SherpaReport looked at why families had opted for the personalized and ultra-private experiences of Exclusive Resorts. These families talked about all aspects of club membership, from the predictability of the Club’s fixed pricing model to leaving a lasting legacy of travel.
“You never have to wonder whether it’s going to be good — and can relax knowing it will be.”
Chris Jackson, member since 2020
Exclusive Resorts member Chris Jackson says travel has always been an important part of his life. Along with his wife and two daughters, Chris regularly spent weekends with friends in the mountains, escaped to luxury resorts in the Caribbean, and booked upscale vacation rentals around the world.
Then the pandemic hit, and his family’s travel adventures came to a halt. “We had five trips canceled,” Jackson says. “When we were ready to travel again, everything was either booked up or seemed too risky.”
That’s when he decided to join Exclusive Resorts, a small, members-only luxury vacation club that includes more than 400 residences and experiences in over 75 destinations. His family had traveled with other members in the past, joining friends on vacations to the Club’s private homes in Los Cabos, Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona, where they enjoyed large spaces with private pools, daily housekeeping, and a dedicated concierge to manage every detail.
“With Exclusive Resorts, there’s a trust that everything is going to be up to a certain standard. We don’t have to wonder whether it’s going to be good - we can relax and enjoy ourselves knowing it will be,” Jackson says. “And unlike hotels with a shared concierge, you have your own on-site team taking care of you every step of the way. It makes the big family trips so much easier.”
Jackson recalls a time when a flight to Los Cabos was canceled, leaving his family stranded at the Phoenix Airport. In a previous life, this challenge could have potentially ruined the entire trip. “Our ambassador Jason immediately had everyone working on a solution to make sure we didn’t miss a minute of our vacation,” he remembers.
Since becoming members, the Jacksons have visited the Exclusive Resort’s five-bedroom residences on Kiawah Island in South Carolina and both the Laguna Beach and Pelican Hill resort locations in Southern California. On those trips, they’ve established routines that allow Jackson to enjoy more quality time with his family while staying connected with his business.
“Most of the homes have private offices or spare bedrooms where I can dedicate a few hours of my day to work,” he says, adding that the ability to work from anywhere compelled him to upgrade his membership from 15 to 30 days of travel a year. “It’s such a relief to not have to choose between running my business and the valuable time I want to spend with my family on these vacations.”
For Jackson, the greatest benefit of an Exclusive Resorts membership really is the opportunity to spend more time with family. “Before there would always be an excuse to postpone, but having these 30 days locked in every year, we’re traveling together as a family more than ever. We always have an amazing trip to look forward to.” The family has also been inspired to experience new destinations, such as a trip to St. Andrews in Scotland that Jackson plans to take with his teenage daughter - an avid golfer - for her 18th birthday. “Kids grow fast, and these vacations are helping us create memories that will last forever,” he says. “Every single Exclusive Resorts trip has the potential to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“It’s an investment in our family vacations and a benefit to all our kids, even after we’re gone.”
Marti Gistaro, Member since 2006
Marti Gistaro was 67 years old when she and her husband Ed decided to invest in a 30-year membership with Exclusive Resorts. The Texas-based couple had been traveling for decades: summers at their vacation home in the mountains of New Mexico, trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco, safaris in Africa. But says it was a desire to be closer to family - especially their four grandchildren - that made the private, members-only travel club a more attractive option.
That applied especially to the one-on-one trips she took with their grandchildren, each of whom were gifted a “milestone trip” anywhere in the U.S. at age 9, and anywhere in the world at 16. There were stays in the club's four-bedroom estates in Lake Tahoe and Jackson Hole, elegant city accommodations in Paris and New York, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in the Galapagos Islands and Kenya. Marti, who now describes herself as a “full-time grandma,” says each vacation brought fulfillment, connecting with her family in profound ways that everyday encounters couldn’t offer. “Of course, Ed and I spoiled them rotten on these trips,” she says with a laugh. “But we also got to know who they really were, often in ways even their parents didn’t.”
Those trips had a lasting impact on the rest of the family too, says Erin Gistaro Akman, Marti's eldest grandchild. "I have so many memories of our Exclusive Resorts trips, from being surprised on my 16th birthday with a trip of a lifetime to Paris to celebrating my grandfather's life in Real del Mar after his passing," she says, adding that as an adult, her appreciation for togetherness a membership affords has only grown. "I now realize how much work goes into building a special vacation, and I have so much appreciation for how easy the Club makes it."
While Marti’s Exclusive Resorts membership has helped instill a love of travel among her grandchildren, for the now 83-year-old, it also ensures a legacy she can pass on to them. That’s because every membership is inheritable, an investment in the future of travel for the next generation. “The fact that this membership can be passed on to my children and grandchildren was a big part of why Ed and I joined,” Marti says. “We looked at it as an investment in our family vacations and a benefit to all of our kids, even after we’re gone.”
“No matter what happens with the economy, we know we’re going to have these vacations every year.”
Tim Whelan, Member since 2017
With many of today’s travelers looking for certainty - and value - in an increasingly unpredictable world, Exclusive Resorts’ fixed pricing model is more appealing than ever. The club recently experienced one of its strongest years for new membership sales in over a decade, welcoming 200 new member families in 2022.
For Member Tim Whelan, joining Exclusive Resorts was as much a promise to his family and himself as it was to his financial well-being. Over the last year, Whelan has traveled with his young family of four to residences in Sea Island, Georgia, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla, and the Abaco Club at Winding Bay in The Bahamas, all at the same fixed dues rate starting at $23,925 annually. Like any country club, members like Whelan pay a one-time initiation fee (starting at $175,000 for a 10-year plan) and annual dues based on the number of nights they’d like to travel each year. Exclusive Resorts says most families opt for 15-30 travel days to access the club’s suite of members-only benefits, experiences and residences. It’s simple and predictable and often less expensive than booking comparable villas or multiple hotel rooms.
“Whatever the circumstances may be in the world, there’s one thing we know we can count on, and that’s that we are going to be able to go on that trip together,” Whelan says. “No matter what happens with the economy, no matter the dips or dives in the market, we know we’re going to get to have those once-in-a-lifetime vacations every year.” Then adds "and that’s priceless."