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Occasionally I like to bring in some guest writers who can share a bit about their area of travel expertise. Today David from The Timeshare Guru has offered to share some of his words of wisdom about leveraging timeshare rentals to make traveling with children a bit more comfortable while still keeping costs as low as possible. He is a father of two little ones so he knows first hand about some of the special challenges traveling families can face!
Read on to see what he has to say, and of course if you want to learn more about timeshares (either owning or just renting), then head to his Timeshare Guru site!
Traveling with children is usually worth it, but there is no secret that it can be extremely difficult. Small hotel rooms, a lack of cooking facilities, using a mini bar as a fridge etc. can make traveling more difficult than it has to be. As a result, many people tend to avoid traveling with small children, or at least minimize it as much as possible. If you read Mommy Points, you are likely not in that group as I find that traveling with children, while uniquely challenging, can be very rewarding. I regularly travel with my 6 and 4 year old all over the world.
After connecting with Mommy Points, I wanted to some of what I have learned over the years concerning timeshares. I am sure that many Mommy Points readers immediately start conjuring up ideas that timeshares are awful, a complete waste of money, and generally only for suckers who got roped into a purchase during vacation.
While there are some significant issues with timeshares, I think timeshares are misunderstood. Similar to with miles and points, if you actually understand the systems, there are tremendous ways to maximize the value and space that timeshares can offer. Keep in mind that most people think that people with 30+ credit cards are deep in debt, but if you understand rewards credit cards, we all know that they can be extremely valuable and a great way to travel for much less without racking up debt. Timeshares are actually really similar!
Timeshares systems are constantly changing, but have become a lot more flexible in recent years than previous systems. Instead of owning one week and going to the same resort year after year, there are various options to exchange into other resorts. As an example, owning a two-bedroom one-week timeshare gets me four+ weeks of vacations per year!
Timeshare ownership is definitely not for everyone and the purpose of this post is not to encourage ownership, but rather show you how you can take advantage of a last minute timeshare rental without having to own one. Timeshares are generally larger than hotel rooms and come in studio units, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms and even three and four bedroom units. I have a family of four, and having a two-bedroom timeshare when traveling with kids is simply awesome. Everyone has their own bed and there is a full kitchen where you can cook and save a lot of money as opposed to paying crazy resort prices and trying to have your kids behave eating out meal after meal.
Save Money on Travel By Renting Timeshare Weeks
Regardless of what you think of owning timeshares, renting timeshares can be a ridiculously great value and make traveling much more comfortable with children. While timeshare systems can be complicated, renting timeshares is simple and is a great travel strategy to be aware of, especially with children.
One great strategy that I use is to book a hotel with points and make sure that they have a flexible cancellation policy. Then I continue to look for timeshare deals in my desired travel location. Worst case scenario is that we have a points stay at a nice resort, but the best case scenario is getting a luxurious condo with ample room for my family at a fraction of the cost of a hotel stay.
Here are some great spots to find last minute timeshare rental deals:
Timeshare Users Group is a very active forum of timeshare owners. Basically, this is a Flyertalk for timeshare owners. Due to restrictive cancellation polices, many timeshare owners have last minute changes to their schedules and many timeshare weeks go unused. There is a forum called “Last Minute Rentals” where timeshare owners post their weeks to rent. There is a maximum rate of $100 per night so that means that the max is $700 for a week. Many offered prices are less than that.
I personally used TUG to get a week in a two-bedroom condo on the Big Island of Hawaii for about $350 for the entire week!
A word of caution: Timeshare owners that own specific weeks are generally allowed to rent their weeks. However, any weeks exchanged through the exchange companies or exchanged through the internal systems are generally not allowed to be rented. While this is definitely against the rules for most programs, this occurs regularly, but if the exchange companies get wind of this, they can cancel the week and cause issues for the timeshare owner. Use caution when booking these weeks. I find that most participants on that forum are honest and friendly, but it pays to be cautious as there is not a ton of protection for a buyer.
SFX Resorts is a exchange company where timeshare owners can exchange their week. They offer what they call “Resort Escapes”. If you are a timeshare owner, you can register for free with their site and book these week long rentals. One huge benefit is that the inventory is shown online without any registration process. You can see prices and availability without having to register or login. You do need to call to book these weeks.
If you see a week that you want, you can either register for free if you own a timeshare, or you can pay a membership fee. Diamond Membership costs $349 for three years, but gives you 50% off the Resort Escapes. There are some stellar last minutes deals to be found and paying their membership fee may be worth it due to the tremendous savings. Since their availability and prices are transparent, paying the membership fee can be made at the time you want to book a week.
RCI is the largest exchange company. RCI offers rentals as well as exchanges. They offer what they call “Extra Vacations”. I have seen last minutes rentals for less than $200 per week. Not all weeks are this cheap as rates vary, but there are some great deals to be found.
RCI does technically require timeshare ownership in order to get access. However, I have found that you can register with RCI, pay the $99 membership fee for one year (discounts for longer terms), and get access to these types of rentals. They do not validate ownership, though you can weigh your own ethical yay or nay on that one. The savings that you can get off one week are almost always greater than the annual membership fee, so this is a great way to get access to great rentals at great prices.
Endless Vacations is the rental arm of RCI and offers various rentals. You do not need to be a timeshare owner, but it does require registration. It is definitely a good resource to review options and see prices. I have not done an extensive evaluation between booking Extra Vacations with RCI or booking with Endless Vacations but the prices seem comparable at first glance. RCI may be cheaper and have different inventory, but this is a great way to see rentals.
Interval International is the other major timeshare exchange company. They offer “Interval Getaways” where you can rent weeks for cash prices. They are some ridiculously great deals and I have seen great holiday weeks in Mexico for under $300 and recently saw ski weeks in two-bedroom ski-in / ski-out condos in Park City for just over $200.
The issue with this is that you need to be a timeshare owner to get access. However, there are a few interesting loopholes that you should be aware of. If you know a timeshare owner, you can be given administrative access rights. This will allow you to book Interval Getaways through their account. Alternatively, Interval members can book getaways for friends and family and issue a guest certificate for a fee.
The other loophole is that you need to be a timeshare owner when you register, but even if you sell or are no longer a timeshare owner, you can continue to have access to Interval Getaways as long as you pay the membership fee. I personally prefer Interval international since I have high standards and they generally have higher quality partners including Marriott, Hyatt and Four Seasons. Despite this, RCI does have some great quality resorts in their inventory.
You can purchase darn near anything off eBay and timeshare rentals are no exception. I have had some positive experiences renting off of ebay but again, you need to be cautious. If the rental is an exchange, it technically is at risk of cancellation and you have little protections to avoid that. Again, most sellers are generally honest, but like most transactions on ebay, do use caution.
This is not meant to be a complete list as there are other avenues to rent timeshares for cheap, but it should provide a decent starting off point. Timeshares can be a terrific way for inexpensive travel while being in luxurious accommodations with many of the same comforts of home.
Timeshares have a horrific reputation and they have a lot of negatives, but generally most of the negatives are resulting from people paying exorbitant upfront fees, maintenance fees that generally increase year after year, difficulties in exchanging their unit to desirable locations or times, lack of flexibility and cancellations restrictions – just to name a few! There are very few negatives relating to quality of the accommodations.
Despite these issues, like most other travel programs, if you understand them and learn their intricacies, there can be tremendous value to be had whether you rent or own. Renting timeshares is a great way to spread out, save money, and you do not even have to go to a timeshare presentation.
A huge thank you to Mommy Points for allowing me to provide this guest post. Despite their real issues, timeshare can be an untapped market for cheap travel. If you interested in learning more, I definitely encourage you to check at my blog at www.thetimeshareguru.com.
Thanks to The Timeshare Guru for sharing some tips on how to save money on family travel by just renting a timeshare week!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.