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?
Doctor of Credit has been a very gracious supporter of The Timeshare Guru and has allowed me to post a number of articles on his site regarding timeshares.
I posted a complete guide to renting timeshares on his site which is a great resource for those looking to rent timeshares. I definitely encourage you to review the guide and to frequent the Doctor of Credit's website. His blog is the preeminent place to find bank account deals and has a lot of great travel deals as well as credit card deals.
Make sure to leave comments below if you have alternative sources or other tips and tricks to rent timeshares for cheap!
Hyatt Residence Club owners have a variety of ways to exchange their week / points into various other properties. As mentioned in other posts, the Hyatt Residence Club is a hybrid system so you can either use your deeded week or convert your week into points.
When you have points, you can either exchange your points internally through the Hyatt Residence Club for other Hyatt Residence Club properties or exchange those points through its trading partner, Interval International, for other timeshares.
The one restriction to Hyatt owners is that you cannot use Interval International to exchange into other Hyatt properties. Interval International blocks that inventory so a Hyatt Residence Club owner wanted to use points to trade into other Hyatt properties, they must use the internal trading system.
While this isn't a huge deal, it is meaningful. This is because the point requirements to exchange through Interval can be much less than trading through Hyatt internal system.
For example, in Interval International, if you wanted to reserve a week in a studio during the highest demand travel season, this would require you to use 430 points. In the Hyatt Residence Club system, if you wanted to reserve a studio unit during the highest demand season, Diamond season, this would require 750 points.
This difference in points is almost double. Due to this difference, it can make sense to exchange through Interval instead of internally with Hyatt but the catch is that you cannot reserve Hyatt units through this method since Interval blocks this inventory.
As a result, I generally reserve Marriott units, Four Season Units or other high quality units through Interval using my Hyatt points instead of booking through the internal Hyatt system.
This provides me with a better use of my points but you cannot stay at Hyatt properties. I like Hyatt properties a lot and tend to gravitate to many of their hotel properties. I have stayed at plenty of the Hyatt Residence Club properties and they are all very luxurious and of high quality.
The blocking of Hyatt inventory for Hyatt owners is frustrating but understandable. However, a question came up on whether I could rent Hyatt weeks through Interval Getaways.
As I have discussed here, Interval Getaways allow you to book weeks using cash rather than points and do not have any requirements to sit through any timeshare presentations. The pricing for these weeks are generally fantastic and almost impossible to beat when comparing these prices to standard hotel rates.
Due to the favorable pricing, I wanted to see available inventory for Hyatt properties to rent instead of Hyatt. I tried to search using all of the resort codes for Hyatt (HRP, HNS, HWP, HYS, HSH, HYK, HYN, HBK, HMS, HSL, HYP, HYA, HCC, HYB, HYI, HRA) and nothing came up.
I wasn't sure whether this inventory was purposefully blocked or whether there was simply no availability. I called Interval to check and was told that there is no block on Interval Getaways for Hyatt owners since you are paying cash instead of exchanging your points.
However, upon further research, I found out that this was not in fact the case and Interval blocks ALL inventory, regardless of if it is exchange inventory or getaway inventory for Hyatt properties for Hyatt owners.
This is disappointing as Hyatt properties are some of the nicest but I guess the reason for blocking this inventory is that Hyatt provides the same functionality within their internal system albeit for higher points and cash requirements.
Overall, I think the Hyatt system is one of the best currently although the Hyatt Pure Points systems is on the verge of a complete roll out. Time will tell whether the new Hyatt Pure Points system will be as advantageous but I will be sure to provide a post concerning the new system once all the details are unveiled.
For those of you who want to book Hyatt properties through Interval, the only way to do so would be to be a non-Hyatt owner or have a second account for Interval that is not linked to your Hyatt account.
Can you see Hyatt inventory through Interval Getaways? If so, post the availability below so that everyone can see pricing and availability.
A common theme of this blog is that you need to be flexible and plan early in order to exchange into great timeshares. This general strategy is key to making great exchanges and truly maximizing timeshare ownership.
While I firmly stand by this general rule, there are times when some great exchanges or getaways become available at the last minute. Sometimes other travelers cancel at the last moment or the exchange company releases inventory at the last minute hoping that someone will fill an empty room.
I am sure that we all know that Christmas vacation is happening next week so most of the world will likely be traveling. Scoring a christmas week in a luxurious destination is generally difficult which is why you need to put in requests as soon as possible, generally at least one year in advance.
While planning in advance is absolutely key, one of my favorite timeshare strategies that I employ when I do not get a week through requesting early is through the use of booking a hotel and searching timeshares that get released at the last moment.
The general strategy is as follows when I do not get the desired resort or week:
1. Book a hotel at the destination that you desire to travel to. Try to get the best rate possible or ideally book with points. Make sure that the reservation can be cancelled 24 hours in advance. Booking with points is generally ideal as they can likely be cancelled 24 hours before check-in. Additionally, even if this strategy does not work, the vacation would be free!
2. Put in a Interval International Getaway alert for the desired timeshare week. If and when something becomes available, it will alert you. Book immediately if it is at a comfortable price book. Do not wait, as these will disappear in seconds!
3. Constantly search for exchanges up until the very last minute where you can cancel your hotel reservation.
As stated, Interval International and RCI will sometimes release very desireable resorts for key weeks at the the very last second. Here are a couple that I found this morning.
A prime ski week in Park City for less than $500 for the week!
While I strongly advocate planning far in advance, there are times that great weeks and destinations become available at the last minute. These last minute deals can be a fantastic value especially if you were prepared to book a hotel room.
I have personally used this strategy many times and have easily saved thousands of dollars for booking a getaway instead of a the hotel stay. In addition to saving money, we are generally happier with the additional space and cooking facilities.
Specifically, I was able to use this strategy in St. Kitts. The Marriott hotel and timeshare are part of the same complex. We booked hotel rooms for approximately $2500 per room but kept looking for availability through Interval International. We were able to book a 2 bedroom timeshare for approximately $1,000 for the week at the last minute, saving us $1500 and giving us a 2 bedroom units instead of a small hotel room.
In conclusion, BOOK EARLY but if that does not work out, have a plan to keep searching. You could be very surprised with some last minute availability!
As my father tells me, Fail to Plan is a Plan to Fail.
If money was not an issue, travel planning would not be an issue at all. You choose flights, irregardless of costs, and choose accommodations, irregardless of cost. Unfortunately, I do not have that luxury and most people do not as well.
Exchanging your timeshare can unleash tremendous value and you can end up staying in properties that far surpass the quality of your own timeshare or those available to you through the internal exchanges. While there are opportunities to make great exchanges, availability for specific weeks and destinations can be extremely hard to come by and may never become available.
The issue with vacation planning with timeshares is that you need to plan very far in advance. Some timeshare systems allow you to reserve weeks 2 years in advance of the actual week. Most people do not plan ahead and typically only plan vacations a few months in advance. As I will detail below, if you plan to exchange into prime weeks, this strategy may not work very much and you will quickly become disgruntled with timeshare ownership with the claim that your desired week, destination or resort never becomes available. The goal of my site is to help you avoid this fate and get the maximize value out of timeshare ownership.
Further complications with travel planning with timeshares involve airfare if you are traveling to a destination outside of driving distance from your home. Airfares fluctuate and destinations during prime travel weeks can easily far exceed the budgeted amount for the vacation. I personally use frequently flyer miles to get airfare for free but frequent flyer miles can be even more complicated than timeshare exchanging and having availability with free airfare along with the desired week and resort can be next to impossible. However, I have successfully navigated this system for many years and it is doable with diligence, planning, patience, flexibility and websites such as mine! In order to get the two goals to meet up requires a ton of time, work and flexibility. My goal is to give you some tips on how to navigate timeshare exchanging in order to get the desired weeks.
I will also detail some basic tips on how to get frequent flyer miles and use them to get airfare for free!
TIP ONE: PLAN AHEAD, WAY AHEAD AND BE FLEXIBLE:
The first tip is that you must plan ahead. One of my vacation rules is to always have a trip planned. This keeps me motivated to work and keeps me excited to see new destinations and spend quality with my family. Generally, I plan one year in advance and put in a Request First with Interval International or an internal request with one of my timeshare programs. (i.e Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, etc.) I put in a request with various top quality resorts around the world that I would like to travel to. You need to make sure that you choose the specific resorts that you want and not just put in a destinations. There are some crummy timeshares out there so you need to make sure that you choose the high quality luxurious ones. I make sure that the potential destinations have decent flight paths from my home airport so that I can make sure to only have one stop and to make sure that there are no overnight stays. We travel with young children so an overnight stay or more than one stop can be more difficult than desired.
Request First with Interval International is a great tool and highly recommended since their system will constantly check their system and automatically confirm you into the desired resort for the specific week. I always make sure to use E-Plus which provides three free exchanges for a one-time fee of $54. This is absolutely necessary for added flexibility as without E-Plus, the reservations are non-cancellable except for a large fee for cancellation as well as the re-booking fee. I will discuss E-Plus in more detail later but this is an absolute must to give you the needed flexibility to change destinations Many times I change destinations because nicer resorts become available or fantastic airfare deals become available.
SECOND TIP: HAVE A PLAN B
The second tip is that you always need to have a Plan B. Most hotel reservations allow you to make reservations and cancel up to 24 hours before check-in. Once I put in a Request First, I also review hotel options in the desired areas of travel. I will make a few speculative bookings for the desired weeks so that there are options for accommodations in the event that the timeshare accommodations do not come through. Booking directly through the major chains is preferable as they generally make it easy to reserve and cancel your reservations with a few clicks. While I highly prefer timeshares for many reasons, you need to make sure that there are viable hotel options. One of my favorite ways to have a Plan B is to use hotel points to reserve a week in the desired location. I can reserve a hotel room that is fully cancellable with hotel points so that the week will be free in the event that the timeshare option does not become available. I will explain in later posts how to arm yourself with hotel points so that you too can have this option.
THIRD TIP: USE INTERVAL GETAWAY ALERTS:
As discussed in this post (Getaway Alerts), I explained how to use Getaway Alerts on the Interval International App. I routinely populate various dates and times and become alerted when a desired resort and destination becomes available. As discussed, many times it is economically beneficial to reserve a week with cash instead of using your deposited weeks or points. In addition, there are some fabulous deals with Interval Getaways so a deal at a great resort may end up dictating the ultimate destination for your vacation. A great deal for accommodations may open up the budget for an increase in the price of airfare.
FOURTH TIP: USE HOPPER TO TRACK AIRFARE
The fourth tip is to populate the airfare searches using Hopper. Hopper was discussed in this post here and is a great way to easily monitor airfare. Since at this stage, you will not necessarily know the ultimate destination, you can put in multiple itineraries and Hopper will constantly monitor the cost for the flights. If one destination is significantly cheaper than another, you can opt in to booking the airfare at that time. Once you book airfare, you are generally locked in to the destination as change fees can be as high as $200-$300 per ticket so you need to make sure things are lined up with the timeshare or have a reasonable Plan B that you are prepared to use in the event that the timeshare availability does not become available.
Once your airfare is locked in, I would revise the request first to make sure that only the resorts in your request are for the destination desired. While you will have 24 hours to cancel it free of charge, if you miss this window, it can be problematic.
FIFTH TIP: USE SOUTHWEST AIRLINES IF POSSIBLE
Alternatively, if you are in destination that is serviced by Southwest, I highly recommend booking tickets with Southwest. Southwest is the only airline left that allows changes and cancellations free of charge. Southwest even allows you to receive travel credits if the price of the airfare goes down. Southwest will give you travel credits to use at a later date in the event your flight cost went down from the date you originally booked. However, there are a few issues with Southwest that should be understood. Southwest only opens its flight schedule for approximately six months in the future. Therefore, if you confirm into a resort a year in advance, you may not be able to book airfare with Southwest until six months from the trip. You will also be subject to the price of the trip once it opens up. While Southwest is known for its low fares, the prices for some trips and high demand weeks can be extremely expensive. The second issue with Southwest is relating to cancellations. Southwest does allow cancellations but the do not provide refunds. They provide you with a travel credit that must be used within one year from the initial reservation date. They also require you to keep the reservation number in order to access those travel funds. This does require a bit of record keeping and organization. The best method for Southwest is to use their Rapid Reward Points. Instead of booking with cash, you can use Rapid Reward Points and if you needed to cancel or change destinations, the points are immediately redeposited to your account. I will explain this in later posts but for the purpose of this post, Southwest is a great airline to use when timeshare planning.
SIXTH TIP: USE AUTOSLASH
As discussed in this post here (autoslash), Autoslash is a great tool for rental cars. You can make reservations using Autoslash without any credit cards and they will track your rental to ensure that you receive the lowest price on your car rental. Since it is conceivable that you have many potential destinations for the trip, you can make multiple reservations for the same week. Do it as far in advance as possible and autoslash will do the rest to make sure that the cost of your rental car is the lowest.
SEVENTH TIP: CONTINUE MONITORING AIRFARE, HOTELS AND TIMESHARES AFTER CONFIRMING
Going through these various steps seem exhausting but once you get a system in place and have alerts set, it becomes on autopilot and just requires monitoring. The key is that once everything is booked, that you continue to monitor everything to make sure that there are no unintended surprises. I try to book my airfare 330 days in advance which is when most airlines open their schedules. When I book this far in advance, airlines continue to make schedule changes throughout the year. Many times, the reserved flight path changes, times are altered or non-stop flights all of sudden require a stop. These can completely derail all the travel planning put forth above and could require a complete re-do of everything above. This is why is is highly beneficial to continue to monitor all these items to make sure everything is on track. You do not want to be surprised on the check in date that your flight now requires an overnight stay. Also, while schedule changes with airlines can be problematic, most if not all airlines allow you to re-book or cancel your flights for no charge or fees if the airline make a schedule change that impacts the travel time by greater than two hours. In other posts, we can discuss schedule changes and how to use them for your advantage but for the purpose of this post, you need to monitor your airfare. Airlines will generally inform you of schedule changes but those e-mails may go to spam or simply be missed.
In writing this post, I realize that travel planning can be daunting and difficult. Working with timeshares adds even more complexity. These tips are meant to allow my readers to begin using these tools and becoming informed on how these tools can help alleviate these issues and obtain the desired weeks and resorts within a reasonable budget. I highly recommend that you subscribe to my Guru Deals below so that you can be alerted to various exchange opportunities, travel deals, flight deals and other opportunities to allow you to travel to luxurious destinations for a fraction of the retail cost. Travel planning as described above may not be for everyone so when airfare deals become available, I will try to include some options for timeshares and see how you can easily book quality weeks for reasonable costs and avoid all the steps above!
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An accommodations certificate is basically an extra week that is given to Internal International members. These certificates generally randomly appear in you account at various times. It appears that some members get them and others do not. I anticipate that Interval International awards members for depositing high demand weeks or high demand resorts. If you are lucky to get one of the accommodations certificate, they generally entitle you to exchange into a week at various locations and times. These certificates tend to come with a lot of restrictions and the inventory allocated to these certificates can be quite limited. High demand locations and high demand weeks will almost never be included. However, there can be certain gems located in this inventory that provides tremendous value.
I was recently given an accommodations certificate that is valid until February 5, 2017 and up to a three bedroom unit which would accommodate up to 8 people. In order to use the certificate, Interval provides a grid with available times and locations. While the grids can change, they mostly include the same locations over and over again.
Here is the current list:
As you can see from the above list, there are some good destinations. You need to search daily as availability differs. Interval does charge an exchange fee for using the accommodations certificate. The current fee is $274 plus taxes.
In reviewing the current offerings, there are a few sweet spots:
I currently see the Marriott Grande Vista Resort in Orlando for October 30 through November 6. This is for a 2 bedroom unit. Using the certificate, the total cost for the week is $308.25! While not exactly free, just over $300 for week in a 2 bedroom unit is quite a deal.
For comparison purposes, if I chose to book directly with Marriott for the same week, the total cost is just of $1500.
1 room(s) for 7 night(s) Prices in USD
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Total taxes and fees 169.12
Total for stay in hotel's currency
This is just one example of how these accommodations certificate can provide tremendous value. While there is no telling when or how to receive them, they are valuable if you can use them. I am not positive if I can use my certificate this time around so contact me through Facebook if you could use it. I do not mind doing some searches and finding some gems for your use! Make sure to sign up to our mailing list for further details!
One fantastic perk of owning a timeshare is the ability to reserve additional weeks through the various exchange programs. RCI and Interval International both have programs where you can reserve a week with cash instead of exchanging your timeshare. You have to be a member of RCI or Interval International to be able to reserve a week but it is well worth it.
Today, I want to review the Interval Getaways. Interval Getaways allows you to reserve a week in a studio, 1, 2, 3 or more bedroom units at timeshare resorts throughout the world. The inventory that they make available is different that if you exchanged your timeshare. The pricing for these getaways can be absolutely fantastic. They have some weeks that you can reserve for as little as $277 a week. Yes, $277 PER WEEK, ONLY $40 PER NIGHT. I challenge anyone to find a better deal that this for a hotel room.
Interval Getaways have recently changed so that you can reserve a week up to 18 months in advance. Inventory constantly changes so it pays to constantly check.
In order to be able to reserve a getaway week, you need to be a member but it does not take any points from your account. Here are some current deals that I can locate at the moment.
Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino
Apr 07 2017 - Apr 14 2017
0 2 2
$399.00 $374.00 $349.00
Marriott Grand Chateux in Las Vegas
Mar 25 2017 - Apr 01 2017
1 4 4
$857.00 $832.00 $807.00
The Grand Bliss in Riveria Maya, Mexico
Aug 28 2016 - Sep 04 2016
0 2 2
$329.00 $304.00 $279.00
There are tons of other opportunities available at 5 star resorts throughout the world. Many times a week vacation will cost as much as one night in a 5 star hotel.
Interval Getaways offer fantastic opportunities to stay in great resorts around the world and could offer better opportunities than exchanging your timeshare. It is definitely worth it to check out Getaway options before exchanging your unit to see if you can save money by using a Getaway instead of exchange options.