It’s Good to Be Home

We’ve been away for a week-long vacation in New Braunfels, Texas, visiting nearby family and just getting away from the usual routine. We had a GOOD time. Lots of laughs, good food and wine, tons of relaxation, and nice weather…with the exception of one creepy night of howling wind that set my imagination on fire. Even though it’s good to be home, leaving this morning to head home was hard. But we ripped that band-aid quick and I didn’t have time to get choked up. It’s so hard to say goodbye to people we only see once, sometimes twice a year. I’m so thankful for the time we spent with everyone and all the good times we had. For once, I don’t have any pictures because I was busy just enjoying all the great company, Scrabble games, and trips to the hot tub. (Therapeutic for Don’s knee of course.) 🙂

Now it’s back to life as usual. I’m still unpacking, doing laundry, cleaning overfull cat boxes and reassuring the boys that we are in fact not leaving them forever. I look forward to my own bed tonight. It’s nice to be in our own space again.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
~ Dr. Seuss

Christmas in New Orleans – The French Quarter

After the Cirque Show on Christmas Eve we wandered the French Quarter and browsed the shops, ate a great dinner at a Cajun restaurant, and walked back to WorldMark New Orleans on St. Charles Ave. It was a good day.

Artwork at Louis Armstrong Park.

Homes between the park and the French Quarter.

A glimpse of the French Quarter…

Sharing the spirit of Christmas with music.

The storefronts were even better after dark.

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Christmas in New Orleans – Cirque Dreams Holidaze

If you have never been to a Cirque show…O. M. G. You’ve got to add it to your “must-do”, bucket list, whatever. I know it can be expensive but I’m telling you, it’s worth, every, penny.

The things these people do! It’s mind-blowing.

I know. They practice. It’s an art. A skill. Still. It’s impressive. Words can’t even describe the awesomeness. The music. The singing! The acrobatics. The contortionist-type acrobatics! The timing. The costumes. The…everything to make it all come together. It’s simply amazing. Chills up my arms during the opening act awesome.

I wish I had pictures from the first half but I wasn’t sure cameras were “ok.” During intermission they announced no flash photography, and after that, it was ON baby!

Now, for purists, Cirque Dreams and Cirque de Soleil are not the same thing. True. But I’ve been to one show by each and I was impressed by both. So, my two-cents, if either are ever in your town, they are worth your time. If you want to be a purist, wait and see a Cirque de Soleil show in Vegas. I hope to see one some day. But Cirque Dreams was in New Orleans this past weekend, so to Cirque Dreams we went. We were not disappointed.

You’ll have to forgive my photography. I didn’t have my dSLR and I was taking point-and-shoot shots with no flash. It can only be so good.

This first shot is to highlight the costume of this character who was one of the singers. O.M.G. I loved her dress. It sparkled like you wouldn’t believe in the lights, which, I know you unfortunately can’t see very well. But maybe you can imagine. 🙂

On to some amazing balancing acts…

The stand the girl is on is balanced on the shoulders of the guy below and it spins! It was nuts.

Oh yeah, this spins too. She got up inside and then did all sorts of contortions while spinning, balanced on the guy below.

This guy. Lordy. He did a ton of balancing on things that rolled. He started out with one and this little ladder on the board. Then it really got crazy.

There are at least five rounded items under the board he’s standing on. And he’s spinning in a circle while balancing.

I think he’s got seven items he’s balancing on in this last act.

He never fell. It was crazy.

Balancing acts on bicycles. I wish I could have gotten more pictures of this act. There were up to four bicyclists out at a time, standing, balancing, jumping from bike to bike. Simply amazing.

The final act. The three singers and a solo dance/acrobat act.

She totally was doing en pointe, on the guy! I don’t know about you, but that impresses me.

The cast taking a final bow.

Really. I’m telling you. Mind-blowing awesome.

Pictures must not be too picturesque.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Christmas in New Orleans – City Park Lights

We took our first ever holiday vay-kay and spent the weekend in New Orleans at our timeshare. We enjoyed the City Park Lights, walked the French Quarter, took in a Cirque Show, sampled some local cuisine, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Christmas lights are one of my favorite parts of the holiday. I brought the new camera along and tried to get some creative shots. I have to admit, it was a little tricky but I managed to get a few worth sharing. I hope you enjoy this peek into the display at the New Orleans City Park, Celebration in the Oaks.

Here they told a little Cajun-flavored Night Before Christmas story, accompanied by lights. Complete with gators pulling Santa through the bayou.

The vertical lights are actually dripping down the strand of lights. It was a really magical effect.

Don spied this little critter from far away – his eyes are amazing! We went around the display so I could try to get a picture. He didn’t seem the least bit bothered or interested in all the people in the park. Most didn’t even know he was there, he was high above in the trees minding his own business.

They had a display with trains that was really neat. Definitely a highlight of the park.

The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Timeshare Travel Deconstructed

Last week I mentioned our timeshare program. People are always interested in how it works, what it cost, why we decided to do it, whether we like it. So let me tell you what we think.


Sure, nothing is perfect. We’ve had minor frustrations from time to time, but overall, owning time in a program that allows us to travel worldwide, without hotel or resorts costs at the time of the trip, is the best way to integrate travel as a mainstay in your lifestyle.

We’ve been Worldmark owners since June of 2002 and we’ve booked 18 trips in the past nine years. These trips would have been vastly different, if ever even happened, had we not been timeshare owners. (I could not find pictures of all the trips.)

Gleneden Beach, OR

Klamath Falls, OR

Whistler, B.C. – 3 times




Ocean Shores, WA

Seaside, OR

Leavenworth, WA

Newport, OR
Destin, FL
San Antonio, TX
Orlando, FL

Orlando, FL – booked for a friend (we are happy to share!)
Birch Bay, WA – booked for a friend
Las Vegas, NV – booked for a friend
Kihei, HI – sent in-laws to Hawaii

New Orleans, LA

New Braunfels, TX – pics on my post last week

Some of these were week-long vacations, some of these were just quick weekend getaways. Worldmark is a points based program that allows you the flexibility to book where you want, when you want, for as long or short as you want – within guidelines of course.

Generally speaking, if you book six months in advance, you have to book for seven nights, and you can book up to a year in advance. When booking with less than six month notice, you can book your days as desired. Of course, for high demand locations, planning something with less than six months lead time can be challenging. At peak season, high demand resorts fill up quickly – especially by those folks who have the time to take a full week and have booked a year in advance.

Worldmark owners have a core family of resorts to choose from that are part of the Worldmark network. In addition, Worldmark is partnered with RCI. Members can trade, or exchange, Worldmark points to RCI for booking options at their vast network of over 4,000 resorts worldwide. The possibilities are endless.

I know, I know. How much does this all cost? I’ll get there, I promise.

When we first joined, we started out small with only 6,000 points. Then we bought 2,000 more. Then another 7,000, then another 5,000. We are now Gold members at 20,000 points. What does that mean?

A lot of BIG trips like our week in Orlando for Disney and sending the folks to Hawaii, were 11,000 and 10,000 respectively. So, the 20,000 mark is often defined by the idea that you could book two, one-week vacations, every year, for life. Points renew every year. You can borrow from the future year, or bank the current year for one more year.

When you buy into a points based program, you buy points (or credits) on a per point value. Say you buy 5,000 points at $1.50/pp, for $7,500. (Our purchases ranged from $1.30-$1.55/pp.) In addition to this flat fee to buy into the program, owners pay maintenance fees. Based on the total points value, owners pay an annual maintenance fee that goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the Worldmark family resorts. For our 20,000 points, we pay about $1,000/yr to help maintain the resorts. Once we pay off our initial investment, those maintenance fees are the only expenses for the life of our membership – which I think I mentioned, lasts forever. You can will it to family even.

How much did our 20,000 points cost us? About $40,000, after financing. We only have about $15,000 to go.

Now, before you fall over from sticker shock (or maybe you already did), look at it this way.

If we had paid to stay in a resort style hotel in Orlando for 7 nights in 2009, at say $150/night (a pretty low estimate for a room to meet the equivalent of our resorts), it would have cost us $1050, out-of-pocket. For just the room! For most people, it is incredibly difficult to save up this much money (and more for food, entertainment, and transportation) for a week-long vacation which is why you see so many people struggling to vacation, taking more stay-cations, and such. Multiply that $1,050 over 30 years and that’s $31,500 right there. We have the vacationing power to do that twice a year, so double that and you’ve got $63,000 in hotel fees.

Owning Worldmark and spreading our costs for travel accommodations throughout the year is easier for us than trying to save the money in the hope of planning travel that may or may not be realized if we are unable to save. We still have to save for all the other expenses and that is enough of a challenge. Ideally we will continue to travel so much over the rest of our lives that we will be saving ourselves money by using Worldmark resorts that we’ve already paid to enjoy, and only pay minimal upkeep fees.

There is more to the story of course. This only gives a brief glimpse into the possibilities. Worldmark owners can use their points for more than just resorts, they can be used for airfare, cruises, and tours, and they are always expanding and creating more opportunities. As of yet we have not used any of these additional travel benefits but we have a lot of years left to enjoy them.

There are lots more other little things to know as well but hopefully this will demystify some of the world of points-based timeshare programs for you.

There is darker side of our story too. We did buy into another program, a year or two before Worldmark and for about a year we juggling both programs. Things did not work out between us and the first program. Luckily, we managed to sell it off and we’ve been happy with just Worldmark ever since.

So the moral of my story is that not all timeshare programs are equal. I advise anyone interested in timeshare travel to really do your homework. Sales presentations are often very high pressure and it can be hard to walk away. Be wary, learn what you can before you attend. I can talk all day about how much we love Worldmark but that’s because we found the right program for us.

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.
~ Seneca