The Grass is Greener!
Service members and DoD
civilians are eligible to rent condominiums in certain
resorts around the world as part of a vacation club
arrangement between the Army and a civilian corporation.
Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation arranged with Cendant
Corp. and one of its subsidiaries, Resort Condominiums
International, to offer the condos at reduced rates to
active and reserve service members, military retirees, DoD
civilians, and any other persons eligible to use military
morale, welfare and recreation services.
The deal offers condominium unit rentals for $234 per week
at selected resorts. The normal rates are $600 to $1,500
per week in season, according to Verlin Abbott, Cendant
national vice president for DoD and government marketing.
"I have gotten phones calls from scores of individual MWR
offices talking about how great the program is - received
e-mails from hundreds of places around the country from
active duty soldiers, retired military and DoD civilians,
asking how to sign up," said Dan Yount, chief of Army
leisure travel services. "The program has generated a lot
of positive response from people."
Yount said he thinks the program is a good deal for the DoD
community. "I've stayed in some of these places at a much
higher rate," he said. "It cost me $1,000-plus. So $234 a
week for anything from a three-bedroom unit to an
efficiency is a good deal. Also, these units are renovated
every three years. These are great places."
More than 327 military bases currently take part in the
program, which started as a test project with 18
Washington, D.C.-area military installations in November
1998. The program expanded nationwide in August 1999.
Military officials recently began to promote the program
overseas to take advantage of the many condominium resorts
outside the United States, MWR representatives said.
Cendant/RCI manages more than 3,700 time-share resorts
worldwide. The discount arrangement is possible because not
all resort units are used by owners or rented all the time.
The company must pay upkeep costs, but receives no revenue
while units are vacant.
Cendant's Abbott, a retired Army officer, said the condo
rentals are made available at near-cost to military members
and DoD civilians. "This way, we're able to cover expenses
and the service member is getting a fun, inexpensive
vacation," he said.
In the arrangement between the Army and RCI, the vacationer
can get information about the Armed Forces Vacation Club
from any MWR Information, Tickets and Reservation office or
Information, Tickets and Tours office, or they can get
information and book reservations either online or via a
toll-free telephone reservation center.
Access to club information is available by visiting the
"Great Travel Deals" Web site at
www.armymwr.com/portal/travel/traveldeals and clicking on
the Armed Forces Vacation Club logo.
In navigating the club Web site, visitors will find a list
of available units and dates among the thousands of
participating resort for booking, all for $234 for seven
nights. Service members or civilians can reserve a condo
using a major credit card. The MWR office receives $22 for
every reservation booked.
Some restrictions apply. Confirmed vacations are not
transferable. The customer purchasing the space-available
voucher must check in at the resort and be at least 21
years old. Pets are not allowed at any location.
Abbott said service members and civilians must be flexible
with their requests. "You're not going to get Vail
(Colorado) at Christmas," he said. "Generally, what's
available is off-season or on relatively short notice." In
fact, most vacancies aren't posted until 14 to 21 days
before the scheduled date of arrival, he said.
Participating resorts have different amenities. Typically,
condos feature up to three bedrooms, a living room and
fully equipped full or partial kitchens. Many units have
laundry facilities or such amenities as whirlpool tubs or
fireplaces. Guests have access to on-site or nearby
facilities, such as beaches, golf courses, tennis courts,
spas, ski slopes, fishing lakes, hiking paths, horseback
riding, restaurants and shops. Many resorts also provide
planned adult and children's activities.
RCI is a time-share exchange company, but service members
and DoD civilians have no obligation to sit through sales
pitches or other presentations, Yount said.