Timeshares & Vacation Clubs | Understanding the Differences & Our Personal Experience

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 ownership 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
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and travel smart.

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