Florida Vacation Clubs
Vacation Clubs (vacation ownership programs) are a form of timeshare that typically offer one week of use of an apartment in a managed resort.
Depending upon the vacation club and the sort of property deal you purchase, you may not be locked into a particular resort for a specific week every year for example as was the case with the original timeshare deals.
Vacation club membership can offer more flexibility and choice in terms of where you can go, when you go, what sort of property you stay in and even how long you stay, as little as one night in some cases
You may also be able to book accommodation at an alternative resort through one of the major exchange program companies like Resort Condominiums International (RCI) or Interval International (II) but generally they are not as flexible when it comes to cancellations as say booking a normal hotel room and there is usually a booking fee.
Vacation Club Villas
Like timeshares, the accommodation in Florida will be better equipped than most normal hotel rooms or suites, especially when you join some of the bigger vacation clubs who all operate a number of luxury resorts in Florida, including:
- Disney Vacation Club
- Marriott Vacation Club International
- Hyatt Vacation Club
- Hilton Grand Vacation Club
- Wyndham Vacation Ownership through WorldMark by Wyndham (Trendwest) and Wyndham Vacation Resorts (Fairfield)
- Starwood Vacation Ownership with Sheraton Vacation Ownership Resorts and Westin Vacation Ownership Resorts
Note that when vacation club properties are described as villas, in Florida this usually means an apartment/condominium in a resort with community facilities, not a private detached holiday home with its own pool.
Apartments will typically have a living room, kitchen and between one and three bedrooms though you can also get cheaper studio apartments in some resorts.
Types of Vacation Club Ownership
Where some but not all vacation clubs differ from some timeshares is that typically you do not part-own a specific property as such but as a member of the vacation club you have a share in a particular resort/style of accommodation either:
- fixed - for the same specific period each year
- floating - for a seasonal range of weeks or
- vacation points - an annual allowance
All of which will depend on how much you invest in the first place.
Most new vacation club memberships start around $10,000 to $15,000 for one week per annum though you may be able to get a membership for one week every other year. Annual fees are typically anything between $300 and $700, though you can pay a lot more for the very high end resorts or for peak seasons, see pros & cons of vacation ownership.
The cost in points terms of a particular vacation will depend on the size of the accommodation and the time of year.
If the vacation club operates a points scheme, you can often carry over points into the next year and/or borrow against the next year but you need to pay close attention to the banking rules as the points will expire after a period of time and once they are gone, they are lost. You need to read the small print very carefully as every scheme works slightly differently and most involve additional fees when making a booking.
It might also be possible to rent the points out to a non-vacation club member; i.e. you sell them a number of your points.
Generally the investment will be deeded and transferable but it some cases (like the Disney Vacation Club) it does have a finite life, with others it can be indefinite though in reality, no resort will last for ever.
If the membership term is finite, then at the end of the life of the membership, you may just walk away; there may be nothing to sell and as you approach the expiry date, the resale value will probably drop off dramatically.
Vacation Club Resales
With all timeshares and vacation clubs, there is no real investment potential but you may be able to resell your membership before it expires, though it will be unlikely to match current market values. You will find some timeshares and vacation club membership selling for $2,000 or less on internet auction sites and through timeshare resale brokers.
Like timeshares, it is possible to buy vacation club memberships from existing members though bear in mind the remaining life of the membership when considering price and the annual fees; the older the property, the more the annual maintenance fees are likely to be.
Disney Vacation Club resales tend to do better than most others because of Disney's "right of first refusal" clause which means most Disney resales go for around 75% of the current retail price though this will drop as they approach their expiry date.