Using Your Timeshare: Flex and Points

Once you've read the contract, weighed the pros and cons and compared the total cost of the timeshare to other annual vacation packages, you just might decide to take the plunge and buy a timeshare. How can you get the most bang for your buck?

If you are content to visit the same place at the same time each year, then a standard, static timeshare will work out just fine. You'll have the same property waiting for you each year, with no worries about finding a place to stay.

However, if you'd rather visit different places each year, or you're not always sure you can vacation at the same time every year, then this arrangement might not work out. Flex plans and points systems can provide some options.

Under a flex system, the purchaser buys a share in a particular season at the resort. This season is a window of one or more months during which the share owner can schedule his or her vacation each year. Weeks are assigned on a first come, first served basis, so you need to book your week far ahead of time (up to two years) to get the week you want, especially during peak season.

A points system is more flexible. Each share owner has a certain number of points that can be used for different types of accommodations at different times of the year. If you want a large suite at peak tourist season, it might cost 500 points, while a small hotel room during the slow season might only cost 200 points. This allows owners to alter their vacation plans from year to year, although early booking is still a good idea.

For even more freedom than flex and points systems, you'll have to get into the world of timeshare swapping.