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Is a Timeshare Ever a Good Idea?

Is a timeshare ever a good idea? That’s a more complicated question than what it seems on the surface. We have a post called “Are Timeshares a Waste of Money?” that approaches this subject from a different angle.

In that post, we looked at timeshares from a financial standpoint. Specifically, we talk about timeshares as an investment.

For this discussion, we want to look at whether a timeshare is ever a good idea as a vacation option.

Our view is that purchasing a timeshare is a waste of money and is never a good idea. Maintenance fees are the primary reason we are against timeshares. You’ll be promised they won’t go up. But the reality is that isn’t true. Your fees can go up by thousands of dollars. Not to mention, timeshares do not increase in value. They decrease tremendously. We’ll talk about that later. For that reason, it is our view that timeshares are ripoffs.

I want you to take note of the answer in the previous paragraph. I said, “purchasing a timeshare is never a good idea”. I didn’t say “staying at a timeshare” is a bad idea.

That’s because what makes purchasing a timeshare a bad idea is what makes staying at a timeshare a potentially good idea.

In order to understand this reasoning, we need to answer a few question, including:

  • What is a timeshare?
  • Why stay in a timeshare?
  • Do I have to purchase a timeshare to stay at one?
  • How can I get a timeshare for free?

What Is a Timeshare?

I’ll spare you the dictionary definition. Instead, I’ll provide the practical definition; the one that helps you as a vacationer.

The simplest explanation is that at timeshare is a vacation property that you pay on monthly. Your fees are primarily maintenance fees for the upkeep of the property. Depending on the company managing your timeshare (known as a timeshare exchange network), you might be able to visit a property other than the one you signed up for.

That’s the simple answer. It’s actually more complex than that.

When you sit through a timeshare presentation, you’ll be promised guaranteed weeks or possibly points that will allow you to stay at the property. Sometimes these weeks are fixed.

So going the points route is popular. It allows a person to use those points at a different timeshare resort or even spend them on a cruise.

This is the “flexibility” that you will be pitched for purchasing a timeshare. Depending on where you are being pitched the timeshare, you may or may not be told this next point.

Trading your weeks is not as easy as promised. If you are pitched a timeshare in Las Vegas, for example, you’ll be told that you can trade weeks for anywhere in the world.

And that’s true.

On the other hand, if you are being sold a timeshare in Virginia or the Poconos, you’ll just hear that you can trade weeks.

That’s because you are, in fact, trading weeks based on value.

Think of when you trade your car in for a new one. If it runs well, isn’t dirty and is in a condition that it can be sold again, you’ll get more money than if the opposite is true. The car has more value.

The same holds true for timeshares.

If you hold a timeshare that is in a location that people want to stay on vacation, the value of that timeshare increases.

Conversely, if you hold a timeshare in an area that few people want to visit, then the value of your timeshare from a trading of weeks perspective is low.

The lesson here is this: don’t get hooked on the prospect of trading weeks to visit another property or to select a different kind of vacation.

One thing you need to be very clear on is that timeshare properties are owned by building developers. They need to get their money back by getting you to sign up.

The bait of switching weeks to stay somewhere else is to get you to sign on the dotted line for them to recoup their costs.

Because even if you are able to switch weeks, your “home” resort will be the one where you signed up. You’ll still have to pay maintenance fees even if you vacation somewhere else.

So if you are dead set on purchasing a timeshare, understand the fine print that will be glossed over at the presentation, if it’s even spoken about at all.

This leads us to our next question….

Why Stay In a Timeshare?

The timeshare industry is a big business. So big that companies like Disney (yes, the one that owns the theme parks and streaming service) are in the game.

So why do so many people make the decision to stay in a timeshare?

The main reason people stay in a timeshare is because they are sold the idea that it is an economical way for families to vacation. Instead of having to come up with a lot of money at one time, payments are spread out over the course of a year. The reasoning is that if you can budget your vacation and know where you’ll stay, there is a greater likelihood your family will go on vacation.

Another reason that appeals to some individuals is that you have a fixed time and place you will stay.

I didn’t talk much about this in the previous section. But now seems like a good time to get into it.

Remember when I said you have a “home” resort and that you have “weeks” that you can stay at that timeshare resort? Well, what I didn’t mention at that time is that your weeks are “fixed”.

“Fixed weeks” means that if you agreed to visit that timeshare for five days the first week in July, that is when you can come. You can work it out with the timeshare exchange network if that doesn’t work for you.

But having fixed weeks is appealing to some.

If you have a job that requires you to tell your employer in January what your vacation days will be, knowing exactly “when” you can stay at the resort can be a good thing. You don’t have to check for availability. Your weeks are “fixed”.

Another reason people like staying at a timeshare is because you can bring as many people as can fit into the room.

Depending on the property, you can agree to a timeshare where you stay in a studio. You can even go all the way up to a 3-bedroom unit. All for the same terms. Just at a higher price.

For families that have more than the stereotypical 4-person family, that can be an attractive offer. It’s also attractive for people who like vacationing with extended family. One thing timeshare salespeople will do to convince you to buy is to charge your guests for the stay. You then use that money to pay your fees.

At this point, I want to make it clear: I am NOT advocating purchasing a timeshare. I’m simply laying out the reasons why some people might want to make the purchase.

The final reason I’ll provide for why some might choose a timeshare is because you can get bigger rooms than at a standard hotel or resort.

A few paragraphs back I said that you could buy units ranging from suites to 3-bedrooms. For large families, that might tickle your interest. But it’s something you should know.

You Don’t Have to Purchase a Timeshare to Stay at One

I promise you, this is going to shock you.

Timeshare salespeople promise that you will “own” the property. Which, at a super-quick glance, might sound logical.

The only problem with that is you don’t “own” anything. Oh, sure. They’ll tell you that you can sell it like real estate. But make no mistake: the developer “owns” the property. The only thing you “own” is the right to stay there.

That’s why you can stay at timeshares that you never purchased.

Say, what???

That’s right. You don’t have to purchase a timeshare to stay at one.

Let me put it a different way. There is no reason for you to pay hundreds of dollars – even thousands of dollars – every year to stay at a timeshare. You simply book it like you would any other hotel.

Here’s how.

Open up your search engine of choice. In the search bar, type in “timeshare properties in Florida”. It doesn’t have to be Florida. Enter the state or country you want to vacation in. For example, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cancun, etc.

I did this search in Google and Duckduckgo. Notice the first listing on both search engines is an ad.

Duckduckgo search result:

duckduckgo search result

Google search result:

google timeshare search result

In the Duckduckgo result, the very first ad is for Holiday Inn Club Vacations. But don’t let the name fool you. They aren’t your run-of-the-mill Holiday Inns.

According to this ad, for a one-time payment like a regular hotel, you can stay for 3-nights. No contracts. No maintenance fees. Nothing except what a stay in a regular hotel would be.

If you noticed, there is a link for $100 cash back if you stay for a timeshare presentation. Assuming you picked this property from this ad, it’s unlikely you’d buy a timeshare. But it’s a option to save a few bucks if you’re willing to sit through it.

On to the Google result.

Notice that the first listing is an ad also. It’s not as obvious as the Duckduckgo result. But do you see there? The first link is for “Last Minute Rentals”.

Clicking the link takes you to a listing of timeshares that you can book just as easily as you would a hotel room. The website hosting this ad isn’t a timeshare company. Instead, it’s a website that helps people who purchased timeshares try to make money off of them.

Either way, you get to stay at a the same timeshare the timeshare “owner” stays at. Except you don’t pay any fees. When you leave, you just walk away.

I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you about the biggest timeshare company in America – Westgate Resorts. They own properties in all the desirable vacation destinations – Orlando, Fl, Myrtle Beach, SC, Las Vegas, NV, Park City, UT, etc.

I bring them up because you can stay at one of their properties and book it like you would any other vacation. Just without the timeshare handcuffs. And when you stay, you’ll be entitled to everything the other guest (who are timeshare owners) are paying through the nose for.

Here’s an example.

To stay in a Westgate resort on the beach in Myrtle Beach, SC, you’d pay only:

screenshot of booking page for westgate resort

How To Get a Timeshare For Free

Now, I know how that sounds. It implies that you can stay at a timeshare for a certain number of days for free.

But it’s better than that. Especially if you are convinced that “owning” a timeshare is for you.

Here’s what I want you to do. Go to TimeshareNation. Look closely at what’s front and center on the page:

timesharenation.com home page

Your eyes do not deceive you. There’s no tiny fine print. You can take over ownership of someone’s timeshare for zero dollars. The only thing you’ll have to pay are the annual maintenance fees.

Remember, I said this is for people who are convinced they want a timeshare. That means you’re ready to take on those fees.

This is why you’ll see in so many places that timeshares are not an investment. An investment increases in value over time. If someone is giving away a timeshare, it obviously doesn’t hold much value for them.

But this could be good for you. It may be that someone has paid off the timeshare and has stayed at the property so many times that there’s no interest in it anymore. It could also be that the property isn’t being cared for and they want out.

Whatever the case, it could be good for you.

Just to give you context, at the time of this writing I searched for a timeshare in the Bahamas on TimeshareNation. It showed me a 1-bedroom unit at Harborside Resort at Atlantis.

Yes, that Atlantis.

The maintenance fees are $1664 every year. And this timeshare is based on weeks.

But notice how much a stay from September 6th – September 10th would cost if you went straight through the resort:

atlantis booking price

You actually spend more owning the timeshare in this example. The upside to this is if you want to stay during peak busy season when the prices go up. Owning this timeshare, your costs would be fixed provided you visit the weeks that are designated.

However, not all offers are like this. You can find some where the fees are only $1,080 every two years. That would make your annual vacation costs only $540 per year.

The Choice Is Yours

If it wasn’t obvious, I’ll state our position for the record: At LuxuryDreamResorts.com, we do not recommend buying a timeshare. They go down in value and the potential to get stuck with high maintenance fees that can be passed on to your children is a real possibility.

That said, the reason you clicked this article was because you wanted to know if a timeshare is ever a good idea.

As you’ve hopefully seen, there are reasons some might decide to get into a timeshare. Maybe some of them you hadn’t thought about before today.

Whichever way you lean, tell us in the comments below and get the discussion going.

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