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Inspirato: Luxury Travel Turned Subscription Model

Destination clubs are a part of an industry that is all about leisure and luxury, and prospective buyers should give an in-depth look at the most attractive contenders if they want to receive the best value for their time and money. Inspirato is definitely one of the biggest players in this field, but what is the reality behind their reputation? This guide will take you on a step-by-step evaluation of everything about Inspirato, from the price of becoming a member to the benefits you get in comparison with other services like (and unlike) it.

What is Inspirato

Inspirato is a destination club that offers its members a plethora of luxury vacation homes and five-star hotels to choose from, with the added benefit of receiving a high-end, personalized service during their stay. It’s not hard to imagine that such service targets very affluent travelers with very high expectations for their leisure time.

On a surface level, one can draw parallels between Airbnb and Inspirato, with the noticeable difference that the latter is completely built around the luxury travel market. Inspirato offers its catalog of leased multi-million dollar vacation homes and luxury hotels in many of the world’s most coveted destinations at members-only rates.

Inspirato also differs from other destination clubs, like Exclusive Resorts, that own vacation homes corporately and sell memberships that grant a right to use the residences. It also is different than private equity funds, like Equity Residences, that purchase luxury vacation homes that are owned and used by its investors as well as rental guests.

So how did Inspirato come to be? This luxury destination club is the brainchild of entrepreneurs Brent and Brad Handler who, after taking their families on vacation to Hawaii, were left unsatisfied with the service and accommodations. The official launch of Inspirato came about in 2010.

Inspirato offers its members trips to exclusive destinations such as the Maldives, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Los Cabos; ski resorts like Vail and Aspen; and European hotspots such as Ibiza, Mykonos, the French Riviera, Tuscany, and many more. Inspirato properties come in many different styles, including beach homes, private ski lodges, chalets, and top-tier hotel rooms.

But is the Inspirato experience really at the top of the luxury travel industry? Do the perks outweigh all of the costs and downsides? And most importantly, is Inspirato and its membership-based, pay-as-you-go model really for you?

Inspirato executive team

As mentioned before, Inspirato’s origin came about as the result of a less-than-stellar vacation taken by founders Brent and Brad Handler. However, the Handler’s experience with the destination club industry goes way back when, in 2002, they co-founded Exclusive Resorts. This company helped set the standard for the then-burgeoning industry of destination clubs and became the leading brand in the market for a time.

Despite serving as president for Exclusive Resorts, Brent Handler was convinced he could improve upon his company’s model, and thus Inspirato was born. Today, Inspirato offers three levels of traditional membership, and a new option called the Inspirato Pass. What does each of them entail, and what do they contribute to travelers? Let’s find out.

How Does Inspirato Work?

The Inspirato Club – A Destination Club Membership Model

Inspirato is a luxury destination club targeted towards those who love to take first-class vacations without having to peruse vacation rental sites for luxury accommodations.

“In my opinion, the original Inspirato business model was spawned by the Great Recession,” according to Steve Dering, who pioneered the private residence club concept, created a destination club that was sold to Exclusive Resorts, and is an Equity Residences director.

“It took advantage of cheap leases secured from vacation home developers who had lots of unsold inventory and no buyers. Inspirato provided desperately needed cashflow for these developers.

“The model had to be re-engineered when the vacation home market recovered, the original leases expired, and new leases became more expensive,” according to Dering.

At the inception, Inspirato Club promised value to its members, especially compared to the likes of Exclusive Resorts. In 2012, New York Times described Inspirato as a “budget version, sort of” of Exclusive Resorts because Inspirato members could pay nightly rates for vacations instead of paying hefty non-refundable deposits for a set number of nights (Exclusive Resorts charged $170,000 for 20 nights vs Inspirato’s pay-as-you-go model of charging a “modest” upfront initiation fee of $15,000, an annual fee, and $400 – $3,000 per vacation night.) Another perk of Inspirato was the ability of its members to cancel their memberships at any time, instead of waiting for their turn to get out of the club like Exclusive Resorts and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.

Since Inspirato’s inception, the market for luxury vacation rental recovered and the club had to adjust its prices for members and expand its options.

Today, the company leases properties around the world in prime locations. These properties are available to their members for nightly rates. The residences range from large homes maintained and managed by the Inspirato team to luxury hotel rooms contracted with hotel partners (with the latter becoming more commonplace as time goes on).

If you are accustomed to luxury travel, you can afford to pay the nightly rates charged on top of the membership costs. Residences vary in price by season and destination demand but can run anywhere from $600 a night to over $3,000.

It bears repeating that Inspirato does not own its catalog of properties, but signs long-term leases with owners and directly manages the portfolio to ensure the company standards. This model sets the club further apart from the likes of Airbnb Luxe and other luxury vacation rentals that are managed and maintained by individual owners and may vary in quality.

Inspirato promises members that they will not deal with the hassle of navigating a maze of online reviews but have their pick from a hand-selected list of residences. In short, the bar set by Inspirato on their properties is high and promises consistency, while Airbnb’s is more of a gamble for a (sometimes) lower cost.

Inspirato has well-known hotel partners, including brands such as Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Waldorf Astoria, and more, not including experience-based partners like safaris and cruises.

As for perks of the Inspirato Club, members can access their elite resort partners, get preferred access to on-site amenities such as spas and golf courses, discounts in private yachts and jets, and sometimes access to experiences for sports and entertainment events.

You could say the Inspirato Club is the core of the Inspirato experience. Below, we will review the Inspirato Club membership levels as they stand today and associated costs.

In 2019, Inspirato introduced a vacation subscription model called Inspirato Pass. The Pass lets its members choose from a wide variety of travel destinations for a flat subscription rate of $2,500 per month.

Let’s look deeper into the Inspirato Pass.

Inspirato Pass: An Open-Ended Luxury Travel Option

The Inspirato Pass is a high-end travel subscription model that allows members to book a seemingly unlimited number of vacations or stays for a monthly subscription fee of $2,500 a month, or $30,000 per year (transportation and incidental costs and trip specifics are not included).

This model touts no nightly rates or taxes whether members choose to stay at a luxury villa, resort, cruise, or high-end hotel room. This greatly simplified method of booking, paying for, and enjoying trips — of a purported 60,000 visits available in the catalog — makes the Pass seem like a no brainer. However, there’s more than one catch to this Netflix-like vacation subscription model.

For starters, you can’t book your next trip until you check out of your current one unless you pay for an upgraded membership (the monthly cost doubles to $5,000), which then allows you to book an extra trip when you have an active reservation already. There’s also the twelve-month commitment upfront, which is required of all members regardless of their Pass level. You can’t check into your next destination in less than seven days in advance, thus reducing your chances of non-stop travel.

Price

The prices for the Inspirato Pass, as reflected on website, are the following:

Level 1: Allows 1 active reservation for $2,500/mo. No nightly rates, taxes, or fees (trips specific incidentals and transportation not included).

Level 2: Allows 2 active reservations for $5,000/mo. No nightly rates, taxes, or fees (incidentals and transportation not included).

Again, you are required to commit to the Pass for the first twelve months, although you are free to cancel the Pass at any time after the eleventh month with 30 days of written notice. Still, this means that if you book a trip three months from your check-in date, you would be paying three months of dues ($2,500 x 3 = $7,500) during the waiting period while not being able to stay at other Inspirato residences.

All in all, the best (and perhaps only) way to take full advantage of the Inspirato Pass is to book enough trips per year to offset the cost of $2,500 per month. These limitations may not be a big deal to you depending on the property, the length of your stay, and the amount of free time and flexibility of your schedule, but it bears deep consideration otherwise.

Differences Between Inspirato Club and Inspirato Pass

The Inspirato Club

A membership with the Inspirato Club will allow you full access to the entire Inspirato Collection of homes, hotel suites, and world-traveling experiences. Members can choose the dates of their trips and the length of their stay, but they have to pay nightly rates for their vacation residences; these range from $600 per night to over $3,000 per night, depending on numerous factors such as location, amenities, travel season, and more. Members can plan multiple vacations at once, with no limit on the number reservations held at one time.

Inspirato Pass

The Inspirato Pass offers “endless” travel and no nightly rates, taxes, or fees (aside from incidentals, which still aren’t covered). A Pass member can spend $30,000 or $60,000 a year on membership and choose vacations on the fly. This option is suitable for those with flexible travel schedules and a large vacation budget.

The main difference between the Inspirato Club and the Pass is the number of active reservations you can have on the books at one time. For the Pass members, Inspirato recommends that you book your next destination as soon as you check out of your current one. Otherwise, you risk spending a few months paying dues without actually traveling due to the ever-changing number of residences available to the Pass members.

Another difference is the absence of nightly rates for residences.

What You Get With the Inspirato Pass

An Inspirato Pass holder can choose from luxury hotels, vacation homes, and resorts to stay in for up to 60 days. The system will allow you to book your stay as soon as seven days before your trip starts or as long as a year in advance. Cancellations are not forgiving, as any cancellation after a 72-hour window will face a $250 per night cancellation fee.

The Pass allows holders to share their subscription with family members, friends, and colleagues with the sharing privilege option. If the holder declines this option, they or their spouse must be physically present when checking in for each vacation.

Perhaps Inspirato’s most alluring offer is a dedicated vacation advisor that is expected to assist you with all of your trip-planning activities and needs. This on-site concierge will organize your itinerary and manage your daily requests, such as making reservations and stocking your fridge with all the groceries you will need. Members will also be provided with housekeeping and fresh linens.

About Co-members and guests

Like we mentioned before, the standard sharing option requires you or your spouse to be present when checking into each trip in order to bring other guests. This option can be customized so that you have sharing privileges with your Inspirato Pass, allowing your entire family (or friends of the family, or even colleagues) to use it and go on trips without you or your spouse present.

The cost of Inspirato Club membership 

For a long time, Inspirato Club membership costs consisted of three elements: an initiation fee, annual dues, and nightly rates for renting the residences.

Recently, the company streamlined its fee structure, opting to charge members $1,150 – $3,250 a month for varying Club membership levels for the first twelve months, omitting the up-front initiation fee. Nightly rates for residences are still in effect.

Membership Levels and Fees

The Club offers a complimentary seven-night vacation when you join at Family or Executive levels.

Key – $1,150 per month for the first 12 months. Members can travel on demand throughout the collection and pay nightly rates for rentals. Members have access to luxury homes, experiences, and ongoing weekly offers through Jaunt. This level offers all the basic membership features, including the ability to book trips six months in advance and access private events and on-site concierge services.

Family – $2,000 per month for the first 12 months. Members can travel on demand throughout the collection and pay nightly rates for rentals. Members are also entitled to one complimentary Inspirato vacation. Members can get a complimentary six-month Wheels Up Connect Membership for private air travel. At this level, members get the chance to book twelve months in advance and receive complimentary access to parents and adult children.

Executive – $3,250 per month for the first 12 months. Members can travel on demand throughout the collection and pay nightly rates for rentals. Members are also entitled to two complimentary Inspirato vacations. Members can share accommodations with their families, friends, and colleagues. This level also includes a complimentary six-month Wheels Up Core Membership for private air travel. Sharing accommodations means members can also send friends, relatives, and clients on their very own Inspirato vacations.

Possible discounts and rewards

Inspirato has a members-only program for rewards, Jaunt. Through Jaunt, members can receive last-minute getaways or trips booked for up to a year in advance. This program has two forms:

Jaunt52: Trips on pre-selected dates over the next year at discounted prices.

JauntNow: Offers more significant savings for trips available on the Inspirato Collection for the next 60 days.

Full Five-Star Level of Service

One of the most significant differences that we mentioned exists between Airbnb and Inspirato is the pre-trip planning assistance and on-site concierge services offered with each destination you book. That is on top of daily housekeeping at no extra charge. The high-end personalized service goes deeper than that, however.

The properties that Inspirato leases are managed by their in-house team, which guarantees amenities such as designer furnishings, high-end appliances, and toiletries. This option adds incredible value when choosing a vacation home. Still, it’s partially lost with ordinary hotel suites, which continually increase in numbers within the catalog compared to houses.

Where is Inspirato: Available Inspirato Destinations

Beach Destinations

Inspirato Pass Reviews - Beach Destinations

Inspirato offers 75 beach destinations spread in such locations as the US, South America, Mexico & Central America, Europe, Caribbean & Bahamas, Asia & Pacific, and Africa.

Mountain Destinations

Inspirato Pass Reviews - Mountain Destinations

Inspirato offers 22 mountain destinations spread in such locations as the US, Switzerland, and Canada.

Metropolitan Destinations

Inspirato Pass Reviews - Mountain Destinations

Inspirato offers 44 metropolitan destinations spread in such locations as the US, Argentina, Mexico City, Asia & Pacific, Canada, and Australia.

Inspirato Experiences

With the Inspirato, members can choose to visit an African Safari or pick a trip to New Zealand. Other adventures available include vacation cruises on the Danube River or Greece. This is all part of their experiences program, which relies on their partnerships with many luxury travel companies worldwide.

Who will find value in Inspirato?

Inspirato is a good fit for affluent travelers who spare no expense when going on vacation. To enjoy Inspirato and make the most of everything it offers, travelers must spend at least $25,000 (for regular Inspirato members) or $30,000 (for Level 1 Pass holders) per year or more on accommodations.

To put these numbers in perspective, an average American traveler spends about $2,200 a year on accommodations.

People who like vacationing in places such as villas and resorts but want them to be vetted first and those who demand a five-star personalized level of service wherever they go will find value in Inspirato Club membership.

As for the Inspirato Pass, not only do all of the above considerations apply, but time should also be considered. To make the most of their Pass, members should be willing and able to travel at least once per month, sometimes at a moment’s notice to take advantage of the flat rates built into the Pass value proposition.

Here is a full list of pros and cons:

Pros

  • The convenience of Airbnb (although it has a dissimilar model) for affluent travelers
  • Concierge assistance to choose your destination, plan your vacation, and schedule everything
  • The Inspirato Pass is the best choice for affluent travelers with flexible schedules
  • The full service includes concierge, daily housekeeping, and five-star benefits
  • More affordable than buying a luxury second home or a private residence club
  • All houses are handpicked, so they provide consistent quality
  • The Inspirato team will solve any issue you encounter during your stay

Cons

  • More hotels and fewer luxury houses are offered in the catalog as time goes on
  • The upfront cost and nightly rates are considerably high, even if they elevate the member experience. There is no flexible pricing
  • With the Pass, you can only have two reservations scheduled at any time for the $5,000 a month option and just one for the base $2,500 option, which makes booking your next trip a bit of a gamble
  • You still have to pay your monthly dues even if your reservation is months away or you have no trips scheduled. If something prevents you from traveling for a month or several, you still have to pay thousands of dollars in membership fees
  • The length of your stay varies from location to location. With the Pass, hotel stays range from 2-7 days while residences offer longer stay durations
  • While your Inspirato Pass includes your nightly rates, fees, and taxes, you are still responsible for costs incurred during your stay, including parking, internet, activities, and food and beverages. The costs of travel, for example, airline tickets, are not included
  • Inspirato Club or Pass add up as pure vacation expenses. Members don’t build equity with their contributions or own any residences in the portfolio

Common misconceptions about Inspirato

1. It’s a service for people who want to save on luxury travel.

Far from being an option to experience luxury travel for less, Inspirato aims for the very affluent traveler for whom spending $5,000 or more per week in accommodations is an acceptable amount of money. The budget needed for yearly dues alone defeats the idea of traveling “on a budget.”

2. It’s a “luxury Airbnb.”

The user experience is quite different here. While Airbnb homes, even in the luxury segment, can differ in quality, Inspirato guarantees a consistent five-star experience.

How is a luxury destination club different from other services?

Inspirato Vs Timeshare or Vacation Club

Inspirato Pass Reviews - Inspirato Vs Timeshare or Vacation Club

The most glaring difference between Inspirato and timeshares or vacation clubs is that services are minimal with most timeshares. While a few high-end clubs will offer concierge services, you and your family will be more or less left to your own devices when planning your vacation.

In terms of cost, Inspirato claims that the length of commitment and extent of your obligations with a timeshare ends up being a higher cost than with their business model. It should be considered that, while the Inspirato experience is a luxurious one through and through, it can also be a big expense compared even to the cost of owning a luxury timeshare.

Another difference is the availability of vacation residences. Inspirato has undoubtedly a more comprehensive selection of properties to choose from at any time than any timeshare.

Inspirato Vs Fractional Ownership

Inspirato Pass Reviews - Inspirato Vs Fractional Ownership

While Inspirato is a destination club that delivers luxury accommodations for a fee, fractional ownership usually involves a deeded real estate purchase that must be sold upon exit. A fractional owner purchases a part of a vacation residence and uses it for several months a year.

Inspirato can be a good fit for those seeking variety, while fractional ownership is a good fit for those seeking a residence they can come back to year after year.

Inspirato Vs Private Residence Club

Inspirato Pass Reviews - Inspirato Vs Private Residence Club

Just like with fractional ownership, a Private Residence Club allows people to buy a share of a single residence. This ownership period varies depending on the property but is typically expressed in fractions such as 1/8 or 1/4 and so on up to 1/13. Even within the fractional market, PRCs are on the higher-end of the spectrum, providing investors with all the services, amenities, and luxury of a five-star hotel while also giving a sense of ownership.

Inspirato residences and private residence clubs are on par with each other in terms of quality and access to luxury amenities. PRC owners can vacation at comparable residences via access to exchange programs such as Elite Alliance.

Just like with fractionals, a destination club membership vs private residence club ownership comes down to personal priorities. Annual maintenance expenses at PRCs can be comparable to Inspirato membership or even exceed them, depending on the level of service at the specific Club. An upfront investment in a PRC far exceeds Inspirato’s dues, with an average price hovering around $245,000 per fraction.

Inspirato Vs Luxury Real Estate Investment Fund 

Private residence funds are based on investing in a diversified portfolio of vacation residences.

An investment in a luxury real estate private equity fund promises a financial upside, as well as vacation savings.

Investors are owners of the residences in the portfolio, and therefore they have no per night fees when they vacation. They also participate in the portfolio appreciation and get their investment back upon the portfolio liquidation. This makes luxury real estate investment funds all that more attractive for buyers. Funds only accept accredited investors and require an upfront investment of at least $160,000. Fund investors can exit in 10 years when the properties are liquidated.

Luxury Real Estate Private Equity Fund Inspirato
Ownership structure Investors collectively own a portfolio of homes The club leases a portfolio of homes on behalf of club members
Financial upside Investors share in portfolio appreciation and portfolio rental income Members share no financial upside
Annual fees $0 – $11,000 $15,000 – $60,000
Out-of-Pocket cost per night at the residence $71 – $130 $600 – $3,000+
Initial Investment $160,000+ Varies by plan
Selection of residences Depends on capital contributions by investors. A non-levered fund only buys residences with available cash. Can hold up to 25 residences in the fund. Strategic partnerships significantly expand this number. Depends on the number of leases signed. Partnerships with hotels significantly expand this number.
Accredited investor status Only accepts accredited investors Accepts members regardless of the accredited investor status

Compare Inspirato With Forms of Vacation Real Estate Ownership 

Why Invest in Luxury Travel: Is Inspirato Your Kind of Destination Club? 

If you treat luxury vacations as pure expenses and don’t want to enter into long-term commitments required by equity-based vacation options, such as buying a second home, a fractional, or joining a private equity fund, Inspirato is for you.

If you are concerned about capital preservation and can handle a high upfront investment, Inspirato may not be the best choice.

An accredited investor is someone who earned income that exceeded $200,000 (or $300,000 if married) in each of the prior two years, and reasonably expects the same for the current year; OR has a net worth over $1 million, either alone or together with a spouse (excluding the value of the person’s primary residence).