Disney Vacation Club, or DVC for short, is the Disney version of a time share. You purchase a certain number of “points” on a contract that lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 years. You can use the points to book rooms at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and several other Disney “beach” properties (one in Hawaii, one in Vero Beach, and one in Hilton Head). The program differs somewhat from traditional timeshares in that you are not locked into a specific week each year. Points can be used at any time of the year and reservations can be booked with as little as 24 hours notice.
We have been DVC members since 1994. My family purchased a contract at Old Key West, which was the one and only DVC property at the time. This makes Old Key West our “home resort” and allows us to book vacations there as far as 11 months out. We can book all other DVC properties no more than 7 months out. In addition to the initial one time investment, we pay a yearly maintenance fee, called “annual dues”, which is based on the number of points we currently own.
Many people have asked me questions regarding my feelings about the “value” of DVC membership, since it is often touted as a way to save money on your Disney vacations. The value is highly dependent on the size of your family, the frequency and lengths of your visits, and the type of accommodations you prefer. Are you thinking about joining the Club? I have compiled a list of considerations that may help with your decision.
1. Accommodation Preferences
If you are perfectly satisfied staying at the Value resorts when you vacation at Disney, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) membership will never make “financial” sense. However, if you are accustomed to or would prefer staying at one of the Deluxe resorts, then you may realize considerable “savings” off rack room rate. The annual dues alone, on an average number of contract points (let’s say 200), is going to range between $1000 and $2000 depending on your home resort. With a promotional room discount at a Value resort, a one week vacation in a studio that sleeps 4 people will cost you about $550. However, a studio at Old Key West during the same week with the promotional room discount will cost $1550. The studios at Old Key West are larger and Deluxe hotels feature many amenities that the Value resorts do not (larger/nicer pools, table service restaurants, use of free laundry facilities). But if you don’t care about those things or don’t plan to make use of them, it might not make a difference to you.
2. Frequency of Travel
Do you travel or plan to travel to a DVC resort at least once a year? If not, DVC may not make sense for your family. Since you are paying that substantial fee for your annual dues, you’ll certainly want to get your money’s worth by making at least an annual visit. The exact number of days you can vacation depends on the type of accommodations you select and the time of year you visit. Let’s use 200 points as an example contract amount. That would be enough points for as many as 20 days in the “value” studio at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge during “Adventure Season” (January, September, and the first half of December). On the other hand, if you wanted to stay at the newest DVC resort, Bay Lake Tower, it would only be enough points for 13 days in a studio during the same season. The point “cost” per night goes up dramatically during peak Disney seasons like Christmas week, Easter week, and mid-June through mid-August. The point cost per night also increases as the size of the accommodations increases. For example, a two-bedroom villa at Old Key West, which sleeps up to nine people and includes a full kitchen, has a weekly rate of 296 points in the summer months.
If for some reason you do not use all of your points in a given year, you are able to “bank” the leftover points for use during the following year. You can also borrow points from the upcoming year. This is very helpful if you have plans to bring a large group to Disney for a family reunion or other gathering and need more points than you have available in your yearly allotment.
3. Financial Ability
The initial investment for a DVC contract is substantial. There is a minimum purchase of 100 points, and the per-point cost will likely be somewhere in the neighborhood of $140 if you buy directly from Disney. Bottom line: do you have $15,000 laying around to invest in a pre-paid vacation plan? There are opportunities to finance the initial investment, but the money paid out in interest would quickly eradicate any potential savings.
There is a resale market for DVC points which may help you realize significant savings on per-point costs. But the savings here only applies to the initial investment. Annual dues for the length of the contract are fixed by Disney regardless of where you purchased your points.
DVC members are eligible for discounts of 10 to 20 percent at many restaurants and shops around the Disney resorts. They also get discounts on many of what I like to call Disney “extras”, like golf, water sports, tours, equine activities, and spa treatments. DVC members are permitted to “pool hop” at most of the other Walt Disney World resort pools and are eligible to purchase a “Tables in Wonderland” card, which entitles the holder to a 20 percent discount off any food or drinks (including alcoholic beverages) for themselves and up to 9 guests at participating Walt Disney World resort restaurants. There are also special events like Member Night at Splitsville, exclusive member cruises, and a Fireworks Cruise on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
5. The Intangibles
The decision to become a DVC member is not one to be taken lightly. It is a large commitment of both time and money. If you are considering an investment in Disney Vacation Club, I encourage you to do lots of research and crunch the numbers to see if it makes financial sense for your family.
But here is the bottom line: DVC membership is more than just an investment in your future vacations. It’s an investment in “The Happiest Place on Earth” and all the happiness it brings your family. It’s an investment in the joy you feel while being greeted at your resort hotel with the words “Welcome Home”. It’s an investment in the Magic that is Disney. And you can’t put a price tag on that.
Are you a DVC member? Share your comments and ideas on this opportunity through Disney in the comments below.