Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- What is the Disney Vacation Club?
- Does DVC Membership Mean a Nicer Room?
- What If You Want a Larger Room?
- My Best and Most Important Advice?
- Membership Has an End Date
- Value Changes with the Season
- You Can Add Points at Any Time
- You Get an Allocated Number of Points During Your “Use Year”
- You’ll Be Assigned a “Home Resort”
- You Can Use Points at Non-Disney Properties
- You Can Buy Points From a Reseller
- Where to Buy Discounted Disney World Tickets
For Disney-loving families, there’s only a matter of time before facing the question of whether to invest in the Disney Vacation Club. We’re talking about a membership that pre-pays your vacation, locks in prices for 50 years, and gives access to exclusive accommodations and luxuries. But is it worth it for your family? Read on as a Disney expert and DVC member gives her take on what it’s like to be a part of Mickey’s vacation clubhouse.
My family and I are Disney Vacation Club members. We’re thrilled with our membership and the details and terms of the signup are still pretty fresh. We absolutely believe that our decision to become DVC members was one of our best. Our only regret has been not doing it sooner.
We deferred our 2020 visit because of COVID-19. It was easy to bank our points (more on banking and borrowing points below.) We can’t wait to get back to the magic.
If you visit a Disney park, no doubt you’ve seen all the DVC kiosks in the park. You may have also seen these kiosks inside the resort. If you’re curious, this post has all the details. The idea of being a part of Mickey’s timeshare is tempting. Is it worth it? I’ll help you decide. Let’s jump in.
What is the Disney Vacation Club?
The Disney Vacation Club (DVC for short) is a timeshare operated by Disney. The program offers resorts at Walt Disney World and also in Hawaii, South Carolina, and Vero Beach, Florida.
Like any time share, you pay into the program and schedule your vacations according to the program rules.
How Does the Disney Vacation Club Work?
The Disney Vacation club operates on a points system. You purchase a certain number of points – a one-time buy – and then use them at DVC resorts. If you purchase points directly from Disney (or if you purchased resale points prior to March 21, 2011) you can also use those points at Disney Resort Hotels in California, Florida, France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Disney Cruise Line, and other non-theme-park vacations.
You can buy out someone else’s DVC membership – which also means that if it ends up not being a fit for you, you can sell it – but to get the very best of the perks, it’s best to buy directly from Disney.
We are newish DVC members and, while we appreciate the flexibility, we’re seeing that the most bang for our buck is using our points toward trips at actual DVC properties at Walt Disney World. We recently took a Disney Cruise and although it was tempting to use some of our points to shave some pennies off our travel costs, we decided it wasn’t the best fit for us to use our points on the cruise.
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I would definitely recommend number crunching each time you’re planning a vacation. There are lots of variables and I always find it worth my time to do a little bit of legwork to ensure we get max benefits. I haven’t researched using DVC points for Adventures by Disney but I think it would probably be similar to cruises — probably not a smart use of DVC points. But if you are a DVC member planning an Adventures by Disney vacation, it is definitely worth doing some cost comparisons.
When You Aren’t at Disney
How Much Does the Disney Vacation Club Cost?
It’s expensive. A DVC purchase is a major one and an investment for your future. You’re buying your family vacations for the next 50 years. You purchase a set amount of points to use in a calendar year. The minimum number of points you can buy is 160 and the max is 2,000. We bought 250 points and our total investment was about $40,000. We purchased while aboard a Disney Cruise and there were some incentives to purchase on the ship.
A travel agent friend told me the best place to join DVC was on board a Disney Cruise and I think that was solid advice. However, topping up your points on a Disney Cruise doesn’t come with the same incentives. We looked into buying some additional points on our most recent Disney Cruise and we could have gotten the same pricing by just going online and buying the points.
We had to pay a down payment and financed the rest. You’re looking at an initial cost of about 10 percent of your purchase price to buy-in. We used a credit card and loaded up on miles. We currently pay about $500 per month for our membership and resort fees. The upside is that no money changes hands when we stay at Disney World. We book our room through the Disney Vacation Club – members have access to a special portal to book their rooms – and not the “regular way.” Our vacations are pre-paid…we just have to take them.
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You can also rent DVC points.
This page offers a calculator that gives an idea of how much DVC membership will cost.
Financing and Fees
Disney offers financing and the terms were pretty attractive. We’re currently paying less than 10 percent interest, which is good for a personal loan, and are looking at refinancing with our own bank for a lower rate. There’s no penalty for early payment, which I like.
We have two separate fees to pay each month: membership and maintenance fees.
Another way to look at it (and, another selling point for us) was locking in 2018 resort prices for 50 years. We were also keeping ourselves in the resort category that we want to be in. Disney has a resort for just about every price point. I’m not knocking the value resorts at all, but we’d creatively plan to get the most luxury and space for the lowest price. Our DVC membership has moved us in that direction.
Is the Disney Vacation Club Worth It?
Do you plan to vacation at Walt Disney World at least every other year?
If the answer is “yes” then the DVC is something you need to consider, especially if you’re a young family. My husband and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World. We considered DVC membership back then (and OH HOW I AM KICKING MYSELF) but decided it wasn’t a fit for us. We married in our early 40s. I had one daughter in high school. I didn’t see frequent trips to Disney in the cards for us.
Surprise, surprise. We became parents again in our late 40s and frequent trips to Disney suddenly became more attractive.
However you look at it, “frequent trips to Walt Disney World” are definitely on the table. If that doesn’t sound do-able to you, then you might want to take a hard look at whether DVC is right for you.
Where You Live Matters
Some of this depends on where you live or how you travel. We live in San Antonio, which is SMACK in the middle of the country. It’s easy to fly to Orlando from where we live…it’s equally easy to fly to Los Angeles and Disneyland, but the DVC points are…well, complicated there (but it can be done). If you live in Florida, Georgia, Alabama or any place within a comfortable driving distance to Disney World, then getting there for those frequent visits becomes easier and cheaper.
We can get a direct, early a.m. flight to Orlando and be at Disney before lunch. That said, flying a family of four to Disney twice a year gets expensive. We’re able to make it work but how you’ll get to Disney to enjoy your DVC membership is something you need to ask yourself before you sign on.
Does DVC Membership Mean a Nicer Room?
YES! DVC villas offer more amenities that your standard hotel room. Currently, the DVC Villas are at Wilderness Lodge (the Copper Creek Villas), Contemporary Resort, Animal Kingdom, Beach Club (best pool ever, btw), Old Key West, Disney Saratoga Springs, Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, BoardWalk, the Grand Floridian Resort, and the Riviera Resort.
You can also look at DVC villas at the Grand Californian at Disneyland Resort, Vero Beach, Aulani, in Hawaii, and Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina.
Your room is better, too, if you’re a DVC member. There are three levels of resort accommodations at Walt Disney World: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. Disney Vacation Club Villas are in the Deluxe level resort category.
The studio units (smallest units available) are roughly the size of a Deluxe level hotel room (355-412 square feet) and include a mini fridge and a microwave…so some small in-room meals are possible. Studios sleep four.
What If You Want a Larger Room?
If you need more space than a studio, look at the one and two bedroom villas. Most one-bedroom villas sleep four (and one baby in a crib) with a king bed (yes, please, because this is what we sleep in at home) and a full-size pullout sofa in the living room. My family of four (two adults and two children) is very comfortable in a one-bedroom villa. If you need more room, check out the two or three bedroom villas or the bungalows, cabins, or treehouses available. The idea behind Disney Vacation Club is for you to truly feel at home.
Obviously, the larger rooms are going to require more points. We’re able to make the points in our contract go further by staying in the smaller units. We love the one-bedroom villas for now. As our kids get older, we know we’ll need more room and more privacy so we know we’re looking at purchasing additional points in the future.
One thing to note is that housekeeping services are a little different at DVC properties. You don’t get the same daily “mousekeeping” service that you do in a hotel room. You get a “trash and tidy” every four days, which is fine with us. Since you’re in an apartment/home-like setting, you don’t really need housekeeping service like you would in a hotel room. There also are washers and dryers in all units except for the studios (washer and dryers are available on site for studios, just not in your room) so you can wash your towels if you need to.
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Benefits of DVC Membership
DVC Member Services is awesome. They offer vacation planning assistance if you need it, to include help with flights, car rentals, room requests and priority seating for meals. I consider myself as very knowledgeable on all things Disney but the DVC Members Services peeps know way more than I do and they’re able to answer questions or make suggestions that can help me plan my best trip.
You can also arrange for groceries to be delivered to your room via Member Services, although in this day and age, most people use Shipt, Instacart, or Amazon. Ordering through the DVC gets your food IN to your room. Ordering through other delivery services get your food to the concierge and you have to arrange for them to deliver it…which isn’t a difficult process at all. Still, if you want to walk into your room and have milk in your fridge, as a DVC member, you can.
One of the things I love most is having a full kitchen. Now, I don’t love the idea of cooking on vacation. However, it’s nice to be able to make sandwiches and simple breakfasts. We also love doing things like baking cookies or making popcorn on vacation.
Members also have pool-hopping privileges at Walt Disney World. That means you can use a pool at a resort you’re not staying at. This excludes the pools at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Stormalong Bay, which is the shared pool area for Disney’s Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts. Most people will agree the latter has the most luxe pool at Walt Disney World. We stayed at Beach Club three years ago and we did not go to the pool and yes, I am still sorely regretting that decision.
I recommend checking with the concierge or another cast member at the resort you are staying in before you decide to pool hop to make sure there aren’t any new restrictions or limitations in place that would prohibit you from using the pool at another resort. Although I like the idea of pool hopping in theory, I’ve never really been compelled to do it. If you’re staying at a DVC Resort, your pool will be amazing. All the pools have a slide, a whirlpool, and a poolside bar/restaurant.
DVC members also get discounts on golf, shopping, and annual passes. You may also be able to get dining discounts and discounted tickets for Disney Quest and water park tickets. You do NOT get a discount on regular Disney Park tickets.
My best advice is to pop that card out anytime you’re buying anything and ask if you get a discount. If you have questions on whether you’ll get a DVC member discount on something, a call to Member Services will get you the answer. I recently attended the Senses of Africa Breakfast at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is breakfast and a private tour of the savanna. This is a luxury, special occasion experience and because I asked about DVC member discounts, I was able to get 20 percent off. Winning.
Disney Files Magazine
DVC members also get a free magazine called Disney Files. We’ve really enjoyed reading Disney Files because it’s not only member news but news on what’s new and hot in the Disney family, to include movies. It’s been key in helping us plan our trips.
DVC Member Lounges
There are also two member lounges at Disney World, one inside Epcot and one at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Bay Lake Tower. Both lounges offer complimentary soft drinks and WiFi and the one in the Contemporary has an awesome view of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom.
Note: according to the Walt Disney World website, the member lounge at Epcot is slated to be open through 2020. There’s been no closing announced but with all the new things coming to Epcot, I expect some changes.
There are also other members only events offered throughout the year, including Members Only Cruises. Obviously, these are exclusive events that come with a price tag and not free events, but in my short experience as a DVC member, I’m definitely feeling the love on exclusive opportunities that the average visitor doesn’t get. Besides, Disney Vacation Club Members are a pretty cool bunch. It’s been fun to get to know some of them at the resorts.
Related Post: How to Save Money by Renting, not Buying, DVC Points
My Best and Most Important Advice?
Take your time, do your research and don’t make an impulse purchase…unless you’re in the habit of making impulse purchase that are in the $20K+ range.
You’ll see people in the Disney Parks, in the resorts, and on the Disney Cruise Ships offering to give you a presentation on the Disney Vacation Club or even take you to tour a property. You might be offered incentives, such as free meals in exchange for attending. While they’re not going to be those obnoxious, high-pressure, “these people aren’t leaving my office until they buy something” sales people, their objective is to sell you something that costs a lot of money while you’re in a happy place enjoying yourself.
While there’s nothing wrong with going to a presentation to get more info about the DVC – that’s why they exist – if you’re seriously considering membership read up on the process (like you’re doing now!) before you say that big “I do.”
I had done my homework on the Disney Vacation Club before we went on our cruise. I knew it was a fit for our family. Waiting to join while on a Disney Cruise because of incentive pricing was intentional. I’d done my research before I ever set foot into the presentation. I still had questions but I was able to make the decision based on knowledge and not being caught up in the moment.
Membership Has an End Date
Even though you’re technically buying real estate (as with any time share, and your purchase is deeded) there is a date your membership will expire. The person who sold us our membership explained this really well and it will be in your contract that you sign. The length of our contract is 50 years and there are provisions that allow us to transfer or will our membership to our children or mention it in our wills.
Value Changes with the Season
The time of year and season will impact how much your points are worth. For example, staying during Christmas is going to use more points than staying during February because Christmas is one of Disney’s peak crowd periods.
You Can Add Points at Any Time
When our boys are older we plan to purchase more points. When they’re teens, we’ll want a two-bedroom villa. Purchasing more points can make that happen.
You Get an Allocated Number of Points During Your “Use Year”
You can bank and borrow points, meaning you can move your points forward or dip into next year’s points. Want to splurge on a cabin or a tree house? How about squeezing in an extra trip this year? You can. You can also do a one-time buy to cover a special or unusual trip. If you want to stay in a three-bedroom villa with two separate entrances and a pool table overlooking the Savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (all that sounds dreamy, right?), you can. Just buy extra points specifically for THAT vacation.
You’ll Be Assigned a “Home Resort”
You’ll likely have some options on choosing what resort you want to call home. We had the choice between Copper Creek at Disney’s Wilderness Resort Canyon and Aulani in Hawaii (O’ahu). We chose Copper Creek. On our 2020 Disney Cruise, prospective DVC members were being offered the choice between the new Riviera Resort and Aulani. You have to pick from what they give you…you can’t just randomly decide you want to call Animal Kingdom Lodge “home.”
If you’d like to stay at other properties besides your home resort, you can. The rules for making reservations are different. You can make reservations at your home resort up to 11 months in advance. If you want to make reservations at any other DVC resort, it’s seven months. These time standards are no joke. We were able to reserve at our home resort right at the 11-month mark but when we tried to book a room four months in advance, we had trouble finding anything and ending up having to split our stay between two different properties.
Disney Vacation Club Reviews
Here’s a list of the DVC properties my family and I have stayed at during our three years as members as well as our impressions of each. With one exception, which is highlighted, all our stays have been in one-bedroom villas.
Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Copper Creek is our home resort. The DVC villas are located at Fort Wilderness Lodge, which is one of our favorite resort lobbies. These are newly updated villas so everything is modern, although the decor is rustic railroad themed with lots of wood and iron accents. There are two pools – the lively Copper Creek Springs Pool with waterslide, poolside dining and kid’s activities and the more chill Boulder Ridge Cove Pool.
What we liked best about staying at Copper Creek is the amenities of the resort and feeling like we were in the middle of all the action. The resort is located right on Bay Lake and the Magic Kingdom is just a short ferry ride away. You can also hop on the bus and take a short ride to the Contemporary and take the Monorail in to Epcot or Magic Kingdom. The railroad, rustic theme is done really well and almost makes you forget you’re in Florida.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a popular resort broken up into two sections – Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo house is the main lodge where the beautiful lobby is. Kidani Village is a short bus ride away and is all DVC Villas. Animal Kingdom Lodge is a popular place to stay because of the on-site savanna with animal viewing. I mean…who wouldn’t want to have their morning coffee while watching the sun rise with some giraffes?
We stayed in a three-bedroom Deluxe Grand Villa inside Jambo house and it was the height of Disney luxury. This is how I imagine celebrities and the ultra rich must experience Disney World. The Deluxe Grand Villas have three bedrooms, one master suite with a king-sized bed and two smaller bedrooms with two queen beds each. The couch in the living room also makes a bed. There were two separate balconies overlooking the savanna, a full kitchen, dining room and game room with a pool table. There were four bathrooms – an en suite for each bedroom plus a hall bathroom you can use without having to go into anyone’s bedroom. Everything was exquisitely themed, from the wall art to the tiles in the shower.
The experience of staying in a Deluxe Grand Villa was probably a one-of-a-kind thing for us. However, if you’re vacationing with another family or with extended family, definitely take a look at this one. It’s very easy to have privacy in a DVC villa like this – the bedrooms are very well separated from the living area. There’s even a door that closes off the two smaller bedrooms from the rest of the suite and a separate entrance.
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Old Key West Resort is the original Disney Vacation Club Resort. It is an all-DVC property, meaning that there are no standard hotel rooms here. All available accommodations are Disney Vacation Club Villas. The resort has a very beachy, Florida vibe. There’s one feature pool with a great waterslide and a sandy beach. There are also three quiet pools on property.
What we liked best about staying at Old Key West was the amount of space we had. We’ve stayed in three different one-bedroom villas and this is the most spacious. The decor, appliances and furnishings might be a little dated but it’s still nice. The only way into the bathroom is through the bedroom, which means kids sleeping on the pullout couch in the living room have to walk into your sleeping space to use the facilities – other one-bedroom villas have had a separate door to access the toilet. We also really enjoyed Olivia’s Cafe, the onsite full-service restaurant. Try the banana bread pudding sundae for dessert. You’re welcome.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Like Key West, Saratoga Springs is an all-DVC property. The themeing is inspired by the Saratoga Springs in New York famous for horse racing. One of my favorite things about this resort is the artwork in the lobby of all the different horses that have been featured in Disney movies over the years.
What we liked best about Saratoga Springs is the pools. There are five pools total (it’s a large and sprawling property) and two of these (Paddock Pool and High Rock Springs Pool) are feature pools with great waterslides, whirlpools and available poolside dining. My advice for anyone booking at Saratoga Springs is to check out where your villa is located on a map and see where you are in relation to pools and the bus stops. We had very long treks to get from our villa to the pools and the bus stops. If you have very young kids or any mobility issues, the amount of walking you have to do to navigate the resort might be a detractor.
Both Key West and Saratoga Springs are larger resorts. I mention this because if you want to book last-minute trips, you’re likely to find availability at one of these two properties because there are more villas in these two resorts.
You Can Use Points at Non-Disney Properties
There are 350 destinations around the world and you’ll be given access to a site where you can view and book properties. Even though the best value for your DVC points is at Disney, it can work like any other time share. If you’re not feeling Disney on a particular year but still want to take a trip, you can. But back to what I said earlier…if an every-other-year trip to Disney World doesn’t sound like something you want to sustain, DVC membership probably isn’t for you. Try renting DVC points instead of buying.
You Can Buy Points From a Reseller
You may pay a lower price per point but you may also not get the same benefits you’d get buying from Disney.
Where to Buy Discounted Disney World Tickets
We recommend purchasing your Disney tickets through Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. If you call to make your purchase be sure to mention TravelingMom!