Monday, June 28, 2010

Brass Ring

So I got this crazy idea in my head that I would tour some of the country's top roller coasters and write a little travel diary about them as I timeshare my way about. But the roller coasters I remember as a kid have changed dramatically. For example, they have this monstrosity called Kingda Ka at Six Flags in Jackson, NJ. You know about this thing? It's the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. Get this, it's 456 feet high with a 418 foot vertical drop that reaches 128 mph. Are you kidding me?! And how about the Krypton Coaster in Six Flags Fiesta Texas, with a 145 vertical loop? I mean, I love coming up with new adventures to write about and all, but unless you're training for a NASA moonshot, why in the world would you do that to yourself? And pay money no less?! So I quickly backpedaled from the whole idea and turned my thoughts to more sedate (and sane) memories from my youth, and came up with carousels.

Do you remember riding a carousel when you were a kid? All those beautiful carved horses, and colors and lights, with the organ music grinding out its cacophonous tune? Well even if you are too young to remember, these whirling works of art haven't lost their ability to captivate people of all ages, even if they can't go 400 mph. But I wasn't sure if or where I might go about finding one these days. Turns out that the National Carousel Association (NCA) hosts an index of North American carousels. They've got classic wood and metal carousels, as well as newer ones, all listed by state. It so happens that many of the antique wooden models (my favorites), are located in great spots for timeshare rentals, like California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and more.

For example, there's a circa 1896, all wooden carousel at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. It was built by the Detzel Carousel Company, a family of 19th Century German immigrants, and is one of only fourteen of their creations remaining in the world. Knott's Berry Farm is a great place to take the family and there's a little place called Disneyland ten minutes down the road that you might enjoy too. You can rent a two bedroom timeshare at the WorldMark Anaheim for as little as $143/night. It's ranked 5 stars by members and puts you minutes from everything.

Then there's 1938 classic by Allan Herschell at the Aquatic Center, Lake Havasu City, AZ. The Herschell Company specialized in portable carousels that could be transported from one town to the next, like at a carnival or fair. And if you were not already aware, the London Bridge is located in Lake Havasu City. That's right, the one from the children's song that was "falling down, falling down." I guess it landed in AZ when it finally came to rest. You can see it all by renting a beachfront timeshare at the First Cabin Club for as little as $93/night.

Finally, I wanted to be sure to mention Playland in Rye, NY. It features not one, not two, but three antique carousels under one roof. One of them, a 1927 Prior & Church "derby racer," is one of only three left in the world. Playland is a National Historic Landmark, the only government owned and operated amusement park in the U.S. and the last of its kind in terms of early twentieth century, family-oriented fun. If you've ever seen the movie "Big" with Tom Hanks, you'll recognize it as the home of "Zoltar the Magnificent." You can rent a timeshare in Manhattan, about thirty five minutes away, at the West 57th Street by Hilton Club. Studios are about $138/night, with one bedroom units starting at $300/night.

Well thanks for letting me take you down memory lane, and I hope you'll get out and see some of these pieces of living U.S. history and help keep them alive for another generation.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fees, Fees, and More Fees

Is it just me or does it seem like the second you leave for your vacation you start paying fees on top of everything you've already laid out for your trip? Seriously, I'm thinking about plastering my shirt in twenty dollar bills and letting them pick them off of me like vultures ripping at a carcass. Perhaps that's a bit offside, but just today I read about a new fee from American Airlines called the "Boarding and Flexibility Package." I know it sounds like some kind of new workout craze, but do you know what it actually is? It's a fee to board the airplane early. It ranges from $9 to $19 each way, per passenger. Are you kidding me?! Now forgive me as I digress for a moment here, but why in the world would you want to get on an airplane a minute sooner than you have to? Let alone pay for it? I fly a lot and, let me tell you, I am the last one on that plane before they close the hatch. And I'm not talking about an O.J. Simpson running through the airport situation. I get there in plenty on time. I just figure if I am going to be spending three or four hours on the thing, why prolong it?

Anyway, the assault on your wallet doesn't stop at the airport. Have you rented a car lately? I got a rental at $200 and $30 of my bill was a concession fee. I'm thinking, I didn't buy a hotdog (yet), how could they be slapping me with concession fees? Turns out the concession is the fee the rental car company pays to the airport. Can you imagine if your grocery store tacked on their rent to your tab right as you got to the register? And how about booking a hotel through one of these travel sites? You go on Expedia or Orbitz and click on the $99 Orlando offer and somewhere between there and the checkout it's $137 a night! How does that happen? Fees.

Well there is not much I can tell you about the airport or car rental fees, other than to drive everywhere in your own car, or walk. But I can offer this bit of advice when it comes to lodging: rent a timeshare from its owner. When you go on and see an Orlando timeshare resort you like for $71/night, you work directly with the owner and settle on a price. Presumably, $71/night (or less). And that's it. Now once you get there and you decide you want to hit the mini-bar, valet park your call, make a bunch of phone call, etc., all bets are off. But that is your choice. Fees that you had no chance to waive -- or with cryptic sounding names -- are just not part of the equation. And no horrible William Shatner ads either, I might add.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Order NowSo I was looking for something to read on my flight and I grabbed a copy of this Be CentsAble: How to Cut Your Household Budget in Half by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee. Do you know about this? These gals cut their household budgets in half without reverting to candlelight or riding around in a horse-drawn buggy. There's some great stuff in here. Did you know that bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more than the tap water that already comes into your home? And with more and more states setting up recycling programs for used water filters, there's no reason in the world to buy another bottle of water. And did you know that there is a "sales cycle" for just about every product you can buy? For example, in January you can expect chili, side dishes, and anything for hearty/warm meals to be on sale at your supermarket. That's definitely going on my calendar. And get this, June is the best month for TVs, hardware, dairy products, and pianos. The TVs and hardware almost make sense, but the other two? Anyway, if you've been dreaming of learning to play the piano while eating some smoked gouda, now is the time!

But the part of the book that is the nearest and dearest to my heart is Chapter 13: Travel. Can you guess how these wise moms save a ton of money on family travel? That's right, they rent timeshares on by-owner marketplaces like They get the benefit of multiple bedrooms, full kitchens, and great family activities, all for prices comparable to regular hotel rooms. This is the message I have been spreading as the Timeshare Ambassador and I am happy to hear that more and more travelers are catching on.

I'll leave you with one last CentsAble tidbit, and that is to know how long various household products can be stored. If you are going to be making bulk purchases to get better price points, you have to know how long this stuff will stick around, right? So how long do you think an unopened jar of mustard will last? How about two years. Are you kidding me?! I'm pretty sure I've got a jar in my fridge that has been in there since the 90s. I guess I ought to pitch it when I get back.