As I have explained in multiple posts, there are various timeshare strategies that you an implement in order to maximize timeshare ownership.
One strategy that I implement most often is using my timeshare to exchange through the exchange companies. The two largest and most well known timeshare exchange companies are RCI and Interval International.
RCI and Interval International are competitors as they provide similar services. Most, if not all timeshares, are generally affiliated with either one of these companies as they provide the mechanism for timeshare owners to exchange into other timeshares around the world.
Before you purchase a timeshare, you NEED to know what exchange company that particular timeshare is affiliated with. The importance of this is that you will want to know what other timeshare brands you can exchange into and what timeshare brands you will not be able to exchange into.
For this post, I wanted to show readers the major timeshare brands and their associated affiliation.
Here are the major timeshare brands and their associated affiliation:
Hilton Grand Vacation Club
Wyndham Vacation Ownership
Disney Vacation Club
Bluegreen Resort Vacations
Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Marriott Vacation Club
Vistana Signature Experiences (Starwood Brands)
Four Seasons Residence Club
Shell Vacations Club
Diamond Resorts International
Hyatt Residence Club
Welk Resorts: As you can see, I have listed Welk Resorts as being affiliated with both RCI and Interval International. Welk Resorts just changed affiliation and is now affiliated with RCI. However, it appears that Interval International still has some inventory so you can still reserve Welk Resorts with Interval International and RCI at the present time. In the future, these resorts will likely only be available through RCI.
Four Seasons: Four Seasons only has two of of its properties available through Interval International. The Four Seasons Aviara in North San Diego and the Four Seasons Scottsdale in Arizona. The other locations are not available through either Interval International or RCI as it is likely that existing owners of Four Seasons generally use their weeks or exchange internally for their exchanges.
Before you decide to purchase a timeshare, it is critical that you know the exchange company affiliation of the timeshare or brand of timeshare.
My personal strategy involves exchanging my timeshare through the exchange companies in order to maximize their value. However, it is rare for people to own more than one timeshare or multiple timeshares with affiliations with both RCI and Internval International.
The importance of this is that you need to know the affiliation for the particular exchange company to assess the quality of the potential resorts which you can trade. Even if you plan on going to the same resort year after year, there will be times when you want to exchange your week or points.
As shown above, if my timeshare was affiliated with RCI, I could NEVER trade into a Marriott Vacation Club property. Conversely, if I owned a Interval International affiliated timeshare, I could NEVER trade into a Hilton Grand Vacation property.
While there are smaller exchange companies out there (SFX Resorts) that allows individual owners to deposit their week with them and gives them the opportunity to exchange into other weeks that have been deposit, irregardless of affiliation, inventory and availability will be much scarcer than the main exchange companies of Interval International and RCI.
How important is exchange company affiliation to you? Did you purchase or do you own a timeshare because of the exchange company affiliation?
As I have discussed before, I am an avid points and miles fan. I collect them any which way I can but predominantly through credit card sign up bonuses.
I have had this "hobby" for many years now and one of the predominant sources of information on credit cards has been The Points Guy.
His website is definitely worth a read.
In a recent article that The Points Guy posted, he explained that the Marriott is going to offer timeshares on the island of Dominica.
I have never been to Dominica but it has been on my radar.
I have been to many other Caribbean islands and a lot of them have various programs where if you purchase a certain amount of real property, it qualifies you for citizenship. These are interesting programs as you can live on a luxurious Caribbean island and receive the perks of citizenship.
What made this article interesting is that they are offering this type of program through the purchase of timeshares. It appears that pricing starts at $220,000 but it is an interesting take.
Take a look at this article here.
I'll have to do more recent into this program and this new timeshare but this is an interesting idea.
Would you ever participate in this program? Does citizenship provide enough value to purchase a $220,000 timeshare?
Timeshares can be great but availability for top quality resorts can often be challenging. There are various timeshare strategies that I encourage readers to use in order to get great vacations at a fraction of the cost of hotels.
One general strategy is to plan far in advance. Generally, I plan as far out as possible which is generally 1-2 years out.
The other general strategy is to book last minute. Since many people, including myself, tend to book very far out, so when it actually comes time to use their week, plans may have changed, flights may have had a schedule change or things just changed that prevent people from using these weeks.
As a result, if you are a last minute traveler, you can grab some fantastic exchange weeks or weeks at great prices. However, availability is key.
RCI vs. Interval International
For this post, due to a reader request, I thought that I would compare real time results for Interval International's Getaways and RCI's Extra Vacations. For those of you that are unfamiliar with these, Interval International Getaways and RCI Extra Vacations let you book weeks with cash instead of exchanging your week or using points. Many times, there are some screaming deals includingthis one!
For this exercise, I wanted to pick a few destinations and show readers the real time results of what is actual available to book through Interval International and RCI. For this exercise, I chose Hawaii.
Hawaii is simply an awesome destination and quite popular. For this search, I thought that I would search very last minute options for April 1 - April 15, 2018. Here are the results for Interval International.
As you can see in Interval International, there are definitely options but nothing that is tremendous value. I think the strongest resort on this list is the Kona Coast Resort on the Big Island.
RCI is slightly different than Interval International as you search by check in month rather than specific days. For this test, I simply put in "Hawaii" as the search term and "April" as the check-in month. This searches ALL islands of Hawaii.
As you can see from the above, RCI has 4 resorts that came up for this time period. Out of the four resorts, two are in Honolulu and 2 are in Maui. Together, there were only 5 weeks available for this time period.
Inventory changes by the minute for both Interval International and RCI so the results for this particular search is not scientific at all. There easily could have been some prime weeks available a minute before I performed the search.
The intent of this exercise was to show you a rough estimate of what to expect when searching for a prime destination for any last minute trips.
I definitely would not jump to the conclusion that Interval International is superior to RCI for last minute vacations or vice-a-versa. Rather, availability changes and if you can get access to both exchange companies, it is highly recommended.
By having access to both, you can access inventory in both places and have more flexibility.
What has been your experience with last minute vacations? Was this post helpful or would you want to see additional destinations?
Timeshares are complicated and generally have an awful reputation. The awful reputation is due to many things but one complaint that comes up over and over again is availability.
While the timeshare salespeople will show you hundreds of potential destinations, getting great resorts during peak time periods is difficult. Planning ahead very early is crucial in order to get tremendous value and maximize timeshare ownership.
Since you need to plan very early, I am constantly booking trips 1 to 2 years in advance. For some people, this can be difficult but for those of you that can schedule things that far in advance, the quality of resorts and actual cost of these trips can be a tiny fraction of the going nightly rates at hotels or even AirBnB's.
Timeshare Strategy - Using timeshare for Ski Weeks
For those of you who do not want to deal with a lot of exchanges, one timeshare strategy that I advocate is using timeshares solely for ski weeks. I wrote about this particular strategy here.
Ski trips are expensive. Aside from the lift tickets, ski rentals, food, and airplane tickets, accommodations cost a fortune during the ski season. The majority of resorts count on making their money during the 3-4 months of the season so nightly hotel rates during ski season is atrocious. $500-$1,000 per night is not unheard of.
Without timeshares, there is no way that I would be able to take as many ski trips as we do. Based on my previous math, ski trip weeks in Studio Units cost me just over $400 for the week - generally less than one night at a hotel.
Timeshare Math Review
As a summary, I pay about $1200 per week in maintenance fees for one Hyatt Beach House week. For this week, I receive 2,000 Hyatt Residence Club Points. When I exchange my points through Interval International, it requires 430 Hyatt Residence Club Points per week in a studio unit during the highest peak time. The exchange fee per week is $199.
Therefore, by exchanging my Hyatt Residence Club points through Interval International, my cost per week in a studio unit is approximately $457.00. For a 1 bedroom unit, my cost would be about double at $721 (870 points multiplied by $0.60 plus $199) and for a 2 bedroom unit, my cost would be about $979 (1300 points multiplied by $0.60 plus $199).
$1200 divided by 2,000 Hyatt Residence Club Points = $0.60 per point
430 Hyatt Residence Club Points multiplied by $0.60 per point = $258
$258 plus a $199 exchange fee charged by Interval International = $457.00
2000 divided by 430 = 4.65 (about 4 weeks)
Basically, with the above math, I can pay $1,828 for FOUR weeks of ski vacations in studio units.
Most people probably spend $5,000 for one week where I am paying $457.
While availability can be difficult, I wanted to show my readers some top notch resorts that are available NOW by booking through Interval International. Although we are in the tail end of the 2018 ski season, I am already looking at 2019 and beyond and found a few great trades that can be booked now.
Mont Trembant, Canada
Park City, Utah
Vail and Beavercreek, Colorado
Exchanging timeshares is an easy process but finding top quality resorts when and where you want to go can be challenging. You simply need to plan FAR AHEAD to get great resorts.
While I definitely can complain with many timeshare owners concerning availability, I have had very good luck during my 12 years of timeshare ownership. The trick is to constantly search, do request firsts and be somewhat flexible. If you can do that, timeshare ownership can be extremely financially rewarding in that you will be able to travel for a fraction of what nightly hotel rates go for.
Using your timeshare solely for ski weeks is a very viable strategy since even if you pay $1200 a year in maintenance fees, $1200 for a ski week in a top quality resort is still a decent price. If you can get multiple ski weeks for the same $1200 (like I do), it is an even better bargain.
If you see any weeks in this post, that you may want, search Interval International quickly and book these immediately. It is somewhat rare to finds these high quality resorts available for ski season so grab them now if you can use them!
What ski destinations do you travel to? What ski timeshares have you visited?
We take 3-4 ski trips per season and have been regulars at Park City, Utah for the past 5 or so years. It is a fantastic location with superb access from Salt Lake City (30 minute drive on highway).
As I have written about before, I have stayed at a lot of the timeshare properties in Park City. There are still some that I have not been to but they are on my list to sample. For this spring break, we exchanged into the Westgate Park City.
As you may recall, I stayed at this resort this past Spring and did a timeshare presentation. Here is the link to the overview of the timeshare presentation.
The presentation was less than ideal but it did not change my thought on the Westgate Park City property. It did alter my perception of the Westgate timeshare program.
For this stay, we were able to secure 1 bedroom unit. The one bedroom unit is far superior than a studio unit as it comes with a separate living area, large jacuzzi tub and a full kitchen.
Here are a few photos from the room:
Master Bedroom TV and Desk Area
Living Room with Pull Out Couch
Living Room TV
As you can see from the pictures, the room is fairly spacious but the decor is definitely a little dated. Despite the dated decor, the Westgate Park City is one of my favorite timeshare resorts.
It is a little surprising to say since the resort can definitely use some renovations but the reason that I enjoy it so much is convenience.
The Westgate Park City is right at the base of the Canyons ski resort. The Canyons is one of my favorite ski mountains as even during peak times, the resort rarely gets crowded and there is tons of varied terrain.
The Westgate Park City is a very confusing resort to get around since there are only certain floors that go between buildings so you are constantly going up and down trying to traverse the resort.
Despite that issue, the reason that it is a great resort is that it is literally a one minute walk to the ski slopes. While that is convenient, the Westgate makes it even more convenient by bringing your skis directly to the gondola. At the end of the day, they have staff members waiting so you can drop off your skis for storage until the next day skiing.
Despite being only a 1 minute walk, they make it even easier in that you do not need to carry your own skis for more than one second once you are off the lift.
In addition to storing and bringing you skis, they also provide you with a ski locker for your stay. You can leave your ski boots in the locker and get them the next morning. When you are done for the day, the take your boots and dry them overnight and then put them back in your assigned locker. Super convenient.
The resort offer complimentary valet parking where you can drive up and they will take care of the rest. Many of the parking garages in these ski areas are tight so not having to deal with parking is a nice touch.
The Westgate has three very nice pool areas. There is an adult only pool that is located inside. They have the main pool and hot tub area that has an indoor / outdoor pool with two large hot tubs along with various poolside games (ping pong, checkers, chess, etc.)
They also have a smaller pool area with a hot tub that feels very secluded.
The Westgate provides a complimentary shuttle into Park City. It runs daily and is very convenient to be able to go into downtown Park City without the need to worry about parking or having a few apre-ski drinks.
The Westgate Park City has two restaurants that are connected to the resort. Unfortunately, my view is that neither is very good. They have Drafts which is a bar / restaurant and Edges, a fancy steakhouse.
Drafts is typical bar food. They used to have decent pizza's but changed their menu this season to have mostly burgers and wings. The food is definitely so-so but we did eat here a couple times due to convenience and complete lack of energy after a long day of skiing.
Edges is a fancy steakhouse whose food is okay. The pricing is quite high and not an ideal choice for those with young kids. There are better steakhouses in Park City but if you are craving a steak and don't want to drive, this is one of the only options in the Canyons area.
I think that I have fairly high standards for resorts and despite the need of the Westgate to do a refresh, I find the Westgate Park City to be extremely convenient for a great ski trip.
The amenities are great and the service is phenomenal. Having your skis waiting for you at the Gondola and dropping them off after skiing without having to walk at all is extremely nice. It is a real perk especially when I generally have to carry three pairs of skis and ski gear when my kids simply cannot carry anything after a long day skiing.
I have not experienced a lot of the Westgate Resorts as many of them are not in destinations that I would frequent but the Westgate Park City is definitely recommended. Fortunately, the Westgate is generally fairly easy to get when exchanging your timeshare so keep an eye out for this one if you are interesting in planning a great ski trip!
Have you heard of the Seated App (Get Paid to Eat Out)? - Get up to 50% back on your meals in the form of Amazon, Starbucks or Lyft gift cards!
While most of the material on this website is meant to discuss timeshares, there are various other tools out there that can make traveling easier and more affordable.
I was introduced to the Seated app and have been using it for a month or two now and it is absolutely wonderful!
It is basically like Opentable (reservation booking app) where you can make reservations at various restaurants through an iPhone or Android app but after you eat out, you can rewarded for your meal with rewards between $10-50 based on the amount of the dine.
These rewards come in the form of gift cards from your choice of Amazon, Lyft or Starbucks.
Essentially, this becomes a rebate of up to 50% (sometimes even more) of your meal cost. It is a great deal and can make eating out very affordable.
Currently, it available in the following cities:
When you download the app and you create an account, you can use my promo code which gives you a free $5 reward.
MY CODE IS:
In full disclosure, there are incentives that I receive when you sign up for an account but there is no cost or obligation to use their services.
If you are lucky enough to live in one of the above cities, I find this to be a tremendously beneficial app that has relationships with many of the top rated restaurants in those cities. Due to the value of these rewards, I tend to look up restaurants with this app before deciding where to eat.
I have received hundreds of dollars back in the form of Amazon gift cards which I treat as just as valuable as cash!
Have you heard of the Seated App? What do you think of it? Leave your comments below!
While there are many things to consider if you actually want to own a timeshare, one easy question to ask yourself is whether you are a Christmas week traveler?
What I mean by this is whether you will want or need to travel over the standard Christmas break that generally occurs from December 21st through January 2nd of each year.
Prior to having kids, I HATED traveling this week and generally avoided it at all costs. Flights were expensive, hotels are overpriced, restaurants are booked and everywhere was busy.
Now that I have kids, we are somewhat forced to travel with these crowds as if we do not travel during Christmas break, there is very little time throughout the remainder of the year when there are any decent size breaks where it makes sense to travel far.
Christmas week is a tough week to travel as almost the entire world has off during this time or this is when most people take vacation time since you can use fewer vacation days and combine them with the national holidays to get a good chunk of time off.
Since most people travel during this time, most people will plan far in advance in order to get there desired resort. Additionally, many people who purchased Christmas week at whatever resort they own at will likely use that week. Therefore, the timeshare inventory during this time is sparse.
As I wrote about here, my particular strategy for Christmas break last year DID NOT work as I did not get Christmas week despite putting in a request a full year in advance.
Key Consideration Prior to Considering Timeshare Ownership:
I try to be very transparent and explain that timeshare ownership is NOT for everyone. Timeshares have significant issues and the systems are complicated. However, I think that a simply question to ask yourself on whether you are a Christmas week traveler is a solid question to consider prior to ever consider being a timeshare owner.
If you purchase a timeshare solely to exchange (my particular strategy) and you want to travel during Christmas week in popular destinations (Hawaii, Ski destinations, Disneyworld, etc.), you are likely to be disappointed with timeshare ownership.
Getting high quality resorts during Christmas week is incredibly difficult and even when I plan a year or two in advance, I rarely succeed in getting my top pick for this week.
Strategy for Hotel Points:
As I have explained in other posts, I think that it is extremely important to have hotel points in order to maximize timeshare ownership. The general strategy that I have discussed previously was to book a hotel using points (generally fully refundable) and then proceed to put in a request for a timeshare at that destination. If the timeshare does not get confirmed, you still have a hotel room for "free" since you used points.
Once easy way to get a ton of points is through credit card signup bonuses. I wrote about one particular offer here which is a very solid deal.
This particular strategy has been very useful to me but is EXTREMELY important for Christmas week travel. Getting rooms with hotel points can be difficult as well so you need to book far in advance for Christmas week but hotel rooms are generally available even in the most desirable locations if you plan far enough in advance. Since the rooms are generally refundable, you still have flexibility and you can attempt to receive a timeshare for Christmas week.
If you are a Christmas week traveler, meaning that you typically only travel during Christmas week or potentially one other week during the year, timeshare ownership is probably not the best for you. While I have had success in getting some great Christmas weeks through exchanges, these are not guaranteed and it is actually quite rare to get top quality resorts during this time.
However, if you are not just a Christmas week traveler, timeshare ownership can be a great tool to travel for cheap. The week before Christmas and the week after Christmas usually has tons of availability at high quality resorts. If you are flexible for your vacation time, you can do very well with timeshares.
My goal is to keep showing you how!
What are your thoughts on traveling during Christmas week?
As I explained in this post, this past year I attempted and succeeded at earning Hyatt Globalist status almost solely to take advantage of the various perks offered for our trip to Maui during Christmas.
Once we checked into the Andaz Maui property, our confirmed suite upgrade that we were promised disappeared and was put in a standard room overlooking a concrete wall.
As I detailed in this post, that stay broke my loyalty to Hyatt and will not likely achieve Globalist status this year.
While I was disheartened by that experience as a "top tier" member of Hyatt, I still have Globalist status for the entire 2018 year. There are definitely some perks associated with this status including getting suite upgrades upon check-in. Of course, you are not guaranteed a suite as it will be entirely up to availability and the front desk representatives desire to actually give you a suite upgrade.
While I am not going out of my way to stay at Hyatt properties, I still enjoy them and I might as well get some perks out of my status while I have it.
I was recently in Santa Rosa, California and had the opportunity to stay at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa. I was there on business so there was not much time to do any fun wine tours or explore the hotel so I have not done a review of that hotel. The hotel is undergoing renovations at the moment so breakfast was very poor and served in a conference room and there were areas of the hotel that were closed. While the hotel can be nice, my initial reaction was not overwhelmingly positive and it seemed more of a business hotel.
I reserved a standard room and was upgraded to an Executive King room. The Executive King room was not the largest or highest tier suite but one of the top rooms available.
Here are some photos of the room:
As you can see, the room was definitely more spacious that a typical hotel room and had a nice couch and sitting area. However, your bed was directly in the same room which doesn't make it very conducive to entertaining with other people if that was something that you wanted to do.
Additionally, the couch was not a sleeper sofa so this "suite" would be a disaster for traveling with a family of four.
I have stated this before but the most frustrating thing with getting "free" upgrades at hotels is that they almost NEVER occur when I want them (traveling with family) and generally only happen while traveling alone on business. When I travel on business, having a suite is fine but I would be perfectly comfortable in a standard room without a view.
When I travel with my family, I want as much space as possible so that we can spread out and all get a good nights rest, ideally in our own beds!
Comparison to the Hyatt Wild Oak 2 Bedroom Suite
As I wrote about here, we recently stayed at the Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch in San Antonio Texas. We received a free two night stay in a 2 bedroom suite in their newest building, Cedar Elm.
I thought it would be interesting to compare my suite upgrade at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek and Spa to my 2 bedroom suite at Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch.
An important point in this comparison is that the suite at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek and Spa was not confirmed as it was completely subject to availability while my reservation at the Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch was for a 2 bedroom unit.
It is an important distinction because as I have said before, you simply cannot rely on a suite upgrade when staying at a hotel unless you book it directly and booking a suite directly can be ridiculously expensive. Therefore, you have to just hope that get a suite or pay a expensive premium to reserve one prior to check in.
Many times, even though it appears that suites are available at check-in, in my experience, the front desk agent claims that they are not in order to save those suites for more important guests (higher tier members or other guests who may have paid a higher rate) or simply wants to save those suites for last minute bookings for those people who do not mind paying those rates for suites.
The 2 Bedroom Suite
Here are some photos of the 2 bedroom suite. As you can see, the 2 bedroom suite comes with 2 bedrooms, one bedroom with a King size bed and one bedroom with 2 full beds. The suite also comes with 2 full bathrooms, both with tubs and showers, and has a full size kitchen, living room and dining area, large outdoor patio and a washer and dryer.
As you can see, the 2 bedroom unit is absolutely massive especially when compared to the "suite" at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek and Spa.
I should note that even if this was a one bedroom unit, the layout is generally the same with the only exception being that the second bedroom and second bathroom would not be available. The other amenities, living room, dining room, patio, kitchen, laundry facilities, etc. would still be part of the one bedroom.
In my opinion, the difference between a timeshare unit and a hotel suite is astronomical with the timeshare unit being far superior. The amount of space in a timeshare unit compared to a hotel suite is drastically different. There are other items to consider when comparing timeshares vs hotels but when you only consider space, timeshares seem to be a clear winner.
What are your thoughts on timeshares vs. hotels?