When you choose to buy a timeshare, you are embarking on a specific kind of vacation journey, very unlike the “typical” kinds that most people deal with. When we say “typical,” we mean motels, hotels, camping, all-inclusive resorts, cruising, tours, etc. After you have gone on this kind of vacation and paid for it, your money is gone. You may be left with fond memories, but the experience is over and done with.
Timesharing falls in with the other kind of vacation experience—that of vacation ownership. Here we are talking things like RV-ing, where you actually own the RV, or possibly a vacation home. This type of vacation involves a greater commitment, because you invest in something which you can later sell or deed to your children or friends, if you so desire. These kinds of vacation experiences have many advantages, but you are also responsible for maintenance or upkeep as long as you own them.
Timesharing has advantages over both RV-ing and vacation home ownership—you can read more about this by clicking the underlined links. However, people still continue to buy timeshares without a clue about how to manage them or use them. The ARDA (American Resort Development Association) indicates that timeshare sales continue to increase resulting in billions of dollars in transactions every year. And yet, everywhere we go, dissatisfaction seems to run high and owners are constantly asking questions about their timeshares. So what is the answer? Are there some secrets that will make it all work?
In our over 15 years of timesharing, we have learned a lot, and also made some mistakes. And if there are secrets, they are secrets no more, because these are what we have found to be the 7 habits of highly effective timeshare owners:
1. NEVER BUY FROM THE DEVELOPER
We have stressed this point since we began writing on this site 3.5 years ago. Developer prices are so inflated that it is almost never worth it to buy this way. Check the prices on eBay for the resale market, and you will see that u will never recoup the money that you paid if you go through the developer. A timeshare is NOT an investment—it is a wonderful way to vacation, period.
In order to afford developer prices, people often take out loans—BIG MISTAKE! If you then try to sell it, you recoup maybe 10% of what you paid (if you are lucky) and you STILL have to pay down the loans.
If you want to buy a resale timeshare, there are several places that we recommend. Besides eBay, there are resales on Tug2.net, Redweek.com. and Bidshares.com. There are some recommendations for reliable sellers on the Timeshare User Group as well.
2. PLAN AHEAD
So often we hear owners complain that they can’t get into this or that resort, there was nothing available when they wanted it, etc. etc. We then ask how far out they tried to book a place—and the answer usually comes back that they only tried about a month or so ago. Now, in some places that are really built up with timeshares, like Florida or Branson, that might be okay. But try Hawaii—unless you are very lucky and get a cancellation, it won’t happen. And if it does happen, you still need to deal with airfare which will not be cheap at the last minute!
Most timeshare systems have a time around 9, 10 or 12 months out when you can book a resort within their system. We have found that if we REALLY want a specific place, our best bet is to it book it on the exact first day that we can. In some cases, it’s even best to do it when they open for business that morning.
If you are dealing with RCI, you can generally search 2 years out—there may not be anything available at that point, but it’s a starting place. You can also do an ongoing search with them and they will call you if something becomes available. We don’t use II, so you’ll have to check with them to see how early you can search.
Often people say that they can’t plan far ahead because of family, medical issues, job responsibilities, etc. It is difficult sometimes, but we try to be positive and do the best we can—our philosophy has been that you can’t sit at home waiting for bad things to happen. In over 15 years of timesharing, we have had to cancel 3 times for deaths in the family and maybe one or two other times due to hurricanes or illness. Some of those weeks we got back. So, overall, we lost a few RCI fees, and we traveled hundreds of weeks.
3. MAXIMIZE YOUR VACATION POTENTIAL
This habit fits in nicely with the previous one—planning ahead– because when you plan ahead, you have the time to get really organized! When we speak of “vacation potential,” we are referring to getting the most bang for your vacation buck. This can be accomplished in several ways.
One of your first decisions is deciding where to go—what area, what resort. Some resorts require more points or bigger deposits than others do—decide which will work best for you, based on your needs.
Another decision involves deciding when to go—some times of the year require higher points or bigger deposits. Do you want red, or prime time, or would you be just as happy with quiet or value time? Also, do you want a full week, or would Monday through Friday work for you? Invariably, you’ll be spending less points if you stay away from the weekends.
You’ll need to decide what size unit you need—and this will depend on how many people you are taking. Do you absolutely need a 2-bedroom, or could you get by with a 1-bedroom or studio that has a sleeper sofa? Or, maybe you could use your points to get 2 units and charge your guests to stay in one of them?
Once your plans are in place you can address the transportation issue. Do you want to drive or fly? This post might be helpful to you. If you decide to fly, do you want to rent a car? Depending on where you are headed, you can sometimes do fine without a rental car—or you may wish to only rent one for a day or two. Check out this post for some advice about renting a car.
If you do decide to do some last-minute traveling, check out some of the Extra Vacations on RCI—no points involved, only money. If you just want a quick getaway, this might be a good deal for you.
This concludes Part I of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Timeshare Owners. Part II will be along shortly, so watch for it!