I mentioned the Skyauction $249 vacation certificate deal a couple of days ago and wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little more about excess time share rental. It’s one of my top tips for traveling with families as you save so much money on food and get to stretch out. In fact, I bought two certificates on this promo I’m thinking of using for Camp Mom this summer. I’m just keeping an eye on Europe and when something opens up that I like, I’ll grab it. If the $249 price is not available, check the site listing for other certificate deals in the $299-$399 range.
However, buying a certificate like this one is not without risk, and I wanted to talk about the process of renting timeshare and what to expect.
Endless Vacation Rentals is owned by Wyndham, which also owns RCI, the largest holder of timeshare exchanges in the world. I have bought numerous weeks through them, including my week in Tenerife last summer, a week we’re taking over Memorial Day in Williamsburg, and weeks in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Guatemala, St. Maarten, and New Orleans, to name a few.
So what you do is buy a certificate, and then you search for a week that you can use it. In this specific case you have until 8/31 to book, and 7/31/14 to stay (reservations are available 11 months out). You do have the opportunity to search availability before buying, but I usually buy the weeks “on spec”, meaning I don’t have a specific booking in mind, I just know I’ll find a use for it.
When I search units, I always compare their ratings on Tripadvisor so I have an idea what I’m getting. Their search engine is pretty simple to use: you just enter an area, then a calendar shows months with availability. Click on the month and a list of properties will show up.
There will be two options: the ones that default on the screen are your “no charge” options-the ones your certificate will pay for in full. Just book and you’re all set!
The second option is the “upgrade” tab. The upgrade fee is an extra fee to the $249 paid at the time of booking. The fee in some cases gives you larger rooms, or in some cases opens up more dates and resorts. I’ve paid it a few times when it was $100 to go from a studio to a 1 bedroom for instance (I really value that door!). But sometimes the options they show at “upgrade” are just loony: $1000 a week? No, thanks!
Reader Nicki also reminded me of something else to be sure to check: along the right side of the listing are the policies. Usually they’re pretty standard stuff like occupancy limits and “must be 21 to check in”, but, especially in other countries, some can seem weird such as power surcharges, paying for TV service, etc. I’ve never paid more than $50 extra for this stuff, but it is a good reminder to check. Tripadvisor is also a good gut check for that kind of stuff as past guests will rat out any property that tries something too shady.
For instance: I’m reviewing properties right now for “Camp Mom” and Tripadvisor busted one that had a coin operated TV…that would SO not fly with the Deal Kids! Now, I was willing to pay the 20 Euro deposit last year for the remote control to the TV in Tenerife (again, weird, right?), but I got it back at the end of the week…who steals a remote from a Bubble TV?
The downsides are basically two:
1. There’s always the risk you won’t find something and you’ll lose your $249 (hasn’t happened to me in 15 years, but it’s possible).
2. The reservations are non-refundable. At $249 I’m willing to take the risk, but if it’s being bundled with paid airfare I always take out travel insurance. That decision paid off one time when I had to cancel and I had no problem getting refunded.
Is this deal for you?
The Answer is NO if:
1. You’re not comfortable booking a reservation you can’t cancel.
2. You’re expecting 5 star service. Timeshare are APARTMENT rentals and should be thought of as such. They usually have mid-week housekeeping, and if you’re lucky daily trash removal. If you need turn-down service, Timeshares are NOT for you!
3. You want this for Paris in the springtime. At $249 a week, you’re getting one of two things: excess inventory or last minute availability. If you are looking for peak travel times and peak destinations, these certificates will not help you.
4. You are not comfortable booking THE MOMENT YOU SEE SOMETHING YOU LIKE. If you need to gather your thoughts, call a bunch of family members, check the calendar ten times, consult your horoscope, etc. etc. etc. before booking, YOU ARE GOING TO DRIVE YOURSELF CRAZY. Timeshare inventory sells in REAL TIME, meaning the entire world sees that apartment over Christmas week in Maui also, and someone with less, ahem, baggage than you is going to steal your booking right out from under you.
The answer is YES if:
1. You’re traveling to an destination on this list:
The Canary Islands
All are overbuilt with Timeshare units and I’ve never NOT seen a unit available in those locations.
2. You’re a last minute traveler. Peak locations often come available 30 days or less before departure, just like award tickets.
3. You love Ski Resorts in the summer and beaches in the Winter. Pretty much anywhere is available off-season.
4. You’re willing to think outside of the box. If you use availability for inspiration, as I do, you can have some real adventures. I would never considered Tenerife last year and now I’m thinking of taking the kids there this year, because for $35.57 a night I can have a 1 bedroom Ocean-view condo, in Europe, in July. Where (and how) else am I gonna do that?
Please share your timeshare rental experiences!