Timeshare owners know that spacious, high-spec accommodation and great on-resort amenities set their holidays apart from hotel rooms and low-cost self-catering apartments. RCI members know that RCI membership takes timeshare to another level with a wide range of holiday choice and many leisure lifestyle benefits.

I've known several friends over the years to fulfil the dream of buying a second home - their place in the sun - only to find it becomes a burden that leaves them cold.

Initially, the first surprise is finding that the upkeep of a holiday home is more costly than they bargained for. Gardeners and cleaners are cut to reduce the annual running costs, which means several days of the holiday are spent hacking back the overgrown garden, carrying out essential repairs and cleaning - and then packing it all up before they return home. Then there is the boredom that sets in from having to return, dutifully each year, to the same place to holiday - just to be sure they are getting value from the money spent buying it.

For the timeshare owner with RCI membership, the second home experience is, happily, a very different and far better one.

Timeshare owners buy their place in the sun - or snow - for, quite literally, a fraction of the price of a whole ownership purchase. A big benefit is being able to start their holiday the minute they walk through the front door and enjoy every second of it - no opening up and cleaning at the start, and packing the holiday home away before leaving.

Why have one holiday home when you could choose from thousands?

Generally today, an average guide price on a one-bedroom apartment on the Spanish island of Tenerife will set you back anything between £180,000 and £250,000 as a second home purchase, depending on its location and specification. Again, as a general guide, a timeshare, in a similar - or even the same - property will cost you between £2,000 to £20,000, depending on criteria and variables such as the apartment's location, specification, the seasonality of the week you purchase and duration of ownership.

A timeshare purchase buys you the right to use that week for an agreed period of ownership, which varies from 3-year to 25-year ownerships.

The best thing about timeshare is that you don't have to keep going back to the same apartment, at the same time each year. You can, if you wish. However, if your wanderlust gets the better of you, that's when the value and flexibility of RCI membership kicks in and you simply give RCI the week you own that you don't want to use, and take another of equivalent value out of the RCI Exchange Holiday programme. For RCI members, the value given to your owned week - trading power or points - can be combined by saving and borrowing, giving you access to a wide range of the more than 4,300 resorts worldwide which are signed up to the RCI Exchange Holiday programme.

The holiday accommodation in RCI's exchange programme offers every kind of holiday experience, from sunny shores and pretty Mediterranean villages, to the wonders of wild wildernesses, mountains blanketed in snow or restful rural retreats.

Brockwood Hall Lodges (4819) in the wilds of the Cumbrian countryside in the UK, offers guests an idyllic outdoor lifestyle with special touches such as hot tubs on your decking.

On top of all that choice, the quality of the accommodation that you call home during your timeshare holiday is a huge plus over a standard hotel room or self catering apartment. RCI member of 20 years, Donna Merrick, says: "It's hard for me not to compare our holidays to those of other families, especially in terms of cost. We visited Greece, staying in apartments of comparable quality as our friends. While they paid around £4,000 for accommodation, we paid only £650, which was our annual maintenance fee for our week, plus our RCI exchange fee. Getting accommodation of equal quality for the same price on the high street just isn't possible."

Club Las Calas (1448) is one of Lanzarote's most popular timeshare resorts. Its recent €2 million upgrade and refurbishment programme sees it retaining its RCI Gold Crown prestigious quality award.

This interior of an apartment at Crown Resorts at Club Marbella (Sapphire Collection) (2404) demonstrates the quality and the spaciousness to be enjoyed in a timeshare apartment.

Thinking outside the resort

RCI Platinum membership gives timeshare owners even more...

RCI Platinum membership is designed to enrich your holiday lifestyle with a collection of exclusive benefits, many of which can be enjoyed even when you're not away on holiday. Here are just some of the advantages of our higher tier of membership:

Be the first to view accommodation that is acquired especially by RCI using the Priority Access privilege that comes with this membership. Enjoy having the freedom to upgrade your unit, or even change resorts in your destination - subject to availability, of course. Restore full trading power to your account if you have overlooked using it, free of charge, up to six months before the start date of your proposed RCI Exchange Holiday or, if you own points, extend the life of your points for an additional year at no extra charge.

You can also get a taste of the high life when you're not on holiday with RCI Platinum membership, as it gives you FREE tastecard membership. Using tastecard, you can dine out in style for half the price with 50% discounts on your food bill, or 2 for 1 meals, offered at more than 6,900 restaurants in the UK, including family favourites such as Pizza Express and Prezzo.

Now that RCI has introduced the 'plus platform' for its Platinum members - tastecard+ - great value savings can be made on so much more than dining options. tastecard+ brings some fabulous leisure lifestyle products into the mix for RCI Platinum members, and include as much as 70% off hotel bookings at participating UK hotels; up to 60% discounts on theatre tickets and 40% off cinema tickets, to help you make the most of your weekends. Because we all love to get out and try exciting new experiences - or to enjoy some of our favourite activities more often then we do - tastecard+ also gives our RCI Platinum members up to 54% savings on the cost of some amazing days out, such as spa breaks and theme parks. For those who want to feel cossetted right from the start of their holiday, the free tastecard+ membership allows our Platinum members to relax in the comfort of airport lounges while awaiting their flights at an incredible discount of up to 45% on the usual lounge admission cost.

Giving them more peace of mind on their journey out, our Platinum members can have their travel essentials, such as luggage, wallet and keys, tracked across the world using My TAG, so they don't need to worry about losing any of those belongings while out travelling. And, on return from holiday, exclusive discounts on Branded Memories photo albums offered to our Platinum members means they can capture as many incredible holiday memories as possible to share with family and friends in the years to come, and all at great value prices.

All these advantages come on top of the many great benefits to be enjoyed with a standard RCI membership! As an RCI Platinum member, you could be benefiting from more than £550 in savings each year on leisure spending, for a membership upgrade fee of just £50.

You have nothing to lose and lots to gain, both while out on holiday and during all those weekends spent at home while waiting for your great holiday escapes to come around.

RCI Platinum membership is a lifestyle experience to be enjoyed at home, as well as on holiday. Many great-value benefits combine to deliver hundreds of pounds of savings each year for a simple membership upgrade of just £50.

Cruise & stay & save

Waking up to a new view each day, while knowing your every whim and desire will be catered for, is pretty much what a cruise holiday entails.

Today's cruise lines are putting ships out on the world's oceans that offer as much to do on board, as there is to be enjoyed ashore. Fine dining, with a half dozen or more different cuisine options; spas, gyms, swimming pools on sun-kissed decks, bars, painting classes, rock wall climbing, cooking classes, champagne tasting, games out on deck, shopping, dancing, nightly live entertainment... It's little wonder many cruise guests love their sea days and evenings aboard just as much as their time in port.

RCI Cruise & Resort Holidays brings RCI members an incredible selection of ocean-going cruise experiences around the world, as well as the opportunity to make amazing savings of up to 45% on the recommended retail prices of selected cruise itineraries from leading international cruise brands. More than 4,000 RCI members chose to take one of these packages last year, taking advantage of discounts worth hundreds of pounds on both the price of the cruise and hotel stays in many of the world's iconic cruise cities, such as Florence and Paris. RCI Cruise & Resort Holidays have saved some of our members as much as £5,000 a year. Even greater value can be added to a cruise holiday by RCI members using their timeshare to book an Exchange Holiday, either at the start or the close of their cruise experience.

Pat and Charles Anstead have been RCI members for 20 years and have recently taken a number of cruise and stay holidays, using their timeshare to tag an extra week onto their holiday. They have also revisited several places using their timeshare, after falling in love with them during their cruises. Pat summarises what she and Charles like so much about RCI Cruise & Resort Holidays. "We feel a cruise is like having the best of an all-inclusive holiday, but with the bonus which takes it a step better, of being able to go out each day to explore a new place to see things you've never seen before. Each day is a completely new adventure," she explained. "RCI Cruise & Resort Holidays are really good value, and so flexible having the resort stay option to be used at either end of your cruise."

*RCI Cruise & Resorts Holidays package is offered by RCI Travel. RCI Travel is operated by ICE Europe Limited, (ICE), trading as 'Our Holiday Centre' and uses the name RCI Travel under licence from RCI Europe. RCI Europe is a separate entity and does not supply any travel services and is not responsible for any of the products or services offered herein. The above-mentioned savings are based on members purchasing a package worth £2,199 - and 45% savings is the cumulative sum of the featured savings comprised in a specific package. For full terms and conditions, visit rcitc2.com

Cruising into the sunset, knowing you will awake to a new view each day while having all your needs and whims catered for, a cruise holiday has all the benefits of an all-inclusive holiday and more. RCI Cruise & Resort Holidays can deliver thousands of pounds in savings on cruise holiday packages to RCI members, who can also extend their holiday by tagging a week in timeshare accommodation onto the start or close of their holiday adventure on the high seas.

Even extra...

To make sure our members get the holidays they deserve, RCI acquires additional accommodation each year in stylish resorts and dreamy holiday destinations to offer to our members as RCI Extra Holidays.

As well as giving members more choice, Extra Holidays are available at great value prices exclusive to RCI members, who don't need to use any of their trading power or points to get away on another holiday. Many members who are savvy in using their RCI membership use these holidays to tag onto an exchange to extend their time away, while others book an Extra Holiday to take their family or friends away with them.

One such member, Maria Musgrove-Wethey, has been a member of RCI for nearly 25 years and is a big fan of RCI Extra Holidays. Maria has never visited the resort where she bought her timeshare. "I bought timeshare to be an RCI member and be able to make exchanges," she said. However, RCI Extra Holidays also play an important part in her holiday planning with RCI.

"My weeks are valuable to me. If I'm paying my maintenance and exchange fees, I want to make sure I get the absolute best holiday I can get using my trading power. When I can get an RCI Extra Holiday for around £195, it makes sense to keep my exchange weeks for an extra special holiday," Maria explained.

Maria with her family on their RCI Exchange Holiday in Madeira, where the addition of an RCI Extra Holiday meant the family were able to invite their friends to join them in Madeira, in their own apartment, for as little as £100 for the week.

Because we know our members are accustomed to quality accommodation with RCI Exchange Holidays, we make sure that any accommodation acquired and offered as an Extra Holiday, is of the quality members expect. Knowing what to expect in terms of quality, Maria is happy to book RCI Extra Holidays and Late Deals for her friends. On a holiday to Madeira, Maria had planned to let her friends share her Pestana Miramar (5440) apartment. "In the end, we decided it made more sense for everyone to have more space so I looked to see what RCI Extra Holidays were available," she said. "I found an apartment at Pestana Village (3725), which shares facilities with the Miramar, for only £100*. Our friends were delighted, especially as they got an upgrade to a one-bedroom apartment. You couldn't get one night in a good hotel in Madeira for that price!"

It's never too late to get away on an indulgent last-minute break, especially if you are retired or self-employed and have more freedom in when you can get off on holiday. Late Deals are further discounted RCI Extra Holidays which could be yours for as little as £165 a week - if you are able to book your break less than six weeks before the check-in date. So, if you have the time, rest assured that RCI will have a great holiday getaway deal for you.

*£100 price is based on a studio/hotel apartment as a Late Deal.

If you can book your holiday less than six weeks before the check-in date then, with RCI membership, you could be off on a really low-cost break, benefiting from rates that are exclusive to RCI members.

City sights for less

From quirky Helsinki to action-packed Orlando, we have selected some fabulous urban tours and attractions in some of the world's most fascinating cities to give our members yet more travel choice and adventure.

RCI has teamed up with City Discovery to bring great value 'buy before you fly' attraction and tour rates to RCI members. Getting organised and planning those special visits to the places you have always wanted to see, before you arrive at your holiday destination, not only means you can make savings on your holiday spending, but it gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what you are doing once you arrive on holiday. You can relax knowing you will get to make the visits that matter most to you while out on holiday, as well as not having to waste a minute of your precious holiday time trying to book your trips.

There are many exciting city and urban tours now available to RCI members at special low-cost rates - leaving more money to spend on dining, shopping, sampling the local wines and many other seductive holiday pursuits. RCI Platinum members benefit from further savings of up to 20% on selected tours and attraction bookings.

Many fabulous city and urban experiences are now available to RCI members at special low-cost tour and attraction rates. RCI members like to combine a buzzing short city break with a relaxing week's retreat using their timeshare exchange, enjoying the best of both worlds.

Caring sharing friends

Because we know how many of our members like to share their timeshare experiences and RCI holiday fun, we decided to reward those caring, sharing members by giving them - and their timeshare-owning friends - £50 each on their RCI accounts when one of our members recommends RCI membership to any of their friends who own a timeshare, but who are not yet RCI members, and those friends go on to join RCI.

Our Recommend A Friend programme is a very easy and simple process. Our members invite their friends to sign up to RCI membership at rci.com/rfrl - including the referring member's RCI member ID number. RCI will then enrol that friend into membership and, once the friend has become an RCI member, both friends will receive a £50 credit on their RCI accounts to put towards another great RCI holiday product or service.

The best part about recommending a friend is that you are growing your holiday-loving community and can then start planning your RCI getaways together in the future.

Friends who love to share the RCI membership experience by recommending RCI membership to their timeshare-owning friends or family are now rewarded with £50 each on their RCI accounts as a 'thank you' from the RCI team.

We will find your holiday match

Every hour and minute of each day, the accommodation that becomes available to our members as Exchange Holidays changes. It is a dynamic system, with our members putting the weeks they don't want to use into the exchange programme, and taking out those they do as they plan their next RCI Exchange Holiday. That means that accommodation availability is forever changing.

For this reason, we encourage our members to check the availability of accommodation regularly on RCI.com. However, we have given our members an Ongoing Search facility so they can be extra sure that they will be alerted as soon as the accommodation in a resort they really want to holiday in becomes available. Weeks in many of our most sought-after destinations, such as Italy and the UK, are deposited in the exchange pool regularly by their owners who are looking to visit a fresh destination, but you need to be the first to see them to get them for yourself.

By putting an Ongoing Search in place, RCI will look for a match for you and alert you as soon as accommodation matching your request becomes available giving you a head start in getting your perfect holiday escape. Being flexible on your dates, the resorts you are happy to stay at in a given destination and the size of the accommodation units, is the best way to maximise your exchange opportunities. Should you change the search criteria, cancel it or book, RCI will send you an email notification instantly with confirmation of your update - giving you the confidence that you are in control of your account and transactions at all times.

We are doing everything we can to make your dream holiday a reality.

The RCI network of Exchange Holiday accommodation is vast - and availability changes every minute of every day, which is why we offer our members an Ongoing Search where you can let RCI continually check out availability on your behalf to find you your perfect exchange match and let you know as soon as it becomes available to book.

Help is always at hand

As the most established exchange holidays service provider, it is little wonder that RCI has developed an extensive suite of leisure products and services over its almost 50 years in business. We have touched on just a selection of the many ways you can enhance your holiday and leisure lifestyle using RCI membership in this blog.

To make sure our members have all the tools they need to get the most out of their RCI membership for themselves, family and friends, RCI has given its members a help library which is available 24/7 on RCI.com. Using easy to follow guidance in the form of our expert Guides' commentary, infographics and videos, the help library is packed with all the advice you need to understand just how far RCI membership can take you. From starting out on your holiday planning journey to booking your Exchange Holiday getaway, there are tips and direction as to how to get the holidays you want.

It's not just exchange holidays either... If you want guidance on the many additional benefits that you are entitled to as an RCI member, you will find lots of information on all the lifestyle extras you should be enjoying.

If you feel that you might need a little extra guidance and assurance, then our Guides are waiting at the end of the phone to support you. You can either speak to a Guide directly or, as many of our members like to to do, you can click to chat and access real time help on screen, on RCI.com, as you are working your way through your planning journey.

There are so many different ways to holiday with RCI, it is worth taking the time to explore the possibilities open to you with RCI membership and we hope that whatever your preference when it comes to research, we will have exactly the kind of support you want at hand to help you on your way.

RCI makes sure that help is always at hand so that we can be sure our members know how to use their RCI membership to get the most out of life. From our 24/7 online help library packed with guidance, to real time click to chat or our expert Guides at the end of a phone line, you will never be short of advice and support to help you get off on your dream holiday.

If you want to explore the holiday world of RCI to see the full range of benefits and fabulous resorts across more than 100 countries that could become part of your leisure lifestyle and holiday getaways, visit RCI.com by clicking on the button below.

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If you own timeshare and are not an RCI member - but after reading this taster of just some of the benefits you could be enjoying with RCI membership, you want to be - you can enrol now as an RCI member by clicking the button below.

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