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Advice for a noob

aloe_vera

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I have been lurking here reading the forums on how and when to buy a timeshare, but thought I'd benefit from personalized advice :eek: so I registered! I hope there is not too much aversion to regurgitation of advice, since there isn't a search function I see.

DH and I are bargain hunters and budget travelers - we traveled extensively to different places and part of our budgeting criteria was budget accommodation, including hostels. We both are very numbers-oriented and so a timeshare would have never struck us something to look at... until...

we had a kid and realized how much time was saved by staying in good locations instead of compromising. For e.x.: staying on the beach instead of five miles away meant we could go up and down everytime the water bottles were dropped in the sand or when he wanted to pee in not "dirty tooleth" not to mention being able to nap and get back in on the action immediately. Now with another baby on the way, and our needs escalating to a required kitchen, a resturant or store on site and at least a one bedroom and maybe occasional two to take the gramps along, I am gravitating toward lower cost timeshare resales as a way to a no hassle vacation when I'm looking at $150 or more to rent something off VRBO or airbnb.

Straightaway, the points system is the only one that makes an impression on me and think we'll utilize well. We probably won't want to go to the same place every year and would like to book more or less than the typical 7 day slots. I keep coming back to worldmark resales, given the lower annual fees and our not needing luxury amenities. I am also considering MVCI & Wyndham on the sidelines, despite the higher fees, since as I understand I can convert those to reward points that can be used toward airline tickets and hotels where timeshare resorts are not available. But I am reading that Marriott restricts that perk on resales. It's a LONG shot but we would love to find timeshare systems that are represented well near national parks (if that is something that interests any of you and you have found a system that works well for that case).

So any of you previously budget travelers who have found timeshares are a saving or at least equivalent? Any suggestions on points based systems that will work for my preferences?

On a different note, we worked furiously to get off these promotional mail and calls, and it worked so well that now we don't even get a coupon in the mail. How do we go about being spammed with presentation freebies again? :ponder:

TIA for any and all advice!
 
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aloe_vera

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Doh, forgot the questionnaire!

1) Where do you want your home resort to be?
If we were forced to pick, we'd pick Flagstaff or Sedona AZ as we live in Phoenix.

2) Do you want to visit your home resort at least half the time, or do you want to trade more than half the time?
trade mostly.

3) What are your 5 top trade destinations?
CA beaches, hawaii, florida, caribbean, Pacific NW

4) How many people do you usually travel with?
4 (2 adults, 2 kids) plus 2 adults sometimes

5) Can you travel any time, or are you locked into the school schedule?
We currentlyc an travel anytime but in 3 years will be locked into school sched

6) Can you make firm plans 12 or more mos. in advance?
mostly yes

7) Can you vacation for a full week at a time?
yes but prefer some flexibility

8) What level of accommodations do you prefer on a scale of 1 to 5 stars?
3*

9) How much can you afford to spend upfront, without financing?
Up to 5k but prefer to keep it low

10) How much can you afford to spend every year for a maintenance fee that will come due right after Christmas, and increase each year?
$800-$1000

11) Are you a detail oriented planner?
yes

12) Do you understand that once you buy a timeshare, it may be very difficult to sell or give away, and you are responsible for all fees, until you do?
yes
 

theo

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<snip> I hope there is not too much aversion to regurgitation of advice, since there isn't a search function I see. <snip>

If you look a bit more closely at the blue task bar near the top of this very page, you will find the "search" function listed as the 7th option to the right.
The more specific your entered search words/ criteria, the more directly pertinent will be the posts that are retrieved. Good luck.
 
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WinniWoman

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Well, I can't help you out with the West cost, but I have heard excellent things about Worldmark. You seem to be sure you want a points system, so that's half the battle. I own fixed weeks (with one floater) myself. I used to exchange a lot, but now only occasionally. We have been all over and really enjoyed our exchanges in the past. We have also rented timeshares from other owners and been to Scotland, Yellowstone, and other places.

As for budget, I find owning timeshares is very economical compared with renting homes and condos or obviously staying in hotels. I do sometimes rent from Home Away in addition to using my home resorts, but I prefer being in a resort. I find renting a home to be a little bit too isolating- I live that way- so when I travel I like to be in a resort where I see other people and where there are activities, etc. Chat at the pool. If the toaster breaks- call the front desk- they bring another one up. When our son was young- being an only child- playing with some of the other kids at the resort- things like that.

So far this year. we have taken 3 weeks vacation with 2 more coming up- 1 was a Home away rental, 2 were our fixed weeks, 1 coming up tomorrow is an exchange back into one of our home resorts, and we have 1 coming up XMAS week which is a rental from a Wyndham owner at our other home resort. So that is 5 weeks- no way could we have afforded that many weeks without being timeshare owners. Plus, we can be as frugal as we need to be when at the resorts. Sometimes we go out a lot and spend money. Other times, we just hang out at the resort, cook most meals in, do free activities, etc.

As much as I like seeing other places, I also like the feeling of a home away from home, which is why I have fixed weeks in fixed units (still exchangable). Our son, at 27 years old, still feels sentimental about our Vermont timeshare as he grew up going there every summer and still visits when we are there! But, we also went all over the country with our floater week exchanges and he also grew up with those experiences as well- the best of both worlds!

Best of luck! Just do your due diligence and get the right system for your family and learn to use it the right way and you will love it!
 
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Passepartout

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I actually own what would seem perfect for you. A 2 bedroom, with 'extra' loft in Sedona. It is managed by VRI, giving 'home group' (you get to choose earlier) advantage in RCI Points wit over 70 resort's. We have gone to Hawaii, Europe, Orlando, Williamsburg, Cape Cod and lots of other places. Look at www.vriresorts.com and see what's there. It is fairly easy to find a resale that has been converted to RCI points, or you can exchange internally at lower cost. The resort's are clean, well located, and mostly are owner controlled HOAs so you know your MF is going to keep your resort up, not pay stockholders.

Anyhow, take a look.

Welcome to TUG

Jim
 

e.bram

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If you want oceanfront, center city or ski in ski out resorts buy fixed weeks fixed units. Other wise(float weeks and points) it is a crap shoot with the highest chance of crapping out. You have the best chance of trading a premium owned week or renting out so you can rent what you want.
 

vacationhopeful

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Jim's comment on VRI is right on. Look for a VRI week converted already to RCI Points. The exchange timeframe for a VRI GROUP Resort to resort is 11 months out from the checkin date and full exchange fee. If it is YOUR HOME RESORT you are booking back into ... do it at the 12 month mark and YOUR exchange fee is $40.

If the ad does NOT SAY ... RCI Points ... like it says "trades in RCI", that means "RCI Weeks" which had no Home Resort or HOME GROUP.

VRI resorts vary in star level ... they tend to be older resorts but the MFs are not at the Marriott level in cost either.

Other TS chains in the Southwestern USA include Worldmark and Shell ... both are owned now by Wyndham, but the Wyndham Vacation Resorts are located mostly on the East Coast. Yes, confusing.

As for YOUR budget of under $1000 yearly for MFs ... that would have been good 5 years ago for a 2 bedroom unit for a week. If it is NOT changeable, just be very careful to confirm WHAT the MFs are before buying a set of points or a fixed/floating week.
 

silentg

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My standard recommendations join Tug, check the marketplace, rent first to see if you like Timesharing, then look at the Bargain deal resales or specific ads for timeshares for sale.
Good Luck I hope you find the perfect place for you and family!
Silentg
 

WinniWoman

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I actually own what would seem perfect for you. A 2 bedroom, with 'extra' loft in Sedona. It is managed by VRI, giving 'home group' (you get to choose earlier) advantage in RCI Points wit over 70 resort's. We have gone to Hawaii, Europe, Orlando, Williamsburg, Cape Cod and lots of other places. Look at www.vriresorts.com and see what's there. It is fairly easy to find a resale that has been converted to RCI points, or you can exchange internally at lower cost. The resort's are clean, well located, and mostly are owner controlled HOAs so you know your MF is going to keep your resort up, not pay stockholders.

Anyhow, take a look.

Welcome to TUG

Jim

The loft idea is also a great one. We have a 2 bedroom loft unit in NH (a VRI resort) and it is like have a 3 bedroom since there are two separate bedrooms (one with a king bed downstairs- the master-and another upstairs with 2 twin beds (wish it was a queen instead, though, for our purposes) and then in the loft area upstairs there are 2 twin beds. One full bathroom downstairs off the hall and master) and one full bathroom upstairs.
 

e.bram

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Most VRI resorts are fixed weeks TSes, where the owners of red weeks use or rent not deposit. The chance of exchanging into a prime(oceanfront) school week is slim. Off season , not so bad.

ps Most of my resorts are VRI managed.
 

sue1947

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I'm a Worldmark owner and it is a very good fit for you with the exception of 2 very key issues:
They don't have a resort in either Sedona or Flagstaff
Looking ahead, you will be tied to the school calendar. At that point, you will be competing with a lot of other owners for those same units. That means that the family size units at West Yellowstone or Estes Park etc book up quickly. There are more owners than there is space in the high demand times and locations. This is true for every system. As a result, I think you should go for a fixed week system where you can buy that high demand week and either use it or trade it.

Sue
 

aloe_vera

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Thank you!

Thanks everyone, for the great advice! Not sure how I missed the search option <sheepish> :embarrassed:

I hadn't considered the social aspect and advantage of resorts over vacation rentals - while I'm an introvert, I'm sure my kids would appreciate the interaction when they are older. Great point!

I did start out wanting to rent and try different things but I'm beginning to think that every resort system and every resort within is going to be a bit different, and how many am I going to try before I can effectively compare and make up mind? I rented a timeshare once with a group of friends (this was a few years ago when we were all childless), I wasn't the one doing the booking, and my experience there was not remarkable this way or that.

I hadn't heard of VRI (or any of the non-big-hotel-chains), so I'm off to read up on it. Any idea how the annual fees run? I've seen some local craigslist ads for Roundhouse Pinetop and Sedona springs resales. I can't get much info from the website. I see different resorts have different minimum stays and terms. I hadn't considered a fixed week previously, so this is all new to me - buying one specific week at a specific resort and then trying to trade seems a bit convoluted but I'm all about value for money. I am also still hoping to find something that would not be completely out of scope for our long term national park plans. I understand the battle for the best weeks with points, so I'll read up some on weeks. Any other weeks based systems that have a good geographic spread I should consider?

My annual fees budget was based on 1) what I would want to spend on renting something off VRBO for a week (~$150 per night) and 2) worldmark MF for 10,000-12,000 pts which this year seems to be in that range.

Thanks, and hope the suggestions will keep flowing.
 

aloe_vera

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I'd also appreciate if someone who owns at VRI can help me understand how trading works within and through RCI. Does it work like a shared unit in a condo where the upkeep and upgrade of the condos inside falls to the owner? I'd like to understand trading power to my top trade destinations if I bought in Sedona. I can't find any info on the site about credit values or fees.

Any links to reviews or beginner guides will be great. I don't see VRI on the timeshare systems primers on TUG.
 
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vacationhopeful

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VRI is a management company which has the individual resorts group together .... headquarters in Lake Forest, Ca. It acts like an advisor to HOAs, provides software, buying power, direction to independent HOAs and their boards. So for RCI Points, this is YOUR HOME GROUP Resort for the 11 month out booking window.

The MFs get mailed out by your local HOA and can be paid to your local HOAs ... but the corporate group does the accounting and collection. So, my HOA in FL logons onto the VRI accounting system to post the paid amount on the corporate ledgers. And I believe payments are issued by Corporate VRI also ... will have to look for check copies.

VRI is the largest independent resort management group for timeshares resorts ... no hotel big name, no sales staff. The work for the resort owners to improve their trading association and buying power for goods (like furniture, toilet paper, upgrades, and exchange companies). There is no ONE LOOK for a VRI resort but if you visit 15 of them, you would see similar hard goods being repeated most likely.

VRI management chain does MOVE around the various resorts ... but the HOAs can hire outside the VRI family. VRI brings buying power to the resorts ... the HOAs still run the resorts. But VRI will drop a resort IF its standards not met.

I have had extensive dealings with my local VRI resort management and corporate VRI ... extremely professional but not citing a hard ass corporate line. And having dealings also with Wyndham and DVC, Wyndham is the extremely LOW MAN on the resort management and interaction scale.

VRI resorts usual trade thru RCI, II and VRIety as exchange companies.
 

ronparise

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based on what you said: This in particular: CA beaches, hawaii, florida, caribbean, Pacific NW

I think Worldmark is your only choice. I suppose you could buy a fixed week or an RCI points resort somewhere, and Im not familiar with VRI, so by all means do your homework there. But Worldmark makes it easy

Worldmark gives you the California beaches, Hawaii, Florida and the Caribbean and The Pacific Northwest with one easy purchase.And speaking to your budget conscious nature: Maintenance fees are low, and the purchase price not too bad. Noteworthy is the fact that you can buy a very small account (About $2000 will buy a 5000 credit account with annual fees under $450. You dont get much with just 5000 credits but you can "rent" or buy one time use credits from other owners for about what the mf would be).


Also something you should be aware of is that there are from time to time worldmark accounts available with assumable loans, ie no cash needed to purchase. I know conventional advice is to never borrow money to pay for a timeshare, but I disagree. I have one of these assumable loan deals where my monthly cost for 5000 credits is $31 which when added to the maintenance fees is still under $1000 a year (less than just the mf for a lot of timeshares) The end result is no initial investment, $1000 a year annual cost and the ability to pay as you go after that; spending more money in the years you take a lot of vacations and less in the years you travel less

There is also the opportunity to travel for peanuts in the off season, For example that 5000 credit account will give you two short(4 and 5 days) mid week stays at Indio in the Summer
 
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Passepartout

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I won't disagree that Worldmark may indeed be your best choice. Many times, I have considered that perhaps, if I'd have it to do over again, I should have bought in to Worldmark instead of my first ownership being a VRI managed timeshare. But I didn't, so can't speak as an owner.

I like owning the VRI place, because they don't have commissioned sales people holding up my vacation over parking passes and (update) sales pitches. I like that my bills come from MY resort- even though the payment goes to VRI. I like the fact that I see the same faces around my resorts, and get a "Welcome Home" when we check in. I like that I can upgrade or go smaller by request when I book an exchange. I like the lower cost exchanges in VRIety instead of $209 with RCI, even though there is a direct RCI contact when I call VRIety.

My 2 bedroom unit is at Villas of Sedona (shares office w/Springs) has MF of roughly $800 and gives me about 60,000 annual RCI Points. Not the best ratio of points to MR, but not the worst either. I find that 60K gives us one week prime time vacation in a 1 bedroom and up to 2 other weeks in shoulder season. The unused points carry over to the next year, so you can combine to go someplace 'expensive'. We bought in AZ because one of the kid's lived in PHX, but they are now in Seattle. So it goes. We use it for exchanges instead of use. You can do either.

So, do your homework. I don't think there is a wrong choice for an AZ resident, as long as you (after you've rented a few) buy resale, if you choose to buy instead of rent. There is no hurry. The resales aren't going anywhere.

Happy reading. We are here if (and when) questions arise.

Jim
 

vacationhopeful

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RCI Weeks resorts trade using TPU credits -- like 35 or 50 credits. RCI Points are 33,000 or 40,500 or 66,000.

My VRI resort is in Ft Lauderdale and PRIME 2/2 lockoffs gives me 66,000 RCI Points for around $865 per year in MFs. RCI Points can go up and down based on reviews - it used to be 58,500 RCI points. With a lockoff, I can reserve my larger side of my unit (1/1) for 40,500 points (no exchange fee if booking Home Week) and keep the other 25,500 for a lesser season or use some of the next year's points to get a second 1bdr unit in HOME RESORT booking window for $40 exchange fee.

Great system .... but planning ahead is a requirement. The normal plan is $179 exchange fee for booking in the normal window (I think, as I don't ever book in that window).

The HOME GROUP resort booking window has a regular exchange fee but is a MONTH earlier than open the RCI open booking window. So if wanted to go to Western USA VRI resort ... I would be booking at the 11 month out window for BEST availability ... regular RCI Points exchange fee.
 

Tahiya

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another vote for Worldmark (WM)

We own WM, Wyndham, a VRI resort, and another independant. We bought for all the same reasons you mentioned. Worldmark is the best value and by far the most flexible of what we own when we want to stay without trading. We've rented an average of 30 points each year from other owners, and make extensive use of Monday Madness and the waitlist. WM has a resort outside Zion, Rocky Mtn NP, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, and Banff. A downside of WM is that the resorts are often not the best location within a given area, but for NP's I don't know of many timeshares that are closer. If NP's are where you mostly want to go, have you thought of buying a a camper?

Wyndham is less economical and less flexible than WM, but some of their resorts are nicer or better located than WM. We bought Wyn to trade but they vastly increased the points required after we bought, and stopped transfers from other owners. We own only a few EOY resale points and are thinking of selling or giving them back.

Ultimately, you might want to own two timeshares. The fixed week could be eoy. Although WM also trades very well, one of our fixed weeks is the best, most economical trader of our four. If you go with a fixed week to trade, try to get a lockoff that has either high RCI poìnts or tpu's in RCI weeks. (I suggest you start w WM, buying credits that are a multiple of five to maximize maintenance fee efficiency.)

As others have mentioned, VRI is a good management company, w reasonable maintenance fees. We haven't traded through Vriety yet since we're often trying for higher end timeshares when we trade and their resorts are nice but not generally high end.
 

bjones9942

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Just a little caveat about the difference between WM and groups like VRI. Your HOA board can terminate the agreement with VRI and you'll suddenly find yourself linked to another company, with inventory in places you rarely want to visit. Happened to me last year when the Tahoe Beach & Ski moved to Grand Pacific.

Thankfully, I bought at a location I want to vacation at. VRI was down the line of reasons I bought that particular location.
 

WinniWoman

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I, too, like vacationing to see National parks and I have been able to use timeshare trades of my floating off-season fixed week for most of them, but I have also had to rent from another owner, as in the case of Worldmark West Yellowstone. I also had to do a safari tour for Denali and a hotel in San Francisco for Redwoods. Other than that, have been to Hawaii Volcanoes, Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, Biscayne, Everglades, Acadia. Taking a little brake from air fare right now as doing home renovations, which is why I like having home resorts to drive to. One of mine is VRI - a fixed week 31 and one of mine is Wyndham, though I am not a Wyndham owner- I still hold my original deeded fixed week 30 with an "attached" off season week that varies from year to year from before the resort added Wyndham to the mix- that's the one I trade sometimes like for the National Parks.I might add that I have gone to most of these parks in the summer when my son was off from school.Maintenance fees are under $800 for each of them (both 2 bedroom- one sleep s8 and one sleeps 6) for the 7 nights.
 
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I am also considering MVCI & Wyndham on the sidelines, despite the higher fees, since as I understand I can convert those to reward points that can be used toward airline tickets and hotels where timeshare resorts are not available.

Please don't plan on using potential Wyndham points for airline tickets or hotels.

Yes, this can be done, but only makes sense economically if the points would otherwise expire unused.

If you own resale points, they will cost you money for fees every year. You will be able to calculate how much per thousand points that is and then, when you see how many thousand points a plane ticket or hotel night costs (plus transaction fees), or how much the conversion fee is to go into Reward points, you will see it always costs much more than a cash purchase.

In most cases, resort points will only make economical sense to use for resort stays.
 

Passepartout

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In most cases, resort points will only make economical sense to use for resort stays.

This is an important point for the 'thrifty' timeshare owner.

And one more is that exchanging ALWAYS costs more than staying at your 'home' resort. And that is on top of ever increasing MFs.

Jim
 

WinniWoman

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This is an important point for the 'thrifty' timeshare owner.

And one more is that exchanging ALWAYS costs more than staying at your 'home' resort. And that is on top of ever increasing MFs.

Jim

Exactly. You have to pay for membership yearly- even if you are exchanging every other year or whatever. You have to pay the exchange fee. Then- you probably will have airfare. Might not seem a big deal but it adds up over the years. Again, I exchange occasionally but I feel it is more worth it to just rent when you want to go somewhere else or- in my case- I use my extra floating week for that - but only sometimes and many times right back into my home resorts for another week. I am a big advocate of using a timeshare like it was a second home with an added advantage of the possibility of occasionally exchanging to go somewhere else. Keeps it simple and economical.
 

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Thank you all for the copious advice. I have a lot to think about and consider, based on all the advice.

Yes, I am increasingly understanding that the flexibility to use points for other things will come at a cost and that is definitely not what I want in being thrifty. After previously discarding the weeks system, I am now back to understanding if buying a cheaper week-based timeshare would have enough trading power to where we'll want to go. Since there so many independent resort groups and the trading power for each resort within a group is different, it's a lot of footwork study and I don't know if the time taken to know all the different terms and conditions and then the best way to work them to advantage will be worth it. I do expect to spend considerable time in what could be my home resort town, the reason I want a timeshare is to be able to exchange into the more expensive destinations at a lower cost. I am tending toward WM especially for the spread of resorts which is closest to what we want but my husband is suddenly back at the "timeshares are all useless and bad" step, so we'll probably have to do some thinking from scratch.

Exchanging within the resort system is always free, right? Whether it is WM, VRI or Wyndham/Marriott? You only pay an exchange fee plus the membership fee when you use RCI or II to exchange into other resort systems?

We've rented a camper once and can't say we liked the experience of finding water hook ups and the black water maintenance on it. Plus, it's not always that we can drive out to a distant national park. We have no where to park it when not using it (which is most of the year) and would have to spend additional money to park it somewhere. Overall in our opinion, the hassle is not worth it. We tend to travel light and quick.
 
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