What You Really Need To Know About Time Shares
Who wouldn’t love a commitment to a vacation every single year? Afterall once it’s paid for, there’s nothing holding you back from going, or so we all tell ourselves. Timeshares are one of the biggest issues that plague travelers and cause them to file complaints with the embassy or consulate in other countries. If you’ve encountered an issue, use this link to get information on how to file your complaint. From intense sales pressure to actual scams uncovered after they have your money, if you ever find yourself in that position, please know you aren’t alone. If you’ve never encountered that situation, then consider this your cautionary tale.
Many properties around the world offer timeshares, but in today's society, they don’t call them timeshares anymore. You will hear terms like “members program” “VIP program” “membership” “vacation ownership” “holiday club” plus many others. Even when you ask “Is this a timeshare” you will often be told no, it’s completely different. The reality is that they are all some form of a timeshare.
Why do people consider a timeshare?
A timeshare or vacation club seems like a great idea on the surface. The biggest sales take place in Mexico and across the Caribbean. You’re finally unwinding after weeks, months possibly even years of grinding through work, raising a family and dealing with the day to day stresses, of course, the idea of a guaranteed place to vacation - prepaid no less, sounds sensational. Especially if you happen to have had a few umbrella drinks first. You love the resort that you’re at, you are laying on the lounger by the pool (or the ocean) looking around and you make a promise to yourself, I’m going to do this every year. Just like magic it seems, someone comes along offers you a great spa package, maybe an excursion all for free just as long as you come to their orientation or the presentation. Trust me they never call it a sales pitch, and when they say 90 minutes be prepared to have to bust out because they won’t let you go easily after 90 minutes.
Don’t Buy on the First Round
I’m not here to talk you out of purchasing a timeshare (although I really do encourage it) but if you’re going to, please don’t buy on the first round. They are going to offer you a “sensational” deal, but if you hold out (and keep holding out) you will see that price tag sliced in half multiple times over. So just wait it out as long as possible, to the point where they are almost ready to let you walk out the door, then come back for the better deal.
But now that you know how to save a few dollars, let's get back to what you really need to know.
They Don’t Own the Property
Yes, you read that correctly. Not all resorts are owned by the company that you are being hosted by. In fact, many resorts and hotels are only property managed or leased by the companies that have their names on the front doors. You may absolutely fall in love with a property, but who’s to say if you will actually get to enjoy that property next year or the year after. A lot of times the timeshare or membership company is a separate company from the hotel company as well - which is why they have “sharing” benefits with properties that you don’t think to connect, which means that if something goes wrong with the member company, the hotel still doesn’t have to continue to honor the agreements. The agreements are made with a third party company.
Oh, the books I could write on travel scams, they would make your head spin for sure! In fact, one of the scammer companies has been known to use a name very similar to mine, and I’ve been told by those that have been scammed that they’ve even been known to use my website in their presentations. I am not NOR HAVE I EVER BEEN affiliated with a timeshare, a travel club or any sort of vacation membership program. Things can look legitimate and when you are riding that high of excitement (because trust me they will pump you up in their presentation) and adrenaline, it’s easy to get swept up. They are professionals, this is their entire purpose and full-time career. Their only job is to scam people. Not saying all timeshares are scams, but there are a lot more out there than what you would ever care to know.
The sad reality is not every property renovates as often as it should, especially over the course of 20 or 30 years that your timeshare may be for. What if your ‘investment’ is shiny and sparkly when you first buy, but within 3 to 5 years hasn’t been maintained much less upgraded? And yet you still have another 20 years of traveling there?
A prepaid vacation when it is the worst vacation is not worth it. Even if it was free.
Your Tastes may Change
We are creatures of evolution and change. Our tastes evolve, our needs evolve and so do our circumstances. Don’t believe me? Think back twenty years and see how much has changed. When my children were small all I wanted was a place to nap and relax, now that they are independent loving humans, I can’t wait to adventure the world and explore with them. Our vacations look completely different today than they did fifteen or even just ten years ago.
Your Options are Limited
No matter what the salespeople tell you, you’re going to be limited. Typically most will limit your arrival dates to a certain day of the week. You may discover it difficult to actually be able to book your spot - especially during the peak season or without a huge advance booking. When you are limited to arrival dates you will often find that they coincide with the pricier flight dates which can also lead to limited availability of seats. You’re busy, your schedules are packed full and finding time off when you can all get away, doesn’t always work with the schedule they give you. If you need the ability to be flexible, to travel when you want, rather than when they will allow you, a timeshare may not be the best option for you either.
A Cautionary Tale
A colleague of mine told me a story about her parents' timeshare. They had bought it a number of years ago, used it happily for a handful of years, then wasn’t able to use it anymore due to space not being available. Then one day out of nowhere a letter arrived. The letter described how the building that their units were in was deemed an engineering nightmare. The company had been sold just a year earlier from a bankruptcy. In order to repair the building, each “Owner” had to cough up the money. The letter was a one time offer to buy out their contract, yes they had to pay to give up their fully paid timeshare or risk a much higher bill being thrust upon them. See, each owner was going to have to pay to tear the building down and be rebuilt. If they paid to end their contract they would be released of any future expenses. It was the luck of the draw. The other buildings in the complex were fine, but the one their timeshare was for, was not. When you ‘buy’ into these packages, these ownerships, you don’t know where the fine print can lead to. By the way, this wasn’t one in the Caribbean or Mexico where we all expect things to bubble up, this was a building in Canada, in the Rockies. It can happen anywhere.
The only way to truly protect yourself, and ensure that you enjoy your vacation year after year is to be in complete control of it. To be able to “choose” that option each year, not end up being stuck with it by default. This way you aren’t tied to someone else’s schedule, you can choose the travel style, destination, and adventure that suits your needs.
And if you’re concerned that not having something already set so that you’re locked in each year, fear not, I can keep you accountable and keep you hooked up with a great vacation each year.