Over the years I have experienced a number of timeshares across North America, whether skiing or beach. I will admit I haven't had to pay for any of them as my parents and in-laws have generously offered their own to us.
But in recent years my wife and I have thought about whether it makes senses or not to purchase a timeshare for our family. There are some definite advantages to owning a timeshare, including:
1. If you purchase a well-known brand you know, similar to staying at a Marriott of Hilton, you are going to experience a quality product.
2. There is always a dedicated concierge and guest services person to assist you.
3. In most cases you are going to stay in either a house or at least a condo with multiple bedrooms, including a kitchen.
However, as with anything, you need to read the fine print and crunch the numbers:
1. Annual fee - I appreciate that the one-time fee (sometimes $25k or more) is seen as an investment. But you have to consider the annual fee and whether on its own you could simply go ahead and book a hotel or AirBnb.
2. Locations - some timeshares are focused mostly on skiing and others on beach and some try to do both. Think long and hard first about that you really want, because once you make that investment you are stuck.
3. Quality - is this a high quality brand. Make sure to read reviews (Oyster or Tripadvisor) about all the locations. How much would that stink to arrive and find out that the place is a dump!
So this leads me to the next part of the title, is it better to book a hotel or vacation rental?
This is not an easy question to answer and there are a number of factors to consider. For my family my preference is to book for the following reasons:
1. Points -think free or heavily reduced trip. They are out there, easy to obtain and give you lots of choice. Do your research and you can even use points (think Barclays Arrival US) to book an AirBnB.
2. Choice - I fall in love with every place we visit and sometimes we go back a few years in a row, other times we switch things up and try something new. Either way I am not locked in.
3. Annual fee - this can cost in excess of $2-3k a year. Between points and that amount you can book a number of vacations and not be stuck.
Some final food for thought. As many remember a few years ago there was a horrible and devastating hurricane throughout the Caribbean. If you were a Marriott timeshare owner you lost access to St Thomas and then had to consider whether you wanted St. Kitts (this was the only Caribbean location with availability). We were in St. Kitts that winter, staying at the Marriott and met a ton of timeshare folks. While it is nice there, not a single client said it compared to St. Thomas. Final thought, we booked a 2 bedroom at the Marriott St. Kitts on points...