If someone invites you to join a travel club, don’t go, run!
But if you’re reading this, you probably haven’t. You’ve fallen for the offer of a free cruise or vacation. You attended the presentation, with its laughable and pressured sales tactics. And you ended up with a worthless travel club membership. Now you are trying to find a way out of your travel club.
You will need all the help you can get. Travel clubs make timeshares look like charities when it comes to their contracts and policies. It is possible to leave a travel club, but the combination of questionable benefits and one-sided contracts means the best thing you can do is not join in the first place.
What is a travel club?
A travel club, sometimes also called a vacation club, is a monthly or annual membership program that offers discounts on airline tickets, hotel rooms, or rental cars. Many travel clubs come under the name Costcos or Sam’s Clubs for travel. They are not. Instead, they are memberships of negligible value and sold through questionable tactics.
What does a travel club offer?
A typical club will offer an annual membership and may also charge an “initiation” fee. You will receive a membership card and ID for the company’s website, which promises you special negotiated rates on travel.
Benefits may include:
- A 50 percent or more discount on travel.
- Buy One / Get Free Airline Ticket or Attendant Certificate.
- A “free” cruise.
- Two days of “free” vacation.
- A discounted access card that offers a special deal on non-travel related items, such as restaurants and attractions.
Wait! My travel club is different
Terms such as “travel club” and “vacation club” can cover a variety of travel products. But don’t be confused. For example, the Disney Vacation Club is not really a “club” in the traditional sense. It’s a timeshare program, and while it’s one of the best, it’s still a timeshare program. Spirit Airlines’ $ 9 Fare Club, which costs $ 69.95 a year – that’s right, and I don’t know why they don’t call it the $ 69.95 Fare Club – just gives you access to select Spirit Airlines discount flights.
A real travel club is different. It takes your money and may not give you anything of value for it. Yes, some are more crooks than others. But at the end of the day, you can get more for your dollar by carefully researching the best deal and buying your plane ticket, cruise, or hotel room on the open market. No need to join the club.
Are travel club offers legitimate?
Travel clubs may have some deals for you, but how good are they?
- The discounts are generally no better than those you’ll find on Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity.
- The accompanying certificate requires you to purchase a full-fare economy class ticket, which costs double what you would pay for a regular coach seat.
- Access to discounts does not offer better discounts than your AAA or AARP membership.
- And then there are “free” vacations or cruises. Let’s dive right into that one.
Is this “free” cruise real?
Many vacation clubs try to hook you into a presentation with the promise of a “free” cruise, but it’s not a free cruise. Believe me. It’s not. I have received many complaints from travelers who believe they have received a legitimate offer, by mail, of a free cruise or vacation in exchange for a presentation for a travel club.
Carefully read the fine print on the travel club application. The offers are very restrictive, even fraudulent. You will need to pay to get to the port and cover unspecified “fees” that may total more than the cost of a cruise you would buy from a regular travel agent. In addition, blackout dates apply to the offer. Once you’ve cleared all the hurdles to grab the ‘free’ vacation, there’s a good chance you’ve spent more money than if you had just booked an old-fashioned cruise – plus, you might be. member of an unnecessary travel club.
What about affiliate stations?
My advocacy team recently heard from clients of travel clubs associated with resorts, such as the Palladium Travel Club.
These clubs operate in the same way as independent travel clubs in the United States.
The pitch is simple: while you are on vacation, you receive an invitation to attend a presentation. There, you are offered a club membership which offers discounts on future vacations at other hotels operated by the same company.
Travel clubs are vague about their benefits. For example, they offer “special” offers without details. They give you “priority booking” access when the benefits of a priority booking are not at all clear.
In other ways, these travel clubs are identical to their American counterparts. You get a relentless sales pitch followed by a contract that you don’t have enough time to read. And, because of foreign cancellation laws – or more specifically, a lack of foreign cancellation laws – once you sign on the dotted line, you are forced to pay thousands of dollars.
Is there a legitimate travel club?
Travel clubs are among the most fraudulent products in the travel industry. No one likes their pressurized sales tactics. Travel agencies hurt themselves when they market their products in this way. They may make short-term gains, but they will alienate many long-term customers.
I only know of one legitimate travel club: AAA. Its membership prices are reasonable, you can cancel anytime, and you get real benefits.
How to survive the pitch?
Most travel clubs use direct mail, with free vacation offers, to lure you into one of their sales centers. Presentations typically take place in a rented space in a shopping mall or hotel conference center.
These high-pressure presentations put the timeshare industry to shame, both in terms of the pressure they apply and the huge promises they make. At the same time, because travel clubs are so mobile – they’re usually not tied to a particular product or real estate in the same way that timeshare sellers are – they can get away with almost anything. , and they do.
If you go, gather some information about the club. A simple Internet search for the name of the club, along with keywords like “scam,” “fraud,” or “scam,” can reveal a wealth of useful information. Remember that travel clubs often change names and locations and use sophisticated search engine manipulation techniques (sometimes called reputation management) to make sure nothing bad happens. when you search for them.
Here is a tip: Look for the owners of the club, not the club itself. I’ve seen travel clubs that looked neat online, but their owners… not so much.
What to do during a travel club presentation
Secure your price before the pitch. If you can claim your “free” cruise or vacation before the action begins, so much the better. No price, no presentation.
Repeat after me, “I’m not ready to buy. Never, ever buy a travel club in a party. If you must, give yourself a cooling-off period to think about the offer. To do this, you must leave your credit card and checkbook at home.
Train with me now: “I’m not ready to buy. “
Beware of the “plants” of the public. A favorite tactic of travel clubs is to have agents planted in the audience. They applaud and ask enthusiastic questions to which, inevitably, there is a ready-made answer. (“How do I know if I’m getting the best deal?”) Ignore those around you. As far as you know, you might be the only prospect in the room.
If you think you are interested in the club, ask to review the contract. Like timeshares, travel clubs have ridiculously complicated deals. Ask your salesperson if you can take the contract home to review it, which is a perfectly reasonable request. Better yet, say you want to show it to your lawyer. Chances are, your partner will balk and tell you it’s not allowed. It is your sign to direct you to the exit.
Prepare for a loved one who will not take “no” for an answer. You must be ready to go through the door. Closers will continue to reduce the price of the club or offer to waive the initiation fee. It is a sign of despair. Be prepared to be “guilty” of accepting the “free” cruise without also considering the club. Go away. I repeat: get away.
Why you won’t get 60% off your next travel purchase (even if you’re part of a travel club)
it helps to understand how products are priced in the travel industry. It is true that airlines, cruise lines and hotels discount their products, and often aggressively. But they also have contracts with online travel agencies and computerized reservation systems that prevent their fares from being too discounted from their sticker prices in order to block excessive discounts. In other words, the savings promised by a travel club violate a contract or, more likely, do not exist at all. Anyway, run!
Can I leave a travel club?
Your options for escaping the clutches of a travel club are limited. You may have an “out” in your contract, but as before, you need to be careful of what’s in your contract, not what a seller tells you.
If you paid with a credit card you can dispute the charge, but you will have to prove that you didn’t get what you paid for, and this can be difficult once the travel club shows your contract. super restrictive to your banking litigation department. Small claims court or your state attorney general are other options, but by the time the law catches up with a travel club, it’s usually long gone, and for you it’s an expensive lesson learned. .
What is the end result of vacation clubs?
Travel clubs are a scam, for the most part. Responding to direct mail that gives you a free cruise or vacation is like falling into a trap. You better throw the offer in the trash and never look back. Remember that there is no free ticket.