So, you went on a Disney Vacation and fell in love with the magic. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. You know you’re family is going to want to keep going, but Disney is expensive! Then you remember seeing the DVC kiosks scattered around the parks and wondering what those were. Maybe you remember tuning into the DVC channel in your room where they play the endless infomercial over and over. To be fair, I actually really enjoy watching that infomercial and we are DVC members! Disney Vacation Club (DVC) can be pretty complex, especially when you start talking about strategies on using points and use-years. Today, I’m going to explain what Disney Vacation Club is and the basics on how it works. As we continue to post about DVC, I will explain the more complex subjects and why you might want to understand them a little more before you buy. Let’s get started.
DVC is Disney’s version of a timeshare, but it works a little differently. If you are familiar with a traditional timeshare, you know that you will typically purchase a guaranteed week at a given resort. Then, you can trade that week for others if they are available. With DVC, however, you purchase points. The points are purchased in bulk in what is called a “contract” (usually round numbers like 25, 50, 100, 150, etc.). Once you have your contract, you get that number of points every year until the contract expires (typically 50 years from when the resort originally opened). The points are then traded in for resort stays (no, you do not have to use your points at the same resort you purchased them at – more on this later). Think of the points like cash. Just like each Disney resort room costs a set amount based on its size, location, time of year, and amenities (i.e., do you see the Magic Kingdom outside your window or a parking lot), DVC resort rooms costs a set number of points per night. That’s it. It really is that simple. So, why is this so confusing?
When you purchase a DVC contract, it will cost you in two ways. First, you have to pay for the contract purchase. This cost is a one-time fee and is charged per-point. Currently, the newest DVC resorts cost $176 per point to purchase new contracts. Are you starting to mentally do the math? That’s right, if you want a 100-point contract at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins, it will cost you $17,600. You can finance this through DVC or pay cash, your choice. Second, you have to pay maintenance fees (also called “annual dues”). That’s right, you are a partial owner in the property and must pay for its upkeep. Every year, you will be responsible for paying another per-point fee for maintenance of the resort. This fee is considerably smaller and varies by resort. For instance at Copper Creek, the current annual dues are $7.3296 per point. So, with that 100-point contract, you will be paying nearly $733 per year. Oh, and they typically go up marginally every year. You do have the option of paying annual dues monthly and spreading the cost out interest-free through DVC.
So now you might be wondering how do I use points and how many do I need? Well, the answer here is not that simple. Point requirements vary just like room prices do. It will take considerably more points to stay in a three bedroom grand villa at Bay Lake Tower on New Year’s Eve than it will to stay in a studio three weeks later in the middle of the week. Weekends cost more points than weekdays, park and lake views cost more points than parking lot views, and so on. The easiest way to figure out how many points you need is to go to this link: https://disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com/destinations/list/dvc-resorts/
There you will find the point charts. Do some digging and see when you would want to go, how many nights you would stay, what amenities you want, and how big of a room you need.
Home Resort Advantage
If you have ever heard a Disney Vacation Club member talk about their “home resort,” they are talking about the resort that their points are assigned to. This is the resort where they have partial ownership and it’s the resort on their contract. The home resort advantage means that DVC members are able to book rooms 11 months prior to their vacation at their home resort. They are only able to book rooms at other resorts using their points 7-months prior. DVC does not restrict you from using your points at any of the Disney Vacation Club resorts, but they want to make sure the members that own at each resort have first choice of availability. In busy seasons, it can be quite challenging to get a good room at a popular resort unless you have the home resort advantage. Like to go to Food & Wine? You might want your home resort to be on the Boardwalk, close to Epcot. Like walking to the Magic Kingdom on Christmas? You need to consider Bay Lake Tower. Did I mention that many DVC rooms include a full kitchen and living area? Here is our 1-bedroom room in Bay Lake Tower.
Banking and Borrowing
Here’s where it starts to get a little confusing with Disney Vacation Club. So, for the purpose of this post I’m going to keep it high-level. You are able to use up to a total of three years’ combined points for any one vacation. You can bank you points from this year into next year and you are able to borrow points from next year into this year. Let’s put this in an example and assume we went ahead and bought 100 points at Copper Creek in 2017. If I bank all 100 points from 2017 into 2018 and then borrow 100 points from 2019 into 2018, I could book a vacation for 300 points in 2018 (100 points from 2017, 2018, and 2019). That is the perfect way to not have to buy a ton of points and have a great vacation every few years. I’ll save strategies for doing this for future posts. For now, though, just know it is possible.
How to Book
This is one of the coolest parts. Disney’s online resort availability tool is really neat. You login, plug in your desired dates and room sizes and it will show you which resorts can accommodate you. Then, you book from your computer, without ever having to talk to guest services. It’s awesome.
Is it Worth It?
Is Disney Vacation Club worth it? It depends. Yes, I know. That is not a great answer, but let me explain. First, you can save money. Assuming you would take the same number of vacations as many times as you will after owning DVC, you will definitely save money. Second, I’m not sure we will ever save money. For us, we don’t space out our points in order to really “save” money. We just get bigger rooms, invite family to come with us, and go more often. And yes, we love it! Finally, don’t think you’re going to use your points on the extras outlined in the next section. It’s a horrible value and a bad use of points.
When people ask me if it’s worth it, I liken Disney Vacation Club to the dining plan. If you were going to pay full price and get the same amount of food, then yes you will save money. Looking back at DVC, if you are only going to use points for what you would have paid regular Disney prices for anyway (and don’t upgrade rooms, resorts, invite friends, etc.), then yes. You will save money. So, how do you plan to do Disney?
What are the extras? First, I have to tell you that Disney recently changed their policies. Extras are only available to customers who purchase from Disney directly. They are not available to resale owners (more on this next). Because these benefits change so often, I’m going to link to them here: https://disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com/discounts-perks-offers/. These include discounts, special events, and DVC merchandise.
In addition to these benefits, direct purchase DVC members can use their points for other vacations such as Disney Cruises and Adventures by Disney. However, as I said earlier, this is not a good use of points. So, I’m not going to elaborate on that here. Finally, DVC members can use the DVC lounge in Epcot (a cool place to get free soft drinks and snacks!) and the Top of the World Lounge (a nice bar on top of Bay Lake Tower with a view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks). These are really nice perks! Here we are at Top of the World Lounge.
Direct Purchase or Resale?
We have two Disney Vacation Club contracts and we bought them both resale. Why? Well, they were less than half the price! Resale is an option that Disney does not like people to know about. However, like with any real estate transaction, people can sell their ownership to other people. Now, the good thing about DVC is that it tends to hold value much better than other timeshares and there is a resale market for it. The bad thing for direct purchasers is that it doesn’t hold value that well. I will go into resale purchase strategies in a future post, but just know it is an option.
That’s the high-level overview on what Disney Vacation Club is and how it works. Are you DVC owners or do you want to be? We would love to hear from you and how your experience has been!