Vacation club vs. timeshare vs. second home: What to know in 2023

Published Date: October 24, 2023

A couple checks in to their accommodations while considering the differences between a vacation club vs timeshare.
In 2023, you have a variety of options to choose from for your next vacation. Whether you’re interested in a vacation club vs. timeshare — or a second home — you have more accommodation choices than ever before.Convenience and cost are the largest differentiating factors between all three vacation models. Ultimately, your destination may be the best indicator of which vacation option is right for you.In this guide, we'll explore the key considerations when comparing vacation clubs, timeshares and second homes to help you make informed decisions tailored to your vacation preferences and budget.
Vacation clubsTimesharesSecond homes
Purchase priceMay require you to buy membership points to joinRequires an initial purchase of a unitRequires a down payment
Financing costsSubscription-based service with no financing required Private loans are availableTraditional financing and fractional ownership options available 
Membership feesRequires annual or monthly paymentsNo membership fees requiredNo membership fees required
Maintenance feesCovered by your membership feesResponsible to pay and subject to price increasesMay require payment, with fully managed options available
Vacation costsPotential discounts on lodging, dining and attractionsSubject to tourist prices for dining and attractionsPotential savings due to residential location

What is a vacation club?

A vacation club is a membership-based travel service that offers members access to various vacation destinations, accommodations, and attractions within a network of affiliated resorts or properties.
A graphic defines the difference between a vacation club vs timeshare while two people share a meal.
Vacation clubs are popular timeshare alternatives for travelers who want access to various destinations and experiences. Travel clubs are a type of vacation club where members travel together.If you’re looking to enjoy a solo or family vacation at different places, a vacation club may be for you. Consider joining a travel club if you’d like to meet new people and travel with fellow members.Getting a vacation club or travel club membership can mean access to discounted rates for accommodations and excursions within the club's network. Expect to pay an annual renewal fee and maintenance charges during the duration of your membership.
Access to a range of destinations May be subject to blackout dates
Potential discounts on accommodations and excursionsPay a membership fee

Vacation club costs

While timeshares may have a higher initial purchase price, a vacation club membership can be expensive to maintain. Let’s take a look at the true costs of a vacation club membership.For example, a Holiday Inn Club membership can begin by purchasing credits worth around $16,000. Depending on peak season time slots, these amounts can result in a stay lasting a few days or up to an entire week. When you run out of credits, you’ll need to purchase more to continue being a member and access the club’s amenities. These fees cover the upkeep and operational costs of the club's properties. They are typically paid annually and vary depending on the membership type and usage. Along with the initial purchase, financing and maintenance fees, travelers will need to factor vacation fees into their budget. The average vacation cost is around $1,919 per week for one person. However, vacation clubs also offer discounts for lodging, dining and attractions.

What is a timeshare?

A timeshare is a property owned by multiple individuals or families that own a "share" of that specific property. That share allows them to visit the property for a set period of time each year.
A graphic defines the difference between a vacation club vs timeshare while two people share a meal.
Timeshares can technically be any property type but are typically a resort, condominium or apartment. They are often in popular vacation destinations and allow owners to vacation for a set period each year.Timeshare membership comes with associated costs like the initial purchase price and regular maintenance fees. Also, as mentioned, you have little control over when you can visit, as your time is usually preset.
Dependable and guaranteed vacation spotPotential exposure to high-pressure sales and may be  difficult to resell
Shared maintenance costsLess flexibility in setting your own vacation schedule
Limited time to take advantage of your vacation home

Timeshare costs

When you initially purchase a timeshare, you acquire a specific share or right to use a property for a set period each year, which often involves a substantial upfront cost. Currently, the average timeshare transaction is around $24,000Timeshare financing models are also known for high interest rates. Some travelers even consider taking out a personal loan to finance their vacation. The difficulty of finding affordable financing solutions has led to predatory companies taking advantage of vacationers in search of a good deal.Timeshare maintenance fees can be $1,000 and potentially increase yearly. Vacation fees may be most expensive where timeshares are located and, unlike vacation clubs, there are typically no discounts for dining or attractions.

The third option: A second home

Best for those who want to own a home away from home
A graphic shares the benefits of second home ownership to consider while comparing the difference between a vacation club vs timeshare.
If owning a home sounds more appealing than owning time or restocking on membership points, consider buying a vacation home. A second home is typically a vacation home, separate from your primary residence. Unlike a timeshare, second home ownership can allow you to:
  • Visit multiple times a year. When you own a second home, you have more control over enjoying the space when it’s convenient for you and your family.
  • Potentially benefit from real estate ownership. Full and fractional ownership of a second home can result in an increase in equity and property appreciation.
  • Enjoy a streamlined resale process. When it’s time to sell your second home, you can list your home to interested buyers on reputable house-buying websites.
  • Relax in a real home. If hotels and resorts aren’t for you, enjoy the cozy comforts of staying in a one-of-a-kind second home.
With fractional ownership, you get to enjoy a second home during your vacation at a fraction of the cost. Pacaso's fully managed co-ownership model, however, takes it a step further. When you buy a Pacaso second home, you co-own a professionally designed, professionally maintained home in your destination of choice with none of the the hassles.The best vacation model for you and your family is ultimately up to your travel preferences and budgets. While weighing the pros and cons of a vacation clubs vs. a timeshare, consider the benefits of co-owning a second home. With Pacaso, owning and financing a fully-managed second home may be more attainable than you think. Try our second home calculator to see if luxury second home ownership is the right option for you.

Vacation club vs. timeshare FAQ

What is a timeshare vacation?

A timeshare is a shared vacation model that allows purchasers to enjoy a vacation property for a set period every year. A timeshare vacation offers consistency for those who want to enjoy the same destination once a year.

What is a better option than timeshare travel?

Owning a second home is a potentially better option than timeshare travel since you can visit your vacation home multiple times a year. Turnkey fractional ownership models are good for those who want deeded ownership.

Which offers the best value for money?

In general, a timeshare may be the cheaper option compared to a vacation club. Both vacation styles have luxury options that can make them more expensive. In terms of recurring costs. Timeshare maintenance fees and vacation club membership fees can increase yearly. Second homes, however, are real estate assets that have the potential to appreciate in value. 

Are timeshares or vacation clubs worth it?

Although vacation clubs offer discounts to nearby attractions, their high membership fees and point systems may not make the savings worth it. Timeshares are notoriously difficult to sell, making them not worth it to some vacationers.

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