First of all, we know that timeshares aren’t for everyone. The year that our youngest daughter went off to college, one of our parents gave us one of their timeshare weeks because they weren’t going to have time to use it that year. So two weeks after dropping our daughter off at her dorm, we were off to Cabo San Lucas. When we arrived at the resort, which was gorgeous, we were asked about scheduling a tour of the property and listening to their timeshare pitch. We decided to go ahead and schedule the tour, only because of the discounts, free drinks, and other offers. The morning of the tour, we both woke up repeating the mantra, “just say no”. We were determined that we weren’t going to be duped into buying a timeshare and we wouldn’t give them more than the sixty minutes that they said the tour would take us. We looked at the rooms, ate breakfast with the salesperson at a table overlooking the private beach, and eventually made our way to the sales office. Our room was spectacular, the beach was gorgeous, and we were feeling relaxed, perhaps too relaxed. Our resolve had wavered, we were no long able to “just say no”, but we were now firmly embedded into the “maybe” camp. We called our parents who had given us the timeshare week and asked their opinion, after all, they had several timeshare weeks with different companies and traveled constantly. Their response, “if you had to go there every year and you couldn’t trade it, would we go?”. We looked out at the resort, the ocean, the beautiful blue skies. Yes, we could do this every year, happily, so in the end, it was “just say yes” and we had purchased our first timeshare. There are a lot of questions that you need to ask yourself before you decide to purchase a timeshare, but we actually are big fans of timeshares after having had a couple of them for several years now.
The most obvious and important question is can you afford it? Timeshares aren’t cheap and you need to understand all of the expenses that are involved. First, unless you’re in the position to purchase outright, you will have a monthly installment payment as well as interest charges. If you decide to exchange your week (we’ll talk about that later) there is a cost for each week that you trade. If you’re not able to use your week, most timeshares allow you to “bank it” or “rescue it”, which allows you to move your week to the following year and gives you longer to use your week, but again there is a cost to do that. The biggest additional expense is for your maintenance fees, which is what they charge for cleaning and general maintenance of the property. It is a big investment, so you need to think about it carefully. One potential benefit, depending on the timeshare that you’ve bought is that it is buying property and you can write off the interest on your taxes and when you’ve paid it off, it is yours and you can will it to a child or relative.
The next question to ask yourself is how often can you travel? If you travel consistently, one week every year or at least every other year, then perhaps it might be a good choice for you. The way that we look at it is that we’re “pre-paying” for our hotel or resort in advance, which is usually the most expensive part of the trip anyway. For us, we know that we will travel at least a couple of weeks a year, with at least one of those trips being out of the country. We find that it reduces our stress when we start planning a trip, knowing that we don’t have to think about the cost of our room and our only expenses will be for food, activities, and airfare.
If you’re leaning towards purchasing a timeshare, the next question is probably which one is right for you. There are lots of them out there, Marriott, Hilton, Disney, and a variety of other hotel groups. We’re not going to make a recommendation, although we have two different timeshares at the moment and are happy with both. Find out if they are affiliated with a timeshare exchange company. One of our timeshares is associated with RCI and the other is associated with Interval International. These companies allow you to deposit your timeshare week with them and exchange it for any available timeshare property in their catalog, which provides properties all over the world, making your timeshare a passport to travelling the world. A couple of years ago, we spent two weeks in Estapona Spain simply by trading weeks that we had in our current timeshares. Also, check to see if you can convert your timeshare for points in a regular hotel rewards program, that way if you can’t travel, you can at least convert your timeshare into hotel rooms that can be used anywhere the hotel chain has a presence.
In our opinion, the younger that you are when you decide to purchase a timeshare, the better it will work out for you because it is that much longer that you will own it after it has been paid off. If you do decide to go on a timeshare tour or accept an offer for a cheap hotel room if you’re willing to listen to their pitch, be prepared for a pushy sales experience. Unfortunately they are sales people and that is what they do. Only buy a timeshare if you feel that it is the right decision for you, which it may or may not be. If you do decide to buy a timeshare, hopefully our advise will help you find the one that is right for you.