Kauai 2012

My husband and I were blessed to be able to take our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons, ages 15 and 12, to Kauai this year.  It was me and my husband's third trip to Hawaii, but it was the first time for our guests, as well as, their first ride in an airplane.

Our grandchildren were a little apprehensive about going somewhere without their friends, but this quickly turned out to be a vacation of a lifetime for them as well. Kauai is a beautiful island.  Where else can you go and see spectacular sunsets and daily rainbows. Often double rainbows at that. The tour of the Na Pali Coast was breathtakingly beautiful.

At the end of the trip, our 12-year-old grandson was already thinking about a return next year.  He asked his mom and dad "If I make all A's on my report card, can we come back next year?"

-Janice H. from Gainseville, Georgia

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Kauai – a great vacation no matter what side of the island you are on!

Elizabeth D

Hawaii’s island of Kauai easily ranks as one of the most beautiful and tranquil places on earth.  For outdoor enthusiasts, both the North and the South sides of Kauai offer awesome activities.  Having stayed on both the North and the South sides, it's really difficult to say which is nicer as they each have a unique appeal.  Typically people shy away from the North side of the island in the winter because it tends to be rainier.  Nonetheless, it boasts lush, green vegetation, beautiful beaches, panoramic golf courses overlooking the ocean and awesome views of the island's many waterfalls. 

The North side of Kauai is home to the start of the incredible Na Pali Coast that attracts people from around the world to hike its rigorous 17-mile trail overlooking the coastline.  Another North side favorite destination is the Kilauea Lighthouse.  It too has breathtaking and is incredible for bird watching as it is located on a wildlife preserve. 

The South side is about an hour drive from the North side of the island. The South side tends to be less rainy and slightly warmer than the North side and is a perfect destination any time of the year.  The South side is home to magnificent beaches such as the beautiful Poipu Beach Park which is known for its excellent snorkeling.  In addition, it’s common place to see monk seals and sea turtles at this beach.  Families find it a great beach to spend the day at as it not only offers calm swimming conditions, but it is also home to convenient picnic facilities.

Evenings are equally tranquil in Kauai as the island offers spectacular sunsets.  In fact, there is no better way to end the day on Kauai than to take in a sunset from one of Kauai’s many beaches!

If you’d like to read more about Kauai and see some spectacular photos of the area, come back to the RCI Blog. We’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to this amazing island all week long!

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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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View From Above

View From Above

Fabulous vacation location. Very close to everything. I won't stay anywhere else.

-Kathleen S.

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New York

New York is one of my favorite vacations and staying at The Manhattan Club made it so. We were so close to everything that we walked most of the time. We love New York!

-Dixie L. from Goddard, Kansas

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Red River, New Mexico

Red River, New Mexico

Taking some of the most beautiful (and exciting) roads in the U.S., we visited the fascinating town of Red River, that resembles many parts of Austria I have visited. It was in the 40's and 50's in August. One of the best vacations we've ever taken!

-Charles S. from San Antonio, Texas

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Ballooning Kissimmee

Ballooning Kissimmee

Up early on the first morning of a July week in Kissimmee, Florida in 2011 allowed us to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee on the beach as the balloonists floated by. The mirrored surface of the lake provided the perfect opportunity for the mirror image! We really love vacation relaxation!

-Timothy A. from Farragut, Tennessee

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Summertime, summertime…

Emily S.Well, it’s finally here! The first official day of summer is this Friday, June 21 (here in the Northern Hemisphere)! To celebrate the start of the summer season – and to help give you some ideas for a summer vacation of your own if you haven’t booked or exchanged yet – we’ll be sharing summertime photos from RCI subscribing members on the RCI Blog all week!

Whether you like your summer vacations filled with relaxation, adventure, or a little bit of both, these pictures can help to give you the inspiration you need to determine where you want to go and what you want to do!

Have you already planned your summer vacation? If so, comment below and let us know where you are going!

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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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Son's favorite vacation

Our Arkansas vacation was one of the best vacations. We went with my cousins making a group of 11 people (two adults and nine kids under 12 years old). We went swimming, boating, fed a 2 foot long fish and visited Sugarloaf Mountain, an island in the middle of the lake. We climbed to the very top and the view was just stunning. We had a puppet show with puppets we bought from a store nearby. We went miniature golfing. I remember exactly what the room looked like, very big and comfy. I have to say that I can't pick my favorite part because it was all just so much fun! My cousin and I built a fort in the woods. It took us about two days to complete. We enjoyed our stay very much and I wish I could do it again sometime. Thank you for the wonderful stay.

-Crystal B. from Princeton, IL

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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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Escape the Heat

We left the heat of Phoenix in August to the blissful cool of Vail, Colorado. Our vacation was perfect! We went horseback riding in the mountains, relaxed on our lovely patio overlooking Gore Creek, hiked and explored, and spent one memorable Sunday at the Vail farmer's market and art fair.

There were hundreds of booths with produce, prepared food, art, and unique items for sale. It was a really unexpected treat, all within walking distance of our unit at The Wren.

Another treat was the gondola ride up Vail Mountain. We got to the top and there were a myriad of things to do. We hiked a bit with walking sticks available for us to use free of charge. We had lunch at a nice cafe at the top, and then we took a Jeep ride from there.

The Wren is walking distance to Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. We took in the gardens and walked to the theater for a free Thursday night outdoor concert. What a great location!

The staff at The Wren was terrific and they made great restaurant suggestions and provided us with area maps and tourist tips. They also had great muffins for us on Sunday morning and provided coffee, tea, and lemonade all day, everyday. Their courtesy and friendly advice made our stay special, as did The Wren barbeque and pot luck.

Add in the incomparable scenery, the wonderful restaurants and shops in the area and the proximity to great mountain towns like Leadville and Dillon, and you have a perfect vacation.

-Nikkin W. from Phoenix, AZ

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Pagosa Springs Trip

We needed a week away, so reserved a Last CallSM vacation in Pagosa Springs. Although we've lived in Denver for more than 40 years, we had never been to that part of Colorado. We spent the week seeing the area, relaxing in the Pagosa Hot Springs, riding the train in Durango, and just relaxing at the condo.

The Pagosa Hot Springs have several pools with varying temperatures and beautiful views over the river. The train from Durango was an experience! We got a chance to see and feel what travelling in the 19th century was like. You smell the coal and feel and hear the "click, click" of the train as it wound through the beautiful scenery. The accommodations at Wyndham Pagosa were perfect for relaxation. Our unit was located on their golf course. We enjoyed interacting with the golfers, and (quietly) judging their shots.

Overall a great relaxing week.

-William L. from Parker, CO

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Colorado: A Great Surprise!

Jenny DBefore my parents-in-law moved to Colorado, I had never visited the state, and believed that the only thing people did there was ski. So when my husband and I planned our first trip to visit his parents a few years ago, I was not very enthusiastic (seeing as my favorite vacation spot is the beach!). Since that first visit, we’ve been back to Colorado many times, and each time there is something new and so very different from my home-state of NJ, that I now very much look forward to our visits.

Once, we visited a little amusement park called Santa’s Workshop, built into the slopes of the Pikes Peak mountain range (that was certainly a first for me).  And don’t be fooled by the name! It is a Christmas-themed amusement park and open from mid-May until December 24. On another visit, we spent time at the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, an amazing up-close encounter with rescued wolves of all types and sizes, who even treat you to a serenade at the end of your walking tour! And although I’d never imagined standing next to a rock the height of a skyscraper, I was amazed at the beauty of the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. The stunning views were like something I’d only seen on the National Geographic channel!

All in all, Colorado has now become a favorite place to visit, and I always leave having seen or learned something interesting and new – and very different from my East Coast roots.

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to Colorado. Come back and take a look!

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The rain in Maine…

Emily SLast fall, after attending the wedding of a friend in New Hampshire, my boyfriend Blake and I decided to extend the weekend and head over to Maine for a couple of nights. Having both never been, we made a short list of must-do’s before we went, which included shopping, sightseeing, and, yep, lobster.

From New Hampshire, we decided to drive over to Route 1 in Maine to start our journey – a bit of a longer way to get there, but it allowed us to stop at a few antique stores along the way. An added bonus, we were able to stop by Kennebunkport, a great little town on a river, to walk around and grab lunch. After checking out a few of the stores, we wandered into a small shop called The Old Salt’s Pantry for our first – and what would be our best – lobster roll of the trip…and, believe me, we tried countless other delicious lobster rolls! We even had somewhat of a strategy when it came to trying them: we’d only order one lobster roll at each place and each have half so that we could try them at a few different places in one day (without feeling too guilty!).

Next up was Portland. And while it rained most of our time there, we still made the best of it. We walked around Commercial Street where there’s a bunch of restaurants, coffee shops, and stores of all kind – clothing, jewelry, accessories, kitchenware. After that, we drove over to the Portland Head Light lighthouse and snapped some photos of the beautiful, yet stormy, views.

Finally, what trip to Maine wouldn’t be complete without a visit to L.L. Bean’s flagship store? Blake is an outdoor nut, so seeing this was at the top of his list. It’s located in Freeport, a short drive from Portland. And – it’s open 24 hours a day, so of course we went at midnight…and we spent about 2-3 hours there! We even took a picture with the gigantic L.L. Bean boot, which is located right outside the front of the store.

Whether your Maine vacation is filled with sunshine or rain (like ours), you can still have a lot of fun. This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to Maine. Be sure to come back to take a look at their fantastic pictures! And check out a couple photos from my trip below…

Lobster roll at The Old Salt’s Pantry

Lobster roll at The Old Salt’s Pantry

Portland Head Light Lighthouse

Portland Head Light Lighthouse

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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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New Zealand Icon

New Zealand Icon

While vacationing in New Zealand, my wife took this photo of a Fern head - now we know why their national symbol is the silver fern. The area was so green and lush on the North Island - we will be returning!

-David V. from Thunder Bay, ON Canada

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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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