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Free Timeshare Vacations, Are They For Real?

Proceed with caution

Time-Share resorts sometimes offer free lodging to potential buyers in exchange for their attendance at a presentation about properties the developer has for sale.

You may be offered a vacation certificate by telephone, in the mail, or on the Internet. Offers vary, but they are often for a three day, two night stay at the resort itself or a nearby hotel.

Common Terms & Conditions

  • Nearly all offers are subject to certain conditions, including age and income requirements. Read the fine print.

  • If you're married, both you and your spouse must usually attend a sales presentation.

  • Upon arrival you will be asked to show proof of identity.

  • An advance deposit may be required to guarantee your time. It may not be refundable if you do not attend, or upon compliance with the terms of the offer.

Learn the Lingo

  • A processing fee is probably nonrefundable.

  • If deposit funds are actually called a deposit, refund status could go either way.

  • Some deposits are refunded when you arrive at the location or after you attend the sales presentation.

Before You Accept a Vacation Offer

  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau for a reliability report about the company.

  • Make sure you meet all of the guidelines listed in the offer's Terms and Conditions.

  • Determine exactly what you are required to pay for.

  • Get a copy of the state's Time-Share laws. If the resort cannot provide them, request a copy from the state Real Estate Commission.

  • Ask if you must stay during specific days of the week, and if reservations are firm. Verify cancellation rules, too.

  • Find out when (or if) the company will return your deposit.

  • Is free transportation to and from the resort included?

  • Will you stay at the time-share resort or at a local hotel? Is loging free? Are taxes included? Will the resort provide free transportion from the hotel to the resort?

Phone Solicitation
If you are contacted by phone, ask for all details in writing. Reputable companies with valid offers shouldn't hesitate to send written information. Never give your credit card, Social Security, or checking account numbers to an unknown solicitor.

If you're on the No Call List, you hopefully won't receive calls from Time-share solicitors.

Don't Be Scammed

  • You may be promised free airfare to your destination, but when you arrive you find lodging is billed at a higher than normal rate.

  • You might have free lodging, but higher airfares.

  • Question everything, read the fine print, and remember that it's usually not realistic to believe you are getting a totally free vacation.

If the urge to buy kicks in... and you're sorry later
Read the laws that govern Time-Share developers in that state. There's usually a 'cooling off' period where Time-Share buyers are allowed to back out of a sale with no loss of funds.

The Bottom Line
If you are truly interested in the property being offered, the free lodging probably isn't a bad deal. If you're just going because it's free, think carefully before you accept, especially if you discover hidden costs.

Is there someplace else you'd rather go? Chances are you'll have a better time at a destination of your choice, even if it does end up costing a little more.

If you find a Time-Share resort that appeals to you, e-mail or call to ask about free time. Resorts sometimes offer unadvertised free or reduced-price stays for potential buyers.

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