As originally published in the Wall Street Journal.
While the concept of a private society dates back for centuries — originally as a place for the aristocracy to gather unburdened by the public eye — today’s modern clubs are flourishing with a more worldly point of view. A nexus for like-minded individuals, the most valuable memberships reach far beyond the walls of any clubhouse, offering a horizon-broadening environment. And with the joys of travel at an all-time peak, there’s a new club emerging as the most coveted membership of all: the luxury travel club.
For the world’s most influential globetrotters (think entrepreneurs like former AOL executive Steve Case or of-the-moment artists like photographer Gray Malin), Exclusive Resorts is the membership of choice. Since 2002, The Club has taken its coterie of more than 4,300 Members to some of the world’s most sought-after locales, from Europe to the Caribbean and beyond — with a nearly $1 billion-dollar portfolio of private homes, rare experiences, and more around the globe. Like any club, Members pay a one-time initiation fee (starting at $175,000 for a 10-year plan) and set annual dues based on the number of nights they would like to travel each year. (Most opt for 25 travel days and a suite of Club benefits starting at $39,875/annually.*)
What they get in return is more than an entry to a club; it’s a connection — to family and themselves; to new cultures, friendships, and perspectives; and to a whole new world at their fingertips. Here, Members and experts share why travel clubs are the modern membership that matters most.
1. It’s an instant travel assistant:
Every Member is matched with a dedicated ambassador whose sole responsibility is to plan the vacations you want. A private getaway to a villa with an infinity pool in Costa Rica? A weekend in the hottest new city in Europe, like yesterday? Don’t know what you want to do, but you want to do it in Mexico? They’ll plan it. “It’s hassle-free, worry-free vacationing,” says Nick Branca, Club Member since 2009. “There’s nothing worse than spending hours and hours researching a vacation, and then you show up and it doesn’t meet your expectations. Wherever you go with The Club, you know it’s going to be excellent.”
2. Location, Location, Location:
Exclusive Resorts doesn’t just take its Members to the most sought-after destinations — it takes them to the best five-star hotels and resort communities in the world. On beaches, they stay in sprawling villas at Mexico’s Rosewood Mayakoba, the Four Seasons Resort Anguilla, and the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. In Europe, they call the Peninsula Paris and Casali di Casole in Tuscany home. And from coast to coast, they are regulars at some of the country’s most awarded resorts, from The Cloister in Sea Island, Georgia to California’s Montage Laguna Beach.
3. More space and privacy — for less:
Forget shared hotel rooms. Say goodbye to cramped suites with rollaway beds. Exclusive Resorts promises room for all — and then some. In fact, more than 50% of the residences in its collection have four bedrooms, many with private pools, expansive outdoor terraces, media rooms, and ensuite accommodations for all. Even better: It comes at a fraction of the cost, says Member Chris Jackson, who joined The Club in 2021. “If you’re spending a week in Hawaii, just getting a suite for four guests during peak season is roughly what the annual dues are for Exclusive Resorts,” he says. “The initiation fee quickly pays for itself.”
4. Every trip comes with an entourage:
Every time you travel, you’ll have a dedicated on-site concierge to manage every detail. They do the grocery shopping, arrange the housekeeping, book the transportation — and order you a massage too. Ready for a night out (and a babysitter)? Done. Trying to snag New York City’s hottest dinner reservation? Booked. A private chef, yoga instructor, or guide for an epic outing? Just ask.
5. You’ll find your travel tribe:
The Exclusive Resorts social calendar is full of VIP experiences, Once-in-a-Lifetime Journeys, and Members-only events — all of which bring you closer to others who share your passions and interests, whether it’s for fine wine, fast cars, or the French Open. Watch the Grand Prix de Monaco from a private yacht, rub elbows with Chef Thomas Keller in the kitchen of The French Laundry, or play PGA-rated courses at Pebble Beach. Thinking of traveling alone? Fear not! The number of solo travelers is skyrocketing, and The Club is delivering on increasing demand.
6. You’ll never miss another vacation:
“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,” says Jackson. Like any club, Members pay a one-time initiation fee (starting at $175,000 for a 10-year plan) and set annual dues based on the number of nights they would like to travel each year. (Most opt for 25 travel days and a suite of club benefits starting at $39,875/annually*). What they get in return is more than an entry to a club; it’s a guaranteed connection — to family and themselves.
7. Leave a travel legacy:
A memorable trip enriches your family now — and forever. That’s especially true with an Exclusive Resorts membership, which can be passed down to family members. “The fact that membership can be passed on to my children and grandchildren was a big part of why we joined,” says Marti Gastro, Club Member since 2006. “We looked at it as an investment in our family vacations and a benefit to all of our kids, even after we’re gone. It has become part of our family legacy.”
8. You never have to visit the same place year after year:
Bid farewell to the second-home curse — the headaches and pitfalls of ownership and maintenance; the burden of visiting the same place time and again. And, because The Club owns the majority of its core portfolio, residences are regularly upgraded and customized, with chef’s kitchens, the latest luxury furnishings, and state-of-the-art technology — regardless of whether you take a long weekend in Nantucket or an extended vacation in Tuscany. “Second homes often seem like great investments — something you will use frequently with family and friends while it appreciates in value,” says Steve Case, who acquired majority ownership of The Club after joining in 2003. “But what often happens is that you use it less than expected and are surprised by the expense and hassle of owning another property.”
9. You’ll check something off your bucket list:
“We are active travelers, and we’re certainly still having fun after all these years,” says Brian Longo, who has traveled to Rwanda, Kilimanjaro, and Antarctica on Members-only Club Journeys. Another perk of membership, these epic trips give new meaning to the term “bucket list,” delivering expert-crafted experiences like around-the-world private-jet trips, adventurous expeditions into the off-piste mountains of Canada or the ancient ruins of Peru, and VIP access few could even dream of in attractions like Wimbledon and the legendary Augusta National Golf Club.
10. Because life’s too short for should-haves:
There’s no commitment greater than the one you can make to your family and yourself to live a richer, fuller life — and an Exclusive Resorts membership does just that, promising up to 60 built-in vacation days per year. Says CEO James Henderson, “Life travels fast, with plenty of ‘should-haves’ along the way. And when it’s over, you’ll never wish you worked more and played less. So, spend more time with your family. Take better vacations. And do what is good for your soul.”
*Annual Dues subject to change in accordance with Membership Agreement. Annual Dues are determined based upon Active Membership Plan chosen. The Annual Dues amount reflected herein is inclusive of certain services, benefits, and access rights.Membership is subject to terms and conditions of Club Membership Agreement. Club Membership does not provide or constitute, any investment, equity or ownership interest, or any real property interest.