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How Do Vacation Clubs Work?

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Posted on October 07, 2022

Vacation clubs are the new normal when it comes to timeshares, as nearly all of the major hospitality brands operate a vacation club program. So, for those who are new to the vacation ownership industry, it makes sense to wonder how do vacation clubs work?

The good news is that vacation clubs operate similar to a travel club, where you have much more flexibility to travel to a variety of resorts than with the traditional timeshare product. The confusing part is that individual vacation clubs operate differently depending on which club or brand you buy into.

What Actually Is a Vacation Club?

couple on beach

At its basic level, a vacation club is a program where you purchase a membership and are allotted a package of points to use on vacation accommodations or travel products offered through the club.

The major vacation club programs on offer are affiliated with some of the largest hospitality companies in the world. These are:

Vacation club points can be deeded to a specific resort within the club, such as the case with Disney Vacation Club, or are non-deeded points, as with WorldMark.

In the case of points deeded to a resort, the resort is considered the home resort of the owner with benefits such as an early booking window for the owner. The owner can also use their points to stay in other resorts within the club network.

For non-deeded points, the points can usually be used by the owner to book accommodation at any of the resorts within the club network. There is no home resort status with these programs.

Some clubs, such as Wyndham, operate a type of hybrid program which is a mix of deeded and non-deeded points programs as well as timeshare weeks. Marriott Vacation Club also operates this way, even though both clubs only sell points-based products through their sales centers.

Weeks for these hybrid programs are available on the resale market, which can be an advantage for owners that want a guaranteed stay at a particular resort at a specific time of year. For instance, a February week at Marriott Aruba Surf Club would be a high demand week for a New Englander escaping the cold, or celebrating a 4th of July week at Wyndham Kingsgate in Williamsburg would be a big deal for history buffs.

Aruba resort

How Do Vacation Clubs Work Compared to Timeshares?

Vacation clubs provide more flexibility compared to timeshares, which are traditionally sold in week increments. Timeshare owners usually need to sign up with an external exchange company to expand their resort choices. For vacation club owners, multiple resort options exist within their club’s network of resorts.

Timeshare owners typically book their vacation week at their home resort with their resort or management company. Fixed week ownership is simple, since the owner already knows the week and, in most cases, the unit they will occupy. Floating or flex week owners choose from a selection of weeks within their season or allotted timeframe in order to book their week.

For vacation club members, they would use their program’s booking platform to look for their preferred vacation time and book accordingly. If they have a designated home resort, they are given an advance booking window to get a jump on other members looking to book at that resort. Members can also book at other resorts within the club network, subject to availability and within the designated booking time frame.

Because they are using points as a type of vacation currency, club members can also split their points into smaller increments if they decide to take multiple short stay trips during the year. Think expanded long weekend options. Depending on the season, they may also be able to upgrade into larger units during low-demand seasons.   

Can You Get Out of a Vacation Club?

people waving goodbye

Yes, owners can get out of vacation club ownership by selling their membership. When looking to sell a vacation club membership, it is imperative to understand exactly what you own in order to accurately promote your ownership to prospective buyers.

For example, Wyndham points owners sometimes only refer to points in a generic sense because they use them in the Wyndham booking system. But are they deeded to a specific resort as part of the Club Wyndham Select program or are they non-deeded as part of the Club Wyndham Access program? Inquiring minds will want to know.

This is where the services of a licensed broker agent can really help. Agents such as ours at Timeshare Broker Associates work on a no upfront fee basis so they can provide a no-cost consultation with sellers and help them understand exactly what they own.

Some of the branded club programs offer a service where members can contact their customer service departments about possibly getting out of their ownership. Such arrangements come with conditions and no guarantees that owners will be let out of their ownership. In the vast majority of these cases the owner receives no compensation and walks away with nothing to show for their ownership.

Are Vacation Clubs Worth It?

Wyndham Ocean Boulevard

Vacation clubs are definitely worth it for vacationers who enjoy taking trips every year and look for flexibility in booking dates and a variety of resort options. Clubs also offer the ability to use points for travel products such as car rentals or organized tours.

Because most vacation clubs are affiliated with major hospitality providers, clubs align with their respective loyalty programs such as Hilton Honors, the Marriott Bonvoy program or Wyndham Rewards. This allows club members the opportunity to use club points for stays in their branded hotels along with car rentals, tours, cruises or even for online shopping or discounts on gas.

In many cases such as staying in Disney Vacation Club resorts, club ownership is a much better deal than renting a unit in those club resorts. Disney timeshare rentals can command prices as high as $2,000 a night for a one-bedroom unit even in low demand seasons such as Mid-November.

Of course, the worth of a product is most closely associated with the price paid for that product. This is where the resale market is crucial since resales can shave as much as 60% off the retail prices charged at the resorts.