I’ve long been frustrated by the vacation ownership, by its expense and inefficiencies. “Owning your vacations can consist of having a second full-ownership home, like a cabin at the lake or a condo in Mexico.  Or it can involve timeshare or “fractional”, as it seems to be more politically correct to say these days. There’s also destination clubs (usually more the quite affluent) and owning a condo/hotel unit (the rent it while you are not using it. The all have their advantages, but they certainly have their disadvantages as well. Unfortunately you here all about the advantages up front, and only the disadvantages once you’ve owned it for awhile.

While the concept of timeshare is a good one, when you factor in how it is marketed, and consider the discrepancies (truth) between what they say the benefits/costs are and what they actually are, you end up with an system that’s expensive, complicated to use and certainly difficult to re-sell. You don’t have control, the developer or resort manager does. However, don’t get me wrong, timeshare does work well for some people. If you need to be pushed to go on vacation, having a timeshare that comes up for use every year, works well. Or if you have trouble saving for a vacation, buying a timeshare is a manner of forced savings and vacationing. But for the serious traveler, the nomadic retired traveler, it isn’t a good fit.

Owning a full-time condo or house as a second or vacation home at least keeps you out of the system of timeshare, but you are locked in to returning to the same place everywhere (which is just fine for some, not for others), and the bills of paying for something 12 months of the year when maybe you use it for only two. Drive through a resort development in the off-season and all you see are hundreds of empty units. For some destinations they are empty for more than half of the year. It’s not a very efficient or cost effective way to manage your vacation time.

Until recently the hotel industry was operated in a similar manner. The travel industry could direct and manage you through travel agents, about the only practical way you could organize your vacation time. Remember those days? They were an indispensable part of any vacation you took. But the Internet revolutionized that. Now we can contact airlines and hotels. We can gather an enormous amount of information about thousands of destinations, without having to rely on one person’s personal experience, however valuable it may have been. When it comes to hotel accommodation, as much as the hotel industry doesn’t like it, we are now in the driver’s seat.

Most recently the Internet now allows full-time vacation owners to get some of the advantages that in the past have only been available to timeshare while still retaining sole ownership and the ability to sell at least for what you bought it for in most cases. You can exchange your home, (homeexchange.com) or you can rent it out (VRBO, Homeaway), although I’m starting to have some reservations about some of these services, for the most part, they still work well. Homeexchange.com remains true to it roots and it an excellent service to use (here’s a great article/testimonial about using home exchange services). Here’s another great article and quote: My wife, Carol, and I had never traveled outside North America until we were 60. We were busy putting children through college and with my business. Then, we started with one-week trips to London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Tokyo. In short, we caught the travel bug—and decided that when I retired, at 65, we would travel overseas as much as possible. This is our lifestyle: spending about five months each year in foreign countries. We do it by exchanging our two-bedroom condo in San Diego with people living in other countries.

These are services that can allow us to exchange our home for one elsewhere at no cost (or for just the cost of joining the exchange service), or rent your home out and then use the funds to rent something else, somewhere else in the world. But you’ve got to work these systems, pay attention, do you homework. It can involve a lot of work.

So what’s  best?

Depends on a lot of things. The stage of life you are at. How much you want to vacation.  How much time you have to dedicate to planning, or enjoy planning.

If it’s just to get away from it all, a break from the rat race, a much deserved break from you job, then going with the traditional form of travel planning (travel agent or online travel site) works best.

Homeownership for Rental & Exchange

Owning a condominium or an apartment, and then putting it up for exchange or rental can be a very good option. Renting can help pay for the cost of the unit, at least the maintenance costs. And exchanging it can allow you to have a similar property somewhere else in the world. If you are interested in doing so, keep the following in mind:

  1. Location. Your property has to be located somewhere that other people want to go to. Like Hawaii, or Paris, at the top of the list. Sorry, but not a lot of people are interested in exchange for Wisconsin or Manitoba.
  2. Region. Once you’ve chosen a highly-desirable location, you want to make sure that people like the neighborhood or region you are situated in. If it’s a beach location, people want to be on the beach. If it’s Paris, they don’t be outside the périphérique (outside the city downtown area). You’ll have to pay more for this type of property, but you’ll get more exchanges and rentals.
  3. Secondary Home. It’s hard to rent your primary home (where are you going to live?). It’s difficult to exchange your primary home as you both then have to exchange at the same time. However, if it’s yours and their second home, you have the added flexibility to go anytime. You’d want Hawaii in the winter, but you’d want Paris in the summer. Exchanging secondary homes gives you this flexibility. As well, seasoned exchangers prefer not to live in people’s primary residence, with full closets, pictures of the family on the walls, a rental property with little to no personal items displayed, is more comfortable for most people.
  4. Management Company. If you do have a second home, and it’s not located near your primary home, then you’ll need to have someone to take care of the property, for both rentals and perhaps the exchanges. Someone has to ensure it is ready for living. We managed one property ourselves, but then it was located on the beach, about 45 minutes from our primary home. So it was possible to take care of, and it fulfilled the guidelines of the first three rules above.

If secondary homeownership is not in your budget, or what you want to do, but you want more from your vacation… if you want to explore, do something adventurous, to learn something, to come back from it a more evolved, informed person, then you should take matters into your own hands and use all the tools that the Internet can provide. Travel changes people. Meeting people from other cultures, experiences their cultures, allows us to grow. It also makes the world a better place.

For some assistance on how to go about this and utilize the Internet fully, check out this page.