Timeshares: An Idea Lost in the Past

July 30, 2013

timeshares deadTimeshares have historically been a great way for travelers to see different parts of the world at a fraction of the cost compared to retail sales. Started in Europe in the 1960’s, the idea was to buy “time” at a specific resort each year. That time could be exchanged with other timeshare owners to go to different vacation destinations.

For the better part of three decades, this concept had thrived, and the owners of these investments enjoyed time off in beautiful locations around the world. Like many industries, the management of supply and demand is key to sustained growth. This is where this sector of the travel industry has failed. The amount of time share owners has far surpassed the availability of resorts open for exchange. Black-out periods as well as exchange and maintenance fees needed to keep both the time share companies and the resorts themselves alive, have bled the consumer dry to the point where many owners are either walking away from the investment or willing it back to the resort instead of passing it down to their heirs.

I recently spent a week at a timeshare resort in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, courtesy of my in-laws. Earlier buyers of this concept, they own four weeks at a resort in Aruba. They have run into constant trouble as they travel to Europe at least once a year and can never find availability overseas. They continue to pay the maintenance fees each year and happily give us a week to take the kids to a resort that is lost in the past, but in the perfect location for children who want to enjoy the beach and pool.

My in-laws were born and raised in a world where you fulfilled your obligations and took care of your commitments. They cannot sell these timeshare weeks, but they will not walk away from them. That’s just not what they do. We have thankfully found a location that works very well for us. One road separates the facility from the sand. It is surrounded by modern high rises, and is a reminder of a time long gone in southern Florida. Yet, it is the perfect accommodation for my family. A living area with two pull-out couches, a master bedroom with a comfortable bed and a full (although very small) kitchen help us provide a great experience for the children with minimal cost.

We have traveled to this resort for several years, all on the same week. Our family has become friends with another family that have been timeshare owners for close to twenty years. The couple used to use it to travel the world, but after having children, they use their paid week each year and go to their home resort. They stopped paying the timeshare companies and are straight owners of the resort itself.

This has worked well for them, but is not also without its issues. They have an annual maintenance fee they must pay each year, and occasionally they are contacted to pay an “assessment fee.” These fees offset the cost of other owners not paying their fees, damages from guests or weather or upgrades to the units. This family willingly pays it because they know every year on the 25th week (which usually falls on the last week of June), they will drive down from New Jersey and enjoy the sun and sand of Fort Lauderdale.

What happens though when even that is not enough to fund the resort? Our last day, just before check out, this family who have been owners of this resort for close to two decades, found out the facility was renting out rooms for a nightly fee that was less than what there maintenance fees were. Charging people less than what their loyal customers/owners pay can have disastrous results.

This facility, as well as many others, is offering out timeshare weeks for free as long as you are able to take over the annual maintenance fees. If, like this family, you have found a place you love and want to come back each year, it may be worth looking into. For the most part though, timeshares have gone the way of the rotary phone. They were a wonderful concept for its time, but that time has passed.

If you’re looking to save some money on your vacation, consider these smart and inexpensive vacation ideas.

Do you own a timeshare? Has it worked well for you? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment!


Will this article help you save or earn more money? Get others like it simply by entering your email address below. Your email is used only for delivering daily money tips and you can opt out of delivery at any time. Click here to see all your free subscription options.



All posts by


3 Responses to Timeshares: An Idea Lost in the Past

  • Howard Nusbaum, President and CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA)

    Your article captures many of the great features of timeshare vacations (creating lasting memories, space for everyone, guaranteed annual vacation), yet I respectfully disagree that the concept is in its twilight years. 83% of timeshare owners agree with you regarding your personal satisfaction with your timeshare experience. This high level of consumer satisfaction has brought the biggest hospitality brands into the market. We in the industry believe that timeshare’s golden age is ahead of us, as vacation ownership products continue to evolve to meet the ever-changing demands of travelers. Vacations and the life balance they offer continue to be top of mind for today’s busy families. Quite simply, timeshare is a better way to vacation, and vacations aren’t going out of style.

  • Eric

    “and the owners of these investments”.

    Timeshares never have been investments, only a money pit.


  • Weekly roundup of great personal finance articles from around the web