Hi there! I’m Monica, AKA Your Timeshare Fairy Godmother, and a happy timeshare owner of 15 years. I’ve never worked in the timeshare industry and I’m not being compensated by any of the parties I talk about in this article.
I’m on a mission to help the 9 million households that own a timeshare make the most of it! Before this frugal fannie dives into my tips, many of you may be thinking, “What is a Timeshare Exactly?!?” Check out my previous article for MSME that gives a quick overview of timeshares, costs of owning one and tips to save money on a timeshare purchase.
Now, if you’re reading this it means that you probably already have a timeshare and are looking for ways to maximize it. This article will cover the different ways you can hack your timeshare ownership to increase the value of the dollars you are already spending.
You’ve joined the timeshare ownership club, now it’s time to take advantage of all the perks and vacation deals that come with it. One of the things we love about our timeshare is how flexible it can be. With a timeshare ownership you have financial commitments to your resort, but that doesn’t mean you always have to stay at your resort.
- Are you looking to cut expenses from your budget? You can rent out your timeshare to help pay your maintenance fees AND still go on amazing timeshare vacations for clearance prices
- Is your timeshare unit sitting vacant and you are paying to vacation elsewhere? Don’t double spend! Instead trade your week for a vacation in one of 4,000 resorts in destinations around the world
- Does your timeshare ownership give you one week of vacation a year, but you want to go on more trips? I’ll teach you how to economically stretch your one week into many weeks of vacation.
Without further ado, let’s talk about 4 ways to hack your timeshare to get the most out of your vacations.
4 Ways to Hack Your Timeshare
Tip #1: Return to Your Resort for $10 a Night
It’s not a typo, it’s true! One of the best ways to hack your timeshare is to return to your resort when the capacity is low.
When our resort is under 80% capacity, they open up the available rooms to owners 3 days in advance — for only the cost of housekeeping. They make the same perk available at a close by, highly rated sister property in the mountains of Vermont.
We take advantage of this offer to secure cheap weekend getaways in shoulder season even when it is not our ownership week! Call your timeshare resort to see if they have a similar ‘space available’ program.
Tip #2: Save 84% on Resort Rooms
One place to score additional vacations for pennies on the dollar is from the Timeshare Exchange Companies, which you should have access to whether you bought with Westin, WorldMark, Hilton, or another brand. These companies provide a way for owners to trade their timeshare for a vacation at another resort. When units are still available companies put them on major clearance 30-45 days before the check-in date. There’s no limit to how many of these Last Minute Deals you can purchase at worldwide resorts— AND there is no high pressure timeshare sales presentation required!
These timeshare exchange companies range from very large to small independent ones. Resorts Community International (RCI), Interval International (II) and Expectations Interchange are timeshare exchanges that require a paid membership. DAE, Platinum interchange, RTX and Trading Places International are free to join.
Are you thinking, well that is nice and all, but I bet those are all the older resorts that I’m not interested in anyway. Honestly, there is a little bit of that BUT, there are also lots of great places that just happen to have rooms available. What you’ll find in these Last Minute Deals typically falls into 3 categories:
- Destinations with tons of timeshare resorts such as Orlando, Las Vegas, Branson, Poconos, etc.
- Huge Timeshare Resorts. For example, Vacation Village Parkway in Orlando with 4,200 units, The Grandview Las Vegas with 2,250 units, and Massanutten in Shenandoah Valley, VA with 2,300 units.
- Off Season and Shoulder Season Places like ski resorts in the spring, summer and fall. Whether it’s the Berkshires or Park City these mountain destinations are great in all seasons for hiking, ziplining, fishing, rafting, biking, golf etc. We recently took a summer trip to the Berkshires, and it was a huge hit with my family!
Let’s take a look at the recent Last Minute $299 deals at a highly rated Las Vegas resort from one of the exchange companies. If you booked a 2 bedroom unit on Hotels.com for the same time period, you’d pay $1,847 for the week. That means you are saving up to 84% of the price by booking it through a timeshare exchange company.
RCI Last Minute Deal
If you like to vacation for pennies on the dollar, check out what these exchange companies are offering for Last Minute Deals.
Tip #3: Don’t Waste It, Exchange It!
The timeshare exchange companies are a key ingredient to make your ownership work for you, and your budget. I hear from a lot of frustrated owners who aren’t using their timeshare ownership at all, still paying their yearly maintenance fees and purchasing hotel rooms or Airbnb’s instead. Talk about a budget buster!
If you aren’t going to your resort or are looking for more vacation variety, the timeshare exchange companies are THE tool to take the dollars you are already spending and transform them into fantastic trips! I’ve summarized the basics of getting started here.
- Step #1: Deposit your timeshare week early enough with an exchange company to get all of your trading currency (Points or Trading Power Units aka TPUs). If I wait too long to deposit my week, I only get 10 TPUs vs the 23 TPUs possible. Call your timeshare resort to understand the ins and outs of depositing your week with an exchange company. Remember, these points represent the dollars spent on your timeshare so manage it like real money.
- Step #2: Plan In Advance. Timeshare exchange traveling favors those who plan in advance. If you are exchanging your vacation for peak travel, complete your exchange 1-2 years before your trip. Start your planning by browsing the exchange company’s resort directory, not by looking through their current inventory.
- Step #3: Get In the Priority Line. Prepay your exchange fee to place yourself on a resort/destination waitlist up to two years in advance. You’ll now be in the front of the line for exchange vacations as they are deposited by other owners. If you don’t make an exchange match this fee is refundable.
- Step #4: Calculate the ROI of your vacation exchange and celebrate the value you’ve created! I keep a spreadsheet of timeshare exchanges to track all the vacation deals we’ve scored. By using the below steps, I calculated that we got a $1,300 Wyndham vacation for $479 from a timeshare exchange.
Use the steps above to calculate the ROI on your vacation exchange.
Tip #4: Exchange Your One Week For Four (or More!) Weeks of Vacation
Did I leave the biggest ways to hack your timeshare for last? Maybe…
Are looking to stretch your one week of timeshare ownership into more vacations? There are a lot of timeshare veterans who use the exchange system to book month long vacations. There is even a retired couple who timeshare full time and share how they do it on their blog.
To stretch your one week of vacation into many more, follow the below steps.
- Step #1: Deposit your timeshare early to get 100% of the points possible for your week. Getting 23 TPUs for exchanges vs 10 TPU’s is a big factor in stretching your weeks.
- Step #2: Identify resorts/destinations that exchange for a small amount of points. When you’re on the exchange company website, you can sort search results by the number of points needed. They are often hidden in the advanced filters section, but they are there!
- For example, Florida has more timeshare units than any other state in America with Orlando having 87 timeshare resorts. Those supply and demand dynamics mean you can score a vacation for 3 TPUs a week. We could exchange one week from our ski resort (23 TPUs) and get 7 weeks (at 3 TPUs each) in an Orlando resort without having to downgrade our accommodations.
- Step #3: Calculate the ROI of your vacation exchange and do a big happy dance! Using the above infographic, I compared the costs of these 7 weeks of accommodations. If I booked them at a bargain hotel booking site it would be $5,172.86. If I stretched our timeshare ownership and exchanged for those 7 weeks it would be $2,248.68. That bargain hotel website no longer looks like the bargain!
Whether you’re new to timeshare ownership or a savvy veteran, the tips I’ve shared with you today will help you hack your timeshare and get the most out of your vacations.
I hope this article provided some inspiration on how you can hack your timeshare ownership to vacation more, explore new destinations, and make memories for pennies on the dollar!
As my young kids have taught me, it doesn’t have to be a trip to the trendiest place of the year to be an amazing, dare I say, a Bucket List worthy vacation.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.