Timeshare has changed and evolved quite a bit since the first wave of timeshare excitement in the 1980s and 1990s, and as such, timeshare companies now offer a range of different vacation ownership products. While most of us still use the term “timeshare,” to talk about all kinds of vacation home products, the reality is that “vacation ownership” is probably the best umbrella name to give to this ever-growing leisure category, which includes timeshare in its various manifestations, vacation clubs and fractional ownership.
Overview of Vacation Ownership
As you can see from the diagram above, the general term “vacation ownership” covers a range of different products these days, of which the original timeshare ownership model is but one option.
In the traditional sense of timeshare ownership, you buy the rights to use a property for a set number of weeks every year (or every other year) throughout a set period (let’s say 25 or 30 years). Traditional timeshare ownership was generally split into 2 types: Fixed Week and Floating Weeks. Fixed week timeshare meant that you would have access to the same week at the same resort every year for the length of your contract, unless you made an exchange. The date when this timeshare was purchased would be reflected in the price. High season dates like the holidays or Thanksgiving would cost more. Floating Weeks would mean that you purchase access to a timeshare week within a particular period, let’s say the winter months or summer vacations; you would then make a reservation for the exact week you prefer every year.
The way that vacation clubs work is that you purchase membership with a vacation club that offers a range of resorts, usually throughout the world. Depending on the vacation club, you might buy access to discounts at certain resorts or you may purchase points that you exchange for a variety of locations and accommodations. In this case, you gain certain members’ benefits that you use to stay in different locations offered by the vacation club.
Vacation Club/Timeshare Hybrids
These kinds of vacation clubs act more like timeshare in that you buy the equivalent number of points that correspond to a week or more in a type of unit during a particular time of year. Like vacation clubs, these timeshare points can be exchanged for access to units at any of the resorts offered by the timeshare company through a reservation process. Usually, these kinds of vacation club/timeshare hybrids are smaller resort chains, yet you can exchange reserved weeks through international vacation clubs. For example, the Villa Group in Mexico offers Villa Preferred Access, which is like a vacation club points system for any of its Villa del Palmar resorts in Mexico, yet you can exchange weeks with Interval International for global destinations.
Fractional and Full Ownership
Fractional and full ownership refers to titled properties that may or may not be located on the grounds of resorts. These private homes may be divided into fractions of time that are sold to different owners. Usually fractional ownership will offer longer periods of time, like one month or more and the advantage is that you own the deeds for your fraction of the property for life. Full ownership is the 100% purchase of a vacation home. In both cases maintenance responsibilities will apply.
So, you can see that timeshare as a concept is much more complex than it once was. There is a variety of ways you can enjoy vacation ownership, the trick is finding the one that suits you and your family.