Does the phrase “timeshare” ring a bell, but you don’t know what a timeshare is? Or maybe you have a vague idea of what a timeshare is but want some more in-depth info on how a timeshare works. In simple terms, a timeshare is a resort unit that allows owners to have an increment of time in which they can use for vacations every year.

What Is A Timeshare?

what is a timeshare and how does it work

Let’s start with the basics: what is a timeshare? Also called “vacation ownership,” a timeshare is a resort or vacation property split into shared or fractional ownership. This ownership is usually in weekly increments. Most timeshares today are with large corporations like Wyndham, Marriott or even Disney. These hospitality brands offer a travel club style of membership for owners, providing flexibility and customization for vacations.

According to the American Resort Development Association, “timesharing” is defined as shared ownership of a vacation property, which may or may not include an interest in real property. A timeshare allows owners to have an increment at a time in which they can use their shared ownership. These increments are normally one week but vary by developer and resort. Basically, you are sharing a unit with others, but “own” an assigned week. 

There are a few influential people that give timeshare a bad rep, but satisfied owners and statistics collected by ARDA’s AIF Foundation disprove opinion. In fact, the AIF State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry Reveals Growth. Timeshare has seen nine consecutive years of growth, breaking $10 billion in sales revenue and outperforming average hotel occupancy!

How Does a Timeshare Work?

Now that we covered “what is a timeshare,” we can explain how a timeshare works. If you’re a timeshare owner or looking to Buy Timeshare, you must become familiar with your vacation ownership brand, because each one works differently.

The most typical (and now outdated!) way a timeshare works is owning a specific week at the same time every year, in the same resort. Traditionally, families can travel to their timeshare resort during their “fixed week.” However, there are many more options to timeshare than ever. 

Timeshares Most Frequently Asked Questions

What is a timeshare week? 

When you buy or rent a timeshare, you purchase a certain amount of time at a given resort.  Usually, that amount of time is one week. Resorts will create their own individual schedules or calendars of weeks. Usually, weeks are assigned a number that starts at the first week in January and continues through the last week of December. These weeks will generally begin with a check-in date on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and varies by resort.

Click Here for the Timeshare Weeks Calendar.

What is a floating week? 

A floating week allows owners to reserve any week throughout the year on a first-come, first-served basis. Some floating weeks are restricted by season and can only be used during a certain span of time or season during the year. For example, owners can use their summer floating week during any week that falls within the resort’s summer dates.

What is a lockout or lock-off unit?

what is a timeshare lock-off

A lockout (or a timeshare lock-off) is a timeshare unit that’s like a condo or adjoined hotel room and can be divided into two separate sections. The owner of these units then has the option of renting them out separately or together. Basically, it means that you could “lock the door” in between the units. It is nice for privacy reasons if you are traveling with other guests.

What are timeshare points and how do they work?  

Owners of most timeshares these days have this type of timeshare system, where the week of ownership converts into points to use as currency on all kinds of vacations. Each year, owners receive their annual allotment of points. This allotment and gives owners flexibility and control of when and where they book, with access to hotels and resorts of all sizes, during different seasons, and for varying lengths of time. 

What is a biennial timeshare?

Some timeshares allow for annual usage every year, while a biennial timeshare offers usage every other year. A “use year” is either even or odd, depending on whether the year ends in an even or odd number. 

Timeshare deeded vs. right to use

A right to use property grants owners the right to use their timeshare for a specific period of time.  The usual amount of time a lease lasts for is 30 to 99 years. The resort management holds the actual ownership of the resort property. When the lease is up, the right to use will generally terminate and return to the resort. A deeded property has the same rights of ownership accorded to it as any deeded real estate would. The owner owns it in perpetuity, and may sell, rent, bequeath, or even give the property away. 

Why Do People Buy Timeshares?

Timeshares offer so much more than a typical hotel stay. Just the difference in space is incomparable. Typically, a hotel room is simply a bed or two, a tiny common area, and a small bathroom. A timeshare is basically like a home away from home. When you buy a timeshare, you are getting private bedrooms, large common areas, a kitchen, and often a balcony that offers a scenic view. 

While the accommodations and amenities of a timeshare resort outweigh that of a hotel or AirBNB, timeshare buyers also enjoy the savings associated with ownership. Our Savings Comparison Calculator features the savings you can achieve on every timeshare posted for sale on the resort marketplace. With a timeshare, you are paying for tomorrow’s vacations at today’s prices and can guarantee vacation time. If you don’t use it, you can rent your points or week out to cover maintenance fees. 

Timeshare Cost Calculator
The Savings Comparison Calculator

Another benefit of timeshares is that they are usually located in the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Disney Vacation Club has the most desirable family-friendly destinations in Orlando, California, Hilton Head and more. Other brands like Wyndham or Marriott are splayed out even further across the globe, making them popular for world travelers. A timeshare offers you the option of where you actually want to vacation. 

Read: 10 (Great) Reasons Why People Buy Timeshares

Vacation Exchange

Having the option to stay at the same resort each vacation is appealing to some people. It allows them to make the timeshare their home away from home. Timeshares allow you to explore new places year after year and let you revisit your favorites time and time again. However, if you want to explore new locations on each vacation, there are plenty of options. Many resorts are affiliated with an exchange company such as Resort Condominiums International (RCI) and Interval International (II). These allow you to trade your week for another resort for a small fee.

Vacation Exchange infographic

Third-party timeshare exchange companies like RCI or Interval International offer timeshare owners the ability to exchange with a massive network of other owners. 

Most timeshare companies are affiliated with either one or the other, and some are affiliated with both. Make sure to check with your resort beforehand. As an owner, you can sign up for an RCI or Interval International membership and begin taking advantage of their vacation opportunities. 

Your ownership will be converted into a new points system with its own seasons and demand. Owners can use their exchange points to book at thousands of hotels and timeshare resorts all over the world. These exchange programs also let you redeem your points on cruises, excursions, high-adventure trips, airfare, car rentals, event tickets, passes to popular attractions and so much more. 

Read: What is Vacation Exchange?

What You Need to Know Before Buying A Timeshare

If you’re attracted to the amenities, destinations, accommodations and savings that come with vacation ownership, check out What You Need to Know Before Buying A Timeshare. There are a few things to keep in mind before signing on the dotted line, so do your research! 

It’s also best to become familiar with top timeshare brands and developers and choose the one that aligns with your travel style best. Are you looking for points, a fixed week every year, a few destinations or the option to go anywhere? 

What is a timeshare
what is a timeshare and how does it work
why do people buy timeshares

Best Timeshare Companies

Read: How to Sell a Timeshare

If you are thinking of getting rid of your timeshare ownership, the first step is to contact your resort or developer. Companies like Wyndham, Hilton Grand Vacations Club or Holiday Inn Club Vacations have their owners’ best interests in mind. These companies are also members of ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. ARDA represents vacation ownership and resort development industries, promoting growth and advocacy. Members of ARDA adhere to strict guidelines and Ethics Code in order to be recognized by the organization. 

Read: Timeshare Wins Against Exit Companies

Your vacation ownership brand will guide you through several different options in regards to getting rid of your ownership. They also commonly refer owners to reputable companies that will help sell their timeshare. 

There are many options to get rid of your timeshare, however, a “timeshare exit team” or company that advocates strongly against timeshare is a red flag. If a professional advises you to stop paying your maintenance fees or asks for huge up-front fees, take warning, especially if they are not recognized by ARDA. 

Download the Ultimate Vacation Ownership Seller’s Guide >>

Do You Already Own a Timeshare?

If you’re looking to sell your timeshare, consider reaching out to Timeshares Only for help. Timeshares Only is a Member of ARDA, with an A+ Rating on the BBB as an Accredited Business. Fill out the form below to get started.

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Mia Reid is a University of Central Florida graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English - Creative Writing. She specializes in writing, editing, search engine optimization, as well as graphic design and digital marketing. Mia's past experience is diverse, with a history of interning at UCF's own literary magazine, blog writing for local nonprofits and making weekly op-ed pieces for The Odyssey. She has lived in Orlando, Florida for 21 years and enjoys hiking, spending time at her local lake and being with her family.

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