Q: I just bought Wyndham points at the resort. Did I do the right thing?
A: This is a question that has been asked, ever since they started selling timeshares in the ’60s. It’s a reasonable question. You essentially walked into a dealership and bought a car that looked good on paper. The problem is, you did little to no research, and you don’t know how to drive. If that sounds crazy, then you now know why you are asking this question. You went in there with no intention of buying, but you spent $30,000 anyway because it looked great on paper. The salesperson painted a beautiful picture of horseback riding on an exotic beach. Luxurious presidential suites overlooking a beautiful mountainside. Families enjoying theme parks or making sandcastles on the beach together. Vacations you never dreamed of until now. Eventually, those dreams start to fade, and reality kicks in. That’s when the questions start. If you are lucky, this happens before the rescission period is over. You have time to read through your contract (do it now), do internet research on costs and realistic expectations (after you’ve read your contract thoroughly), ask other owners on Facebook about their experiences, and do the math. The last one is the hardest. Timeshares can save you a lot of money, or be a financial drain. It all depends on how you choose to see it, how you choose to use it, and what your travel lifestyle is like. So, let’s see who can benefit the most from a timeshare.
Timeshares are great for:
Planners – These are the people who can plan vacations far out. This is my family. We already have the next three years’ worth of vacations planned out. They can change, but usually a year out, we have made our final choice. The further out you can plan, the easier it is to get what you want. This is especially true of summer break, spring break, major holidays, and major events (Mardi Gras, Daytona bike week, etc.). There are some limitations on how far out you can book a reservation. Usually, you can book your home resort before you can book other resorts. Wyndham has three main booking windows that I describe in another post titled “Wyndham’s Booking Windows”. One of them is Advance Reservation Priority (ARP). ARP allows owners to book their home resort 13 months from check-in. This is important if you are going during a time when inventory is limited. If you want a four-bedroom presidential at your home resort during Christmas in a popular tourist location, you will need to be ready to book 13 months from check-in. So, if you are booking December 25th, 2020, you need to book need to be online, ready to click that “Book” button on at 12:01 AM on November 25th, 2019 (13 months out). If you need to book a resort outside your home resort, you have to wait for the standard booking window (10 months out). Since the biggest rooms go first, you will need to book, the second you are allowed to. Once you have booked, keep an eye on the inventory. Keep checking to see when it’s booked solid. You might find that 4 bedrooms don’t book up until a month later. Learning this information will help you plan for the future. It will tell you if you need to book early, or if you have a little time after the booking window opens up. This can vary from resort to resort. Some will fill up faster than others. Be sure to read my post regarding Wyndham’s booking windows, as this will help you know what you can book and when.
Retirees – Retirees can be flexible, to a point. They may still be limited to only being able to travel by certain means. If health or finances keep them from being able to fly, they may be limited to resorts within driving distance. Aside from that, they can be more flexible, because they generally do not need larger rooms. The exception being if they are bringing their kids and grandkids. One and two bedrooms are usually the last to book up at any resort, so if they want to plan last minute, they will have more options. My husband and I decided, we are going to be the type of retirees, who will travel somewhere else if we don’t like the weather. I don’t mean snowbirds. I mean, if we are in Florida and they are calling for it to be in the ’40s, with rain and wind, we book a room in the dessert and leave. Once it warms up, maybe we go back or maybe we chose a new location. Points timeshares give them the flexibility to do that. Plus, if they are VIP, they can get discounts on those last-minute reservations, and get free upgrades. If they need a one-bedroom, and a resort has studios and one-bedroom available, they can book the studio at 50% off, and upgrade to the one bedroom. This will allow them to get more use out of the points they own. Some people will travel for 3 months or more, on one million points, using that method.
Families – Timeshares work great for families because you usually get a condo instead of a 400 sq. foot hotel room. Separate bedrooms allow for the kids to go to sleep, while mom and dad enjoy some time together, without waking the kids. In a hotel room, there is no privacy, and if you have a family member who snores, it can create stress. They can also save money by cooking in your unit, instead of eating out all the time. Finally, the units are usually pretty spacious compared to hotel rooms. Being able to spread out, can reduce stress. The bigger units also allow you to bring extended family, or friends. Be sure to look at the unit details and floor plans (if available), so you will know if the unit type is right for you. Keep an eye on the max capacity because a lot of times, the fire code doesn’t allow them to go higher than that. If you have one extra person, call the resort to see if they allow you to bring an air mattress or cot. Some resorts offer rollaway beds on request. Always talk to the resort before going overcapacity. They will kick you out if they find our you are violating the fire code. That would put a damper on your vacation. Not to mention, violating a fire code can create a safety hazard in the event of a fire.
Flexible people – One of the most frustrating things you can experience with owning a timeshare, is availability. This is why planning far out is important. However, not everyone can plan that far out. Sometimes work schedules are unpredictable. Maybe someone’s health is unpredictable. So, you cannot commit to anything until the last minute. If you can only travel during prime season (maybe because you are a teacher, or your kids are in school), your options will be very limited last minute. That’s not to say nothing will be available. If you are flexible on where you go, and maybe even dates, you can almost always find something. It may not be a popular tourist destination, but that doesn’t mean you cannot make it an adventure. Let’s say you are going to a ski resort in the summer. You will be surrounded by nature. You can take guided hikes, guided tours, or visit zoos, museums, etc. Groupon is an excellent way to find out what there is to do and get a good deal. You can also call the local tourism center to find out what is available during that time of year. If you are limited to methods of travel, and cannot find anything within your travel area, keep looking. Often, people’s plans change, and they have to cancel. If there are people who are trying to rent out a reservation, they may give up and cancel it, allowing you to scoop it up. Do not forget about RCI. RCI gives you access to resorts outside the Club Wyndham network. These are usually smaller systems, but you can often find resorts owned by big names like Hilton, Hyatt, and Hard rock resorts. There are also all-inclusive resorts available, but the all-inclusive fee is not included. There are a ton of options out there when you factor in the external exchange systems. The downside to RCI is the $239 booking fee and you often have to book full weeks.
So, who are timeshares NOT good for?
Inflexible people – If you’re the type of person that has to be able to go anywhere they want, at any time they want, then they may want to pass on timeshares. Timeshare salespeople, like to tell you that you will be guaranteed a room, or that you will have no problems getting that four-bedroom presidential last minute. This is not true. At least not entirely. The guaranteed room part is a lie. There is no guarantee. If you are the type of person who has to go to myrtle beach over the summer but cannot decide when until three months out, you’re going to have a tough time getting a timeshare reservation. Timeshares are not like hotels. There is a much more limited supply, and during prime season, demand outweighs the supply. What makes it more complicated, is the bigger rooms are the first to be booked up. So, if you are looking to plan that family reunion over Christmas in Orlando, and need (4) four bedrooms, you better book way in advance.
People with unsteady income – Maybe you’re a contractor, who can sometimes have gaps between jobs. Maybe you work on commission, and your salary can fluctuate. Maybe you are just starting a business. Whatever the reason, if you do not have a steady, reliable source of income, a timeshare may not be the best thing. If you are in-between jobs, or sales are low, you need every penny you have to pay the bills. Luxury items like a timeshare will just add stress. You’ll be cursing the salesperson who convinced you this was a great idea. Even if the timeshare is paid off, you still have maintenance fees, that are due every month.
People with limited vacation time – People that have as little as one week of vacation a year, can get good use out of a points timeshare. Point systems give you the ability to book long weekends instead of a full week. If you plan far enough in advance, you can use a holiday weekend to get a longer vacation without using too much of your vacation time. Sometimes multiple long weekends can be better than taking a full week off in one shot. You get multiple breaks every year. However, if you have other responsibilities that require you to use your vacation time, you might not be able to use your timeshare. Even if you have 6 weeks of vacation a year. If you use a good portion of that vacation time for other things, like caring for a loved one, dealing with an illness, etc, you won’t have much leftover for a vacation. Think about how much vacation you have, and what other areas and responsibilities in your life, that may require you to use that vacation time for something other than vacation. There are few things more annoying, then paying for something you don’t use.
People with unpredictable schedules – We touched briefly on this above, but even if you are a pretty flexible person, unpredictable schedules can affect your ability to use and enjoy your timeshare. Maybe you have a loved one who requires your care. Maybe you are dealing with an illness that can derail plans with little to no warning. Or maybe you have a job that can call you at the last minute. Changing plans last minute can be costly. Wyndham’s cancellation policy is that it has to be canceled 15 days or more from check-in, to get your points back. If you don’t, you forfeit your points. The exception is if you paid for the cancelation insurance. The insurance can range from $49 to $99 depending on how many points you use. How would you feel, if you spent thousands on a vacation, only to lose it because you canceled the last minute? The same would apply for a timeshare. You spent thousands in maintenance fees, but lost the points (and the money you spent on maintenance fees) because you didn’t cancel before the deadline. That’s a risk that comes with owning a timeshare.
People who are too busy to learn – Depending on how you use it, or what your needs are, the Wyndham system can be pretty simple, or pretty complex. It always seems that the more flexible something is, the more complicated it is. Wyndham’s point system is very flexible. One of the major pitfalls timeshare owners run into is, not learning what they bought. A lot of times they say they are too busy to sit down and read the Wyndham directory. If you are too busy to learn how something works, don’t complain when it doesn’t work for you. You have to learn how to make it work for you. This isn’t a “plug and play” vacation club. It doesn’t just magically work the way you want it to work. Despite what the salesperson may have told you, this is not like booking a hotel room on Orbitz. There are rules and guidelines that you need to be familiar with, so you know how to make it work for you. I cannot stress how important this is. The fact that you are reading this, tells me you are already open and trying to learn. You are further along than half the other timeshare owners are. Pat yourself on the back for being smart. Never stop learning. I’ve owned timeshares for many years now, and my parents owned one. I am still finding out new things every day. Keep yourself apprised of changes by logging into the system once every 1-2 months to see announcements. Make sure you are signed up for their Pulse email. If you’re not sure, you can call Wyndham’s main number and ask.
So now you have an idea of who a timeshare works for, and doesn’t work for. If that pit in your stomach just got bigger, rescind if you still have a chance. I normally tell people to rescind, research, and re-evaluate. If you are past the rescission period, you might as well keep reading, and keep learning. If you are not past your rescission period, be sure to read my article about buying points resale on the third-party market for significantly cheaper. The only way to get rid of that pit is to use it and enjoy it. I have no doubt you will. Timeshares are great for forcing you to go on vacation. We do not regret ours. We have made use of it a lot over the years and it has paid for itself a few times over in the form of lodging savings and memories. Your results may be different than mine. You might have a better experience or worse. It’s how you choose to see it, use it, and learn it that will make all the difference.