Dad is a Disney Vacation Club member. My family joined the vacation club back in August 2010 and have made numerous trips to Walt Disney World staying in the vacation club’s villa style accommodations. Friends of mine always ask me, “How does the vacation club work? What benefits to I get with the vacation club? Is it worth the money?” Today, Dad is going to try to answer some of these questions which I’m sure will only lead to more questions.
Let’s start with the most basic question: What is Disney Vacation Club?
Disney Vacation Club is Walt Disney World/Disneyland timeshare program plain and simple. Whoa, Dad….it’s a timeshare?!?! I don’t like timeshares what makes Disney’s timeshare program different from others? First of all, Disney Vacation Club is points-based not time of year based. Members can choose when they want to go and how long their vacation is. They are not locked into the same week every year for the duration of the contract. The only exception to this is members have the option to purchase a week-long contract instead of points contract for the Grand Floridian Villas only. But for all other contracts, guests can purchase a certain number of points which they receive every year for the life of the contract.
How long is the contract?
The length of the contract is usually 50 years from when the resort opened not when a guest/member purchases their points. Contract expiry dates:
Beach Club, Boardwalk, Hilton Head, Old Key West, Vero Beach, Wilderness Lodge: 2042
Saratoga Springs: 2054
Animal Kingdom: 2057
Bay Lake Tower and Grand Californian: 2060
Grand Floridian: 2064
Are all of the resorts currently selling points? Disney Vacation Club has points for sale for all resorts (according to dvcnews.com). The price of the points vary by resort location:
Animal Kingdom: $155/point with a 100 point minimum
Aulani (Hawai’i): $155/points with a 100 point minimum – this resort has varying levels of incentives and “developer credits” based on the number of points purchased
Bay Lake Tower: $165/point with a 100 point minimum
Beach Club: $130/point with a 100 point minimum
Boardwalk: $130/point with a 100 point minimum
Hilton Head: $115/point with a 100 point minimum
Old Key West: $130/point with a 100 point minimum
Saratoga Springs: $130/point with a 100 point minimum
Vero Beach: $115/point with a 100 point minimum
Grand Californian: $165/point with a 100 point minimum
Grand Floridian: $155/point with a 100 point minimum
Wilderness Lodge: $130/point with a 100 point minimum
Disney Vacation Club is actively selling Bay Lake Tower (close to selling out), Aulani, Grand Californian, and Grand Floridian resorts. For all other resorts, you will have to ask your Vacation Club representative about availability and purchasing points.
Okay, I think I’m starting to understand this. How many points do I need for a stay? Points per night vary by resort, day of the week, and time of year. Weekends will cost more than weeknight and the more popular times of year will cost more points per night than the slower periods. A sample points chart for a resort:
There are five seasons starting with the least expensive Adventure Season moving up to the most expensive Premier Season. Naturally, a larger one or two bedroom villa is going to cost more than a studio. A typical week-long vacation is going to cost, somewhere, between 180-210 points.
Ok, 180 points multiplied by $165 per point….that’s almost $30,000 to purchase a contact. Do I have to pay that all at once? That’s like buying a new car?!?!
You do not have to pay for the entire contract at once. Disney does have financing available for potential members and requires, a minimum, 10% down payment to buy a contract.
What do I get for this contract?
Members never have to worry about paying for a room reservation again for the life of the contract. Their only annual financial obligation is paying the annual dues which is goes to the upkeep of the resort. Again, the annual dues vary by resort. These annual dues can be paid monthly via electronic withdrawal. Members can also have the financed portion of their contract paid via electronic withdrawal.
This sounds expensive? Am I getting a good deal here?
If you go every year or every other year AND usually stay in deluxe resorts, you are getting a good deal. If you like to stay in moderate or value resorts or not go very often, then you won’t be getting a good deal. Once you factor in the cost of the deluxe room a guest usually stays in and go out into the future, most members will break even on their contract somewhere between their 5th and 7th stay. After that, you only have to worry about the annual dues which for a “smallish” contract of 160 point comes to costing one-nights accommodations in a one-bedroom. I look at as I’m paying for one night and getting five or six nights for free for my family’s usual week-long or six night stays. Now, to me, that is a good deal once I break even on the contract which is rapidly approaching.
If I join, what benefits does Disney provide me?
- Villa-style accommodations for the life of the contract
- The opportunity to purchase park tickets and annual passes at a reduced rate
- 10% discount on all merchandise purchases
- 10 to 20% discount, when paying cash, at select restaurants on Disney property
- 10 to 35% discount on recreational activities (golf, Richard Petty Driving Experience, Sammy Duvall Watersports Center, bike rentals, etc.)
- 10 to 20% discount at the Disney spas
Am I eligible for the Disney Dining Plan?
Yes. Guests staying on vacation club points reservations are eligible for the dining plan.
If Disney has a free dining promotion, am I eligible for that?
No. Guests staying on vacation club points reservations are not eligible for the free dining promotion. Guests must stay on a cash reservation to have free dining eligibility.
Ok, I think I’m starting to figure this whole thing out? How do I go about making a reservation once I become a member?
A member can make a reservation either through the Disney Vacation Club website or by calling Member Services. There is a two-tiered process for making a reservation. A member can make a reservation at their “home resort” 11 months before their vacation starts. A member’s “home resort” is the resort where they purchased their contract. For example, if a member bought points at Grand Floridian, then the Grand Floridian is their “home resort.” Members can make reservations at all other resorts starting at 7 months before the start of their vacation.
If there is no availability at a resort, a member can put themselves on the wait list. How long a member is on the wait list can vary from reservation to reservation. I been on the wait list for as short as 30 minutes and as long as four months (at which point I forgot I was on the wait list).
When does my year start? Do all contract starts on January 1st?
You can choose, to an extent, when your contract starts and no, not all contracts start on January 1st. Typically, your “use year” starts in the closest month to when your purchased your contract or you can ask you vacation club representative to start your contract in a particular month but not all requests will be granted. The best way to think about it is, if you hold a March “use year”, then March 1st is your January 1st for vacation club purposes.
What happens if I need more points? What happens if I don’t use all my points.
Members can “bank” up to one full year’s worth of points for one year. They can also “borrow” one full year’s worth of points for one year. The largest amount of points that a member can have active, in any one year, is three year’s worth of points.
When you “bank” points, they only remain in your account for one year. After that one year, they disappear from your account and go unused.
What do these resorts look like? What kind of accommodations will I be staying in?
Dad did an excellent blog post a couple of weeks ago which details these resorts. This post has room size, how many people can stay in the resort, and what the room includes. All villas, except for studios, include a washer and dryer as well as a full kitchen.
Thanks for providing me with the basics, Dad. Where can I go to get more information? There are many places. My family used the following resources when making our decision.
http://www.dvcnews.com – This is an excellent website which does a great job of breaking down the costs involved in a DVC membership.
http://www.passporterstore.com/store/dvcguideprint.aspx – The book is available in both paperback and as an e-book. I was lucky enough to find one in paperback at my local bookstore. Great information in here as well.
What if I am in Disney? Can I get more information down there?
Of course. Disney has Disney Vacation Club booth throughout the parks and resorts. After talking with a representative at one of these booths, they will schedule a tour at “Disney Vacation Club HQ” where can you can a tour of a sample room and answer any questions that you may have.
After the tour and a discussion of membership with the DVC representative, potential membership will receive something for taking the tour. It varies from day-to-day and has been as little as free ice cream to as nice as three instant Fastpasses per person who took the tour – children have received these Fastpasses provided they came to HQ but didn’t go on the tour.
WORD OF WARNING: These Fastpasses were given under the old Fastpass system. I have had not heard whether or not this perk is able to be given under the new Fastpass+ system.
I hope this answers some of the most common questions that people have asked me about the Disney Vacation Club. If after reading this you have more questions than answers, please don’t hesitate to track Dad down and ask.
Keep it mind that this is a big commitment. It is purchasing a new car in terms of price. There are ways to try it out before you go all in. You can pay cash for a reservation in a villa but these can be expensive. Another way is to rent points from a member or through a rental agency.
WORD OF WARNING #2: Only rent points from a member that you trust or from a reputable rental agency. Dad has rented points through David’s DVC Rentals: http://www.dvcrequest.com/. Points cost $14/point to rent through them and is a good way to find out if Disney’s Vacation Club is right for you and your family.
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Thanks for reading!