There are tons of ways to get free hotel nights. It’s incredible. And while most of us only focus on turning credit card rewards into amazing vacations, there are other ways folks! I mean ways outside of our circle, besides the big promotions and hotel Best Rate Guarantees. One way, outside of the normal ways to get free nights, would be Timeshare Presentations.
Lately people have shared stories with me about getting all kinds of free things including food or room and board. First let me explain a little bit about what a timeshare presentation is and how getting free stuff works.
“The arrangement whereby several joint owners have the right to use a property as a vacation home under a time-sharing scheme.”
Years ago I met a guy who really works the system to get timeshare rentals, which I’ll share more about in a later post. But I never really pursued it until recently.
Basically, hotels and hotel chains really want to sell you a longterm/lifetime commitment to their hotel. This is so profitable for them that they will actually pay you to sit through their sales pitches (that should be warning enough that it’s a bad sign for you). In fact, there are companies and individuals that make a living providing “leads” to the hotel. Meaning, that someone can get paid just by telling you about or taking you to the timeshare sales pitch. So you and the person who made the connection (a website or person off the street) get paid for sitting through this “90 minute” presentation.
So what do I get?
It can be a wide range of things. Show tickets, food vouchers, hotel nights, hotel discounts or even cash, all for just listening to the presentation.
How do I find these things?
That is a good question. Sometimes it’s pretty simple and sometimes it’s luck.
I heard that people at the concierge desk at a resort will sometimes invite you to a presentation. But I’m not sure how high percentage that is. So we’ll stick with strategies people can consistently score free things, food and travel with.
On the street
If you’re in touristy areas like Las Vegas, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Cancun, etc… These people will snatch you off the street. They might have a booth or a place set up on the main drag to grab “targetted” people. Again, these people are mostly commissioned and are more worried about getting people to the presentation and the hotel is more worried about doing the targeting.
You may be able to google “timeshare promotions” or “timeshare presentations” “in [Las Vegas]” or wherever you’re planning on going and see where these people lurk. Perhaps there will be a forum thread of people sharing their experiences and where they got scooped up.
There are a number of ways to find presentations online. This is also the best source that I’m aware of for securing your presentation ahead of time. These deals are usually discounts on the hotel giving the presentation. You can find all inclusive resorts for $50 a night for two adults. It’s not free but it’s still a good deal. I’ve never done an all inclusive (after all if you’re spending $100 a day in food in mexico, you are getting ripped off!), but food, drinks and lodging, all resort-quality for $50 a night is a great deal. At the cost of a “90 minute presentation.”
Erik in the comments has a great but simple tip: It’s not too hard to get a an offer, simply go to one of the major timeshare company web sites (Hilton Grand Vacations, Diamond International, Marriott Vacation Club, Starwood Vacation Network, etc.) and fill out their contact form. They may call you – if they do, ask about promo offers because you prefer to “try before you buy”.
The digital middle man
It’s the same middle man concept except online. There are companies that have a template to sell these presentations. Here is a great example.
First of all this is not a one day sale. The sale does not end in “12 hours, 21 minutes, 21 seconds”, it’s just a bunch of sales tactics. Everyday it will be the same deal for this hotel on this site.
At the bottom of the website you’ll find the terms and conditions, I guess it doesn’t hurt to read them but you have to call anyways and they’ll let you know if you qualify or not.
In this case the participants must be between the income levels of $30,000 – $60,000. And this example says that there is a daily $20 resort fee. Making the real price $70 a night. Still not bad… but I hate hidden fees! I wonder if you can call and bargain the rate down to $30 a day then, making the realistic price $50.
But there are other options but let me give some examples of this template style timeshare presentation seller.
I found these by googling the phone number on the above 5 star Cancun page:
Similarly I found these on google as well:
[side rant]: Vacation People is my favorite. Not because of the deals but because it’s such a good attempt at pretending to be a real hotel site. They have a fake calendar set up to show unlimited availability. It’s to prove that your timeshare can be used whenever. They even have a preloader .gif to the calendar (that I copied and put below) that makes it look like the calendar is actually checking availability. When it’s just a calendar that shows green for every date ever. No searching is involved. [/side rant]
Online Classifieds and Auctions
Ebay and Craigslist are also good ways to find presentations. In touristy resort areas like Cancun you can try searching Ebay with the following format: [Location] and words like “presentation”, “90 minutes”, “all inclusive”, or “resort”. You can also check different Ebay categories like “travel packages” and use broader words in your search.
If you see a great deal and are interested in related locations try viewing that seller’s profile and their other items for sale. Even on the Ebay results the person selling often pretends to be personal, when really they are just selling leads, chances are they’ll have multiple options.
Make sure you know whether the price is nightly or for the entire stay.
This happened to me when I was in Queenstown, New Zealand. I was at the Crowne Plaza and liked the Hilton better so wanted to switch back, so I called the Hilton (because PC doesn’t give free internet to Plats). Deals online were awesome! Like $60 a night but over the phone the rate was much higher so I backed out and said I’d book online instead (at a nearby coffee shop). But before I hung up I was given the pitch, “would you like ‘X’ amount of miles for learning more about Hilton vacations?” Sure.
Who they target
In general they look for married couples above the age of 35. I’ve seen a few pages that suggest that the “wife” needs to be present. Maybe they feel it’s easier to take advantage of the kinder gender. And the real reason they target people 35 or above is it’s their best guess as to who is financially secure. I guess they assume that the majority of the time you can assume someone in their 20s is not financially secure.
They also might ask your income as they are looking for people who are financially secure. One inside source said they targeted people with incomes above $50,000 a year. With my experience calling Hilton it was very apparent that they were targeting people who make more than $80,000 a year. On the phone they quick asked me some preliminary questions to figure out if I qualified. The “questions” were… “how much money do you make a year”. There were four choices and the first option was “under $80,000 a year”. Either they wanted to a tactful way to figure out if I made under $80,000 and gave four options as an illusion, or they would do further sales pitch targeting based on your income. Either way, I was given the boot and a slight points compensation after revealing my income was indeed in the first category.
Warning and things to remember
First of all, if you are buying online, make sure you read what it is you’re buying. It’s good to know when you can use it and also good to know of any restrictions.
Do not buy a timeshare! They will use every sales tactic to make it seem like a good idea and that you should buy now, but it’s not a good idea and you don’t need to buy now. Whether you’re looking at a timeshare site or listening to a presentation remember this: it is not a one day sale, it will be the same price tomorrow.
I’ve heard horor stories as to how long the “90 minutes” lasts when the prize is given after the presentation. At least if you book online you already have your room and aren’t expecting any more goodies. But still the presenters do often give hard sells. I’ve heard two strategies going in: First, just say you’re not going to buy upfront and that you’re not interested in the pitch but only in the prize. Maybe even say that you would never buy without thinking about it for a week and that you don’t believe the scarcity sales pitch (that it won’t be here tomorrow). Others have said that acting interested makes the sales pitch softer as the presenter thinks the sale is in the bag. I kind of prefer the first, more honest approach as the presenters are commission pay and should have the option to not waste their breath. Win win.
Christian (a regular reader and friend I got to meet recently) was telling me about his hilarious experience in the timeshare sales pitch. When it came time to close the deal they got serious and asked him how much he spent on travel a year. Their next question was how often- when he told them about all the international destinations he and his family of four had gone to on the price he mentioned, they thought he was being goofy. So they started to ask him how he does it and by the end of it they were taking notes! “I’m going to email you later!” They told him as he walked out.
I want people to feel free to comment any tips or experiences they have had in getting great deals from sitting through timeshare sales pitches. If you have anything to add that could help other people interested in the subject, including links and places to check out, add them below.
My honest recommendation
This is not the best way to get free or cheap travel. Generally the rates are only discounted and the pitch can be intense. I’m currently spending two weeks at a 5 star luxury hotel and it’s completely free. As I always say, miles and points can be acquired cheaper and used better. One great credit card signup bonus could earn enough for a free week at a hotel (or better yet an international flight). Seriously, if I have a good credit score and can get good signup bonuses, why in the world would I suffer through a timeshare presentation? If I have credit cards that earn points and I can find sneaky ways to rack up spends on gift cards I can turn into cash, why would I do a timeshare? In short, I will give it a try, but I will never see this being as beneficial as collecting miles and points, and learning how to use them. But if it works for you, maybe I can learn from it.
Update: I do not have contacts to any hotel, resort or organization that does timeshares. I just used Dr. Google and put together a post on it. I specialize in using rewards points from the best credit cards and promotions, and using them to book dream trips. If you would like to find a presentation, I’m afraid I can’t help anymore than the post above and the comments below.