Help Me Hack a Timeshare
May 27, 2014 7:21 PM   Subscribe

My family owns a timeshare (yeah, I know) through Interval International. We haven't booked any travel through the timeshare in at least 8 years. I've been put in charge of figuring out how to use it, and I have no idea where to start.

My parents bought a timeshare in my hometown in Southern California back in the 90's, mostly because it granted us rights to use the pool, spa, hiking trails, and tennis courts whenever we wanted. It probably wasn't a great investment, but at this point it's completely paid off and the fees are fairly nominal (~$400/year). My mom would like to start using it again, and has asked me to figure out how it works. Due to the economy my parents have put off retirement, so I think being able to take an annual vacation would be a big boost to their morale.

In the past, we've successfully booked getaways to a beachfront resort in Galveston and to a houseboat in Lake Havasu. Ideally, we'd be able to use it for vacations not too far away from the San Francisco Bay Area, where my family is currently based. I'm thinking places like Tahoe or other ski resorts, as well as locations where we could do outdoorsy type things such as hiking, bird watching, sailing, and swimming. Of course, I'd love to be able to take a great vacation to the French Riviera, but realistically I'm assuming this will be best for domestic travel (and possibly Mexico/Central America/the Caribbean/Canada).

I'm mostly looking for help with understanding how this whole timeshare thing works. At this point, I only know that we own a place for a week at a time, we can trade that week, and the timeshare provides benefits such as "getaways" (what does that mean?) and potential discounts (seemingly to limited locations at limited times). Informational resources would be appreciated. I'd also appreciate personal anecdotes. I'm aware that many people have not been happy with their timeshares, and I wouldn't mind hearing about any type of experience, be it positive, negative, or neutral.

Assume that we've got open minds, flexible schedules, and that money is only somewhat of an object. Also assume that we're not interested in selling the timeshare at this point in time.
posted by therumsgone to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We own a timeshare through one of the big companies and I find that they LOVE helping people get more use out of their timeshare. (If you use it, you are more likely to pay your monthly fees and time and might even be gullible enough to upgrade.) Figure out how to log into their website as an owner and look around. Call their 800 number and ask questions. I predict that they will be very helpful and they can tell you the basics of their system.
posted by metahawk at 9:12 PM on May 27, 2014

When I was dealing with my parents' timeshare, I found the TUGBBS forums to be invaluable. In particular, their "Sightings/Distressed forum seems to have a bunch of II listings. (Link may not work if you're not a TUG member.) Lots of discussion there about the 2-for-1 exchange offer (that's a link to post in a very long thread).

TUG is a really old forum (over 20 years) that charges a membership fee. It really increases the value of the posts IMO. (Sound familiar?) Lots of great expert advice there.

That said, I'd encourage you to remember that not all timeshares are created equal, and that some programs vary greatly. Just from glancing at a few of the TUG posts and the FAQ, it's clear to me that the mechanics (and "hacking possibilities") of an II timeshare are a lot different than the one my family has.

I'd also agree that the company itself can be really helpful in helping you figure out how to best use the timeshare. Just, uh, make sure you understand when you get shunted into a sales discussion, and that you're aware of the economics of "upgrades" to your purchase.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 9:26 PM on May 27, 2014

So here's the page on the website that tells you what properties are available in California.

Then, check out Trip Advisor to see that the property is okay (some are, some aren't.)

For example, Highlands Inn in Carmel gets good reviews on Trip Advisor.

It looks like exchanges might need to be reserved in advance, and typically, you may get charged for the privilage. Call them to verify what you're entitled to, and what different properties might work for your folks.

The fun thing is, you can go on family breaks to fun places.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:13 AM on May 28, 2014

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