We became Disney Vacation Club® (DVC) members in 2009. Up until then, we had always stayed off-site for our Disney vacations. My parents purchased a timeshare in the 90’s and my husband and I followed suit in 2003 when we purchased a Starwood® Timeshare during one of our stays at the Sheraton® Vistana. Most of our vacations were to the Orlando area and since timeshare ownership provided accommodations for most of our trips in the past, it just seemed like the logical thing to do.
In 2009, we decided to plan a Disney vacation with good friends. At the time they had three kids and we had four. We had decided that we wanted to stay at a Walt Disney World® Resort but with a large family our options were not only limited but were also REALLY expensive. I can still clearly remember sitting at my computer, my husband looking over my shoulder, pricing out resort accommodations for the six of us. The price to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge was around $7000 (gasp!). That was when we began discussing the idea of purchasing DVC.
POINTS VS WEEKS
Disney Vacation Club® operates on a point system. Rather than purchasing a week, like you would in a usual timeshare, you purchase a set number of points per year. These points are purchased for a specific Disney Vacation Club® Resort, called your “home resort”. The home resort at which you choose to purchase your points will determine the cost per point (up front cost) and your annual maintenance fees. Each DVC resort villa costs a certain number of points per night (or per week). This number varies based on the resort, room type, and season in which you are traveling. With a traditional timeshare, you purchase a week. The week you purchase and the resort at which you buy determine your “trading power” if you should decide to visit another resort other than where you purchased your week. With DVC points, if you have the points needed to stay at any of the 12 Disney Vacations Club® resorts and the dates are available, you can book those dates, regardless of your home resort. You cannot break up the week with most other timeshare programs—and I say most because our Starwood® timeshare does allow us to convert our week into points every other year, at which time we can use these points anywhere, including Starwood® Hotels. This allows us to break up our vacation into days rather than using the whole week at once – but again we can only do this every other year. Disney Vacation Club® allows guest to use only the points they need for any given vacation. So, if you decide you want to stay at Disney’s Beach Club® Resort for one night, you can do so and still retain the remaining points of your yearly point allotment to use for another time. Since we purchased our first DVC contract, other timeshare companies have started to make changes and some now even offer “points” instead of weeks. I cannot say for certain how this works for all timeshares, only for the Starwood® Vacation we own, as I described above.
It is important to note that when purchasing DVC points, you should purchase at a home resort you love. While all 12 resorts are great, each one offering something unique, there are marked differences (location, restaurants, transportation options…etc) that may have you favoring one resort over another. You can book up to 11 months in advance at your home resort and 7 months in advance at other DVC resorts. For example, if you purchase 100 points at Disney’s Beach Club® Resort, you can book your vacation 11 months in advance. If you decide that for your upcoming vacation, you want to stay at Disney’s Old Key West® Resort instead of your home resort, you can book 7 months before your trip (up to 7 nights). If you are planning on traveling during an off-peak season, this may not ever be an issue. However, if you decide to travel to Walt Disney World® during one of the more busier times, like around Christmas, the chances of you booking outside of your home resort 7 months out, can be pretty slim. That is why I suggest you purchase points at a resort you will be happy to visit anytime.
COST VS RETAINED VALUE
As I mentioned earlier, we had already owned a timeshare for 6 years and saw the significant decrease in its value. That was one of my main apprehensions about buying another timeshare. However Disney Vacation Club® is, again, not like your usual timeshare. It retains the majority of its value year after year. This is due to not just the fact that it is Disney but because Disney Vacation Development, INC (DVD) utilizes a “Right of First Refusal” system for all resales. With other timeshares, you can resell them anywhere – even on eBay (go ahead, take a look) for any amount someone will pay. However, with Disney Vacation Club® points, DVD has the first right to purchase any contract that is being sold on the secondary market. This means that every resale contract must be submitted to Disney for review prior to closing. DVD has the right to assume the position of the buyer if they feel that the price is below market value. The purpose of this is to maintain the value of the Disney Vacation Club® timeshare. So while other timeshares can be sold for any amount, DVC points retain most of their value for years to come because of this system.
It is hard to ignore the perks you receive not only as a Disney resort guest, but also as a DVC member. As a DVC member, you can take advantage of such perks as Disney’s Magical Express® and Walt Disney World Resort® transportation system—a huge plus for us since we no longer would need to rent a car or haul multiple car seats to and from the airport. You can also utilize the extra magic hours at the parks, pool hopping privileges to other DVC resorts (some restrictions do apply) and you are eligible for DVC member discounts on restaurants, shops, and Theme Park Annual Passes.
So, after much research, I finally agreed to seriously look into the cost of purchasing. Since at the time we (only) were a family of six, we had to purchase enough points in which to stay in a two-bedroom villa, since most of the one-bedroom villas only sleep 4 or 5, depending on the resort. Even though at the time our youngest was an infant and we could definitely stay in a one-bedroom villa, we knew that would only last for another year and a half and did not want to be short-sided on our purchase (thank heavens we did, since we added another family member in 2011!). To determine how many points we needed to purchase, we looked at the current points needed to stay for one week at the resort we had chosen (in this case it was Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas). Since we decided that most of our Disney vacations would probably occur during the fall, we used that September-October time frame to see how many points we would need to stay in a two-bedroom villa. We decided our magic number was 200. After looking at all of our options we had decided to purchase our points through a reputable resale company. While the process takes quite a bit longer, we decided it was worth it to save a little bit of money per point. In 2009, points purchased through resale had the same abilities and perks as did the points purchased directly through Disney Vacation Club®. In 2011 those rules changed and contracts purchased via resale are not eligible for some DVC perks such as:
- You are unable to use your DVC points for Concierge Collection,
- You are unable to use your DVC points for the Disney Collection (non-DVC resort stays or Disney Cruise Line®))
- You are unable to use your DVC points for the Adventure Collection (Adventures by Disney® )
You can still use your points purchased through resale at any of the 12 DVC resorts located at Walt Disney World® Resort, Disneyland® Resort, Hawaii, Vero Beach, and Hilton Head Island. You can also use your resale points in the RCI system. It is also important to note that when you buy your DVC points directly from Disney, you can obtain financing through Disney. When you purchase a resale contract, you are on your own.
How you purchase your Disney Vacation Club® contract is an individual decision. We weighed all of the options and decided that the best value for our family was to buy resale. Even though the contract we purchased in 2009 is “grandfathered in” to all of the DVC perks, we have since purchased more points through another resale contract that is not eligible for “grandfathering”. We felt that the cost savings of a resale contract was still more valuable to our family than the perks we would be losing by not purchasing directly through Disney.
Disney Vacation Club® ownership can seem overwhelming. If you are considering purchasing, talk to the Cast Members at the DVC booths located inside the parks, at the resorts and at Downtown Disney® and schedule a tour of a DVC resort. The Cast Members are extremely helpful and they do not operate on a high-pressure sales philosophy. Do research about cost, points, resorts..etc and talk to others who are already DVC members. Listening to the experience of others sometimes is the best way to learn.
We have been extremely happy with our decision to buy into Disney Vacation Club®. Since purchasing our first contract in 2009, we have since added on to our total number of points in order to accommodate not only our growing family but to have the ability to bring my parents along (and provide them with their own studio) on our Disney vacations. Staying at a DVC resort is like a home away from home for us and allows us to not only experience beautifully decorated accommodations and first class Disney service, but also to enjoy all of the comforts of home. We are able to have a place to cook our meals (a big money saver when you have five kids), do our laundry (another big bonus with increasing airline baggage fees), and allow enough space for the kids to play and my husband and I to spend some adult time together. Every dollar we have spent purchasing DVC points has been well spent for all the memories we have made on past trips and will make on future vacations. Is Disney Vacation Club® ownership right for you? I cannot tell you that, but what I can say is that it was the best decision for my Disney-lovin’ family!