I have owned, traded, and vacationed using my timeshare for more than 30 years and love it. I own a single week of timeshare in New Orleans and have yet to stay in the unit I own. My happy experience is contrary to what is found on social media. There is a reason for that. Most complainers never learned how to buy and use a timeshare correctly, so they don’t actually know how great and inexpensive owning and using one can be. For the right people, timeshare hacking will save a fortune in travel expense.
Last fall I stayed at a timeshare only a $9 Uber ride away from the hotel where I attended a conference. Had I stayed at the conference hotel, it would have cost me more than $1,200 for less than a week. The timeshare I traded into cost me $199 for an entire week. This actually saved me enough money on housing to upgrade my airplane ticket from coach to first class. So not only was my stay nicer, (Living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom vs a hotel room) but my flight was more comfortable as well. All for the same cost and a longer stay.
I have been hacking timeshares and saving money like that on my travels for over 30 years. So you can see why I love my timeshare. But how does the cost actually compare across other housing options. I did a virtual comparison trip to see how the options stack up against each other. My average cost per use of a timeshare week (including purchase price, maintenance fees and trading fees) versus the competition’s price for a one week stay. You will see for yourself how much I have been saving over the years by owning a timeshare.
In making the comparison, I searched Orlando, Florida, near Disney World, traveling in mid-July with four months’ notice for a family of four. I picked a middle cost option, not the most expensive and not the least expensive. These represent the choices I would have made if I took my family there on vacation. In fact, we have stayed at two of these options. The options fall into the three to four star level. Here is how they stack up.
Hotels offer the lowest level of accommodations but the greatest number of location options. With a hotel you usually get one room and one bathroom. The beds are likely next to each other and there are limited places to sit. There are very few amenities outside the room except maybe a swimming pool and a fitness center. The room feels cramped when all four of us are there either winding down after the day or preparing for adventures in the morning.
These usually offer better accommodations than hotels, such as separate bedrooms, as they are often a condo or a house. You often have a kitchen and a washer/dryer, but they usually lack outside the building amenities found at timeshares. They are a nicer place to hang out than a hotel.
Many people like to have their own place, so they buy a vacation home in a location they want to hang out. This provides very nice accommodations, but no outside amenities. One of the biggest downsides is upkeep. Most people I know who own a vacation home are always fixing something while they are visiting. The time and effort it takes to fix these issues detract from their vacation. This option also locks them into traveling to the same location year after year.
This option often has multiple bedrooms, which is nice on those sleep in days. There is also a living room which is fun to hang out in while waiting for the rest of the family to get ready in the morning or to relax in the evening after the kids are in bed. My favorite thing is the kitchen, which enables us to eat in our pajamas without the need for everyone to get dressed before going out to breakfast. A kitchen is a godsend with little kids. Most timeshares have a washer and dryer either in the room or nearby in the building. The big difference a timeshare presents over the other options is the amenities and activities available on site. Games, tennis courts, boats, kayaks, pool tables, ping pong tables, group activities, ice cream socials, scavenger hunts, activities for the kids….
What About the Cost?
When I was writing the book, A Guide to Loving Your Timeshare, I looked up accommodations near Disney World with identical dates and parameters. Following are the numbers I presented in the book which are actual costs, not averages. I picked one specific unit I would have rented for my family and reported the price. I don’t tend to make expensive choices, but somewhere in the middle range. I know people who never stay at places costing less than $1,000 a day. I do not like paying more than $300 a day for a resort stay. I also don’t stay in dive motels.
- Medium-priced Disney Resort Hotel, Port Orleans (I have stayed here and it is a nice three star hotel): $2,045/week.
- Hotel close to Disney: $1,379/week.
- Vrbo close to Disney: $1,457/week.
- Airbnb close to Disney: $1,534/week.
- Personally owned vacation home: Unknown???
- My actual average total cost for a five-star timeshare trade: $630/week.
The cost of owning and using timeshares is almost always the leading reason used to convince someone to avoid owning and using timeshares. Yet in truth, they actually provide nicer accommodations and amenities for a lower total price than the other options. The costs listed above include all associated fees for using the selected options. The timeshare is less than half the cost of the other options. In fact, the timeshare cost comes to about the same as getting a Motel 6. Five star accommodations for the price of a Motel 6.
When I attend financial conferences, I often hear about why I should avoid using those “expensive” timeshares. Then the next speaker might talk about all the money I could make if I invested in short-term rentals (Airbnb/Vrbo). If I can make huge profits owning the short-term rental, who do you think is paying for those huge profits? You guessed it, the person who rents it from me. Short term rentals are not less expensive options, as noted above.
I met one person by the pool on a timeshare stay who rents out her home as an Airbnb for a huge sum, and while the paying customers are using her home, she goes to a nearby timeshare to stay for a far lower cost than she is getting for renting out her house as an Airbnb. The difference in the rent she collects from her Airbnb and the price she paid to use her timeshare and all its amenities has created a huge profit for her every year.
Don’t be fooled by people who tell you timeshares are too expensive or an Airbnb is a better option. I know the truth, because I have been living it for over 30 years. Timeshares are a great and less expensive travel hack that almost every physician should utilize.
If you are interested in actually learning how to buy and use a timeshare effectively from someone who is not trying to sell you a timeshare, pick up my book A Guide to Loving Your Timeshare and learn the facts.
If you prefer podcasts and want to hear me debate the issue with The White Coat Investor, then check out my guest appearance debating timeshare ownership on the WCI podcast, also the Financial Freedom for Physicians Podcast about timeshares, or my appearance on Kevin MD discussing Why Every Physician Should Own a Timeshare.
Before you decide if you should get a timeshare, read my timeshare book and take the quiz provided in the book to see if you meet the qualifications for becoming a happy timeshare owner. If you qualify, read on to learn how to buy a timeshare for next to nothing and get started on many happy family vacations.
See you on the beach!