What’s up with travel clubs promising free travel?


I’ve been getting a steady drumbeat of calls about something I thought died six years ago: Travel clubs promising free or discounted travel.

Vacation club sales being pushed by postcard, e-mail and telephone

This is a pitch that can come to you in a variety of ways, either by phone call, e-mail or even postcard. In each case, you are told you’ve won a prize, usually a vacation like a cruise, an air flight or perhaps a resort stay. Sometimes you may be told you’ve won $5,000 or a car or some other expensive prize.

You’re also told you have to call in to ‘claim’ your ‘prize.’ That’s when the person on the other end of the line requires you to make an appointment to hear a sales pitch for a vacation club or travel club before you get your ‘prize.’

Once you hear the pitch, they’ll typically try to get $5,000 or $6,000 from you, stringing you along all the while with the promise of free travel, cruises and more.

But let me stop and ask you something: If you’re told you won something, you should just say ‘thank you’ and that’s it, right? You should not have to pay upfront for anything.

Anytime you’re told you will have to go in to hear a presentation, you should know that it’s suspect. The high pressure will start and they’ll try to get you into a high-priced contract for a timeshare or the like.

Read more: The #1 mistake people make at hotel checkout

The attorney general of Massachusetts is now suing a discount travel company and its affiliate for allegedly scamming more than two dozen people out of thousands of dollars this way.

The Boston Globe takes this story a step further. They’re reporting a new twist I’ve never heard before, where one of these vacation club outfits is sending people colorful postcards that show a Carnival cruise ship on the card. You’re told you’ve won a free cruise, but in the mice type it says ‘sample itinerary.’

So there is no Carnival cruise and you’re not getting that free trip. Who knows what prize you’ll ultimately get? I can tell you it probably won’t be much. But it will cost a lot in heartache, lost time, and lost funds.


For more money-saving travel advice, see our Travel section.

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