Back when I was in my late 20’s, on a bit of a whim, I bought a timeshare while on vacation with my parents. In many ways, it was a silly thing to do, and there have definitely been times I’ve regretted the purchase (especially in the early years), but on the whole I’ve ended up with some really fabulous vacations by trading in my time share week. Thankfully, my husband (who I met just a few months after I bought the timeshare) loves traveling just as much as I do, so we’ve made good use of it.
The place I own is on Hilton Head, in South Carolina, but we’ve only actually gone there once in all the years we’ve owned it. Other years we’ve traded in our week to travel to places like:
- Williamsburg, Virginia
- Whistler, BC
- Beaupre, Quebec
- Albufeira, Portugal
- Oberstaufen, Germany
- Orlando, Florida
And then other years, we’ve just gone on little vacations here in Ontario, to places in Collingwood, Barrie, and Calabogie.
What I especially loved about having a timeshare when the kids were young, is that it forced us to travel somewhere every year. It’s not easy to travel with small children, and I think it would have been pretty tempting to just decide not to even bother. But since we owned the timeshare, there was a feeling that we shouldn’t waste our week…we had to go somewhere, even if it was just a little trip. And since most timeshare units are like apartments—with a full kitchen, living room, and dining room—the kids had the space they needed to feel at home. We also didn’t have to eat out all the time, like you have to when you’re in a hotel.
The downside of timeshares is that you don’t always get your top choice when you try to trade in your week for a specific week in a specific location. The first time we wanted to try traveling to Vancouver Island, we had a search open for about 3 months for a trade, but we never got a place. We ended up going somewhere else, instead. The next time we decided to try traveling there we ended up getting a trade after only a couple of weeks of searching, for a fabulous spot right on Victoria Harbour.
This year, we decided we wanted to do a ski vacation for March Break. This was challenging because March Break is a high demand travel time and we didn’t even start looking for a trade until January. At first, we were searching for 2-bedroom units at Tremblant, Smuggler’s Notch, and Stowe, but no luck. After a couple of weeks, we scaled down our search to 1-bedroom places in those same areas…still no luck. Finally, we decided to branch out and look at other places. I ended up finding a ski resort called Jiminy Peak in The Berkshires area of Western Massachusetts. I was a little worried the snow might not last into mid-March, but I checked reviews of the resort from previous years and saw it normally operated into April. We ended up getting a nice, big, 1-bedroom unit at a resort just across the road from Jiminy.
As March Break approached and we heard about the huge amount of snow Massachusetts was getting, we were so happy with our choice. But then, in few days leading up to March Break, temperatures climbed. We ended up driving down on the first day of our vacation through teeming rain. We figured we’d maybe get in one day of skiing. The weather cooled a little bit the next day, so we booked lessons for the kids for the next morning, plus 4-hour lift tickets for all of us. We were worried the hill would be super icy after all that rain, but the easier runs we were sticking to were not bad at all. But the hills were super-groomed, way more than what I’m used to. The runs were also a lot longer than what we’ve got in southern Ontario, so I had to adjust to that, too. One run we did quite a few times, the Left Bank, was about 3.2 km long. Compare that to the longest run at our regular ski hill: 792 m. Bit of a difference!
We went back again to ski again on the Wednesday. It was a colder day at about -10 C, but we’d skied on much colder days than that at home so we didn’t think it would be a problem. What we failed to account for was the 65 km/hour winds. Holy moly, they were strong! At one point I thought I might actually start skiing backwards up the mountain, but gravity somehow managed to win out. It really was piercing, though, and we kept getting ice cream head aches from the cold. We still skied for several hours, but it wasn’t nearly so much fun as the first outing.
Originally we’d planned to just ski the two days, but when the forecast for the Friday looked much nicer, we decided to hit the slopes again. That day, the weather was beautiful, but the conditions were a bit more challenging. There was both more ice in some areas and more fluffy snow in others, so you really had to be on your guard for your skis speeding up and slowing down on the different surfaces. I almost wiped out a couple of times.
Also, on my first run of the day, I started down the hill and immediately realized things were NOT right. My legs felt like there were going to give out at the knees any moment. They were sooooo tired and stiff. Then it came to me that I had probably never ever before in my life skied three times in five days…not even when I was a kid. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through a morning of skiing without having a major wipe-out, but thankfully by my third run of the day I started to loosen up. Whew! Ended up having a great day after all.
The best thing about the week was just how much the kids’ skills improved. For the first time ever, I had trouble keeping up with my daughter. She kept zooming ahead of us, hardly ever coming to a stop, but still staying in control (she was the only one of us that didn’t fall once all week long). And my son finally learned how to turn better, and to have more control over where he was going. The kids just had two one-hour lessons while we were there, but they learned a lot.
So all in all, it was a great week skiing at Jiminy Peak. It may not have been our fist choice for March Break, but it ended up being a fantastic vacation.