With so many things to do and see in Palm Springs it can be daunting planning a trip especially if you are limited on time. Also hunting around to find the best deals and the highest quality can prove to be a challenge. One of the reasons most people hire a travel agent is they simply don’t have the time or the knowledge to find exactly what they are looking for but that often comes at a high price especially if you are wanting to work with an expert travel agent.
There is a travel club we recently discovered when we came across the Vacation Inspirations facebook page and they are really changing the way we have always known the industry to work. At first glance we thought it was going to be another time share model since they invite you to a 1 hour presentation and offer you perks for attending. This sounded all too familiar but what we found when we dug a little deeper was surprising and actually refreshing for us especially for as long as we have been in the industry. We thought we had seen and heard it all.
We discovered that the owners actually came from the old time share model and saw the many issues with that approach so they set out to do something different.
One of the problems they identified was the high fees that people in the time share model continually have to pay. The costs continue forever and many people end up hoping someone will buy them out. They also noticed that members often did not know how to take advantage of their memberships. The new travel club model that they came up with sought to solve these problems along with many others they encountered over the years in order to provide a high quality service that was packed with value.
We decided to do our own digging to discover what members really thought about Vacation Inspirations and we started with Google. There are tons of 5 star reviews on their Google Business Page which you can read for yourself but as we searched farther back we were came across a good bit of negative reviews. At the time of the writing of this article Vacation Inspirations has a 4.8 out of 5 star rating based on 175 reviewers which is a very excellent rating so we decided to dig deeper on the people that were not happy to see if there was a common thread. What we found was that almost all of the people leaving the negative reviews had never actually used their membership or tried to take advantage of the benefits. We asked the owners about this and their response was quite interesting.
Owners Joe Shirley and Randy Gardner explained, “There was a time when there was no hand holding for newer members and explaining of the membership and process. During this time there were lots of negative reviews and cancellations. Vacation Inspirations now has a team dedicated to new members to help them take advantage and start using their membership. Members can call at any time and have a travel member services specialist take care of all of the details booking their dream vacation from offering suggestions, helping them research, putting together itineraries, finding the best rates, making sure they have the proper travel insurance, to explaining all the rewards they will receive after their trip is booked.” They were quick to own up to the fact that over the years they had encountered situations that were growing experiences for the company but that their goal has always been to become a better company and better serve their members.
The owners also emphasized the importance of being a home grown brand and in an effort to continually get better at serving the members have brought marketing, sales, and fulfillment all under one roof in an attempt to keep things local and integrated. By having all departments working closely with one another the aim is for a more consistent experience, and higher quality service. In fact they are currently in the middle of a rebranding project and they hinted at new things coming online in the upcoming year so keep an eye on their website for more information.
They also want to promote Charleston and give back to the community they love. In talking with one of the owners, Jeff Morris, about the marketers that interact with the public every day he stated, “Our marketers are the best out there! They know Charleston, they can talk to anybody, and love to help people find what’s happening locally. They are knowledgeable and ready to promote the city and all its many attractions, hotels, restaurants, etc. They are local people with fun personalities, and years of experience. They spread the word about local businesses and give away tours, restaurant coupons, and real value to interested travelers.”
In order for us to recommend any company for booking travel to Palm Springs we vet them very carefully so we asked to speak with Sandra Jamali who had spent time getting to know the ins and outs of the company so she could better perform her task as head of marketing. Below is our interview with Sandra.
How long have you been working with VI? It was 1 year in March that I joined the travel dept.
What excites you about this company? I am passionate about travel and enjoy working with members who appreciate the benefits. The travel dept. is also the best because it is the heart of the company.
What is a member travel club and how is it different from a timeshare? It is a membership based travel agency that plans vacations for its members. I believe a timeshare is more like buying vacation real estate and you pay for 1 week in a hotel/resort which you plan to use 1 time a year.
We offer 1 week rentals at top tourist destinations for wholesale price but main difference is we book all types of travel and give members rewards.
Who can book travel with you? Is it just for members? Yes, it is members who pay a fee to work with us.
How can someone outside of Charleston become a member? Tourists visiting Charleston can join a presentation in one of our locations and become members.
Why is joining your travel club any better than if I went online myself and booked my trip through expedia or other online travel agencies? I would have to say it is the white glove customer assistance of working with a real person on the phone who are expert travel agents. Once a member joins they have paid an upfront cost and then have access to our team as often and as many times a year as they like. Travel agents sometimes charge a fee to plan/research customized travel requests. We are also able to give our members rewards for travel requests not to mention the great pricing we are able to get.
What would be your top recommendation for visiting Palm Springs if you only had 5 days?
- The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens
- Indio Neighborhood-Coachella Canyon
- Cathedral City for the artists
- Tram up to Chino Canyon
- Joshua Tree National Park
So is there any way you can bend the rules for me to become a member from here in Palm Springs or do I have to travel to Charleston? At the moment you have to come in person. We get asked this question a lot and are considering some options but quite honestly we love our home city and you will too if you come and visit.
Ok Sandra. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
There you have it folks. If you are in Charleston make sure you look them up and if you join have them help you plan a trip to Palm Springs!