Story originally appeared on Marriott Vacation Club.

Guest Experiences Travel Tips

Weeks or Points: It’s probably the biggest question that long-term Marriott Vacation Club Owners ask themselves each year.

Those of us who joined prior to the launch of the points-based program in 2010 have a certain comfort level — if not nostalgia — for our resort weeks. After all, it was the allure of owning a week at our home resort (in my case, Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club) that drew us to the program in the first place.

But while both Weeks and Vacation Club Points have their merits, my wife and I have discovered that we prefer the flexibility of using Vacation Club Points.

Becoming an Owner

Owning timeshare weeks, of course, had been the industry standard since the first vacation ownership program was launched in the 1960s. In fact, the reason my wife and I were in Aruba in the summer of 2009 was for a family reunion at a different timeshare resort, where my father-in-law was a longtime owner. We randomly crossed paths with a Marriott Vacation Club sales executive during a stroll down Palm Beach, and he tempted us with the promise of dinner at a favorite local restaurant in exchange for attending a sales presentation.

The low-pressure pitch, our admiration for the Marriott brand, the enticement of a free week to use at any Marriott Vacation Club resort, and a recent financial windfall combined to make it the perfect time for us to become Owners. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we loved to travel and had relatives who talked up the benefits of having a timeshare!

Learning the Ropes

At the time, we had visions of returning to Aruba year after year, much as my in-laws had done with their timeshare for more than 20 years. But eight years later, I still haven’t spent a night in my Aruba villa, although my wife has spent a couple of weeks there with friends.

Instead, we quickly became avid traders, swapping our Aruba week through Interval International for stays all over the U.S. and the Caribbean, from Williamsburg, Virginia for a family getaway to ski vacations at Marriott’s Timber Lodge in Lake Tahoe (a fantastic property right at the base of the Heavenly gondola). We spent a Caribbean winter escape at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove on St. Thomas, and took trips to the resorts in Palm Desert for the annual Indian Wells tennis tournament to cheer on Serena, Rafa, and Fed.

Deciding to Enroll

Like a lot of Owners, we were skeptical about the Vacation Club Points system when it was first pitched to us during our trip to St. Thomas. By enrolling in the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Exchange Program, we would have the option to elect to use Vacation Club Points every year toward resort stays, cruises, tours and other experiences — or use our week as we previously had. The flexibility was a big selling point, of course, but it seemed like we spent hours (and we probably did) grilling the sales executive to make sure we would be getting a good value. The clincher was learning that Aruba weeks were in high demand (and thus had a higher Vacation Club Points value than similar weeks at other Marriott Vacation Club resorts). That meant we could stretch our Points particularly far when staying at other resorts.

Over time, we’ve found that our Vacation Club Points are often a better value than trading our week. But there are exceptions to the rule: if we’re planning to stay at our home resort in the season we own (Aruba Platinum, in our case), it makes more sense to use our week rather than electing to use Vacation Club Points that year. But if we want to visit at a less popular time, we get increased value for our Vacation Club Points.

Making the Most of Vacation Club Points

So how have using Vacation Club Points benefitted us? Largely in our ability to stay somewhere for exactly as long as we want to (as long as we have enough Vacation Club Points, of course). We love Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, for example, but we prefer to stay four or five nights at Marriott’s Manor Club at Ford’s Colony, rather than a full week.

Likewise, living in Rhode Island, we enjoy using Vacation Club Points to spend a night or two at Marriott Vacation Club PulseSM at Custom House, Boston. The past few years, we’ve visited during the holiday season and could see Boston’s Christmas tree — in the festive plaza at Faneuil Hall —from our villa window.

The night in Boston is a great way for us to use up Vacation Club Points that may be left over in our account each year after we’ve taken a more ambitious adventure, such as our 30th anniversary trip to Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Looking Toward the Future

Even though we’ve become Vacation Club Points converts, we like the fact that as Owners we still have the option each year whether to keep our week or convert it to Vacation Club Points. On the other hand, we’re thinking about finally taking a week to visit our home resort in Aruba — after nearly a decade of ownership, this might finally be the year for us!

But the recent addition of a Marriott Vacation Club resort on Australia’s Gold Coast has us thinking about banking and borrowing our Vacation Club Points for the next few years for a multi-week dream trip in one of our favorite destinations. Having that option makes us feel like owners of our future, not just a timeshare unit!