Disney Vacation Club in a nutshell

In my daily perusal of all things Disney online, I see a lot of curious Disney lovers showing an interest in learning more about DVC, but getting spooked by the overwhelming amount of information available out there to digest prior to making an informed decision about buying in. Little do they know, you don’t have to actually buy in to experience DVC on a trial basis. There is a booming DVC rental market out there that is a great place to start. But first, some background….

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) started in the early 90s with one resort, the Disney Vacation Club resort (now Old Key West – OKW) at which Disney vacationers could buy points. The concept is similar to that of a timeshare, although owners do not need to travel at the same time each year, nor do they even have to travel to the same place each year. It has expanded to include 16 resorts, 12 in WDW plus others in Vero Beach, Hilton Head, California (Disneyland), and Hawaii. The tricky thing with DVC as compared to other timeshares, is that DVC points expire eventually, so you can’t purchase it intending to pass it down from generation to generation indefinitely. The major positive thing about DVC compared to other timeshares, however, is the flexibility offered.

DVC offers complete flexibility in where you can stay and when you travel, due to the fact that you do not purchase a week at a certain resort every year, but instead you purchase a specified number of points that can be used at any DVC resort. For example, my family purchased 300 points at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas in 1996 when they were $65/point. So we forked over $19,500 one day in 1996, with the intention of using those points to pay for our hotel rooms in Disney for the rest of our trips through the points’ expiration in 2042 (all points expire on the same date for each resort – all Boardwalk points expire January 31, 2042). So we paid $19.5k for potentially 46 years of accommodations at a Deluxe Disney resort. That math works out pretty well if you know what Disney rooms are going for these days. It was a good buy for us given that we knew we would love to travel to WDW every year and we were banking on the cost of rooms going up forever.

So now the next logical question is, what does 300 points get you, in regards to travel time, room size, etc? This varies depending on where you want to stay. DVC releases annual point charts showing what each room costs (points-wise) at each resort in the different seasons. This website has copies of the point charts for each resort for the next two years: https://www.wdwinfo.com/disney-vacation-club/DVCpoints.shtml As a frame of reference though, our 300 points at Boardwalk typically got us a full week in a one or two bedroom during one of the non-peak times of year, plus at least 2 long weekends in studios or one bedrooms at other times of the year. That was our general travel pattern every year of my childhood. Maybe one year we would go at a cheaper time and then splurge on a two bedroom for a full week at a peak time the next year, since points can be rolled over from one year to the next, or brought forward from one future year as well (so in theory we could use up to 900 points in one given year if we “bank” our 300 points from the prior year, use the current year points, and bring forward the subsequent year’s points as well).

The BEAUTIFUL thing about DVC is that when you sign your contract, Disney is agreeing that the total cost of rooms (in points) at your given resort cannot increase year over year. Basically the room prices don’t inflate, like cash room prices do. They can reallocate the points throughout the year, ie make December studios more expensive, and make an October one bedroom cheaper, but they cannot just increase the points required to get a room every night of the year.

The one thing that can (and does) increase every year are the annual dues that members pay. When you sign your contract, you agree to pay a certain $ amount per point in annual dues (similar to owning a condo and paying maintenance fees). This money is used to maintain the resort and a breakdown of what the dues go towards is provided to members annually. The dues vary by resort and this should be an item that you consider when selecting your home resort. We pay roughly $2000 per year in annual dues for our 300 Boardwalk points. 2019 was the first year that it surpassed $2000, after creeping up every year. This factor is why my dad was pretty willing to give up 100% of our DVC points to my mom in their divorce, because he had gotten his use of the points and didn’t want to keep paying the $2000 annually. I will be writing a post shortly that will explain my ….crafty…tactic to completely remove the cost of annual dues as a factor in your DVC investment, but that is a complex topic for another day.

The last important thing to know about DVC is that the resorts are phenomenal. I am a diehard Disney fanatic that believes staying in a Disney resort is 70% of the WDW experience, so it pains me to see how expensive rooms have gotten. At this point, if not for DVC, our family trips to Disney would probably involve an Airbnb and a rental car, just to make a Disney trip remotely affordable. Thanks to DVC, we get to have the full Disney experience (complimentary transportation to/from the airport, complimentary transportation between the parks and resorts, fully themed and immersive resorts with some of the best amenities I’ve seen on any of my travels). These are not just any Disney resorts either, these are the Deluxe resorts. Disney has 4 tiers of resorts: Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resorts. The DVC resorts are the Deluxe Villa tier, aka the best of the best (don’t get me wrong – the other tiers have their strengths as well and you can’t go wrong with any of them – some of the Value resorts have the most entertaining theming for kids). The villas are meant to feel like homes away from home, so one bedrooms and up include fully stocked kitchens, washer/dryers, separate living room areas outside of the bedroom(s), multiple balconies, etc. People literally have groceries delivered to their resorts and treat it like a home away from home. This is an immense comfort to people traveling with kids. Being able to save a little money on Disney meals is always a good thing, plus being able to handle laundry catastrophes offers some peace of mind.

Arguably the best feature of these Deluxe Villa resorts though is their prime location. The Boardwalk and Beach Club Villas are walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. They have their own nightlife and numerous restaurants right on site. Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Bay Lake Tower are all on the monorail that goes directly to Magic Kingdom (5-10 minute ride) and is one quick transfer away from Epcot as well. Similarly Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge are a quick boat ride to Magic Kingdom. Old Key West and Saratoga Springs offer a more laid back feel, slightly removed from the parks, but still a quick walk or boat ride to Disney Springs. Animal Kingdom Lodge is arguably in the least ideal location of any DVC resort, but this is intentional, so as to allow for massive savannahs of animals to be just feet from your balcony. The new Riviera Resort will be on the Disney Skyliner (gondola system) with easy access to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Of course all resorts also have bus service to the other parks not listed above, but it is fun to experience some unique Disney transportation as part of your stay. People don’t really travel to the most magical place on earth to sit on buses all day.

So that is an initial broad overview of some of the appeal of DVC. More details to come on how to analyze which resort to make your home and also separately on how the DVC rental process works.

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