DAVENPORT – It’s a concept that used to be quite popular: if you can’t afford to buy something right away at the full asking price, just put it on layaway.
Layaway was an option to purchase an item without paying the entire cost at once – taking the item home, then repay the debt on a regular schedule through installment plans.
It became less popular as credit cards got more commonly used, and some large retailers, like Wal-Mart, have discontinued layaway services altogether.
Still, layaway does still exist in some forms, including Online layaway, where a product can be purchased through the Internet, with scheduled deductions from the buyer’s checking account.
And the concept may be making a more innovative comeback here in Central Florida, as a unique way to buy something that this region has to offer in abundance: a great vacation.
“We’re doing a layaway special,” said An Flamand. “Clients can actually start saving monthly into a specific account for us.”
Flamand runs USA Vacation Homes in Davenport. She manages a number of vacation homes in the Four Corners area near Walt Disney World, giving guests who come here the opportunity to spend their vacation in a fully furnished home with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen to cook in, a living room with cable and television, and a private pool. For some guests with large families, vacation homes have become a better alternative for an extended stay here than a hotel or motel room.
Flamand said in these tough economic times, not everyone can afford to come here and stay in a nice vacation home while also hitting the theme parks and local restaurants. So to help them make their vacation dreams a reality, she’s reintroduced the 1950s concept of the layaway: start saving now, then book your vacation when the money is in your account.
“We set it up, and let them contribute,” she said. “If they can spare $100 or $200, whatever it is. At the end of the time when they’re ready to book a vacation, they can see the total amount they have saved, and that can go toward a three bedroom or four bedroom vacation home, depending on the time frame when they want to book. We try to find the best value for when they plan to stay.”
The vacation home industry has boomed in the past decade, particularly in Northeast Polk County and Northwest Osceola County. Flamand serves on the board of directors for the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, which regulates this industry and helps to promote it. As the economy has gotten better, so have bookings, Flamand said, and the industry continues to grow.
“There are more than 20,000 vacation homes in Central Florida alone,” she said.
USA Vacation Homes has a web site and Facebook page that promotes not only the homes that Flamand manages, but also the region’s theme parks and special events that are a constant part of the local tourist trade here. She said the layaway program is a way to encourage people nervous about their finances to see this as a good way to get exactly what they want from a local vacation.
“As a layaway program, there is no cost to it,” Flamand said. “It’s a savings program. People can actually put it into a specific home if they know they will get to a specific amount. It’s kind of neat.”
This is the second time USA Vacation Homes has offered a vacation financed this way.
“We’ve had a layaway program before,” she said. “We just re-launched it and we’re actually starting to promote it again in the Orlando market. It was an e-blast that we’ve done, and we did book several people from it. Certain people need to do it that way because it helps them finance their vacation, while other people just tell us, ‘Oh I can save on my own.’ “
USA Vacation Homes is advertising the layaway program through its Facebook page, and Flamand noted that social media sites have become a great way to reach out to the public.
“It does, definitely,” she said. “To be honest, our social networking sites are in third place for people finding us, so it definitely does work.”
In addition to offering the layaway program, USA Vacation Homes has another special that it’s offering, also through Facebook.
“We have a special where we will give away aerial flight tickets once we reach 1,000 fans on our Facebook page,” she said. The site now has 389 fans.
Once they hit 1,000 fans, “Then we will have a grand drawing for one person who wins two Mauiva flight tickets,” she said. “They fly over Disney, Celebration — it really depends on which tours you take, and you can even do flights over the Disney fireworks, and you can see the fireworks popping. It’s really, really impressive.”
To learn more about the USA Vacation Homes layaway program, call 863-424-3835 or log on to www.usa-vacation-homes.com. The office is at 101 Polo Park Boulevard, Suite 1, in Davenport.
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