A few weeks ago, Ricky wrote a post on some of the most popular, yet difficult, destinations to visit on points.
One of those destinations was Hawaii. If you’re hoping to stick with the Marriott and Hilton hotel chains that many of us typically stay at, the cost can be more than US$400 a night for a family of four.
Take a look at some of the outrageous nightly rates for Marriott in Maui during next year’s March Break:
Sure, points can help offset the cost, and you may even get a really good redemption value for them – but that means it will cost you a lot of points.
What if I told you there’s a way to save those points and snag an awesome deal on your accommodation? Well, there is – welcome to the world of timeshare presentation packages.
What Is a Timeshare?
In a nutshell, a timeshare is a shared ownership program in which you may use a vacation property for a set time period every year.
Properties can range from resorts to condominiums to even campsites. They can be a good option for people who have a favourite destination they like to vacation at every year. They’ll have familiar accommodations to return to each time without the hassle of having to manage a fully owned property while they are away.
Most of the big hotel brands that we’re familiar with have their own affiliated timeshare division. A few well-known examples include the Marriott Vacation Club, Hilton Grand Vacations, Holiday Inn Vacation Club, Hyatt Residence Club, and even Disney has their own Disney Vacation Club.
Generally speaking, there are two types of timeshares: those that are points-based and those that give you deeded weeks:
- In a points-based program, you have a certain number of points each year that can be redeemed against nights at your timeshare.
- In a deeded-week program, every year, you have “week” of the year that you can use your timeshare.
You do not necessarily need to stick with your timeshare property either. Usually, there is a system or program for owners to swap their property for another destination or property for any given year, building some flexibility into the program.
Despite the perks of timeshares, many people choose not invest in one as they can be a money drain if you don’t make good use of them.
There are annual maintenance fees for the upkeep of the property that have to be paid, the process of swapping properties can be quite complicated, and it can be a pain to get rid of them or resell them as they don’t hold much value in the reseller’s market.
What Is a Timeshare Presentation?
Whether you feel like timeshares may be a good fit for your travel patterns or not, you should consider attending a timeshare preview presentation.
The timeshare market is a competitive one, and most timeshare vacation clubs will offer some form of incentive for an opportunity to introduce you to their program in the hopes of enticing you to purchase one.
What is offered as part of the package varies by the club and even the property, and it can be anywhere from tickets to a theme park or a show, to accommodations at one of their properties for several days at a huge discount, plus maybe even some bonus points for their respective hotel award programs.
If it’s the accommodation you’re after, keep in mind that usually the package will cover a “standard” room (however, there is a possibility for upgrading, as we’ll discuss later).
What’s the Catch?
To take advantage of these fantastic offers, you (and your spouse, if you’re married) need to attend a 1.5-to-2-hour sales pitch about their timeshare program while you’re vacationing on your timeshare package.
During that time, they’ll introduce you to their program, how easy it is to use the timeshare, the flexibility it provides, the years of enjoyment you will get out of it, and even give you a tour of a potential timeshare unit.
Easy enough, right? Most of the time, yes. Some sales representatives can be pushy and will pull out all the stops to get you to sign on, because that’s how they earn their commission. You may feel pressured to buy and they may spend a lot of time negotiating a better offer for you.
Most sales reps, however, are quite reasonable. If you’ve put in your time and made it clear you’re not ready to buy, they’ll send you along your merry way. And if you do happen to cave under the pressure, and buy the timeshare, it’s not the end of the world (more on this later).
With the pandemic, the Marriott Vacation Club has also opted to do virtual sales presentations, and in lieu of a vacation deal, you earn Bonvoy points instead. There have been recent offers of up to 25,000 Bonvoy points; however, you have to be a US resident to take advantage. For the in-person presentation packages, there are no US residency requirements.
How Do I Book a Timeshare Presentation?
Now that you might be considering one, let’s go over how you find these offers and sign up for them.
The easiest way is through each respective club’s website. Usually, there is a phone number or online form to complete for additional information.
Hyatt even allows you to book the package online yourself if you reside in the USA.
What If I Change My Mind?
Unfortunately, once you purchase a preview package, they are generally considered non-refundable. There have been scattered reports of people receiving refunds if they no longer fulfill the eligibility for the package, but as always, your mileage may vary and this should not be the expectation.
Once you purchase the package, there is quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to booking. Although the terms specifically say that the timeshare has to be booked within 12 months of purchase, it is not uncommon for them to extend this deadline. I have done this on a couple of occasions myself, even pre-pandemic.
Once you book your package, you can still change the dates, although some programs will charge a change fee. Now with the pandemic, there is even more leniency (for example, I have rescheduled a Marriott preview package no less than four times now), although this may tighten up a bit as travel opens up.
My Experiences with Hilton Grand Vacations
Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV) has over 50 properties spread across the United States. Their properties differ from the regular Hilton brand hotels in that they generally offer accommodations with more space, larger and a greater number of bedrooms, and ensuite kitchen and laundry amenities.
Note that not all HGV properties are bookable through timeshare presentations, and some properties are only made available at certain times.
Thus far, I’ve done a couple of packages with Hilton Grand Vacations in Orlando, and currently have another booked with them for Honolulu. Here’s a recap of my experiences so far with HGV.
Parc Soleil by Hilton Grand Vacations
2017 Package Deal: 3 nights / 4 days for US$199 and a US$200 “Stay a Night On Us” rebate voucher; upgraded to a two-bedroom suite for an additional US$50
A few years back, I had to call Hilton reservations to change an existing hotel booking I had. At the end of the call, they thanked me for being a loyal Hilton Honors member and asked if I would be interested in hearing about a “great offer” they currently had. I accepted, and so began my journey down the rabbit hole of timeshare packages.
I was forwarded to another agent, who offered me the above timeshare package. I was considering a trip to Disney for my son’s 5th birthday anyway, and this would definitely help bring down the trip’s cost, so I bought the package.
When we decided on our dates, I called back, and they confirmed availability and booked our accommodation and the timeshare presentation to be done during our stay – and that was it!
At the time of booking, my youngest was only a few months old and wasn’t the greatest sleeper, and so extra space to accommodate her sleeping situation was desirable. When I inquired whether our one-bedroom suite could be upgraded to a two-bedroom suite, the agent advised that we could do that for an additional US$50, which seemed more than reasonable to me, bringing our grand total to US$249 plus tax.
We stayed at the HGV Parc Soleil, which is a 15-minute drive into Disney. Other than being a bit further out from Disney, it was a fantastic accommodation option for families.
It had two beautiful outdoor pools, one that was zero-entry with a water slide and another for adults only. They had a kids activity centre and some organized activities throughout the day. There was also a basketball court, tennis court, and outdoor playground for the kids.
The suite itself was spacious, modern and clean with a full kitchen and an in-suite washer and dryer. There was also a paid shuttle service ($10 round trip per person) to the surrounding amusement parks, but times were rather limited.
We attended the timeshare presentation on the second day. It was located at the Parc Soleil, which made it convenient. At check-in, they ask for your ID and credit card, then invite you to enjoy snacks and non-alcoholic drinks while you wait for your sales representative. You can also drop off your kids at a small supervised children’s room (with toys, colouring, and a TV) while you attend the presentation.
Since it was our first timeshare presentation experience, we did not know what to expect. We were also genuinely interested in learning more about timeshares, which didn’t work in our favour. They started off with some general questions about our travel habits and destinations we wanted to visit, and then went onto discuss how HGV could make it all happen at a fraction of the cost.
Once the sales representative realized we actually had some interest, he turned the pressure on. He would show us how he had booked various destinations at fantastic rates and began negotiating on the amount of initial investment required to purchase, while offering additional Hilton Honors points to sweeten the deal. Each time we declined, he would go back to his manager and come back with a better deal.
This went on for a bit until he finally came back with what seemed to be a decent offer at the time, and we actually signed the papers and walked out with a timeshare after the two and half hours.
The agent offered to refund our US$199 package cost, probably as a kind gesture given that we had just bought a timeshare with him, and then sent us to the front desk to obtain our US$200 “Stay a Night On Us” rebate voucher.
Suffice to say, purchasing a time share was NOT our initial game plan. Luckily for us, there is a cooling-off period built into the contracts, whereby you have 10 days to rescind a timeshare purchase agreement.
With some time and space to actually think about our impulsive decision, we decided it really wasn’t for us and the next day, we rescinded. The staff were very kind about it and it was an easy enough process, but lesson learned: do not show any interest in a timeshare if you are in it only for the cheap accommodation.
Hilton Grand Vacations at Tuscany Village
2019 Package Deal: 4 nights / 5 days in a 1 bedroom suite for $299 USD, refunded after presentation, one $200 Stay A Night On Us rebate voucher OR 10,000 Hilton Honors points
A year later, my husband had a conference in Chicago at the Hilton. HGV had set up a booth in the lobby, where they offered everyone 1,000 Hilton Honors points just for listening to what they had to offer.
Jon took them up on the offer, and this time he was offered packages to either New York City, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, or Orlando. They were two- to four-night packages ranging from US$199 to US$399.
Now, you might be wondering: how often you can purchase a timeshare presentation package? As per HGV’s terms, as long as you have not attended another presentation in the last 12 months, you are eligible to purchase another.
We were just over a year since our first package, so we bought another, back to Orlando. This time around, the offer was four nights for US$299 plus tax, so we were a little hesitant as our previous offer was better.
The sales agent, sensing the hesitancy, sweetened the package by offering either a US$200 “Stay a Night On Us” rebate voucher or 10,000 Hilton Honors points, and to refund the US$299 after the presentation. That sealed the deal for us.
This time, we chose to stay at the Tuscany Village, located about 15 minutes from Disney once again. The decor was a bit more dated, but it still had an outdoor playground and a few pools that would satisfy most young kids. There were also complimentary DVD rentals and a children’s activity centre, albeit a bit smaller than the one at Parc Soleil.
I enjoyed the fact that it was right beside the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, which meant some retail therapy for me between theme park days. They also had a paid shuttle going to the amusement parks, but once again, the times were limited.
Our presentation was back at the Parc Soleil. This time, my husband and I had a different game plan: we would tell them that we weren’t ready to buy a timeshare and to let them know early on.
This was working well for us initially, and at the one-hour mark the agent was pretty much finishing up. As we were just about to leave, he advised us that his manager had one last offer for us, which got us our third package…
The Grand Islander by Hilton Grand Vacations
The manager came out and offered us a trial membership to the HGV program. Now this was different.
There was no set destination for the package; instead, for US$1599, we would be given enough points to redeem for sevev nights in up to a two-bedroom suite at any of the HGV properties in North America, including Hawaii.
We did the math and worked out that it would be less than US$230 a night. If it were any other destination, we would have left it. But looking at the current rates for Hawaii for a Hilton property in Honolulu for March Break, you can see that it was a good deal.
Keep in mind that these are rates for two adults and two children. If you have more than four in your family, like myself, either you’re paying more, or you’ll find that most hotels won’t even be able to accommodate. The fact that we could book a two-bedroom suite was a big selling point for us.
HGV has quite a few properties in Hawaii, with the Grand Islander by HGV being one of the newer ones. We are currently booked at the Grand Islander for five nights in Honolulu over March Break.
That leaves us with two nights remaining, which we could use to extend our current reservation to seven nights…
…or book two nights at their New York property, West 57th Street by Hilton Club at the south end of Central Park, another otherwise pricey accommodation option.
Either way, you can see that our US$230 per night beats the above rates by a long shot.
An Even Better Offer…
Sticking with Hawaii as our theme destination, HGV currently has an offer on their website for five nights in Honolulu or Waikoloa for US$649 in a standard room, which brings the nightly rate to US$130 – an incredible deal for a night in Hawaii.
Granted, it’s for a standard room, but I’m pretty sure you can request an upgrade offer to a bigger suite at a decent cost when you call in.
If you’re not familiar with timeshare presentation packages, now’s the time to take a look at them as a means to very cheap accommodations in many popular vacation spots.
Timeshare presentations are a great option in areas where points redemptions are either not worth it (e.g., Orlando, where hotels are generally quite cheap to begin with), or in places where redemptions are difficult to make (e.g., Hawaii where the cost of redemptions are high).
It does require a small time commitment and maybe a bit of finesse in talking down a sales representative, but in my mind, the savings are definitely worth it. And better yet, they can be easily “churned”, too. 😉
Hopefully you can learn from my experiences with Hilton Grand Vacations. I do have my first preview package booked with Marriott Vacation Club for next year as well, so I’ll be happy to share my experience with them once we can finally go.
If you’ve had any experiences with other timeshare packages, good or bad, feel free to share them in the comments below.