We own a timeshare (or rather, a fractional vacation ownership) in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Every time I say that to someone, I feel the need to launch into a monologue on why our timeshare is amazing and why we’re so glad we bought it.
That’s because just a few short years ago I thought timeshares were for suckers. Me? Buy a timeshare? Yeah right, I’d sooner fly to the moon.
And then one day I got a call. I could visit Breckenridge for just $99 for four nights. Yes, of course, there was a catch. I’d have to go on a 90-minute preview of their new property, Grand Colorado on Peak 8.
Normally, I would have said “No, thanks” and hung up the phone, but I had just returned from a disappointing ski vacation to Winter Park. It wasn’t Winter Park’s fault, but we went in early December and the snow was terrible. And, seeing as how I only get one ski vacation a year, I wanted another chance to redeem that winter.
Chadd and I had sat in the Denver airport just 48 hours prior and discussed where we could go in February to ski. We talked about Taos. Maybe Salt Lake City. Or, perhaps Breckenridge, where we could fly direct into Denver from Jacksonville.
So, the call seemed like a sign – that we should go to Breckenridge (not buy a timeshare – just to be clear).
I’m an attorney and can smell bullshit a mile away. Chadd is not one to spend money without good reason. So, we reasoned we could withstand even the hardest sell on our 90-minute tour to get four nights in Breckenridge with free ski passes.
How it happened
There might be no greater sales people in America than those who sell timeshares. In fact, if I had to hire a salesperson, my very first call would be to the woman who sold us ours – a woman I’m still friends with, by the way.
Allyson started out by showing us how much we would likely spend on vacations over the next decade and over the course of our lives. The numbers were astronomical compared to the price of the timeshare, particularly with the pre-construction savings.
Did I mention we couldn’t even tour the actual property because this condo they wanted us to buy into was nothing but steel framing? Instead, we toured their most recently constructed property, Grand Lodge on Peak 7, and looked at renderings and 3-D models.
We were unconvinced and just trying to figure out how to get away from this woman. And then she did the smartest thing she could have ever done – she started telling us how her and her husband use their timeshares – all the times they’ve traded for properties around the globe.
I think we really perked up when she mentioned she’d previously worked in Whistler and that there were plenty of places we could trade for there. We’d both really wanted to go to Whistler, and before we knew it she was throwing in a “developer week” we could swap to go to Whistler the following ski season since the property we’d be buying into in Breckenridge wouldn’t be ready for two more years.
Allyson logged into her own Interval International account to show us how we could trade our week and all the places we could trade for that were on our travel bucket list – Whistler, Glacier, Tahoe, Spain, France and more.
She and her husband were about the same age as us (we were 33 and 39 at the time), and they’d traveled all over the world trading their timeshares. They didn’t have kids and had the flexibility to take advantage of off-season availability. They were just like us.
And if we didn’t want to trade our week, we could rent it out either through the property itself or on VRBO. We took a quick look on my phone, and a week at their sister property where we were sitting was going for $2,400. Then we could take that cash and go anywhere – we wouldn’t even have to trade for a timeshare property.
After she threw in a couple of weeks we could use right away for other properties, we decided to purchase a bi-annual suite (the smallest size condo they offered) with an option to purchase the bi-annual years we were missing at the same price within six months. It was incredibly easy to get approved for financing through their in-house program, and about four hours after we walked in the door we walked out with a giant folder full of the paperwork documenting our purchase.
How it’s worked out
I can remember calling and telling my mom and getting a lecture about how we’d been taken. But Chadd and I never waivered. We kept rehashing the sales discussion and coming to the conclusion that it made total sense.
Three years later, I can tell you it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We traded one of our “developer weeks” for a 2-bedroom condo in Whistler and were able to take Chadd’s mom along with us. We still have our other week banked for future use.
Once we became a part of the Interval International family (a membership our property bought for us for two years), we learned about “Getaways” – cheap deals you can snag at timeshare properties across the globe without having to trade your week at your home property.
We’ve gone on three Getaways so far and have another upcoming:
- Breckenridge (August 2015)
- San Diego (December 2015)
- Breckenridge (August 2017)
- Breckenridge (May/June 2018)
Each of those has cost us under $300 for an entire week at a nice resort with full amenities. Yes, you read that right – under $300 for an entire week! And don’t let our many trips to Breckenridge fool you. We could have gone dozens of places around the globe, we simply chose to keep returning to Breckenridge because we love it there so muc.
Oh, and on the August 2015 visit to Breckenridge, we exercised our option and added a bi-annual week on our off years. By then, the pre-construction pricing was gone and units like ours were going for twice as much.
Interval is also constantly “gifting” us with free weeks. These have date and location restrictions, but if you’re retired, work from home or otherwise have a flexible schedule, you could take advantage of these constantly.
Last spring, we got to use our week at Grand Colorado on Peak 8 for the first time, as it had newly opened. The property is absolutely stunning – a true ski in/ski out that’s easily four-star quality. My favorite aspect? Hot tubs that are literally right on the slopes.
And our suite, as it turned out, was more like a one-bedroom than a studio. The bedroom is completely separated from the living space, and we easily could have brought someone along with us to sleep on the pull-out.
This year, we traded our week for a summer week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place we’re excited to explore.
How to decide if a timeshare is right for you
Here are the factors that have made this a great investment for us:
- We don’t have kids
- We have flexible work schedules, which includes being able to work remotely
- We travel frequently
I can see how it isn’t a great fit for everyone. For example, if you have kids and need a specific week for spring break, you’d need to pay more to purchase a timeshare for a set week each year (and hope your school system doesn’t change when its spring break falls) or it might not be for you.
We have a “floating” week, which means our week could fall anywhere within a range of dates. You reserve your week by calling one year in advance. The first time I called to book, I tried 10 minutes after the phone lines opened and the week I wanted was already full. I called back the next week and got the week following my first choice, which was fine for us because we’re flexible. The following year, I was able to snag the exact week I wanted by calling as soon as the phone lines opened.
If you don’t take a week-long trip at least once a year, this also might not be for you. Of course, you could always just rent your week and pocket the cash, but a big part of the reason we value our investment so much is that we’ve been able to get so much out of it with all the travel we do and still plan to do.
I also think having the Interval International membership is key, because that’s how you’re able to trade so easily and snag great deals on additional weeks. Our developer paid our first two years, but you can get in for less than $100 annually on your own.
And last, but not least, our developer and property manager, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, is amazing. Not once has anyone there ever told us anything that wasn’t true or misled us. And their properties are stunning. We’ve stayed at Grand Timber Lodge three times now, at our property (Grand Colorado on Peak 8) once, and I’ve even had a spa day at Grand Lodge on Peak 7. All of the properties are well maintained, in great locations, beautifully landscaped and full of amenities.
So, while a timeshare isn’t right for everyone, it’s also not the racket I thought it once was. And thanks to that one phone call, Breckenridge has now become our home away from home – so much so that our next purchase will be a more permanent residence in town!