Setting Realistic Timeshare Guest Expectations

Timeshares are resorts. At first look, they may seem to resemble some of the famous classic resorts: Picture in your mind — The Beverly Hills Hilton or The Four Seasons or The Ritz Carlton.

But, in fact, the room quality, service, and amenities you should expect at timeshare resorts will be far below what you would receive at any of these famous guest destinations.

Timeshares are owned and operated much differently than the famous resorts.

Famous resorts:

  • Owned by major corporations
  • Operated with profit in mind
  • Highly competitive with other resorts. To stand out, these resorts must spend a lot of money to upgrade all aspects of the resort. They are constantly refurbishing.
  • Highly service oriented in all areas, so that guests who pay several hundred dollars per night stay happy and keep coming back. These resorts know their guests have a choice of lodgings
  • Annual occupancies may range from 40 to 80 percent (less use means less wear and tear)

Timeshare resorts:

  • Owned by thousands of families, each of whom pay an annual fee to use their one condo for one week every year
  • Little profit motive. Keeping costs down is usually the #1 priority.
  • Little competition. Owners are basically captive, as they already own a condo for a week. Emphasis is on spending as little as possible, and getting as much life as possible, out of every aspect of the resort. Refurbishment may even be postponed beyond useful life of facilities.
  • Service may or may not be a priority. Keeping owners happy is important, so they will keep paying their annual fees, but owners are likely to keep paying and returning, even if the service isn’t spectacular.
  • Annual occupancies generally run above 90 percent (more use means more wear and tear)

The above generalities are offered not to scare or dissuade you. Timeshare vacations are enjoyable and a great value, as long as you set your expectations at the appropriate level. We suggest you lower your expectations a notch or two, and then you’ll probably experience an upside surprise.

Rule #1: Don’t Expect Perfection. This is not Disney World! If you arrive at the resort, walk into your condo, or visit the resort amenities, expecting everything will be perfect, you can also expect to be disappointed!

Even at the best timeshares, rest assured, you’ll find something wrong, or at least something not up to your expectations or liking. Things you might encounter include:

  • It’s Noisy. There WILL be noise from your neighbors, whether above, below, or beside you. Remember, this is like living in a condo complex or apartment building, but with more people coming and going. Walls and floors may have poor sound insulation. If you are near the road or parking lot, expect engine, car alarm, emergency vehicle, and door slamming noise, as well as headlights shining into your windows.
  • It’s Noisy, Part Two. Especially if you travel off-season, expect maintenance work to be underway, starting early in the morning. Commonly, you’ll hear painting, scraping, metal and concrete work, roof repair, HVAC repair, balcony maintenance, condo refurbishments, etc. Also, expect lawn mowing, weed whacking, and leaf blowers, most noticeable if you front the golf course. And the maid service staff love to rumble their carts and slam doors at 7AM, too.
  • They call this a @#%*&  Bedroom?  Resort floor plans for studios, one bedrooms, and two bedrooms vary — a lot!   Often, bedrooms are very small and barely private.  Sometimes there is a door, sometimes an accordion curtain, maybe a Roman shade, or even just an alcove.  Some resorts consider a loft area (a sleeping area lacking a full wall on one side) a bedroom, some call it a loft, and some don’t call it anything.    And all of them are correct, because there is no industry or legal standard “bedroom” definition, other than the dictionary one, “a room designed and furnished for sleeping.”  If you have very particular sleeping arrangement requirements, you’d better call the resort and ask about bedrooms!
  • General Disrepair. Timeshares get used almost continuously, so things wear out or break, and it is difficult for management to find “down time” to address issues. Expect anything from burned out light bulbs to non-functioning appliances. If it has been a long time since the last major refurbishment, expect a lot of band-aid fixes and some fairly glaring or ugly repairs. Management will not spend a lot of money on replacements if a refurbishment is coming soon, or if they don’t have enough money from the owners to work with. Best advice: If something needs fixing, call the office/front desk. Don’t leave it for the next guest – this may be why the problem is there greeting you – because the last guest couldn’t be bothered.
  • Remember the 80s? Your timeshare condo sure does. It may have been 1985 when the place was built and furnished, and not much has changed. Old tube TVs, VCRs, shag carpet, tweed furniture, avocado colored appliances. It’s all a function of how much money the owners care to allocate and spend. Sometimes that figure is zero, and it shows.
  • Is This Mattress Actually a Marble Slab? All things equal, firm mattresses last longer. So, some cost conscious timeshare managers buy really really firm mattresses. You’d better bring, or buy, a foam topper, unless you think that sleeping on a concrete floor is comfortable.
  • Is This Mattress Actually a Chaise Lounge Cushion? Sofabeds are notorious, and most timeshares have at least one sofabed. You won’t confuse the sofabed mattress for a real mattress, but you might wonder who the evil genius was that designed something SOOOO comfortable. And how DOES that mattress fit inside that couch?
  • The Swimming Pool is Cold (and so is the Hot Tub). Amenities may be out of service or not as you would like — for example, we’ve encountered resorts that keep pools and hot tubs open in winter, but don’t bother to heat them. Exercise rooms can look like infomercial equipment storage rooms. Game rooms may have such up-to-date game machines as Ms. Pacman. Again, it’s all about the owners’ money, or lack thereof, to do better.
  • It’s Got a Great View — of What?  Resorts may tout a building is oceanfront, but that does not guarantee your condo will have a breathtaking ocean view.   Trees, shrubs, walls, dunes — all can get in the way.  Or your view may be sideways and have just a glimpse of water.  Mountain views may be over the top of other buildings.  Water views may be drainage ponds or canals.  Plus, resort staff have the right to change unit assignments, so the oceanfront condo you were going to get  — well, sorry, it’s out of service, but here’s a nice one with a view of the parking lot.
  • Deck, Patio, or No?  Resorts often describe their condos as having a patio or deck.  But perhaps not every condo has one — some will just have windows –this is very common in studio condos.  Or, the deck may be too small to be usable for dining or even sitting.  And, guests often smoke out on the balcony, so if smoke bothers you, you might be stuck indoors.
  • OK, What Else Am I Going to Hate? From our experience, you may have issues with unavailable, poor, or costly WiFi access. Parking may be far from your condo, sometimes with a fee. You may need to climb lots of stairs, with no elevators, to get to your condo. The Front Desk may be closed some days and all nights, so help may be hard to find. Be aware of the very spare kitchenware – I hope you planned to eat every meal out? And that stack washer/dryer – it has about enough capacity to wash three hankies and a bra.

OK, enough with the horror stories and bad mouthing – it’s time to relax and look at the bright side! Few, and if you’re lucky, none of these problems may crop up at the resort you visit. But, the wise traveler thinks about what is important to them, or may be a problem, BEFORE they reserve and go. Be smart — call the Resort Front Desk and ask questions. They know their product. They are the experts. Be sure to ask, “is there anything guests often complain about?”

If you rent from a private party or vacation reseller (like us), don’t expect us to have all the answers – we are not the Resort. While we will share our general knowledge, it may be incomplete or out-of-date, and we won’t have the answers to many of your questions. We can only share what is readily available to us, which is information we find on the Resort’s website and information shown on the reservation confirmation. And, as you can see, there are simply too many possible issues and questions – and conditions at the resort can change.

So, protect yourself, call and ask the experts at the Resort Front Desk. You can find most resort phone numbers on the “Resort Contact Information” page on our website, or by doing a Google search.

Which brings us to important Rule #2: Timeshares Are Imperfect, But Renting One is Still Worth It!

After all the trash talk – whaa? How could that be?

Here are some good things about timeshares:

  • Great value. Compare a timeshare week, typically $1000 or so, with a week at a motel (about the same price) or a resort condo (2 to 3 times the price). Timeshare rentals are a great vacation value for the money!
  • Great locations. You’ll find a well-priced timeshare at most any beach, ski area, or event venue you may want.
  • The Resort Experience at Popular Prices. Enjoy large condos, many amenities and activities, proximity to major attractions, but for far less money than those rich people pay.
  • Make Yourself at Home. Timeshares are a lot more like your house, when compared to a stress-inducing 250 square foot motel room. You’re on vacation – you need space and comfort – and timeshare rentals provide that for the same money as a motel.
  • Earth Friendly Travel. Timeshares get maximum use of space, occupancies are high, and furnishings and amenities are often used until they break. What could be greener?
  • Funky and Fun. You’ll find old hotel and motel conversions in sought-after locales, like Key West, San Francisco, and Hawaii. Even old castles and abbeys in Europe.

So, to sum up:

  • Set Realistic Expectations – know there will be bumps and learn how to address them
  • Do Your Own Research and ask your questions before you reserve a timeshare
  • Don’t rely entirely on the general information provided by resellers like us – we do not independently verify the information we obtain from the resorts, and we offer no guarantees as to its accuracy, completeness, or currency. We are NOT the experts and we do not own or in any way control the resorts. Call the resort!
  • Know What to Ask For.  You can minimize problems by asking for: a recently refurbished room (fewer things will be worn out or broken),  a top floor room (no noise from above), or a “room in a quieter area of the resort” (generally, we try to get rooms not by the swimming pool or playground, facing away from roads, and away from elevators –such as at the end of hallways).  Rooms facing wooded areas, water features, and golf courses are generally best.  Know what is important to you, and ask for a room that most closely meets your needs.
  • Once at the resort, the Front Desk is there to help with problems.  Use them.  They are trained to listen and solve your problems.
  • Save money and spend your savings to have more fun. You’re on vacation!