If you haven’t heard about Disney Vacation Club, you aren’t alone. I’ve been going to Walt Disney World for decades, and for some reason it just never came up on my radar. After you know what it is, you do seem to notice the DVC sales booths and advertisements more. Every Disney Bus has a DVC advertisement on the back, at least everyone I have seen. Often times, it’s just in our best interest to clearly avoid anything sales related and just head the opposite direction. At least that is how it has been for me. After all, you don’t want to end up being talked into buying something you don’t need or want.
My husband and I discovered Disney Vacation Club partly because we had been taking vacations at WDW and paying cash out-of-pocket for hotel accommodations. Deluxe rooms are expensive, and the cost does add up quickly. For a couple of mini-vacations our yearly hotel expenditures was quickly approaching $3k, even with 30-40% passholder discounts applied, the room costs were still running about $225-245 a night on average. We had stayed at Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge, both in the deluxe category of Disney hotels. We tried switching to the value resort to be more frugal, we stayed at Pop Century and I hated it. Well, it was okay, but really when compared to WL or AKL, it just isn’t even close, in my opinion. The overcrowded parking lot, that feeling that it’s just a Disney motel with exterior room doors, and massive amounts of guests waiting for busses didn’t help.
I noticed the booths for Disney Vacation Club, but was not ready to have a conversation with a sales person. We happened to meet some people at ‘Ohana (Hawaiian Restaurant inside the Polynesian hotel at WDW). They were DVC members and they had been telling us about it. I was interested and started to do some research online, months had passed, and I was stumped. I still had some questions, and I had contacted the nice lady who we had dinner with at ‘Ohana, and she had explained a little more via email. There was some ambiguity over booking fees that I couldn’t figure out. Somewhere in the literature it said you would pay $95 per reservation, and I thought that would be horrible if each time you had to pay $95, there goes any savings you might have had. Turns out that booking fee applies when members are booking from other Collections, like Disney cruises, Adventures by Disney, or the Disney collection of hotels that are not DVC hotels. And the $95 booking fee also applies to RCI members (another timeshare) who are booking into DVC. If you are booking a DVC hotel with DVC points there is no booking fee. My biggest question was answered and everything started to fit together nicely.
Turns out you can buy DVC timeshares on the used market through real estate brokers that specialize in timeshares. I looked at multiple websites, scouring listings, checking yearly dues, timeshare expiration dates at each resorts, and made calculations. I decided Saratoga Springs would be the best resort to purchase our timeshare due to expiration date and relatively low dues. I found a contract listed that still had one whole year of additional points, the only catch – they would expire by Dec. 1st, and we were in late June, closing on a contract can take 60 days or more, which wouldn’t leave much time to use those points.
We had a relatively easy purchase, we may have paid slightly higher than what others have paid (I ended up finding a resale database on an online forum and saw that some people were paying less), but being our first time purchasing a timeshare, I think we did alright. Often times when people make lowball offers they end up losing the contract. Disney has the right of first refusal, if they think the deal is too low, they have the right to purchase it out from under the buyer and complete the transaction with the seller. This does happen sometimes. We made a solid offer and got the ball rolling quickly. The closing process took slightly longer than we had hoped, we ended up getting our member package around mid-September (closer to 2 1/2 months rather than the expected 2 month time frame). We still saved thousands as compared to buying direct. Since we purchased our DVC timeshare, the direct purchase point prices have increased several times – I believe they are somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 per point and when we purchased our resale contract I believe the new price was around $115. Everytime they raise the direct purchase price you will see a jump in the used market. So our timeshare actually increased in value.
We did get to use up all those extra points! We splurged on some awesome experiences, we had a theme park view of Magic Kingdom from Bay Lake Tower, we had several nights at Club Level at Animal Kingdom Lodge and tried the Savannah View as well. We stayed at Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, The Villas at Wilderness Lodge, a couple of nights with Boardwalk View at The Villas at Boardwalk Inn, and also at Beach Club Villas. The cost of those stays if out-of-pocket would have been at least $5500.
DVC uses a bank and borrow system, I guess this is pretty common in the industry. As long as you keep track of your points deadlines, you can save some points for the next year – by banking. And if you ever need extra points for a vacation this year you can borrow from next year’s allotment. Overall the online member website is easy to use.
The cancellation policy has worked for us, you can cancel up to the day before and still get your points back, although those points go into a “holding” category which you can only use for a stay within 60 days of the current date. That seems fair. I just recently had to cancel a stay the day before we were booked because I came down with something 2 days before our trip.
They also have something called a USE YEAR, this is the month of the year where you get your contract points. Our USE YEAR is December. This only becomes important if you are booking a vacation that crosses over the threshold of your use year. For instance, ours would be Nov. 30 – Dec. 1st, booking that is tricky because you have to book Nov. 30th separately from Dec. 1st. Other than that it might become an issue if you own multiple contracts because keeping track of your 11 month, 7 month, and Banking window might become confusing for different use years.
There are high seasons and low seasons during the year, certain months or holiday periods have increased point costs, and low seasons have reduced point costs. To determine your points needs, you would have to roughly figure out when you would be vacationing during the year and check out a points table for the resorts you want to stay at. Once you determine the points needed to stay at the resort and room type you need you can then start to look for a used contract or you could also buy direct from Disney Vacation Club.
Some of the benefits of buying direct, your purchase goes into effect immediately, you can start using it right away, no 60+ day closing process. You can use point for their different collections which I mentioned above, although doing that is not the best way to use those points monetarily. They may give you a few freebies when you join direct, I’ve seen a nice tote bag and a limited edition lithograph drawing of the resort, there may be other little things. When you own directly from DVC, you can go on the DVC member cruise they have on Disney Cruise line – you can pay cash for your cruise or use points (paying cash is the better way to go). If you bought a resale contract – you CAN NOT go on a member cruise…I know, that is a bummer. When you buy direct they sometimes offer some incentives, although it’s not very much sometimes between $5-7 off per point. When you buy used, you pay a lot less than new – AND you are limited to use your points only on DVC hotels. I knew this going into it and was okay with that, that was the reason we wanted DVC to stay at DVC hotels, we just wanted deluxe hotel accommodations at WDW.
They use an 11 month and 7 month window for booking. Home resort, in our case Saratoga Springs, we have reservation access for the 11 month window. For all other DVC resorts, it’s a 7 month window. Also, this seems fair as well. This gives priority to those who “own” at their home resort. I love Animal Kingdom Lodge, if we were ever to buy additional “points”, I would love to own at AKL. AKL recently sold out their inventory. If you ever want to buy direct from DVC you can purchase a new ownership at a sold out resort, by going on their waitlist, and they will eventually fill that order.
Since that first year, we have been back many times, and all we pay now is our yearly dues which are currently under $1000. As compared to the $3k+ we were spending out-of-pocket, we are now saving at least $2k per year, in a few more years we will have broken even on our timeshare and will still have 35 years left on it to enjoy it (expires 2054). I love owning a Disney timeshare, it is one of the best things we have ever purchased. We’ve met other DVC members and have made some new friends along the way. Plus, when you have a timeshare, it makes it easier to share with your friends and family. If we were spending out-of-pocket, there is no way we could afford to gift the equivalent of a $550-600/night Deluxe room to family or friends.
I highly recommend it for Florida Residents, we’re always a drive away from Walt Disney World, and booking is easy, cancellations are easy even with the 60 day holding category. There are some perks do being a DVC member, we get specially priced Annual Passes (so do Florida residents, but for those who live outside FL you are getting discounted prices). We also get some discounts on food and merchandise around the parks and hotels. We actually get pool hopping privileges during our vacation at a DVC hotel when staying on DVC points (see Portable Perks newsletter, block out dates apply, and certain pools are excluded from pool hopping). For the complete list of benefits check out the Portable Perks newsletter.
I just wish I knew about DVC when it first started, I would have jumped on that bandwagon in a heartbeat. Even if I had to finance the purchase, it would have been worth it to me. The first DVC members were treated to some very nice perks, free annual passes being one amazing perk for those DVC pioneers. Today DVC is expanding and building, a brand new DVC at the Polynesian Resort is in the works. There are rumors about a DVC expansion coming to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. I’m very excited about the new DVC resorts.
If you are ever at Walt Disney World, you can take a tour of the DVC showrooms, there are several ones to see. If you plan on visiting Disney for years to come with your family, it may be something you want to look into now, it could possibly save you money down the road. It really is one of the best kept secrets at Walt Disney World.
Thanks for reading.