in emerging markets.

The financial and demographic data from the Foundation’s research is what tells developers what their consumers want and which expenditures are worth the investment. Research is the tool that helped Welk Resorts determine it could sell luxury villas with private pools to well-heeled owners who desired and could afford exclusivity. It’s what made Fredricks recognize the value of hiring a Chief Fun Officer and provide activities such as the ability to create your very own superhero.

Research helped guide Diamond to earn an 89 percent satisfaction rate through personalized customer service. Studying customer preferences helped lead them to begin presenting concerts featuring acclaimed artists, such as country singer Cole Swindell. “Our decisions are rooted in data-driven analyses,” says Mike Flaskey. “Psychographics has affected the company’s sales volume to achieve $374 million in vacation ownership interests.”

AIF’s research has helped the industry respond to the public’s call for flexibility with points, short-term ownership products and short-term stays. Research helped Anantara discover that “three point two nights is the magic number.”

Continuous Disruption; Continuous Growth

In her May 2018 Developments article, “The Evolution of Timesharing: Four Decades of Amazing Growth,” Marge Lennon said, “In the early timeshare years, the current buzzword ‘disrupter’ (think Amazon, Uber) had yet to become popular. But timesharing clearly was a disrupter to the vacation home and hotel industry. It made the dream of owning a vacation home financially possible–albeit for only a week–without the hassles of maintenance. After families began vacationing in two-bedroom luxury condominiums, the ‘plain-Jane’ hotel room lost its luster, thus impacting the hotel industry as well.

Initially, the hotel industry had considered timesharing a fad that would soon pass, but the ‘fad’ soon morphed into a transforming trend. In less than two decades, the timeshare industry sustained double-digit growth–unparalleled by other industry sectors for this period of time, bringing together the real estate, travel and hospitality industries in a combination that ultimately revolutionized American’s vacation habits.”

What we see nowadays in the industry are a handful of publicly owned and private developers still investing in new resort projects.  More and more, creative travel companies are selling prepaid vacations without the encumbrance of a deeded interest, not timeshare. The industry continues to morph and change.

What About My Future?

If you’re a professional working in this industry, you’re probably asking yourself, “What about me?” I’d urge you to take heart if things appear to be tumultuous to you right now. We are, indeed, in a state of flux. It seems our industry has been threatened time and again throughout the past 40-to-50 years and, yet, smart people find solutions. Creative answers are found.

People will always need vacations. Just like we need music, art, theater – we need joy in our lives; people need to feed their souls. After all, things that bring us joy are why we work so hard.

This industry always seems to be able to offer creative solutions. Where there’s a need on the part of the consumer, there will be those among us who perceive of this need and create a solution. We’ll just need to change our model. We’ll have to become the Uber or Lyft as compared to the taxi. We’ll need to be the horseless carriage, the electric light bulb, the cell phone.

 

Saving Money on Your Orlando Vacation

orlando vacation meal planningReprinted with permission from Bay Tree Solutions: Meal Planning Can Save Money on Your Orlando Vacation.

A visit to Orlando without a day spent in one of the area’s amusement park seems out of the question to many families. But others who have ‘been-there-done-that’ may decide to skip the park and choose, instead, to lounge by the pool, play a round of golf, or visit one of the city’s many attractions.

Whatever entertainment you may select, an Orlando vacation can be a pricey undertaking. One travel expert recently observed, “How much money will you need in Orlando? $236.00 is the average daily price for traveling in Orlando. The average price of food for one day is $50.00 per person. The average price of a hotel for a couple is $216.00.”

Something may be off with my math, but when I add $100.00 for food for two, plus $216.00 for a hotel room, the daily price for an Orlando vacation appears to start at $316.00 just for room and board! Realistically, you’re going to need to plan on spending more than that if you’re to take advantage of visiting America’s biggest playground. How can you shave a few hundred off these initial basics, you might ask?

For starters, you can greatly reduce the cost of a hotel room by acquiring a vacation ownership, or timeshare, unit. This comes with the added bonus of affording you dining and kitchen areas, which leads us to our next tactic: Make a detailed meal plan for each day of your trip.

One couple writes, “We would often have a big breakfast, snack for lunch and then sit down for a nice dinner. So, we really had only two full meals per day.” Since most Americans typically have lighter fare for their midday meal, this routine would not be a sharp departure from their norm.

Judy S. from Syracuse says, “We own a week at the Sheraton Vistana Resort. It’s just my husband and me, so we’re very flexible. We’ve used our exchange privileges to visit several of the other Vistana properties in Hawaii and Arizona. So we learned that before we go, it helps to put together a shopping list that includes items for a full breakfast to have in our condo each morning and an easy one-dish dinner for most of the evenings. That way we can grab a quick sandwich on the road for lunch. When we stay at the Orlando Vistana, we’ll typically dine at one of the onsite venues a couple of times during the week. Sometimes we’ll just order a pizza or a burger from the Tacky Tiki Bar & Grill and have them deliver it.”

“We’re a family of four so we plan our budget down to the penny,” says Sarah E. from Columbus, Ohio. “We’re owners at Summer Bay Orlando by Exploria Resorts, in Kissimmee. We just love it there! For one thing, the apartments are huge and very modern, with trey ceilings and bright summery colors. But the kids love it here because there’s so much to do. There’s a lovely lake where they can go out on paddle boats or go fishing. There’s every kind of entertainment including canoeing, swimming, miniature golf, tennis, a fitness center and a game room, which is great for those rainy days. Our little one is still in diapers, so it’s great to have a washer and dryer right in the unit. Because the kids are little, we don’t go out to restaurants very often. I feel right at home in my huge kitchen at Summer Bay and can keep our expenses really low.”

“Each summer we get two units close together at Parc Soleil by Hilton Grand Vacations Club for our annual reunion,” says Marge K. from Bad Axe, Michigan. “Having a kitchen while on vacation is perfect for us. The kids can eat whenever they are hungry, without the hassle of leaving the resort or even leaving our condo. Plus, there’s plenty of space in either unit for the whole group to gather each evening. We find it’s much more affordable and comfortable to stay at a timeshare resort, rather than at a hotel. Without our kitchens, there’d be eleven of us eating pizza on a bed. Yuck!”

Sarah observes that she ordinarily visits the nearby Publix supermarket on the way to the resort. “We are usually a little tired from traveling by the time we get to Orlando. So, for the first night we pick up two rotisserie chickens, a ready-made salad and maybe chips or a potato salad. That way we’ll have an extra chicken the next day. We’ll buy cold cuts, bread and mayonnaise to tide us through lunches for the first few days. My children are content with cereal for breakfast, although, lately, I’ve been treating them to French toast. So we add that to the basket, plus drinks and desert treats. After a few days, we get into a rhythm of playing outdoors or participating in an activity in the morning, grabbing a sandwich for lunch, and then spending the rest of the afternoon in the pool. We wait until the fifth or sixth day before visiting Walt Disney World or Universal Studios. I think part of the fun is the anticipation.”

“Because we have such a large group, we make a pretty detailed plan,” says Marge. “We have some teens in the family and, boy, can they chow down! So before we even pack a bag, my sister and I sit down together and plan each and every day. This helps us justify adding a few more excursions during our week. For example, one year we visited Ybor City, which is a colorful, historic village full of art deco appointments. It was founded in 1885 as a base for cigar factories and you can still watch through a shop window as an artisan works his craft.”

“We don’t really plan too far in advance,” says Judy. “We’ve come to the Sheraton Vistana Resort for several years and we’ve worked out an easy-to-follow routine. Right before we leave home I make up a shopping list of easy-to-prepare things like frozen entrees, veggies and deserts. Publix has a wonderfully convenient delivery service. They’ll even deliver liquor so my husband and I can have our ‘Vacation Margueritas’ in the evenings. I have to admit it; I am really lazy when I’m on vacation. The Publix is located right there, but I don’t want to waste time grocery shopping. So I place my order online and they’ll deliver it to the unit.”

The ability to stay in a condo with all the appliances and conveniences of home gives you a head-start when it comes to saving money on vacation, wherever you go. And with a little planning ahead or, even with not-so-much planning ahead, you can cut reduce your dining expense by as much as 50 percent or more! After all, more money in your pocket means more opportunity to explore and experience adventures with your friends and family.

4 Easy Tips to Stay Fit on Vacation

(As published on Bay Tree Solutions blog: https://www.baytreesolutions.com/blog/2018/03/28/4-tips-to-stay-fit-on-your-next-vacation.)

A vacation should be a means to restore your vitality, as well as to enjoy the company of those with whom you travel. For Americans, this usually includes lounging by the beach or pool, enjoying a cocktail while gazing at a perfect outdoor scene at sunset and enjoying leisurely meals and …oh yes!…sampling deserts! According to an article in Eat This magazine, “It might come as no surprise that vacation days can cause weight gain, but it’s not just the alcohol that’s doing it. Between skipped workouts, lazy days by the pool, and extra-indulgent restaurant meals, there are plenty of vacation mistakes that are wrecking your body goals.”

My theory is just the opposite. If properly planned and executed, I believe these four tips will help keep you fit on your next vacay. So, read on!

Tip #1 – Stay Active & Engaged.

Fortunately for those of us enjoying our vacation at a timeshare resort, we’ve got options. Many resorts are actually famous for their activities, such as the award-winning ‘INSPIRED FOR YOU’ program at the Welk Resort in Escondido. There you can try your hand at one of their championship golf courses or enjoy one of the five recreation centers and a stunning new 6,000 square foot fitness center featuring spin and yoga rooms, state-of-the-art strength and cardio machines and a two-story climbing wall.

Typically, a resort’s activities director will host poolside activities. For example, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa features several pools. One of these, High Rock Spring Pool, is the resort’s hub and includes a Donald Duck-themed splash area for tots, plus a 126-foot waterslide zipping past a waterfall. For grownups, there are two whirlpool tubs nestled on a rocky hill overlooking the pool. Monster’s Inc., G-Force and Enchanted are just a few of the poolside movies offered at night.

Tip #2 – Save Your Restaurant Outings for Special Occasions.

One blogger advises keeping a fairly consistent diet. “It helps maintain weight better than being erratic.  Even when you’re on vacation, aim to eat roughly the same amount and kinds of food as you usually do. Your body will thank you.” Consider stocking your fridge with plenty of easy-to-fix ingredients. We especially like keeping packages of precut veggies and fruits on hand to tempt the kids instead of having them load up on sugary snacks or begging to go to a fast food joint. Most evenings we will serve a simple meal like a salad, canned or frozen veggies and a rotisserie chicken or a broiled steak. There’s nothing like having a home-away-from-home with a dining area and kitchen facilities to make this possible!

We especially like the way Marriott Vacation Club timeshare condos are designed in this respect. Marriott’s Grand Chateau in Las Vegas has one of the most spacious and commodious suites we’ve encountered, yet. Located within a short walk of the Strip a block south of Flamingo Road, you can stroll over to one of the casinos to try your luck. But with the marketplace and restaurants, fitness center, rooftop pool and spa facilities located in-house, you may never wish to leave this luxurious palace!

Tip #3 – Get Out And Enjoy the Sites.

Maybe it’s time to be adventurous and try something new. Challenge yourself to try something different while you’re away. Break out of a workout rut and use vacation as an excuse to try rock climbing, sailing, zip-lining or parasailing. Or maybe you’d be more comfortable on the golf course or at the bowling alley. How about a walk on the beach, a hike through the foothills or a stroll through a colorful village?

Whatever you choose, staying active is a great way to keep your mind young and your body in shape. My husband and I enjoy studying history. So whenever possible, we love to visit sites such as Williamsburg, Virginia, where we can get our exercise in while learning more about the life and times of colonials. In addition to historic attractions, there are world-class roller coasters in Busch Gardens and other theme parks and theaters presenting Broadway-style shows, not to mention tours such as a sunset voyage on a pirate ship. Aargh!

We found King’s Creek Plantation to be a great location. The resort is fairly new and we like the roomier accommodations and more modern layout and fixtures. When you get tired of tromping around the historic district, the resort has all the amenities you’d expect and then some. It has a delightful Aquatic Center with a beautiful junior-size Olympic swimming pool for year-round enjoyment. Plus there are three outdoor pools.

Tip #4 – Enjoy Your Travel Companions

Keep work away. It’s a vacation, remember? Resist the urge to check work e-mails and focus on having fun. It will keep your mind clear and allow you to decompress. Free your mind. Meditating for just a few minutes each day can help relieve anxiety and stress. Bonus points if you can find a beautiful space to do it in.Most of all, enjoy the company of the people around you.

When we take a vacation, it’s like meeting one another for the first time in years…I mean, really getting reacquainted, connecting and communicating. Getting away to a resort with living areas separate from bedrooms is about the only way to truly do this, in my opinion. We play games, talk about school and work or just sit together reading or watching TV. There’s a closeness in this that we just can’t get at home and certainly can’t get in a starchy hotel room.

Plus, we always seem to meet fun people at resorts each and every time we go. The atmosphere is so relaxed; people are at their most serene and friendly.  The most current belief in the health community is that people who connect with friends and loved ones actually live longer and have greater health.

A vacation doesn’t have to mean you’re going to gain five pounds. If you make the most of your time away, you can return refreshed, renewed and invigorated. And who knows? Perhaps you will have added precious time to your lifespan!

One Top Travel Secret: Kennebunk, ME, in the Off-Season

(Published on Bay Tree Solutions’ blog, https://www.baytreesolutions.com/blog/2018/02/15/one-top-travel-secret-kennebunk-maine-in-the-off-season)

As a recent article, “What the Travel Industry Needs in 2018,” posted by Robin Amster on TravelPulse.com mentions, “the line between ‘high’ and ‘shoulder’ season has blurred as travelers head out to explore destinations year-round.” The author prognosticates that this year’s travel trends will be punctuated by “New Seasons for Traditional Destinations.”

This is particularly good news for timeshare resort owners who might wish to optimize their week by using their week(s)’ exchange value or points. You can really stretch your vacation ownership privileges when you explore resorts in the off-season.

How about a visit to Kennebunkport, Maine? Long an elite vacation spot for well-heeled patricians, this is the site of the summer home of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, father of former U.S. President George W. Bush. During his presidency, George H.W. Bush would occasionally host world leaders here, including Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev. Later, George W. Bush found it the ideal setting for a less formal get-together with Vladimir Putin.

While you are not likely to run into a member of the Bush dynasty outside the summer season, you can still enjoy having an entire beach to yourself if you visit from September through May. Located nearby is the small (with only 10,000 or so inhabitants), historic town of Kennebunk, where you can enjoy the full range of condo amenities in “84 Maine,” a cozy timeshare resort in the heart of town.

84 Maine is part of the popular Capital Resorts Group Vacation Club points program; allowing owners to exchange to any Capital Resorts location worldwide, in addition to Interval International’s network of more than 3,000 resorts in over 80 nations. Located in the town of Kennebunkport, 84 Maine offers eco-friendly one, two, and three-bedroom units with hardwood floors, gourmet kitchens, and private patios overlooking the town’s charming Main Street. Browse Capital Resorts timeshares for sale at 84 Maine at low ‘for sale by owner’ prices!

The Brick Store Museum is located just down the street and is worth visiting several times during your stay. Founder Edith C. Barry amassed a large number of family heirlooms and art during the beginning years of the Brick Store Museum, beginning in 1936. Today, the Museum houses close to 70,000 artifacts and archival materials.

Ms. Barry’s great-grandfather, William Lord, began constructing the main part of the museum as a dry goods store in 1825. At the time of Lord’s death in 1873, he was one of the wealthiest men in town. “Initially known as Lord’s Store, it was unusual for its time by being constructed of locally-kilned brick, a far more expensive alternative than constructing from plentiful Maine timber,” we are told by the website. “Although the brick exterior of the building remains relatively unchanged from the 19th Century, the interior has been altered significantly. Evidence of the building’s past as a store still remains upstairs, however; a windlass (or pulley system) used to hoist heavy goods is visible through a skylight.”

How fortunate for us that Lord took such pains to erect a building that has lasted almost 200 years! Edith Barry acquired three other buildings, all dating from the 1800s and expanded the museum’s footprint considerably. “These buildings date from 1810 to 1860. The initial core of the Museum’s collections came from the Lords and related families, but the Museum today is a regional history, art, and archives center.

“While many items can be found on display in rotating exhibits, most of our items are stored in a secured area of the Museum. Objects in our collections are used for exhibitions, educational programs, and research. The number of artifacts grows every day with new donations relating to the history of our community in the Kennebunks and southern Maine.

“Imagine quilts with secret pouches and handwritten inscriptions. Or a rare chest dating to 1685. Even a painting found floating at sea of a Kennebunkport ship captain. Examine pieces salvaged from area shipwrecks. Peek inside a Civil War drum for a real surprise. View the largest collection of World War I and II posters in all of Maine. Witness paintings created by Thomas Badger, John Brewster, Jr., Abbott Fuller Graves, Louis Norton, and Hannah Skeele.”

After a morning spent surveying how the typical ‘Maineiac ‘ lived during the Nineteenth Century, you can virtually remain in the past with lunch at the picturesque general store, H.B. Provisions. In 2002, an enterprising couple took over this 1865 building, turning it into a popular meeting place for the town’s community and where visitors can find a variety of unique gifts from Maine, as well as wine, beer, liquor, made to order deli breakfast and sandwiches, fresh baked goods, specialty coffee and more.

Those interested in the Great Outdoors may wish to visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. It was established in 1966 in cooperation with the State of Maine to protect valuable salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds. A few of the activities to be enjoyed — particularly during the warmer months — include hunting, fishing, shell-fishing, kayaking and more. “Located along 50 miles of coastline in York and Cumberland counties, the refuge consists of eleven divisions between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth. It will contain approximately 14,600 acres when land acquisition is complete. The proximity of the refuge to the coast and its location between the eastern deciduous forest and the boreal forest creates a composition of plants and animals not found elsewhere in Maine. Major habitat types present on the refuge include forested upland, barrier beach/dune, coastal meadows, tidal salt marsh, and the distinctive rocky coast.”

With easy access to beaches from Kennebunk, here are some ideas one writer at www.weekendnotes.com/visit-the-beach-winter offered:

“You might think I am bonkers for mentioning going to the beach during the coldest season of the month, but I’m not crazy, I actually have a lot of good reasons for you and your family to visit the beach and things you can do there in Winter.

• Go shell collecting. The sand won’t be hot like it is in the Summer so it will be easier to walk around and dig up old shells. Lots of fun, my boys seem to really enjoy this activity – they paste the mini shells onto paper using glue.

• Take lovely photos of the beach. It will be less crowded and easier to take some really nice landscape shots. Kids at the beach also make for really good photos too.

• Watch the sunset and the waves crashing while there is no one around, most likely the beach will be empty. It is the perfect time to sit on a blanket or pier and watch the waves rolling in.

• Eat some hot food on the beach, if it is slightly warm or a bit cool it will feel nice eating hot food like fish and chips on the beach. You can even eat it from inside the car, but still watching the beach.

• Go for a run along the beach, much easier to do than in Summer because there isn’t a lot of people.

• I love the beach during the Winter, I think it is more beautiful and more fun to enjoy. My favorite part is that there is hardly anybody there, and if there is you can always make friends.

• I have noticed tides can be quite rough in the Winter time so always be careful and make sure your kids do not fall into the water.”

If beaches are your ‘thing,’ then check out gokennebunks.com/pages/visiting/beaches to read reviews and select your favorite. Regardless when you visit or how you like to spend your holiday time, however, this vacation destination is a great spot for anyone interested in beating the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, you’ll fall in love with 84 Maine!