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Timeshares vs. Vacation Clubs: An Honest Comparison and Review

Written by Michele Richardson on June 3, 2015

For years, people have been asking us if our vacation club is like a timeshare.  You may be wondering what is the difference between a timeshare and a vacation club?  If so, you certainly aren’t alone, as there is much confusion even in the industry regarding these terms.  In this article, we’ll dive into timeshares vs. vacation clubs, clearly define the difference between these two “second home alternatives” and compare the pros and cons of each.

What is a Timeshare?

A timeshare is defined in the dictionary as “the arrangement whereby several joint owners have the right to use a property as a vacation home under a time-sharing agreement.”  The operative term here is “joint owners.”  Timeshares started in the U.S. in the 1960’s as a way for resort real estate developers to make more money by selling units to many joint owners versus one owner.  They found that if they divided the unit into weeks and sold each week, they could gross at least twice as much money as if they sold the unit to a single buyer.  So, the typical timeshare is a one week deeded interest in a condominium-style resort real estate development.

What is a Vacation Club?

A Vacation Club is a group of people sharing the right to access a group of vacation properties, which could be hotel properties or vacation homes.  The operative term here is “right to access,” as true Vacation Clubs typically don’t offer ownership, but access.

However, here’s where the confusion lies:  most timeshares understand that the timeshare industry has a bad reputation, generally due to pressure sales and gimmicks to get people into presentations, so they don’t want to call themselves a timeshare.  Therefore, many timeshares call themselves vacation clubs.

For example, Disney offers a timeshare product and has over 250,000 members, but they call themselves “Disney Vacation Club.”

Pros of Timeshares 

  • Ownership of deeded real estate (not in all cases, but in many)
  • Certainty of knowing you have the same week or weeks every year
  • Flexibility to exchange for other vacations
  • Much less expensive than whole or fractional ownership
  • No second home expenses or maintenance hassles

Cons of Timeshares

  • Limited flexibility on when you can use your residence
  • Annual maintenance fees even if you don’t use it
  • Exchanging for popular times and places can be challenging
  • Typically not a high end experience and limited customized services

Pros of Vacation Clubs

  • Strong variety and diversity of destinations and residences types (resort and stand-alone)
  • Availability to travel throughout the year (not locked into specific week or weeks)
  • Access to high end, private residences, including larger 4 to 6 bedroom ones, that you couldn’t get otherwise
  • Customized concierge service offering to plan trips before and during your stay

Cons of Vacation Clubs

  • Can be significantly more expensive than timeshares, both upfront and on an annual basis
  • No guaranteed usage of specific residences during specific times (it’s based on availability)
  • No equity or ownership
  • Limited to no exchange options in a network (like RCI for timeshares)

Inspirato and G2G Collection are a little different, in that they are “pay as you go” vacation clubs that don’t lock you into one specific week (or any specific amount of time) for you to vacation on an annual basis.  They are also typically more service oriented, offering personalized concierge services that go far beyond what most timeshares offer.

The cost of timeshares and vacation clubs can vary greatly, ranging from under $10,000 to more than $50,000.  It really depends on how much time you want to either own or have access to.  We suggest doing thorough due diligence by speaking with other owners or members and exploring all options before committing to either a timeshare or vacation club.

If you’d like more information on vacation clubs or think the “pay as you go” model might be a good fit for you, we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have and can be reached at 678-506-2700 or 

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