By Rod Powers
Sometimes I really, really love my job.
I'm writing this article on the balcony of my fifth floor luxury condo at the Maverick Resort, located at Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona Beach, Florida. Just a few minutes ago, I was watching the sun rising steadily over the limitless expanse of a calm Atlantic Ocean. The postcard sunrise had competition, however, because my eyes kept wandering to the group of dolphins who were playing tag just a few feet from the shore. Every five minutes or so, a flight of heron pass directly in front of me (for some reason known only to God and birds, heron seem to like to fly at just about the fifth floor level).
In a little while, I'll take a shower, then head down where a lovely lady named Carol will serve me a hearty breakfast at the poolside restaurant. Then I'll likely amble out to the sundeck and lounge around the pool (which overlooks the beach), and soak up some Florida sun - keeping one eye open in case a pretty lady in a bikini walks by. (In this endeavor, I subscribe to Heinlein's theory: There are no ugly women. Some are just prettier than others.)
Around lunchtime, I'll shuffle back to the restaurant and check out the lunch special for the day. Then I might head back to the pool, or I may decide to check out a video from the front desk and spend the afternoon in my condo, watching a new release.
This evening, I'll cook supper in my condo kitchen, or possibly grill a couple of burgers on one of the gas grills on the sundeck. After that I'll probably open a beer or two, and enjoy the cool evening breeze and great view from my balcony.
Tomorrow, I'll do much the same thing - except I may vary it with a short swim in the 72 degree ocean water, and possibly take a walk down the beach.
I can hear what you're thinking: "About.com obviously pays retired Air Force First Sergeants way too much to manage a web site and write an article now and then..."
Nope. The real secret is taking advantage of a little-known military benefit: The Armed Forces Vacation Club. Military members (including active and inactive members of the Guard and Reserve), retired members, military family members, and 100% disabled veterans can rent luxury condos at locations around the world for the low cost of $249 per week. That comes out to about $35 per day!
How can the military do this? There are hundreds (probably thousands) of time-share condos located throughout the world. Often, someone buys a time-share and then doesn't have an opportunity to use it. These unused time-share weeks are sometimes then rented out by the condo's management association, rather than allow them to sit empty. The Department of Defense's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Service has made a special deal with many of these management associations to offer the unused time-share to military members for the unbelievable price of $249 per week.
This is an unbelievable savings. The regular price to stay at The Maverick, for example, is about $110 per night. The Armed Forces Vacation Club allows us to stay at this luxury resort for seven days, for about the same price that others are paying for two nights.
Maybe Florida isn't your thing? The Armed Forces Vacation Club has listings for virtually everywhere, including all states, Europe, Australia, the Bahamas, Africa, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, India, the Pacific - pretty much anywhere you want to go!
Condos for $249 Per Week!
Using the Armed Forces Vacation Club to locate and reserve a luxury condo for your next leave or vacation is simplicity itself.
If you've never used them before, you must first call the Armed Forces Vacation Club at 1-800-724-9988 (toll free). The hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7 AM to midnight, Saturday 9 AM to 8 PM, and Sunday 9:30 AM to 8 PM (Eastern Standard Time). If you can't call an 800 number from your location, the local phone number is 1-317-805-9975. This is a toll call, so you will have to pay any phone charges.
Before you call the first time, you will need to look up the Installation Number for the base where you are stationed. This is because the local base Morale, Welfare and Recreation Agency gets a portion of every rental fee.
When you call the first time, the kind folks at the Reservation Center will issue you an account number and password. Write this down somewhere safe. You can then use this information to log onto the Armed Forces Vacation Club web site and make your reservations online.
If you prefer not to use the Internet to make reservations, you can use the web site to locate available condo rentals, then reserve the condo by calling the phone number shown above.
When making a reservation, you need to have the following information handy: your name, how many people are traveling with you, your branch of service, your Installation Number, the location (and name) of the condo you wish to reserve, the dates you wish to reserve, your credit card number.
Condos may become available to Armed Forces Vacation Club members anywhere from two to 365 days in advance of the check-in date. As soon as they become available, they're listed on the web site and can be reserved. Once a reservation is made, the unit is taken out of the available reservation pool and the unit is yours. The reservation is guaranteed. Reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis, so a high demand location may be available in the morning but gone by that afternoon.
A word of warning if you plan a vacation in Mexico or the Caribbean: Some resorts in Mexico or the Caribbean are "all inclusive" resorts. This means the resort provides all meals, beverages, entertainment, and sometimes day trips, just like on a cruise ship. Anyone who stays at an "all inclusive" resort pays a per-person fee for the service (in addition to the $249 per week rental fee). At some resorts, this is optional; at others, it is a mandatory fee. Even condo owners at these resorts must pay the fee when they stay in their own property. This fee can be very high, sometimes up to $1,000 for the week.
All-inclusive conditions and rates are set by the resort and the Armed Forces Vacation Club has no control over them. These resorts are well marked on the web site, and vacation counselors will always warn you if you make a reservation over the phone. If you don't want to pay these rates, you'll have to choose another location not listed as "all inclusive."
One of the major disadvantages of the Armed Forces Vacation Club is a very strict cancellation policy. If you cancel more than 60 days from your check-in date, for any reason other than a military requirement, it will cost you $75.99. If you cancel within 60 days of check-in, for any reason other than a valid military requirement, it will cost you $149.99. If you try to cancel on or after your check-in date, you forfeit the entire $249. If there is a valid military reason, you may cancel up to three days prior to your check-in date with no financial penalty. This means you need to be very sure about your vacation plans before you make a reservation. For complete details about the cancellation policy, see the cancellation policy page on the web site.
All in all, you'll have to look hard to find a better vacation deal on a military budget. Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear the bikinis, um, I mean the beach, calling me.