I often see vacation deals for places like Mexico or Hawaii that seem too good to be true.
The catch is, in return for the cheap price, you must sit through a timeshare presentation.
I finally booked one: $399 for five days at an all-inclusive Mexico resort. Here's how it went.
Budget is always top of mind when it comes to planning travel, and I'm always looking for deals for me, my husband, and our first-grade daughter. After two years of parenting during a pandemic, we were all eager to get away.
So when a Facebook ad popped up offering five days at an all-inclusive Mexico resort for $399, I clicked. The idea of a vacation that required no cooking sounded amazing, and the price was cheaper than I'd hoped.
My husband, always the skeptic, thought it sounded too good to be true, asking, "What's the catch?"
He was right - there was one.
We'd have to sit through a two-hour timeshare presentation to receive the deal. The tradeoff seemed worth it: five days in Playa Del Carmen at the four-star Blue Bay Grand Esmeralda hotel with two pools and unlimited food and alcohol.
I booked the deal and crossed my fingers that it was real. And it was - but not everything went as expected. Here's what it was like.
Our all-inclusive Mexico resort was better than expected … but we had very low expectations
When we landed in Mexico, both my husband and I feared there would be no one waiting for us, that our room would be dingy, or that the whole deal would be a hoax.
But someone was waiting at the airport to take us to the hotel, which was about an hour south of Cancun. There, we found an open-air lobby that was low-lit and filled with plants, and friendly staff took us in a golf cart to our room on the other edge of the property, where an iguana and a deer crossed our paths.
Then came the moment of truth: our room. It was simple with two queen beds, a terrace overlooking palm trees, and a fridge filled with soft drinks and water.
As we walked to the breakfast buffet the next day, some details made me think the property was a bit dated (the club area had photos of Magnum PI and Elvis), and I noticed that the beach was full of seaweed. But we couldn't complain. Maybe other all-inclusive resorts were fancier with finer food, but I was happy I didn't have to cook and my daughter couldn't believe she could have unlimited dessert.
Eventually, we had to attend the timeshare presentation.
The timeshare presentation was back in Cancun, and would take at least four hours with travel. The hotel started to pester me to schedule it from the moment we arrived, and wanted us to come the first day, but I held them off until day three when it rained.
The presentation was at a lavish resort with stunning crystalline pools that made our hotel look shabby. Of course, to use them, we'd be required to spend $100,000 on a timeshare there.
They then took us to the sales room, where every few minutes a bell rang signaling that someone had signed a deal. I pretended to take notes on my computer while Googling, "How to get out of a timeshare presentation."
We turned down their deal to buy into the swanky surroundings, but before leaving, they sent us to a cramped room to book our ride back to our hotel and foisted one last sales pitch: for $3,000, we would get three vacations for the next three years, plus a stay on this gorgeous property in Cancun.
"Not bad," my husband said, wanting to purchase the offer. "Think about it - that would take care of our winter break, and we can get our summer vacation for free," he said.
But on the hour-long drive back, I became the cynical one. Reading the fine print, I saw that the Cancun property was under construction and they could not tell us in advance how much we'd have to pay for a stay in summer season, which would come in addition to the $3,000, or which properties would actually be available when we wanted to travel.
I wasn't ready to commit and convinced my husband to walk away from the offer.
I would give up a vacation day to attend a timeshare presentation again, in exchange for a cheap deal
With travel prices growing astronomically high, I'm still on the hunt for cheap vacations, especially all-inclusive resorts. The lack of planning and cooking felt priceless, and to me, the long presentation was worth it for the cheap deal.
I'll gladly sit through another timeshare presentation in exchange for a cheap price and will definitely will book another one of these deals - as long as my husband promises to not buy a timeshare.