Is Disney Vacation Club worth it? How does it work? We are exploring the pros and cons of membership and answering the most common questions about buying a Disney Vacation Club contract.
What IS Disney Vacation Club (DVC)?
The Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s answer to vacation time shares, and it’s a popular investment for many die-hard fans.
While typical time shares have you securing a finite amount of time per year at a location, the Disney timeshare is more flexible in allowing you to customize your use. Members buy a contract of “points” that are replenished each year. For example – my very first contract I bought was for 160 points at Bay Lake Tower in 2009 while the resort was under construction. At that time the price per point was approximately $112 USD per point (that was a good deal back then). Each year I pay maintenance fees for the resort and my 160 points are replenished. The length of my contract was for 50 years.
Please note that this article is my opinion and perspective and does not contain details of every aspect of Disney Vacation Club Membership. For full details you should refer to the offical DVC page.
Where can you use Disney Vacation Club points?
There are 3 collections available for your points to use.
- Disney Collection
- Concierge Collection
- World Collection – RCI Resorts
The Disney Collection
You can use your points at Disney Vacation Club Resorts such as Disney’s Beach Club, or Wilderness Lodge in Walt Disney World or Disney’s Grand Californian when visiting Disneyland. Aulani is a fantastic DVC resort in Ko Olina Hawaii or maybe you’d like a stay at Disney’s Hilton Head Resort in South Carolina.
This collection of hotels and resorts include a variety of spots from the Royal Garden in London England to the Fairmont hotels in Chicago and San Francisco.
World Collection – RCI Resorts
RCI is a large timeshare vacation exchange network that includes hotels in Spain, Indonesia, South Africa and Portugal. There is quite a variety of destinations in this collection.
For a full list of resorts you can check the official list here
Is it worth DVC if I’m not always staying in a Disney resort?
I have never used my points outside of a Disney resort. I think I would consider it if I needed to go somewhere else as a one off, but that isn’t the reason I bought it. If you’re an avid traveller who is always exploring different destinations – DVC is probably not what you need.
Using your points on a Disney Cruise is not the best use of your points either. The trade of points for a cruise is just not worth it and not a good value. If you’re a big Disney Cruiser – I wouldn’t buy DVC for that.
How many DVC points do I need for a week at Walt Disney World?
There are many variables that are considered in the point calculations:
- What time of year are you going?
- What type of room do you need?
- What resort are you staying at?
Points for a week at Walt Disney World examples:
Disney’s Bay Lake Tower Resort (Further info here)
- November 14-23, 2020
- Deluxe Studio Lake View Room
- 165 Points
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- March 7–13, 2021
- 1 Bedroom Villa – Savanna View
- 231 Points
Same week in a standard view at Kadani Village (no animal view) is 195 vacation points for the 1 bedroom.
Disney’s Riviera Resort (Further info here)
- February 7-13, 2021
- 2 Bedroom Villa – Preferred View
- 370 Points
And my BUCKET LIST stay…
Disney’s Bay Lake Tower
- February 7-13, 2021
- 3 Bedroom Grand Villa Theme Park View
- 754 Points
I quoted different weeks rather than spend the time searching for availability. Keep in mind this is just a guideline to give you an idea of what’s available and how many points are needed.
What are the different DVC room types?
You can use your points for rooms at the resorts that are not villas such as Disney’s Art of Animation or Disney’s Coronado Springs and have a room the same as if you were paying cash. The point are a bit high in my opinion if you’re not staying at a DVC resort, I don’t think it’s a good value.
In the DVC resorts, you generally have Studios and 1,2 and 3 bedroom units. They come in different variations and can be quite fancy such as the bungalows at the Polynesian Village Resort (starting at 115 points per night) or the Cabins at Copper Creek (starting at 87 points per night). While beautiful, you would need a very big contract if they were your desired accommodations each year.
Can you bank and borrow points?
Yes, but since I’m always in a state of “borrow” I can’t speak to the banking! I have bought 2 more contracts since my first 160 points and I now have 310. My sister also has 300 points and we still don’t have enough. We are usually borrowing from the next year. Why do we go through so many points? 2 reasons – we travel with bigger groups sometimes and need 2 bedrooms OR we can’t get a studio when we want to go for the length of our trip.
Is booking a DVC resort easy?
So you’ve bought your Disney Vacation Club and now want to book your stay – can you get what you want? Sometimes.
It is important that you buy your points at the resort that you would like to stay at most often, this makes it your “home resort”. You can book your home resort 11 months in advance while the other resorts you can only book 7 months ahead. If your home resort is NOT the Beach Club or Boardwalk, chances are slim that you will be able to get a reservation there during one of the EPCOT festivals when you try to book at the 7 month window. It’s even harder if you’re trying to get a studio as those are usually the first to go.
Given that I don’t like to plan 11 or even 7 months in advance, I really struggle when booking. We often end up with split stays (where we are in 2 or 3 different resorts in a week) OR we have to get a bigger room than we need (like a 1 bedroom for two of us). It’s not like I’m not booking the week before we go, it’s usually 3 or 4 months in advance, but I rarely get the resort I want for the full time I need. For many people they book at the 11 month mark and this isn’t an issue for them, but it really is for me. If you would like to go to Disneyland and use your DVC points? Let’s just say getting a reservation for a week at Disney’s Grand Californian is like winning the lottery at 7 months! There are some tricks that require getting 1 day at a time in advance and then each day try and get another (I think they call it walking the reservation?). I have heard it works sometimes – but I think it’s a lot of effort.
Does Disney Vacation Club save you money?
It depends. I wish I had a straightforward answer for this but it’s different for everyone and so many factors to consider. If you need to finance the initial purchase the interest will add to your upfront cost and the yearly maintenance fees add to the investment as well. The maintenance fees are calculated per point, the bigger the contract – the more the fees will be. Try doing the math over the length of the contract and include the increase in fees each year. If you’re buying resale make sure you understand how many years in the contract and what perks you get with that purchase.
You also should consider where you would stay normally vs where you have to stay for your points to realize their value. If you would normally visit when Disney has a promotion and get a 20% room discount at Disney’s Pop Century or Port Orleans Resorts – spending points on a 1 bedroom at the Beach Club is not a fair trade. Yes, you will be staying in deluxe accommodations, but you are still paying for them with your points. Due to availability you can end up staying in a bigger room than you need or staying somewhere you really didn’t want to stay. Consider the time of year you normally go, could you maximize regular promotions or is it a slower season where. your DVC points could be utilized properly.
Are there perks to owning Disney Vacation Club?
YES – there are some great perks. I definitely make the most of the Annual Pass discount that is offered to DVC members! There are food and merchandise discounts as well, sometimes as much as 20% which can be a big savings if you’re a shopper like me. The tours in the parks also have discounts, we have done Caring for Giants more times than I want to count as a result.
There are special “Member Cruises” on Disney Cruise Line specific for DVC members as well as events like “Moonlight Magic” where a park is open late for DVC members only or previews when new things are opening. I have only ever managed to get to a couple of these because my vacations didn’t line up properly OR I couldn’t get a ticket. I was thrilled to get to the Animal Kingdom one for Pandora opening and getting a sneak peek there. These events are limited capacity, so you’re not always guaranteed a spot at the DVC events. I like to consider them an added bonus – but I wouldn’t factor them in to my purchase decision unless I was local.
Knowing what I know – would I buy DVC again?
I’m not sure I would buy it today knowing what I know, primarily because the price has increase and availability is a real issue. More often than not I can’t get the resort I want for the time I need. Yes, I love staying in the 1 or 2 bedrooms, but I am paying for it. I spend the points for the bigger rooms because I want a certain resort or I just don’t want to have to pack up and move multiple times in a week. The 1 and 2 bedrooms have more availability – but then I run out of points even faster. Once the yearly points are gone I pay for the rest of my stays, I take advantage of the promotions available and try out the non-DVC resorts.
I have Disney friends who have sold their contracts due to the availability issues or because they wanted to cruise more and found it more economical to sell. Yes, you can buy DVC on the resale market – but beware of the reduced perks and restrictions that Disney has put in place for those contracts, of course they want to encourage you buy direct from Disney.
As a die-hard Disney fan who visits multiple times a year, and given what I paid for mine all those years ago – I’m happy with my DVC purchase overall. I love the discounts – but I would get the same food & merchandise discount with an annual pass anyway. I think the best part is that I have pre-paid some of my resort stays for years in advance. My contracts are all paid off and I don’t need to worry about that expense when I’m planning my next trip. With my annual pass and my DVC points I only have to consider the cost of my flights, food and shopping for most of my trips.
Is Disney Vacation Club for everyone? No. Is it good for Disney fans? Maybe. I would suggest that if you are considering buying DVC that you do the math and your research. Read the contracts and crunch the numbers. While I have given you my views and some high-level insight, there is much more to using your DVC than I have covered. It’s important to be very realistic about how you vacation today, and how your family will vacation in the future.
My friend Carrie and I have both been members for years and we shared our thoughts on Podcast Episode 35 “What is Disney Vacation Club”. Have a listen to the episode if you want some more perspective and watch the video below for a tour of a 1 bedroom at Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Are you a DVC member? Are you planning on buying? Leave a comment and let me know.