Timeshares & Vacation Clubs | Understanding the Differences
Hi there, it’s Ernest from Trip Astute. In this video, we’re covering a controversial subject. We’re discussing the difference between timeshare resorts, vacation clubs, and hotels. (light chiming music) I want to start out with a personal story.
We recently took a trip to Mexico after receiving a free four-night stay from a family member. It was part of a raffle prize, and once we redeemed it, we were able to choose our location and hotel from most of the major tourist destinations in Mexico.
We opted for the Mayan Palace, just north of Playa del Carmen. Given that the stay was won during a raffle, I was feeling a bit cautious about it. I’ve been suckered in the past into attending timeshare presentations, and definitely wanted to avoid spending our vacation time being pushed to buy a property or join a vacation club.
I looked on TripAdvisor and saw several posts of travelers who complained about being bullied into sales presentations. We decided to lower our expectations, especially since it was a free trip, but we were going to stay firm and avoid any sales presentations. Everything seemed great when we arrived. The resort offered transportation from the airport, and when we got to the resort, we noticed that it was one of many properties owned by a company called Vidanta.
The service was impeccable during check-in, but as soon as we received our keys, we were immediately asked to meet with a manager. The manager explained the key attractions and benefits at the resort, then asked if he could invite us to a free breakfast. Red flags and immediately went up, and we politely declined over and over. The manager kept insisting that we attend and wanted to show us all the benefits of becoming a member of a luxury vacation club. We still said no. The manager also asked about booking excursions, and when we told him that we had already booked our own tours online, he seemed pretty annoyed.
Fast-forward to the evening and we noticed that the room was really noisy. The walls seemed thin, and we had a connecting door that didn’t help. We basically could hear our neighbors’ conversation and the music that they were playing on their phone. Since we had an early morning tour, we decided to ask the front desk if we could get a different room, preferably one without a connecting room or at least a connecting room that didn’t have occupancy. We were really surprised at what happened next. The front desk was unwilling to help us. We went back and forth with the manager for about an hour, and at one point, they agreed to put us in another room.
We were asked to pack up our stuff and return to the front desk, where we stayed there for about an hour, and then we were told that the room was not available and that we would have to stick to our original room. We decided to leave the resort the next day and forfeit our free stay. Using my Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I transferred 60,000 points to Hyatt and booked a stay at the Andaz Mayakoba down the road. The hotel was incredible and a complete contrast to our experience at the Mayan Palace. We’ll do a separate video on the hotel soon.
So, with that story in mind, I wanted to share the difference between a hotel versus a timeshare or vacation club for those of you who don’t know the difference. Timeshares are agreements where several joint owners have the right to use a property as a vacation home, usually for a specific period of time. The key word here is “owner”, as you’re actually purchasing the right to the property even if it’s only for a week or two in a year. Timeshare owners typically enter a real-estate deed for specific dates at a specific property. It’s like owning two weeks of a furnished condo in Hawaii. You’ll have to pay some maintenance fees for the property, but it should be less than owning a second home or property. With timeshares, you can usually participate in networks where you can trade stays with other timeshare owners, allowing you to travel to other properties in the world.
From what I hear though, this can be a bit tricky, especially around popular travel times and locations. Vacation clubs are slightly different. It’s basically a membership that gives you the right to access properties under an umbrella of resorts. The key term here is “right to access.” Rather than buying into a property, you’re paying a membership fee to use the resort. You’ll get more flexibility on the location and time that you want to use it, but you’ll sacrifice the equity that you would earn if you purchased a timeshare. In summary, the pros for timeshares are owned and built equity, consistency in the timing, and also the flexibility to exchange your timeshare with another owner.
The cons for timeshares include limited flexibility on the timing of your vacation, the annual maintenance fees, and also less services than you would find with a regular hotel or resort. For vacation clubs, the pros are more diversity of destinations and resort types. You have a little more flexibility with the timing of your vacation, and you get more hotel and resort services. The cons for vacation clubs are they’re typically more expensive than timeshares, both upfront and annually. You’re also limited to the availability. It may be difficult to book during certain high peak seasons. You have no equity or ownership, and you don’t have the ability to exchange outside of the vacation club network. If you do decide to purchase or join one of these resorts, here are some things to consider. Number one: Higher resort costs and prices. My experience at vacation clubs is that the prices at the resorts are generally higher for the value that you receive. While I expect prices for meals to be more expensive at a resort or hotel, I generally don’t mind if I feel like that quality is also high.
Unfortunately, we found the prices for meals, drinks, and groceries outweigh the quality and customer service. Since it’s sometimes difficult to leave the resort too, you can become quite reliant on what’s available and being charged. Number two: Prices may not be competitive. There are a ton of stories online of folks who research to stay at the exact same location and timeframe and found it to be the same cost or cheaper than their timeshare or vacation club rate. Also, with services like Airbnb, you now have more options when booking a vacation stay, so keep that in mind when considering the fees associated with a vacation club or timeshare. Number three: Limited flexibility. This primarily applies to vacation clubs. I found that these resorts typically want to control the customer experience, and when you deviate from it, you tend to find problems or a lack of support.
Our story from earlier is a perfect example. Everything seemed great until we deviated from the structure. We refused to attend the sales presentation and booked our own independent tours. When we wanted to leave, we were forced to have our luggage transported back to the resort’s main lobby rather just having a taxi pick us up and our luggage from the specific resort. When I spoke to the manager, he was unwilling to make an exception even though certain guests were allowed to have a direct pickup from the resort. This added another 45 minutes to our checkout experience, and we felt uncomfortable giving up our luggage since we already were in conflict with the resort. Number four: High-pressure sales. I can speak from personal experience that the sales tactics used by timeshare networks and vacation clubs are extremely aggressive. They usually try to lure you in with gifts or free services like meals, tours, and event tickets. Then you’re stuck in a long presentation where the price keeps dropping and the pressure to sell increases. I know it’s the nature of the industry to sell, but I personally can’t stand spending my vacation time being pressured and bullied into a deal.
Number five: Difficulty getting out. One tactic that’s often used by timeshares and sometimes by vacation clubs is the idea that you can commit now, and if you change your mind, you can just call and cancel within a certain period of time. These sorts of clauses are called a “cooling-off period.” This is often mixed in with justifications like “why not lock in the price now. There’s no penalty if you change your mind.” The trick is is that they make it very difficult to cancel.
You’ll often have to call different offices and send in all sorts of official paperwork. Some vacation clubs don’t even allow cancellations, so make sure to check the agreement if you’re considering entering a deal. Number six: Payment disputes. This goes for any hotel or resort stay, not just vacation clubs and timeshares. If you encounter a payment dispute with the hotel, I would suggest refusing to sign the credit card receipt or invoice. While the hotel and resort can still charge you the fee, you basically forfeit the right to a dispute by signing the invoice since you’re agreeing to the charges. We made this mistake at the Mayan Palace and were stuck with four nights of resort fees when we only stayed there one night. They refused to waive the fees and told us to contact SFX, which is a company that booked our stay. When I called them afterwards, they said that we were misled since they don’t deal with or receive any of the resort fees.
Since I had signed the credit card invoice, I basically waived my right to a charge back. So definitely don’t make the same mistake as us! And those are our tips and considerations. I will add a caveat that this is just my personal opinion. I have friends who love their timeshare and really find value in it. I guess I just really value having more flexibility in my travels. And with points and miles and Airbnb, I feel like I’m able to travel and afford things that would normally be out of my reach. One other thing that’s really important to me is customer service and intention. I don’t expect things to be perfect, but I expect there to be an intention to resolve issues. My experience at the Mayan Palace versus the Andaz Mayakoba was like night and day. While we felt trapped unsupported at the Mayan Palace, our experience at the Andaz made us appreciate the importance of customer service and our desire to feel like valued guests when visiting a hotel. What are your thoughts on timeshares and vacation clubs? Have you had good or bad experiences with them? If so, please share your experience in the comment section below.
If you enjoyed this video or found it useful, please hit the “like” button. For those of you who may be new to this channel, please consider subscribing. It’s free and you’ll get notifications on our updates. Until next time, travel safe and travel smart. .
As found on Youtube