Bringing My “A” Game

Angela BA few weeks ago I was approached by Christel House to be a guest speaker for Career Day.  I was told I would present to two classes of fourth graders.  I had been to Christel House Academy in Indianapolis several times volunteering, to help with administrative items for teachers, and also for their fall family event, which RCI sponsors, but this would be my first time as a guest speaker.

When I arrived, I was seated with three other guest speakers, one of whom was Josh, an ex-marine double amputee. And I thought to myself, the kids would be in awe because he was a marine and I would really need to bring my A game to keep their attention!

Each class had approximately twenty students. Since I work in the vacation business, and Christel House is one of Wyndham’s Charity of Choice foundations, I wanted to focus my presentation on how we engage our associates to continue to create vacation dreams for our members, and the importance of organizations giving back to the community where they are located.

Since I was speaking to students and RCI is about vacations, I decided to include a geography quiz within my presentation, so that I could reward the students who answered the geography questions correctly.  The photo below is from one of the classes I spoke to, where in the end, I gave each student a Frisbee with the RCI logo on it!

CHA Students

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“Work hard. Believe in yourself. Set goals. Surround yourself with good people."

Becky ABecky A., Director, Christel House Indianapolis

A few weeks ago, I attended the very first graduation for our Christel House Drop Out Recovery School (DORS) here in Indianapolis. It is a program where adults, age 18 and older, can earn their high school diplomas (not a GED) and college credit at a local community college at the same time. We launched the program in August 2012, and in our first year, have approximately 175 students ranging in age from 18 – 53.

Our first graduating class consisted of 5 students, four women and a man. They ranged in age from 19 to 34 and had 9 children between them.  All of them have struggled to make ends meet on minimum wage pay and were searching for better lives for themselves and their families. Life is tough, but even more so when you don’t have a high school diploma. The average high school graduate earns $8,000 more a year than a person without a diploma. That extra $8,000 a year means the ability to put food on the table, buy diapers for babies, put gas in the car and pay the electric bill each month. It also translates into an extra $300,000 in earnings over a lifetime. It has a significant impact on a family’s quality of life and on a person’s own self-worth.

Each of our graduates had a dream to earn their high school diploma. As I watched them march in to “Pomp and Circumstance,” wearing their caps and gowns, I thought about how much courage it must take to return to school after not having a positive experience the first time. All of them juggle jobs, families and school work. It has been an uphill battle, but they didn’t give up. They were not looking for handouts. They were willing to put in the work to improve their lives.  They just needed a place to do that. That place is Christel House.

As I congratulated them, each one told me how hard they worked to achieve this milestone in their lives. The young man told me there were days he just wanted to give up and would think about blowing off class, but his classmates would text him and tell him he needed to come to school. One of the young women told me that she was deeply grateful to our principal, Emily, who was both tough on her and her biggest champion. She gained the self-confidence she needed to understand that she can do anything she sets her mind to do.  That young woman is going on to study at our local community college now.

The commencement speech was delivered by Christel DeHaan, the founder of Christel House and co-founder of RCI.  She shared with the graduates her thoughts on how to live a successful life. Work hard.  Believe in yourself. Set goals. Surround yourself with good people. Good advice coming from anyone, but most poignant because of who was speaking.

I’ve heard Christel DeHaan give that same advice many times before and I’ve seen her live it.  My first job out of college was at RCI and I am fortunate to work with her at Christel House.   You may not know this, but RCI was started in her living room nearly 40 years ago. She set goals, worked hard and surrounded herself with good people. What started as a home-based, fledgling business is now a leader in the vacation ownership industry and a multi-national company that sends millions of people on vacation around the world each year. 

“Work hard. Believe in yourself. Set goals. Surround yourself with good people.” It works. I hope our graduates carry that advice with them throughout their lives.

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Georgia mountains on my mind

Before going on a vacation with my family I always read the reviews. I focus on travelers looking for the same things I do: family friendly, a variety of activities, and great outdoor adventures. In addition, I like to call the resort staff and speak with someone from the area.

I called Country Hideaway at Mountain Lakes and spoke with the sweetest lady. I felt an immediate reassurance that this was the right place for my family and our guests.

Our unit was clean and well stocked, with a wooden deck overlooking a perfect lake. I fished each morning as the coffee brewed. Hummingbirds, ducks and geese were our pets for the week. We had the run of the place with water slides, a country store, a clubhouse with every amenity possible, trails, horses, etc. My son loved swimming in a lake without alligators! The fireworks for the 4th of July (one week early for resort guests) were picture perfect over the lake...we watched from our deck. The area boasts the town of Helen, the Blue Ridge Parkway, loads of state parks and waterfalls...too much to name. We had our first whitewater rafting trip on this vacation; pure joy! We long to return to the mountains...we booked our Christmas Holiday at another resort, this time in North Carolina. I'll let you know how that goes!

-Susan R. from DeBary, FL

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Need a Scenic Escape? Try the Poconos

Karen PI’ve blogged before about the Poconos being a great vacation destination for outdoor lovers and adventure enthusiasts.  But, if you are just in the mood for a relaxing getaway and want to simply enjoy the scenery and fresh air, then a trip to Pennsylvania may be in order.

Lake Wallenpaupack (actually a reservoir in Pennsylvania) is perfect for boating, swimming and fishing, but its shoreline also lends itself to hiking and gazing at wildlife.  I spent many summers on its shores with my extended family, enjoying each other’s company and the natural beauty of the area. I truly cannot think of anything more relaxing.

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have also enjoyed vacations made complete with stunning lakes and natural beauty. Be sure to come back to take a look! Are you heading on a lake vacation this summer? Let us know where by commenting below!

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The views of Sedona, Arizona

Catherine SI took my first trip to Sedona with my family ten years ago.  From the moment we arrived, I was absolutely in love, and it remains one of my favorite places to visit (and where I hope to someday retire!).

The red rocks are the main attraction in Sedona. There, we took a Jeep tour, which is a fun (and bumpy) way to see the sites up close.  The tour allowed us to get to areas that are off limits for hikers and gave us the opportunity to experience breathtaking views.

Another great place we found in Sedona was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which sits nestled among the red rocks.  From its perch, it gives a great opportunity to see some of the other well-known formations, including Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.

Sedona also offers amazing artwork and jewelry from artisans who flock to the area.  I always find something new and unique to bring home when I visit, and need to leave room in my suitcase for my finds!

So until my retirement, when I hope to take up permanent residence, Sedona will remain at the top of my list of vacation destinations, and the place I personally believe to be the most beautiful in the country.

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Unexpected "Thank You" from a Teen

"Mom thank you so much for bringing me on this vacation!" my thirteen year old daughter said as we left the lodge. Nearly speechless, I couldn't say anything else but, "You’re welcome." We had a great time visiting Yosemite National Park and the giant Sequoia trees on the way. We played a family-modified game of miniature golf at the resort and enjoyed some videos they had available for our use. Our white water rafting trip on the Truckee River capped off the experience. While my daughter will remember the things she saw and did, I will always remember what she said. It made all of my planning and paying worthwhile. So often I feel like we are dragging our kids on vacation and they fight and complain so much. It was really nice to hear gratitude for a change.

-Cassandra R. from Cedar City, UT

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Texas Relatives

As suggested by an RCI Vacation Guide, we visited Galveston, Texas. I met one of my cousins and her family that I had not seen in over 30 years. We grew up in upstate New York. We visited Lake Jackson where they lived and many of the sights in the area. One great memory was eating local BBQ - finger lickin' good! People were so friendly that we went back again through another RCI exchange. It was one of our best exchanges, with the beach across the street from our resort. May not sound like much to some, but it was a wonderful experience connecting with relatives that had moved far away.

-Joyce M. from Enfield, CT

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An Orlando Convert!

Paul MI’ll be honest – Orlando originally wasn’t on the top of my “places where I’d like to holiday” list. I always preferred the buzz of a city – eating in one-off restaurants, digging for records in little independent music stores, and soaking up the atmosphere.

But a few years ago, things changed. When it came to choosing a vacation destination, there was a new dimension – a child. That’s right. We had welcomed a beautiful little boy, Cal, and a year later, we decided that we might be able to stay awake long enough to make it to the airport and onto vacation. It was far from a certainty, but we took the risk. After weighing up flight length from New Jersey, kid-friendliness, and chance of sunshine, Orlando was the best choice.

And I have to say…what a fantastic choice it was! We ate at nice restaurants with no frowning at the request for a high-chair. We took things at our own pace and enjoyed fantastic amenities at our resort. We went to a couple of theme parks and acted like kids. It really was a great family vacation.

Three years on, we’ve been back four times. We arranged a family reunion with both sets of doting babysitters (sorry, grandparents) and also met good friends from England with their toddler. We’ve had so much fun, enjoyed excellent food, found countless bargains at the outlet malls, and “ooh’d” and “aah’d” at the theme parks and shows.

Best of all – I even found an awesome record store.

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have also visited Orlando. Be sure to come back to read about their vacations!

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Cancun and the Riviera Maya: I dare you to get bored!

When planning your vacation, you first have to ask yourself: what kind of experience am I (are we) looking for? Honeymoon, anniversary, shopping, family-focused, adventure, history, theme parks, good for teenagers, health, relaxation? There are so many kinds. But wouldn’t it be great to have it all in one vacation? Believe me, you will when you visit Cancun and the Riviera Maya!

In Cancun you can stay at a resort surrounded by beautiful turquoise water and soft white sands, combined with the warmth and kindness that Mexicans can offer to their guests. Looking for all day activities? You can swim with dolphins, rent a boat to go fishing, or even sail on a yacht! You can do some shopping at the malls, where you will find major international brands. You can also have lunch or dinner on Kukulcan Boulevard – where you will find restaurants with regional, national, and international cuisine. And if you are looking for a night out on the town, Cancun is home to some of the most unique night clubs in the world!

If you love to have close contact with nature and history, you can stay at a resort in the Riviera Maya or Playa del Carmen, only about 40-50 minutes away from Cancun International Airport. There are so many activities, you are sure to find something that appeals to you and those you are traveling with: snorkeling near the beautiful coral reefs, swimming in underground rivers, or golfing on courses designed by world-famous golfers. You can also visit Xel Ha, an aquatic theme park, great for kids and adults! And don’t forget to visit the famous theme park, Xcaret, and archaeological park where you can enjoy swimming at amazing cenotes, see animals and learn about the Mayan history. You can also travel to Tulum to see ancient ruins –  personally, I don’t think there is any other place in the world where the moonlight reflects brighter off the sea than it does in Tulum. If you are looking for more history, head to the “magical” Chichen Itzá (NOT “chicken and pizza”!), a popular tourist destination where you can see a breathtaking Mayan pyramid. Finally, to end a perfect day, walk through the Fifth Ave. strip where international cultures mix to offer an array of food, wine, shopping, and music.

There’s no place in the world where you can enjoy all this and much more! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have visited Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and some of the attractions I told you about above. Come back to the RCI Blog to hear about their trips!

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Spring 2011 at Branson, MO

Spring 2011 at Branson, MO

Our first family vacation at Branson, MO. The picture was taken at the resort itself, French Quarter. The trees are blooming and the weather was so good. We enjoyed our family vacation.

-Carmela T. from Houston, TX

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Spring has sprung!

Emily S

Okay, so maybe spring hasn’t really sprung just yet. Even though the first official day of spring was last Wednesday, many of us in the United States were still seeing snow last week and will be seeing it again today. While it’s evident that Mother Nature disagrees with the calendar, it still shouldn’t stop us from enjoying our springtime vacations! After all, vacations aren’t just about the weather – but also about relaxing, exploring, eating, shopping, trying new things, and bonding with family and friends.

We have received some great photos over the years from our RCI subscribing members –  many of which you have seen right here on the RCI Blog. So, as a way to usher in spring (and maybe hurry it along a little!), we are devoting this week on the RCI Blog to sharing pictures all related to spring! Whether you are the type of traveler who likes to squeeze out that last bit of winter, or the type who can’t wait to see the flowers blooming and the mercury rising a little, I hope you’ll get some vacation inspiration from the photos we will be sharing. So come back to the RCI Blog this week to take a look.

What are your springtime vacation plans? Comment below and let us know!

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Las Vegas – A place for everyone!

When people say “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” I bet they didn’t think about the fun filled memories they take back with them and never forget.

The place that people once called an adult playground has turned into a vacation spot almost everyone can enjoy! Of course, the main attractions will always be the exciting shows you can see and the card games and lucky slot machines you play, but Las Vegas is the kind of destination that no matter what you, your family, or your friends like to do, there will be something for everyone

Got kids? Las Vegas has taken care of the it’s-too-hot-to go-there-in-the-summertime “blues” with the new water park, Wet’n’Wild Las Vegas, scheduled to open Memorial Day Weekend 2013. This looks like it will be a great place for those looking for an exciting way to cool off.

Looking for more than a t-shirt souvenir to take home with you? There are plenty of malls, shops, and outlet centers for you to visit while there so you can shop for clothing, accessories, and gifts.

So the next time you are planning your vacation and want to try somewhere new, place your bets on Las Vegas and I can almost guarantee it will be a winner!

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No Worries, Mate

My husband, James and I looked at each other and then grinned as we continued packing for the trip of a lifetime. Finally, it was September 25, 2011, and we were on our way to Australia, a continent halfway around the world. The flying time is twelve-hours from Los Angeles. The trip was booked nine months earlier. We used our Points with RCI and stayed at the Boambee Bay Resort in Coffs Harbour, Australia. We decided to stay in Coffs Harbor, a coastal city on the north coast of New South Wales, about 340 miles north of Sydney...

Coffs Harbour has numerous beaches and high mountains, which delivers incredible vistas. You can enjoy water sports or backpacking and camping. The resort unit was modern, large, comfortable, and clean, and it contained a laundry room. The resort has numerous family activities daily, and behind the resort were the Boambee Bay Creek and the Boambee Beach. The Pacific Ocean spills into the beach so we walked on the Boambee Bay Creek and followed it to the Boambee Beach. We noticed that people were swimming with their family, including their dogs, so we entered the water as well.

We went sightseeing on our own with the help of the Boambee Bay Resort staff, which offered sightseeing suggestions, maps and directions. Our first stop was the Jetty Markets, which sells clothing, gifts and souvenirs. There was also a farmers market. A band played country music and the blues. Our second stop was the Jetty Beach where we watched surfers. We walked the beach and visited a botanical garden. We drove to Woolgoolga, a suburb of Coffs Harbour and visited the beach. We drove down Woolgoolga’s, Beach Street to the whale lookout. Numerous beaches surround Coffs Harbor; on our way to Woolgoolga, on the Pacific Highway, we passed Sapphire Beach, Moonee Beach, Emerald Beach and Sandy Beach.

James did not want to leave Boambee Bay Resort, and he wants to return in the future. Our Australian vacation was unforgettable. If we had it to do it over again, we would extend our trip to 12 days as opposed to 7 days. This was the trip of a lifetime and we enjoyed everything about it. We especially enjoyed the kindness and friendless of the Australian people, and love their mantra “No worries, mates”.

-Bonnit B. from Vallejo, CA

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Family Vacation

Great family vacation. My wife and I were living in China. I had some business in Malaysia and we decided to book a resort in Penang. We flew our daughter and husband to Singapore and we came from Beijing. We drove to Malaysia and spent one week in Penang. I worked 4 days and then spent the week with them scuba diving, eating local cooked food in beach places, trying some restaurants, and generally having a great time. We drove back to Singapore and did sightseeing (zoo, night markets, etc). The main roads in Singapore are easily driven with international signs to mark all details. With maps, it was no problem. I was able to self drive to all my business appointments (to the surprise of the managers!).

- John L. from Boaz, AL

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Top 6 Yellowstone Must-See Sights

Aya E. - RCI Marketing and Travel UpdatesMany people think you have to be an adventurer to take a Yellowstone vacation. While there is an abundance of natural trails to keep any outdoorsman’s appetite satisfied, Yellowstone is also the ideal vacation for families and couples to appreciate natural beauty from the comfort of paved lookouts and well maintained boardwalks.

Yellowstone National Park sits atop the Yellowstone Supervolcano, and is the reason for many of the geological features throughout the park. Here are some of the top sights you won’t want to miss:


1. Old Faithful and the Upper, Midway, and Lower Geyser Basins: Old Faithful is that iconic geyser that Yellowstone is famous for. Old Faithful isn’t the largest geyser or even the one with the longest eruptions. It’s known for its predictability… and signs posted will tell you when to expect an eruption, usually accurate within 10 minutes! Old Faithful sits in the Upper Geyser Basin, so while you’re there, I recommend that you take the time to visit the other hot springs, pools, and geysers throughout the area.

Old Faithful is that iconic geyser that Yellowstone is famous for. Old Faithful isn’t the largest geyser or even the one with the longest eruptions. It’s known for its predictability… and signs posted will tell you when to expect an eruption, usually accurate within 10 minutes!


2. Grand Prismatic: It’s huge, and stunningly vibrant in color due to all the life that thrives in these hot conditions. The Grand Prismatic is located in the Midway Geyser Basin, but gets its own spot on my list because it’s not to be missed. Boardwalks bring you right next to the pool, but it’s so large, it’s often difficult to really tell what you’re looking at. For a better view, you can take a short walk from the Fairy Falls Trail. For the more adventurous type, hike/scramble up the mountain on the left instead of continuing on the trail (careful, it’s steep) to see a breathtaking view of the Grand Prismatic in its full glory.

The Grand Prismatic is located in the Midway Geyser Basin, but gets its own spot on my list because it’s not to be missed.


3. Mammoth Springs: Located in the Northern area of Yellowstone, the Mammoth Springs look like they’re from another planet. Here you’ll see interesting white-as-snow rock formations, created as minerals have been deposited through the years by boiling hot water coming to the surface.

Located in the Northern area of Yellowstone, the Mammoth Springs look like they’re from another planet. Here you’ll see interesting white-as-snow rock formations, created as minerals have been deposited through the years by boiling hot water coming to the surface.


4. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Centrally located, this 20 mile long canyon features waterfalls with a roaring river at its base. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of the Lower Falls, which are twice the height of Niagara Falls.

Centrally located, this 20 mile long canyon features waterfalls with a roaring river at its base. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of the Lower Falls, which are twice the height of Niagara Falls.


5. Wildlife: Two of the best places to spot wildlife are in the Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley. While on vacation I caught shots of some Elk and Bison!















6. Grand Teton National Park: OK, it isn’t in Yellowstone, but it’s so close that you really can’t justify skipping it. Grand Teton isn’t a large park, and I recommend that you at least take a quick drive past these famous mountains. Oh, and the view from Jenny Lake is stunning and serene.

OK, it isn’t in Yellowstone, but it’s so close that you really can’t justify skipping it. Grand Teton isn’t a large park, and I recommend that you at least take a quick drive past these famous mountains. Oh, and the view from Jenny Lake is stunning and serene.


Tip: If you haven’t guessed it yet, you can’t visit Yellowstone in a day, and it’s not a “drive-through” destination.  In researching for my trip, I quickly learned that most travelers recommend anywhere from 3-5 days for first-time visitors. (I spent 6 days there to account for the extra photo time I always need, and it felt just right.)

Be sure to come back to the RCI Blog this week, where we’ll be sharing additional photos of Yellowstone from RCI subscribing members!

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Our Green Vacation

Last year, over spring break our family went to an RCI affiliated resort called Waterside by Spinnaker in Hilton Head, SC. It is a wonderful resort just minutes away from the beach, restaurants, and a great shopping center. I called this our Green Vacation, as we ate healthy, got plenty of exercise, plenty of rest, did without a car, and actually enjoyed it.

Our accommodations were very comfortable and the staff was extremely professional and efficient. This resort had many activities for the children as well as adults - and we participated in them. Across from us was the main pool area and a hot tub where we spent part of every day. At the beach we found many different kinds of creatures like starfish and hermit crabs. It was a great experience for the grandkids because they have never seen sea life like that on a beach since we live in Maryland. The beach at Hilton Head is unique. We enjoyed a very wide beach where we could actually ride our bikes not only to the beach but on the beach, and the water was very calm. This is a great family vacation place. We played golf at several of the area courses, while the rest of the family enjoyed the pool and the beach area. We parked our car when we checked in, rented bikes, and never took the car out of the parking place the entire week. Talk about going green, this is the place. We rode our bikes every evening to dinner to different restaurants, rode bikes to the grocery store, rode on the beach, rode to the shopping center to shop, and took evening bike rides around the area. Make sure you get the child cart attached to the back of your bike; it comes in handy to carry not only tired toddlers, but great for groceries, beverages, and shopping bags. I think on this vacation I lost 5 lbs. instead of putting on 5 lbs.! I never thought I could do without a car for a week, but it was easy being so close to everything. We enjoyed this place tremendously and would suggest it to any of our friends and definitely would go back there. Keep up the great work RCI.

- Kathy M. from Waldorf, MD

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Winter in the Berkshires

Winter in the Berkshires - We take our whole family on vacation. I only go to resorts that allow dogs.


We take our whole family on vacation. I only go to resorts that allow dogs.

- Lisa S. from Rolla, MO

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Wonderful Winter Photos!

Emily S. - and Destination InfoAs you can tell from reading the RCI Blog, we have received many, many fantastic photos from RCI subscribing members. These photos really help to paint the picture of what vacationing is all about – spending time with family and friends or even some time by yourself, visiting new places, recharging your batteries, and more.

With the first official day of winter approaching here on the eastern US coast (this Friday, December 21!), I wanted to take this week to share some great photos we’ve received that are all about the winter and snow. From California to Massachusetts, RCI members enjoyed traveling during the winter season and experienced some pretty incredible scenes. Come back to the RCI blog this week to take a look!

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Venture outside the norm in Phoenix

Molly W. - Virginia Trip Ideas for RCI Subscribing MembersPhoenix was once a small Indian village located along the Salt River and today it is a bustling city.  The city fills during the winter months as people flock to the warm climate and escape the cold (Phoenix has about 300 days a year with sunshine!). If you are looking for a vacation that incorporates both urban and natural environments, this is the place for you.  Phoenix offers everything you could want in a city adventure.  And the surrounding desert provides a place to escape from the big city.

A drive to South Mountain Park on the southern outskirts of Phoenix is a must see.  You can drive to the top and see the entire valley below.  It is an amazing place to go at night to view the city lights from above.

Just east of the city, Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and its legend of gold in the Superstition Mountains offers an adventure for you and your family.  Travel to Tortilla Flats and sit at the old western style bar, grab some postcards or take some pictures as you travel up the canyon.  If you go further on this dirt path you will see a spectacular mountain lake.  It is an amazing sight to see the lake surrounded by desert.

And if you grow tired of the Phoenix area (which I don’t think could ever happen!), Tucson and Sedona are both a drive away and have many places themselves to explore.

Come back to the RCI Blog this week to see photos and read stories from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to Phoenix. Do you have any tips about where to go and what to do when visiting Phoenix? If so, share your thoughts here.

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Ski Vacation in the Poconos

Karen P. - RCI Social Media and Marketing NewsI’ll be honest, I’m not an expert skier – or even close to tackling a double black diamond trail for that matter.  But I do love a great ski getaway, whether it’s for a nice long week across country (I live in New Jersey) or nearby in the Poconos.

I grew up skiing at a local mountain, but it wasn’t until years later that I planned my first ski vacation at Shawnee Mountain in Pennsylvania.  Shawnee is a great ski mountain for all skill levels.  It seems to be designed for beginners, as most of the trails are a beginner or intermediate, but it also offers a few expert trails as well as a terrain park for more advanced skiers.  If a few in your family or group don’t ski, Shawnee offers a snow tubing park, which is a lot of fun.  Once you’re done with the slopes, there’s plenty to explore in the nearby Shawnee-on-Delaware and East Stroudsburg area, including great shopping and dining.

If you love to ski or are looking to plan your next ski adventure, check back throughout the week to read stories and view photos that RCI subscribing members have shared from their ski vacations through RCI.  You might just get an idea for your next winter escape!

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