Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Make sure a time share is right for you

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There are not a multitude of sales. Shoppers don't line up all night at store entrances to grab the best deals. While families do try to get together for the holiday, it is far from the biggest travel weekend of the year. And folks definitely aren't crossing our borders in huge numbers to take advantage of advertised prices.

These are the characteristics of our American neighbours and their Thanksgiving weekend celebrations.

Here in Canada we may not have the hype, but we do relish the family gatherings and genuine sense of appreciation for the gifts of a more personal nature we are able to share.

I hope this is a special weekend for you and your family, and in wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving I am always grateful for those who take the time to read this column every week.

Question: While we usually stay at all-inclusive resorts for our winter vacations, my wife and I like to experience local restaurants to gain an appreciation for the real food of the country we are in.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find out the best options available given the short time we are there.

What can you suggest?

Answer: Most people tend to ask the concierge at the resort property and simply go with that advice.

While it likely will be a safe choice, it may not be the best. Often there is a bit of a monetary kickback to the concierge for recommending specific restaurants.

It is also highly likely that these recommendations will be mostly for places that are popular with tourists.

My recommendations; From the minute you get off the plane, to the transportation to resort, and with other staff on the resort site ask questions about what they know about the best places and why.

Ask fellow travelers who have been to the region before. The many review sites like tripadviser will help, but the experience of well heeled and ordinary locals will be your best bet.

In the short time you are at the destination, especially if it is only for one week, you don't want to discover the dining experience that is below standard.

What we have often done is wonder the streets in and around the shopping district surveying a few restaurants that we deem interesting. We then look for customers dining at the time. Is it busy? Is it a blend of locals and visitors? Does it look clean? Can we capture a sense of personality from what we see in the serving staff and other employees?

I have been amazed at how successful these simple tests have been for us in finding restaurants we like to rave about later.

Question: Last year on my first trip to Mexico I was often approached to attend a time share presentation with really nice and seemingly expensive offers.

While I am interested in knowing a little more about them, I really am not interested in buying at this time. Will they honour their offers, and will I be harassed if I don't purchase a time share?

Answer: I am betting that after you had been there a few days and had a bit of a tan on you the frequency of the offers slowed down.

Time share sales people are looking for the new arrivals. They want to try and facilitate the presentation as quickly as possible.

The presentation is likely to take far longer than promised, and you will be pressured heavily for the entire duration of your stay. While most will still honour the offer, I know of a few people who, either had to fight for it, or simply gave up trying, recognizing they were not likely to be satisfied.

You should know as well that these presenters are amongst the best in any sales business, and you may leave having signed up on the spot, or ready to do so in the next day or so, even if it was not part of your plan to do so.

I know dozens of people who own time shares and, for the most part, are happy with their decisions. But you need to be sure you are financially capable of handling the purchase that will likely be much higher than anticipated, and that it suits your lifestyle.

The costs do not end with the purchase. There are annual fees, and the availability and options of using other properties in the system are likely the best when you go with the more expensive levels.

Question: We are planning our first trip out of country ever for this January. How far ahead should I apply for a passport?

Answer: Passport processing over the past few years, particularly after United States demanded that Canadian citizens present valid passports to enter, has become very efficient. You can easily have one processed in 2-4 weeks.

However I still would suggest you apply now. Prepare it online as soon as possible because the system ensures you fill in all the required fields. Then take the copy into the Winnipeg office and it is in their hands. Because things can always go wrong with unexpected delays occurring at any time, do it now and feel secure in the knowledge you will be prepared for your holiday.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2013 E2

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