Maximize Timeshare Ownership
The ultimate resource to understand, maximize and leverage timeshare ownership to travel in luxury accommodations on a reasonable budget.
The ultimate resource to understand, maximize and leverage timeshare ownership to travel in luxury accommodations on a reasonable budget.
The quality of timeshares differ drastically from resort to resort. Some timeshares can be greatly in need of renovations while others are luxurious and spacious accommodations that rival many luxury hotels.
In an attempt to help timeshare owners exchange into quality timeshares, both Interval International and RCI have designations for the timeshares that indicate the quality of the resorts.
Here is an overview of Interval International's resort recognition program.
Here is an overview of RCI's resort recognition programs.
For Interval International, you can see, they have three main recognitions / designations being: Select, Premier and Elite.
I generally try to only exchange into Premier or Elite properties as I do find those to be the best quality resorts. I have not stayed at any "Select" properties but some of them look decent.
In a few recent searches, I came across the Premier Boutique Resort designation.
I was intrigued as many of the timeshare properties that we have stayed with are large resorts and while we have enjoyed many of them, sometimes finding the smaller quieter resort is nice depending on the type of vacation your are looking for.
According to Interval International, these Premier Boutique Resort provide outstanding accommodations in a desirable location with limited amenities. My understanding is that these are smaller "boutique" type properties that have limited rooms and provide more of an intimate vacation experience.
Intrigued with this type of offering, I found the following list of all Premier Boutique Resorts within Interval International.
Full List of Interval Premier Boutique Resorts
Sanur, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia Mahagiri Vacation Club
Kutchan, Hokkaido, Japan Kira Kira
Kutchan, Hokkaido, Japan Yama Shizen
Kutchan, Hokkaido, Japan Youtei Tracks
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario 124 on Queen Hotel & Spa
Kelowna, British Columbia Grizzly Ridge Estates
Ucluelet, British Columbia Embarc - Ucluelet
Whistler, British Columbia Powder's Edge
Rodney Bay Village, Gros Islet, St. Lucia Bay Gardens Beach Resort All Inclusive
Rodney Bay Village, Gros Islet, St. Lucia Bay Gardens Beach Resort
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands Grande Bay Resort & Residence Club
Soriano nel Cimino, Viterbo, Italy Palazzo Catalani
Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico MÍA at Riviera Maya
Maceió, Alagoas, Brazil Residence Waterfront I and II
Anapoima, Cundinamarca, Colombia La Gran Reserva Anapoima
San Francisco, California Club Donatello
San Francisco, California Inn at the Opera
San Francisco, California The Suites at Fisherman's Wharf
Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii Alii Kai Resort
Branson, Missouri D'Monaco Private Residence Club
Branson, Missouri Trophy Run
Pacific City, Oregon The Cottages at Cape Kiwanda
Telluride, Colorado Bear Creek Lodge
Murrells Inlet, South Carolina The Inlet Sports Lodge
I rarely see these resorts come available through a general search but I have seen a few pop up. There are definitely some great locations and some interesting resorts available.
My plan is to put in a request for a few on the above list and see what becomes available. If I get a week at one of those properties, I will be sure to do a full review.
In case you wanted to do a complete search for only these Premier Boutique Resort properties, here is the complete list of Interval International codes.
MGI, KIR, YAM, YOU, VVR, GZE, CIU, POE, BG1, BGD, GBR, PZZ, MMY, WFR, GRI, CL3, CLD, IN1, INN, SFW, SW1, AIK, DMO, TRJ, CCK, BKL, ISN
Make sure to also take a look at this post for a review of all of Interval International's "best' resorts.
I am definitely interested in visiting one or more of these properties. While staying at a large resort has its benefits, sometimes a smaller, more intimate resort is what is needed. I'm glad that Interval International has these options.
Have you stayed at one of these Premier Boutique Resorts? Make sure to comment below.
Timeshare Presentations and First Time Purchasers:
Timeshare presentations have become a finely tuned science. NO ONE ever goes into a timeshare presentation wanting to buy a timeshare. They have refined their sales process where they know exactly how many people will buy a timeshare based on the number of presentations.
I obviously advocate owning a timeshare as I think that they can be a great travel tool to travel well, affordably and comfortably.
However, timeshare ownership ONLY makes sense if the upfront cost is reasonable, maintenance fees are reasonable considering the amount of potential weeks you can receive, and you purchase with a reputable high quality brand (Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Four Seasons, Wyndham, etc.) that give you a reasonable opportunity to sell your timeshare if you no longer want to and cannot use it.
Timeshare ownership also will ONLY make sense if you understand the systems and how to use them to maximize their value.
If you purchase a timeshare and use it for one week of travel during the year, it will rarely if ever make sense (with the potential exception of ski weeks). The key is to obtain more value from your week and transform that into multiple weeks of vacation. Then, the numbers make more sense and timeshare ownership can be very worthwhile.
The vast number of first time timeshare purchasers end up purchasing from the developer through these timeshare presentations. They have responses to every question you can throw at them and their pitch makes a lot of sense.
Even the main players like Hyatt and Marriott have fine tuned their presentations so it is no longer a high pressure environment but now they have transformed these pitches into a fear of losing out (FOMO). Buy now before you lose the opportunity or before the price goes up!
It is effective but it is not the best way to purchase a timeshare.
What the timeshare salespeople rarely disclose is the economic value of the timeshare. They sell timeshares for a lot of money and as soon as you purchase from the developer, the economic value of the timeshare just plummeted. Timeshares are sort of like cars. The moment you drive it off the lot, it loses value.
Some timeshares literally can lose 99% of its value after purchase and some can almost lose 100%. When you purchase some timeshares, there is literally no resale market for them so it is difficult if not impossible to sell. Even though you may have purchased it for $10,000 - $20,000, the value can be almost $0.00.
These facts continue to perpetuate the ideas that timeshares are scams and not worth purchasing. I agree that some timeshares are never worth purchasing even if they are selling for one dollar or someone is paying for you to own them.
However, there are plenty of other timeshares that are re-sellable and will retain "some" value. Again, if you stick with the main timeshare brands, you will likely have a much better experience.
In my opinion, buying a timeshare on the resale market is the most economical and can actually make timeshare ownership beneficial and can make tremendous economic sense.
As I mentioned, most timeshare owners purchase their first timeshare through a timeshare presentation. The pitch made economic sense and the ability to travel around the world was intriguing.
Many times, immediately after signing the purchase documents, these buyers will race to google and attempt to confirm that they received a great deal (as likely stated by the salespeople) and find glorious stories of many happy owners traveling around the world.
What they normally find is a bunch of information discussing how timeshares are awful investments, many disgruntle owners and sometimes, they even find their week that they just purchased selling for pennies on the dollar.
Unfortunately, this is common and people should do research on timeshares BEFORE going to these presentations. If you understand some of these simple facts concerning timeshares, you can go into these presentations with more information and ask tough questions concerning the program and their broad statements concerning usage.
For those people who made a purchase and immediately have buyers remorse, all is not lost.
Almost all timeshare purchase contracts have the right of rescission. The right of rescission gives the purchaser a set number of days to cancel the contract with no fees and receive their money back. It will essentially be like the agreement never occurred.
The time period for rescission varies from state to state but is generally around 3 to 15 days.
The Rescission Process
The terms of the rescission process will normally be buried in the fine print of the contract. They do not make it easy but you actually will need to read the fine print, find the rescission clause and FOLLOW THE STEPS PERFECTLY!
Unfortunately, it is never as easy as simply going back to the developer and requesting a refund. Even if you go back the next day, the sales people will tell you to read the contract and will likely not be much help.
The general process is that you need to send a written letter to the specific address in the contract with details of the specific timeshare that you purchased including the contract number with a clear and concise statement that you would like to cancel the contract pursuant to the right of rescission found in the contract. I would specify the exact clause as stated in the contract.
The letter should be signed by all people who signed the contract so if both spouses signed, both spouses should sign the rescission letter.
I would also include a copy of the timeshare agreement.
MAKE SURE TO SEND IT WITHIN THE REQUIRED TIMEFRAME AND MAKE SURE TO USE TRACKABLE MAIL WITH A SIGNATURE!
SEND IT VIA TRACKABLE MAIL WITH SIGNATURE, VIA REGULAR POSTAL SERVICE AND VIA CERTIFIED MAIL! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PROOF THAT YOU SENT IT TO THE RIGHT ADDRESS WITHIN THE REQUIRED AMOUNT OF TIME!
It is extremely important to make sure that you abide by the rescission dates. If you miss it by one day, don't expect them to cancel it. The salespeople were likely very friendly and easy going during the sale. Expect the exact opposite in their assistance in cancelling their sale.
Despite their reputation, timeshares are not that bad provided that you understand what you are buying and how to maximize use. The vast majority of timeshare owners do not understand everything when they first buy and get roped into a purchase by smooth talking salespeople.
Too often, buyers only realize the mistake after the purchase and only do research on timeshares once they are owners.
The goal of the blog is to educate people BEFORE a purchase or help you maximize ownership after the purchase.
As I stated, most timeshare owners purchased a timeshare directly from the developer for their first timeshare purchase. They likely overpaid but hopefully they get enjoyment from it.
If you purchased a timeshare from the developer and you missed the rescission period, don't dwell on it. Try to understand the program and use strategies to maximize its use and have great vacations. Use this information to make a different decision for your next purchase.
Buying resale for a fraction of the price of the developer pricing makes a lot of sense and can make timeshare ownership very beneficial. The general idea is to rescind if you are within the applicable time period and search for another timeshare on the resale market.
You will always be able to find a timeshare to purchase so do not worry about FOMO! (Fear of Missing Out!)
Have you rescinded a timeshare purchase before? Share you story below!
A Few Interesting Items Concerning Hyatt's Reservation Windows: Request First and Extended External Exchange
As most readers know, I own two weeks at the Hyatt Beach House. I predominantly use those weeks to exchange into other timeshare brands through Interval International. Hyatt has very lucrative exchange rates so I am able to covert EACH week that I own into about 5 weeks of vacation in studio units.
For those of you who don't know, there are two ways that you exchange your Hyatt Residence Club points into Interval International.
Request First allows you to make a pending request in Interval International with various time periods and resorts. When you make the Request First request, you pay the exchange fee and Interval International takes the points from the Hyatt Residence Club. If you cancel the request or it does not make, those points get returned to the Hyatt Residence Club.
Extended External Exchange
Extended External Exchange allows you to transfer your Hyatt Residence Club points to Interval International. You need to transfer the points you desire within 6 six months from the date of issuance. Once you converted your Hyatt Residence Club points to Extended External Exchange, those points MUST remain with Interval International. There is no way that they can be used for Hyatt internal exchanges.
The most significant difference between the two is that with Request First, the points can be returned to the Hyatt Residence Club.
The other difference is that the Hyatt Residence Club points are only valid for 1 year and the Extended External Exchange points are valid for 2 years.
Therefore, by transferring your Hyatt Residence Club points to Extended External Exchange, you now can use those points for 2 years instead of 1 but you can ONLY use those points within Interval International.
This is complicated but unfortunately gets even more complicated.
In my recent experience, I put in a Request First exchange for Christmas week, 2019. I try to book out as far as possible to get the highest demand weeks. Since it takes a lot of time for some of these high demand weeks to match (some never match), you actually need to be aware of what points are being held by Interval International in order to avoid them being expired by the time a match occurs.
For example, in my actual example, I received points for one of my weeks in June 2017. I made a Request First reservation for Christmas week, 2019. As of June 2018, no matches had occurred. Since I used Request First instead of Extended External Exchange, I was recently informed that the points being held for the pending request expired so even if a match was found, I could not use the points already taken.
Essentially, since your Hyatt Residence Club points are only valid for one year, you need to make sure that some match occurs BEFORE the one year anniversary of the point issuance. Otherwise, your points will expire and you cannot use them.
I tend to use Request First request more often as it gives me more flexibility. If I decide to not use Interval International and confirm a Hyatt week, I can cancel any request, receive my exchange fee back and still have Hyatt Residence Club points to use.
However, there are a couple important considerations. If the Hyatt Residence Club points are older than 6 months, if you cancel your Interval International request, they will be put back as Hyatt Residence Club points. However, instead of CUP points (club use period), they will become LCUP points (limited club use points) which means that you can only use them for reservations 60 days or less. This is severely restricting.
Based on this experience, if I am almost positive that I will use Interval International for my exchanges, it is highly beneficial to do the Extended External Exchange since you can now use your points for 2 years instead of 1.
If you want to potentially use Interval International but may want to use Hyatt for its internal exchange if your week does not match, make sure that you cancel your request before the six month date. Otherwise, you will receive restricted points.
If you miss the six month window, you need to make sure to make a reservation before the one year anniversary. Otherwise, the points will be expired and no-useable, effectively throwing away money.
If the one year mark is coming up, it is highly beneficially to book ANY week as far out in the future as possible and include E-Plus. By doing this, you then allow yourself to exchange that week for 2 years from the potential date of check in for no fee. By doing this, you can effectively stretch the expiration of your points to 3 years.
Hopefully, this chart can help you understand this process
Timeshare reservation windows, points expiration periods, internal and exchange exchanges, etc. make timeshare ownership very confusing. However, a solid understanding of these issues can help clarify these items and prevent point expirations.
In my real world example, the points technically expired but fortunately, I was able to talk with Interval International and Hyatt, and they agreed to make an exception provided that i confirm a week while on the phone. I did this and added e-plus so that I can now book 2 years out from the date of check in.
The purpose of this post is to make sure that you understand these time periods. If you are in doubt, you can call the Hyatt Residence Club or Interval International. Otherwise, post below or comment in The Timeshare Guru Group on Facebook! I am hopeful that other like-minded timeshare enthusiasts and travelers can assist.
Message from the Timeshare Guru: I have a lot of trouble sleeping, especially when I travel. I usually all the first night in the hotel a throw away night as it is extremely rare to get a good nights sleep in a different bed and different surroundings. I'm always looking for ways to get a better night sleep. Sarah Cummings from The Sleep Advisor graciously agreed to write this guest post. There is some good information in this article even though I am a big fan of the night cap!
Make sure to check out some of her other articles!
How to Sleep Better on the Road
Being able to travel is a luxury and one we should always thank our lucky stars we are able to do. That’s not to say however that every thing about being on the road is fun. There’s the stomach bugs, the sunburn, and of course, the endless sleepless nights.
There a many reasons for this, overstimulation, overexhaustion, overeating and over drinking being four of the main culprits. But there’s also another potentially interesting reason for our inability to while away from home, evolutionary survival.
Yep, you heard me – evolutionary survival. Researchers have discovered that when we sleep in unfamiliar locations our brains simply refuse to close down properly. Instead a ‘lookout’ section of the brain stays alert and primed to respond to any dangers, be they a jaguar or an air conditioner making too much noise. Thanks brain!
So, if our own brains are working to prevent us from sleeping while traveling what can we do to ensure better sleep on the road? Well, don’t despair, read on below to discover the top three ways to increase your odds of a good night’s rest.
Two of the biggest culprits in keeping travelers awake are noise and light pollution. Fortunately both of these annoyances are very easily overcome. All it takes are two very lowtech sleep gadgets – the eye mask and some earplugs. Super lightweight and easy to pack, these two accessories are worth their weight in solid gold.
Weird noises are common when you sleep away from home. Be it amorous seagulls mating on the balcony or the wind blowing too vigorously through the palm leaves. A simple pair of earplugs will help block out whatever audio annoyance is preventing you from catching your dose of vitamin Zzzzs.
Light pollution plays havoc with your circadian rhythms. If there’s too much entering your bedroom it will delay the production of melatonin and you simply won’t get drowsy enough to fall asleep. A simple eye mask is the perfect solution to thread bare curtains, ill fitting blinds, full moons and antisocially early sunrises.
Need some more expert advice on how to banish your nighttime woes? Then visit the helpful team at the Sleep-Advisor for all the up-to-date tips and tricks you can handle.
Pack your pre-bed routine
Human beings are creatures of immense habit. Our body and mind adore routine. Whether you’re home or away the single best thing you can do for your sleep is adhere to a consistent bedtime. That means going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time day in, day out. Including weekends. Yep, your body doesn’t give two hoots if it’s a Friday or a Tuesday.
Don’t have a bedtime? Then get one. And stick to it! Bedtimes are not just for kids. While you’re at it work on a healthy bedtime routine. What’s that you ask? Well, it’s a simple set of easily repeatable low key actions that help to relax an overstimulated brain before bed.
Here’s an example. An hour before bed shut down all screens, yes that includes your smartphone. Write down a simple to-do list for the morning. Practice meditation or gentle yin yoga. Listen to music or read a book, fiction tends to work better. Have a bath or shower. Sleep.
That doesn’t sound too hard does it? Yet, the benefit it will have on you sleep is huge.
If you get into a healthy pre-bed wind-down routine at home, when you travel you can bring this set of activities with you and it will help your ability to sleep on the road immensely. Part of the problem of sleeping when traveling is that we change our routines too drastically and our body and mind don’t know if they are coming or going. A pre-bed routine will help steady the ship.
Skip the night cap
You’re not going to like this one. One of the biggest reasons we all tend to sleep worse when on holiday is that we tend to overindulge a little bit too much. Be that cocktails by the pool or a few too many nightcaps in the bar. Despite what many people believe alcohol before bed is bad idea.
Alcohol is a muscle relaxant, a depressant and sedative which is why we like it, a few drinks takes the hard edge of any day and puts us in a nice calm mood. Perfect you would think for sleep? It’s true drink will help most people fall asleep. However falling asleep and staying asleep are two very different things.
Once the alcohol in those margaritas begins to be flushed by your liver and kidneys, the brain experiences what is known as rebound alertness. This spike in alertness leads to nights of broken sleep.
Plus alcohol in the system also prevents the brain from entering REM sleep, this is the truly good stuff that powers us through the following day. So even if we’re able to sleep after a bellyful of booze, the sleep we get isn’t that effective.
So, if you want to improve your odds of a good night’s sleep when on the road, maybe it’s time to put a cap on the nightcap and save the boozing for lunchtime.
Well, there you have it travel fans – three top tips on how to sleep better on the road. Why not give them a whirl. Here’s to sunkissed days and sleep filled nights!
Message from the Timeshare Guru: Again, a big thank you to Sarah Cummings for providing this article. I hope that it was useful and you check out some of her other articles on The Sleep Advisor.
There are some great bloggers and content providers out there that provide some interesting and useful information concerning travel, timeshares and related information.
I anticipate posting more of these links so that readers get get access to other perspectives on timeshares and travel from across the web.
For this particular post, I came across the following article:
The Case for Timeshares - Who Should Buy
Dr. Cory Fawcett has very similar views to my own. Timeshares are not for everyone but for those who can navigate the system and are flexible, it can be a fantastic travel too to take affordable vacations.
While I try never to spend that amount of money that he claims to spend on vacation, the truth is that airfare is expensive. That is why frequent flyer miles and credit card points are an excellent addition to timeshare ownership as it can make timeshares extremely affordable.
Another article that I came across was from Monkey Miles. I have not come across his blog before but I did come across his article on owning a Marriott Vacation Club timeshare.
While I have studied the Marriott system, I am not as versed in the Marriott system as I am with Hyatt as the ins and outs of each program require a log-in to get access to the reservation system and ancillary documents.
Here is his article on a potential rumor for the Marriott Vacation Club.
If you have not been following the news, there has been a lot of action concerning Marriott in the past couple of years. Not only did they buy Starwood to create the largest hotel chain in the world, but Marriott Vacation Club, a separate independent entity from Marriott, purchased Interval International and its portfolio of timeshare properties (Vistana, Hyatt and others).
This is creating a lot of change. Inevitably, some will be good and some will be bad but generally, there are opportunities to maximize the transition. It appears that Marriott Vacation Club owners will get a potential opportunity on August 1st.
I think that posting timeshare relating information from sources across the web can be a good way to get additional information on timeshares and travel. If you see any articles, blog posts or other information that you think it worthwhile, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure to subscribe below!
For those of you who do not know, travel hacking is the term given to obtaining hotel points, frequent flyer miles and credit cards points for little or no out of pocket expenses and being able to convert those travel currencies into luxurious vacations for free.
It seems difficult but it can be remarkably easy. The general idea is that you sign up for credit cards for their initial bonuses, use them in order to meet the minimum spend amounts and then cancel them. You basically do this over and over with various credit cards. If you are new to this, you can easily rack up 500,000 to 1,000,000 of these travel currencies with little effort and then use those miles to travel for "free" in many very luxurious destinations.
New Credit Card Rules
While travel hacking is still abundant and possible, the credit card issuers have gotten wiser about this and have made this hobby more and more difficult.
For example, American Express has many great welcome bonuses. You use to be able to get a card, get the bonus, cancel the card and reapply and get the bonus again. It wasn't too long for American Express to figure out that this was not profitable and that these were not the type of customers that they wanted.
American Express instituted a restriction where you can only get the bonus once in a lifetime for card. Therefore, if you received the welcome bonus on a specific variant of their card, you could no longer get the bonus again. (Based on my understanding, American Express considers a "lifetime" to be 7 years).
This dealt a blow to the travel hacking community as it severely limited the amount of bonus offers that you could receive through American Express.
American Express now just released a new rule where they can deny your bonus offer if they suspect that you are gaming the system.
Here is their new language:
Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this Card. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.
Here is a good article from One Mile at a Time discussing this.
Chase is one of the biggest players in the travel credit card space. They offer some of the best cards with some of the best bonuses. A few years ago, they got wise to "travel hacking" and instituted an internal rule called 5/24. Basically, if you opened up 5 new accounts from any bank in the past 2 year period, they will deny your credit card application, NO MATTER WHAT!
I have been subject to this rule and despite having personal relationships with Chase, a stellar credit score, a good paying job and significant assets being held with Chase, I was denied their credit cards. The reason: too many inquiries in the past 2 years.
Despite pleading to the bank through multiple different avenues, they stuck with their position.
Here is a good overview of the Chase 5/24 rule.
As bonus offers have kept going up, the various banks have also increased the annual fees for these products . They provide additional perks and benefits in exchange for these higher annual fees, but you need to use them in order to get the value.
For example, the American Express Platinum card, can offer bonuses as high as 100,000 points. The annual fee use to be a whopping $450 per year which is almost never waived. American Express has been adding various perks in order to rationalize this annual fee but has recently now raised the annual fee to $550 per year.
I think that the annual fee can actually be worth it IF you take the time to understand the perks and USE the perks. In my case, I try very hard to maximize every perk in order to rationalize the annual fee but it takes time and diligence. I imagine that there are a significant number of American Express Platinum users who do not use a fraction of those perks.
The premium credit card market has been expanding quite a lot recently. Paying $550 for year for a credit card seemed ridiculous but these types of premium credit cards are being introduced over and over.
For example, you have the Chase Ritz Carlton Card which costs $450 per year, the Citi Prestige Card which costs $450 per year, United Mileage Plus Club card which is $450 per year, the Delta Reserve card which costs $450 per year and many others.
Here is a post from the Points Guy on these premium cards.
Using your Frequent Flyer Miles and Hotel Points
Once you accumulate the various travel currencies, you get to use those frequent flyer miles and hotel points to travel anywhere* in the world. However, "anywhere" in the world generally is subject to availability, price increases, poor routing choices and various other difficulties.
You use to be able to book 330 days in advance and generally get whatever route you wanted at the lowest mileage cost. It worked well for me over the years.
In the past 5 or so years, airlines and hotel chains have gone away from this approach and now use the historical data on capacity and demand and do not release availability or low reward available this far out if they are fairly certain that they can fill those planes and hotel rooms throughout the year.
The travel currency world is constantly being devalued. Every year, airlines and hotel chains release new charts, new programs and new ideas that all have the effect of devaluing your travel currencies. Many do so without warning. Delta has even go far as to not release award charts so you do not know what the awards should cost.
Hotel chains introduce new tier structures and constantly move hotels up and down, (mostly up) in their tier categories to require more and more points.
The general saying is to earn and burn your travel currencies as the next devaluation will shortly occur.
My Credit Card Portfolio
As I stated many times before, I am a HUGE fan of credit cards and credit card points. Between my wife and I, we probably have about 30 credit cards. I use specific cards for travel, specific cards for gas, specific cards for flights and generally make sure to get the most points per transaction possible.
However, I also pay A LOT in annual fees. I have the American Express Business Platinum Card ($450), the Citi Prestige Card ($450), the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95), the Chase Ink Business Preferred ($95), the Chase Hyatt card ($75), the Delta Platinum card, ($195) etc. and many others.
Just based on the cards mentioned above, I spend OVER $1,360 on annual credit card fees.
This seems somewhat ridiculous but each card has certain perks and benefits and I think that I get enough value out of these cards to justify the cost. However, it is hard to do. It requires a lot of time and energy, research, reviewing points blogs, searching availability, figuring out the best use of miles and hotel points, comparing different programs, etc.
I have the mind set to do it and the desire to do it. However, as the credit card issuers are getting more strict about bonuses, as annual fees continue to rise and as redemptions for hotels and flights get more expensive, it is getting to be more difficult to justify the time and effort required in order to get your "free" trip.
Comparison to Timeshares
Just based on this general overview of travel hacking, you can see that it is complicated, the "free" trips that you take are really not free, and that the rules are changing and they are not in the customers favor.
The title of this post, "are timeshares the next frontier in travel hacking?" is meant as a legitimate question.
Timeshares are extremely similar to travel currencies. I would say that they fall under the same category as a travel currency.
Instead of applying for credit cards to get a travel currency, you pay an annual maintenance fee and you can get points to use for travel.
While there are many different types and qualities of timeshares, most programs are moving towards a point based programs so when you pay your annual fee, you will receive points which can then be used to exchange into quality accommodations.
As I stated many times before, I pay about $1,200 per year in maintenance fees for my Hyatt Residence Club timeshare. In exchange, I get 2,000 Hyatt Residence Club points. I then use those points to exchange into other timeshares where I can easily get 5 weeks of travel for my $1,200 per year plus exchange fees. I have broken down the economics of timeshare ownership here.
Compared to credit cards and travel hacking, I think that my timeshare is actually a much better deal. The exchange rates for timeshares do not change as frequently and some exchange rate changes are extremely rare.
One of the biggest difference between timeshares and credits cards is the repeatability. Each year, when I pay my maintenance fee, I receive my points which can be used for travel. While in the past, I used to be able to reapply for multiple cards and get bonuses, they systems have changed and it is become harder and hard to make travel hacking through credit card bonuses repeatable.
Credit card bonuses are a great way to accumulate a lot of points and travel for "free" for a year or two. However, with the once in a lifetime rule, Chase's 5/24 and the general adversity against people gaming these systems, it is becoming harder and harder to obtain travel currencies for "free" year after year. Therefore, travel hacking has become non-sustainable if you travel multiple times per year, year after year.
Some points programs such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt put out annual exchange charts for their properties. They cannot devalue existing owners weeks or points as this would create a huge backlash and many times, can be restricted in doing so since timeshare owners bought into a specific system and if they materially change the offerings, point structure or usability of their timeshare, they could be forced to rescind such purchases. Rescission would be extremely detrimental to the entire timeshare industry.
In contrast to other travel currencies, devaluation is rampant and if you do not like the revisions, you change systems and loyalties. There is no contract that you sign with the travel currency providers indicating that they cannot or will not change their systems.
While timeshare programs tend to rearrange some point requirements and modify rules, generally you do not see the tremendous changes in point requirements for timeshares as you do with hotel chains.
Additionally, the external exchanges (those through RCI and Interval International) generally stay the same. I have owned a Hyatt timeshare for over 10 years and the exchange rate from Hyatt to Interval International has stayed the same the entire time.
Furthermore, Interval International and RCI do not differentiate points based on quality. It costs the same amount of points for a Four Seasons exchange as it would be the equivalent of a Motel 6. Therefore, as the systems currently are, there are tremendous opportunities to get outsized value.
I consider myself to be very well versed in the "travel hacking" space and know the ins and outs of the programs. My family and I do extremely well navigating credit cards, points, and frequent flyer miles.
Also, you know that I do quite well with our timeshares as well. I talk to many people about timeshares and the reputation of timeshares is a material hurtle to overcome. The industry has such an awful reputation that it is hard to get people to look past the negative perception and dive into the actual programs to determine if there is value.
There are so many similarities between travel currencies and timeshares. Once you understand the inner workings of the programs, you will find that there are tons of "sweet spots" in these programs, strategies to maximize ownership and use and ways to get awesome vacations for less than even your "free" vacation.
My view is that timeshares will be the new frontier in the travel hacking space.
It is a bold statement to say but the credit card programs are changing, bonus points are becoming harder to get, hotel chains are constantly devaluing their points where it can require a ton of spending or stays to accrue a "free" week, frequent flyer points are being devalued so quickly that it hard to fathom, first class redemptions are prohibitively expensive after multiple rounds of devaluations, availability is sparse during peak times, airlines and hotel chains are increasingly playing more and more games with availability such as minimum stay nights, blocking availability for one night during a peak demand week, blocking award availability for key connections to hubs and various other games all to prevent you from getting the promised value of these travel currencies.
With all that being said, travel currencies are definitely needed and I get a tremendous value out of them. However, the constant changes, devaluations, and availability issues make it harder and harder to keep up with the systems and know the best way to maximize their use.
If you read my blog, I am not shy about discussing the negative attributes of timeshares. Some of the worst attributes are the prohibitively expensive upfront costs that the developer charges, the difficulty of selling or even giving away a timeshare and availability.
My view is that if you purchase a high quality, name brand timeshare on the resale market (Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, Four Seasons, Vistana (Starwood) for a low upfront price, where the week or points for that timeshare carry a reasonable maintenance fee, you can get tremendous value out of timeshares. Not only get you get tremendous value, but you can easily sell the timeshare once you do not want to use it anymore. The key is to get in at a low price with a high quality timeshare.
While I still will accumulate and use travel currencies through credit cards and multiple other avenues, I think that timeshares are being overlooked as a viable strategy to travel well and potentially cheaper than using other travel currencies. I am sure that many people will disagree. I am interested to hear your thoughts!
I am proud to announce the creation of The Timeshare Guru Group on Facebook!
Here is the link to it in order to join!
A blog is a great place to share information but a Facebook is a great place for readers to interact and share real time information.
I say it all the time that timeshares are complicated so I thought it would make sense to have a group dedicated to sharing information, sharing tips, sharing real time availability and discussing timeshares in general.
I have made this a closed group so only members can see posts and contribute but anyone can find the group!
I am hopeful that this group can be a great resource to share information, ask questions and find incredible exchanges.
This type of group will only work when it is active and has numerous members so please share with others who are interested in travel and timeshares!
Message from The Timeshare Guru: I am obviously a fan of travel but I am definitely also a gadget guy. Here is a guest post from Kelsey at The Lux Authority. She provides some good information on some new techie suit cases. The Lux Authority has some great information on travel, fashion and gear so I definitely encourage you to check out the site and information provided.
Sleek Travel Gear for the Tech-Setter
Luggage can be a terrific or terrible travel companion depending on its personality. We've all seen the person at the airport dragging their suitcase, wheels discombobulated and hair disheveled as they huff and puff to their gate. How does one have the ideal experience in such a hectic setting?
Gear up with the latest and greatest travel cases that function above and beyond the task of lugging around too many pairs of shoes.
Here are the four sleekest suitcases you'll want to splurge on for the smoothest travel experience.
Arlo Skye is a line of aluminum luggage founded by design engineers previously associated with Louis Vuitton and Tumi, so it's not a stretch to say these suitcases epitomize high design meets functionality. It's small enough to carry-on, big enough to never feel without. Coming in at 22.0 x 14.0 x 9.0 inches including the soundless wheels, it truly is the perfect size.
The anodized, meaning coated with metal using a chemical process, shell makes for an indestructible, impenetrable carryall. An airline-approved USB C port supplies you with a MacBook charging station, so work on the go or Netflix and chill while waiting for that delayed flight. These sell for $450-$550.
Away may be the most recognized of the bunch, with their appeal to the large millennial crowd and impressive marketing strategies, doesn't hurt that they are one of the most affordable options. Nine colors to choose from, five variations of sizes, and even an aluminum shell to vary the standard polycarbonate option.
The detachable USB charger offers a fast charge option to keep you communicating no matter the lack of outlets. The inside is hollow on either side to allow for dual-capacity packing with straps to keep your belongings secure.
Away strives for a transparent relationship between company and consumer, with a core value of giving the whole world access to better travel standards. These sell for $225-$450.
Barracuda brings an edge to the game with features unseen on any other luggage. On the innovative handle, which is called the Halo Handle and mounted on a compartment instead of the usual two-poled attachment, there's a secret compartment for storage and a retractable shelf perfect for a computer desk or a place to rest food other than the airport carpet. If the worst happens and your luggage becomes lost, fear not, Barracudas come with built-in trackers so you can see exactly where your things are traveling without you.
The soft, breathable material the suitcase is made from may not be indestructible, but the light-weight allows for easy exertion and is small enough to collapse and store anywhere. The more Barracudas you buy, the cheaper they become per unit, so the whole family can travel in style. These sell for $224-350
Samsara sells luggage for the true robo-tech entrepreneurs, with a piece that rivals the coolest briefcases full of money in those action dramas. This is the only luggage made completely of aviation aluminum alloy, so it's basically a mini airplane (please do not attempt to fly).
The suitcase is considered "smart," which means functions like notifications when the suitcase is getting away from you or if the suitcase was opened out of your sight. Additionally, there's an led light control inside the suitcase to assist you in the dark. This suitcase is still in the production process, so if you're yearning for what you've read above, pre-order to ensure manufacturing. These sell for only $60 plus shipping.
About Kelsey at The Lux Authority:
Kelsey is the Managing Editor at The Lux Authority and is trying to balance both her budget and her credit card balance. She likes to live lavish and treat herself when the opportunity allows it. She loves the newest tech, old cars, the smell of rich mahogany, and leather-bound books as well! When she isn't working, Kelsey is an avid academic, artist, stargazer, blogger, and yoga enthusiast.
Message from The Timeshare Guru: It is always good to have additional contributors to the website to provide information on topics which I am not an expert. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
A big thank you to Kelsey and The Lux Authority for providing this guest post.
Here is Part II on using Interval International.
In Part I, I put together a guide on how to use Interval International for Interval Getaways.
In this guide, I wanted to put together a guide on how to exchange with Interval International.
In order to get access to either exchanges or Interval Getaways, need you to sign in to the website which is found on the top right hand corner.
As you sign in, you are brought to this screen.
This time, instead of starting with the Getaways, you click on tab "Exchanges".
Once you do that, you are brought to this screen.
Once you are hear, you are presented with a similar screen than what is provided with the Interval Getaways.
You can either search by a "single destination", "search all destinations" or by "Resort name, code or use map".
As previously mentioned, I generally choose "search all destinations" in order to make sure that all weeks and destinations are shown to me. Interval's search tool is finicky and does not always produce the same results so I try to force the system to show me everything.
Unlike Interval Getaways, Interval International allows you to search and book for two years from the date of the search rather than 18 months that the Interval Getaways allow.
Again, I try to use the broadest search possible in order to see everything. You can also narrow down the dates if you are looking for a particular week. However, if you are looking for a particular week, it is generally recommended to search for the week before and the week after just in case the system does not show you everything.
As I mentioned in the Interval Getaway guide and in previous posts, a great way to search is by using the Resort Codes. Instead of putting in one or two Resort Codes, you can put in a large list of codes for the "best" resorts in Interval International. Here is a post on this which I highly recommend using.
Everything up to this point is almost exactly the same as search for Interval Getaways. However, once you put in the specifics, the next page brings up the following.
Since this is my particular account, you can see my unit on the top, the Hyatt Beach House. You also see various exchanges. You can see that there are two line items for 2018 usage that indicates that it is exchanged and two other line items with no other information.
The two items for 2018 usage are two "request first" exchanges. Request Firsts are ongoing exchange requests which are pending but are not confirmed. The system continuously searches based on specifics entered. Here are some more details for the Request First function.
This particular screen will likely differ based on the particular type of timeshare you own (points or weeks) but the general exchange function should be the same.
Since I own with Hyatt, my weeks are hybrid weeks where I can either use the particular week or exchange it into Hyatt Residence Club points. If I convert it into Hyatt Residence Club points, I can then exchange those Hyatt Residence Club points into Interval International points.
Once I click on the "Vacation Exchange", this is the following screen.
This is one of the most important screens for exchanging. This is the exchange chart which shows you how many Interval International points are required for a particular exchange. The bigger the unit, the more points required.
Also, on the left is the TDI or Travel Demand Index. This is basically low, medium and high demand seasons.
For this search, I almost always choose 2 bedrooms for the highest demand time period (1300 points). Again, the reason for this is to force the system to show you everything.
Different Exchange Charts
For those readers who do not own a Hyatt week, this page will be different. This will either show you the particular week that you own and give you the option to exchange that week, exchange a part of that week, either a 1 bedroom and studio, or provides you with a different exchange chart.
For those readers who own other timeshares, please e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) your screen shots of this page so that I an update these guides for multiple different timeshares.
The exchange charts are one of the most important features of a timeshare as this shows you exactly what is possible for exchanging. For example, based on the chart above, if you own 870 Hyatt Residence Club points, you can never exchange into a 2 bedroom unit through Interval International.
As an aside, Hyatt trades very favorable within Interval International which is why I can get such tremendous value. 1300 points for a Hyatt week is a very low demand week which generally can be very cheap to purchase. While Hyatt's maintenance fees will be somewhat high, a 1300 Hyatt week is a sweet spot between value and usage.
With only 1300 Hyatt Residence Club points, you will be severely restricted in trading within the internal Hyatt system where there will be many resorts where you cannot trade into a 2 bedroom unit for a week (requires more points) but you can do so within Interval International.
In order to see how various timeshare trade within Interval International, you should review the basic guides that I have put together here.
Also, here is a good overview on how various programs exchange within Interval International.
Inventory for Interval Getaways and exchanges are completely different. Even though a week may be available for purchase, it does not mean that it will be available for exchange.
When you click on the amount of points you desire to use, you are brought to this screen.
As with before, you can put in your search terms and see what exchange inventory is available.
Similar to Interval Getaways, the results show you the required amount of points required for the specific size of unit and time period.
For example, here is the current availabilty for St. Kitts and Nevis.
As you can see, there are various size rooms available and the amount of points required for the size of unit and particular season.
Again, depending on what timeshare you own, the exchanges will be different and amount of points required will be different. If you own a week based timeshare, it will only show you the units which you can exchange on a 1 to 1 basis. For example a 1 bedroom to a 1 bedroom or a 1 bedroom to a studio.
Booking the Exchange
Once you find the unit you want to exchange into, you click the "Exchange" button which will walk you through additional screens.
This shows you what you are relinquishing for this particular exchange. In this case, it is 1,100 Hyatt Residence Club points.
Additionally, it shows you the details of the room and amenities of the resort. Make sure to read the room description carefully as you want to make sure what you are getting.
On the following screen are more disclosures. Make sure to read these as there can be fees required or renovations occurring. This is the place where these types of items are disclosed.
E-Plus and Guest Certificates
Once you get to the next screen, it asks you whether you want E-Plus and/or a Guest Certificate.
E-Plus is fantastic and highly recommended. For those of you who do not know, E-Plus allows you to re-book your confirmed exchanged week for up to 3 times with no additional fee. Here are more details of this program.
If you are allowing others to use your week, they need to be on the reservation. Otherwise, problems can occur upon checking in. If you have Interval Platinum, guest certificates are free. Otherwise, it is a $59 fee.
Following this screen, you will be presented with payment options.
The exchange fee is now $199 per week.
Make sure to use the right credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Ink Business where you will receive 2x points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or 3x points with the Chase Ink Business as these exchange fees code as travel.
Exchanging should be fairly straightforward but the key is to understand how your particular timeshare trades through Interval International. Make sure to study the various programs and see how the exchange in the external exchanges. I find that Hyatt trades very favorably for me so I can get a lot of value for my one week by turning my one week into almost 5 weeks of vacation.
Make sure to add some comments below in case I missed anything!