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Beach Club versus Bay Lake Tower

Whether you’re deciding where to stay on your next Disney vacation or which resort to make your home away from home, you need to pick correctly. Otherwise, your next dream trip will disappoint or, worse yet, you’ll regret your choice of home resorts. Every Disney Vacation Club (DVC) determination requires this sort of insight.

Starting today, our goal is to help you with your choices. Our new series will compare a pair of DVC resorts, evaluating which one is better. The two criteria are where you should stay on your next vacation and which place you should pick for your next DVC contract. The important caveat here is that you literally cannot go wrong with any DVC resort. It’s simply a matter of which place is the best fit with your style. Our options today are Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Villas. Which is better for you? Well…

Comparing DVC Contracts

Let’s start with a few statements of the obvious. All DVC resorts feature mind-blowingly spectacular amenities. Generally, they have delicious restaurants and luxurious pools, creating a kind of special club life for DVC members. Your home away from home at Disney might be nicer than your actual home. As such, any evaluation of a DVC property will be a matter of scale. No matter which one you choose, you’re going to love it.

 

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Beach Club Contract Facts

Beach Club Villas in particular is one of the DVC resorts with the strongest demand. For many years now, DVC contracts at this resort have sold quickly. One of the explanations for this behavior is the scale of the property. This hotel is quite small by Disney standards, hosting only 583 rooms.

As a point of comparison, many Disney analysts point to Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort as the smallest hotel in the Moderate Tier. It has fewer rooms than any other Moderate property or anything in the Value Tier, either. Port Orleans French Quarter has 1,008 guest rooms. Yes, it still has 425 more rooms available than Beach Club. Here’s the most important fact. Only 205 of those 583 rooms were designated as villas, although the number has since bumped up to 282. Scarcity is a real issue at Beach Club.

You can imagine how such limited supply impacts the DVC economy. When a DVC contract becomes available, guests want to beat the rush to bid on them. In a way, Beach Club contracts are the holy grail of DVC due to their rarity. The only downside to this purchase is the expiration date.

Beach Club memberships end in 2042, the soonest out of all DVC resorts. Technically, it’s tied with six other properties in this category, meaning that almost half of DVC contracts end in 2042. Still, it’s an aspect to consider for the future, especially if you’re younger or plan to deed your contract to children/grandchildren. The year 2042 is still 24 years away, which is approximately 72 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies from now. It’s not exactly soon, but it is certainly a closer date than…

Bay Lake Tower Contract Facts

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort was the first monorail DVC resort. For this reason alone, its popularity was immediate and overwhelming. Guests loved the idea of hopping on a futuristic shuttle and riding straight to the Magic Kingdom. The demand for Bay Lake Tower forced Disney’s hand to a degree, eventually causing them to add DVC villas at the other two monorail resorts.

As we’ll discuss in a bit, Bay Lake Tower and Beach Club share this important commonality. Their logistics are the best at Walt Disney World. Both of them are the closest walk possible away from the entrance to a beloved Disney theme park, and each one has convenient transportation available to those who would prefer to rest their feet.

Without going into an extended background about Disney’s Contemporary Resort, let’s just say that Bay Lake Tower was built on the grounds of a former wing of that hotel. With 428 villas available, it’s only significantly larger than Beach Club in terms of DVC contracts. Bay Lake Tower initially opened with 300 villas, meaning that it’s had more contracts available from the start. You won’t face the scarcity issue here that you will with Beach Club.

At Bay Lake Tower, you’ll gain decades of breathing room, too. In the time between the opening of Beach Club Villas in 2002 and Bay Lake Tower in 2009, Disney officials had an epiphany. They realized that one of the perceived negatives of the membership program was the expiration date. They pushed this date back for Bay Lake Tower, ending its contracts in 2060. That’s 18 more years of usage for this property, giving owners 75 percent more time to vacation right beside the Magic Kingdom.

Current Pricing for the Resorts

I’m going to create a kind of time capsule here by listing current pricing. I do this because when you read this article after the fact, you’re likely to think, “Wow, I should have bought earlier! It was so cheap!” The DVC program has demonstrated a remarkable ability to increase steadily in contract value since its inception. As long as the American and global economies are strong, Disney vacations are constantly rising in popularity, and the secret is out on what a great value DVC is.

At Beach Club, current contracts range from $129-$147 per point. I should point out that DVC pricing comes with a couple of behavioral patterns. A contract with fewer points sells for a larger amount per point. The belief is that these contracts are easier to afford and easier to move at a later date. You’ll spend fewer dollars per point when you buy hundreds of points at once. It’s a fantastic way to save money while becoming a major participant in the DVC program.

Getting back to Beach Club’s specifics, that $18 swing is due to a larger contract selling 360 points as opposed to a smaller one selling 100 points. Both contracts could suit virtually anyone’s needs as a frequent Disney vacationer. The lone caveat is that 2042 expiration date, which only matters if you expect to be taking a Hyperloop to Florida 20 years from now. Personally, I’m a live for today kind of person and have contracts that all expire in 2047 or sooner.

At Bay Lake Tower, prices range from $137-$149 per point. Most contracts fall in the $140s, and the spread between smaller and larger contracts isn’t significant. This is effectively what you should expect to pay right now for any Bay Lake Tower contract. So, Bay Lake Tower is a bit more expensive at the lower end of the range, but the pricing is similar at the top end.

The one important caveat here is that Beach Club’s rates seem to be increasing with each passing year. The gap between the two resorts was once much more dramatic than it is now. Other than that, the primary difference is the expiration date. Bay Lake Tower contracts last until 2060. Summarizing, you’ll get 18 more years of vacations at Bay Lake Tower. It’s an important advantage for DVC members here as opposed to contract owners at Beach Club.

Deciding Where to Stay

These are two of my favorite DVC properties overall. I generally stay at BOTH each trip, as I’m one of those DVC members who resort-hops most vacations. Due to my familiarity with both properties, I feel completely comfortable recommending both. But we’re squaring them off against each other today, right?

Okay, here’s what you must factor into your decision. Both resorts claim terrific restaurants onsite. The ones for Bay Lake Tower are technically in the adjoining Contemporary Resort, but you’re just a short bridge walk away from the fourth floor of that hotel anyway. It’s a connecting hotel.

At the Contemporary, you can dine at The Wave on the first floor of the resort or you can head to the top floor to embrace the decadence of California Grill. The Wave is an underrated Table Service meal, while California Grill is among the most epic Signature Dining experiences at Walt Disney World. I generally do neither of these, though.

Instead, I stay on the 4th floor, eating at Chef Mickey’s when I want to experience a joyous character meal. If I want something lighter or grab-and-go, I pick Contempo Café instead. These two restaurants are in my regular rotation for a Disney visit. Chef Mickey’s a pricey Table Service meal, although many DVC members travel on the Disney Dining Plan or use Tables in Wonderland anyway. Contempo Café is a Quick Service restaurant with a hearty Bounty Platter breakfast option my family adores.

The shopping on the fourth floor of The Contemporary is phenomenal, too. Bayview Gifts is one of the best merchandise stores at Walt Disney World, and the nearby Fantasia has plenty of knickknacks that double as wonderful gifts you can bring home to loved ones who didn’t get to make the trip. As you can see, I spend a lot of time on the 4th floor of the Contemporary.

I should mention the pool at Bay Lake Tower, the one that you can see from the Lake View rooms at the resort. It’s pretty great, and the waterslide is tons of fun. The problem is that introducing any discussion of pools seems comical when the other resort is Beach Club Villas. When you stay there, you get to spend time at Stormalong Bay, a “pool” that is realistically a water park. Its sand-bottom floors make my toes tingle just thinking about them.

While you must stay at the resorts to swim at either hotel’s pools, let’s be honest. Nobody spends the night at Bay Lake Tower for its pool. People DO select Beach Club because of its pool, and I know this because I’m one of them.

The food at Beach Club is quite good, too. Cape May Café offers a wonderful Minnie Mouse-hosted character breakfast in the morning and a seafood buffet at night. Beach Club Marketplace is a large retail store that doubles as a decent Quick Service restaurant. The pool bar menu is remarkably deep, too.

Of course, DVC members know about the hidden gem of Beach Club eateries. Beaches & Cream is a glorious 1950’s style malt shop with great burgers and the ultimate dessert at Walt Disney World, the Kitchen Sink. Should you wander over to the adjoining Yacht Club, you can dine at Ale & Compass Lounge…oh, who am I kidding? You’ll eat at Yachtsman Steakhouse, one of the best steak dinners in Orlando.

In terms of rooms, Bay Lake Tower’s studios are the smallest at Walt Disney World. The recently renovated ones at Beach Club aren’t much bigger. We’re talking about 339 square feet and 356 square feet. Guests who prefer one-bedroom suites will favor Bay Lake Tower, whose rooms are 803 square feet. Beach Club’s one-bedroom suites are 726 square feet. In other words, you’re not staying at either hotel for the spacious hotel rooms.

Why are you staying at these resorts? The answer is proximity. When you visit Bay Lake Tower, you may walk out the lobby of the hotel and reach the entrance gate to Magic Kingdom in ten minutes or less. Somehow, Beach Club is even better. It’s only a few hundred steps away from the International Gateway, the rear entry to the World Showcase at Epcot. This entrance is the less trafficked one, and it’s the best-kept secrets of the park. By my unofficial count, DVC members comprise 99.97 percent of the usage rate at the International Gateway.

Do you prefer not to walk? Beach Club comes with boat service to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in addition to the usual bus service. As mentioned, Bay Lake Tower’s ace in the hole is the monorail. When you stay at either place, you position yourself in the heart of Disney’s prized theme parks. You’ll have the best possible trip because you don’t have to deal with the aggravation of Disney’s mercurial buses. At Beach Club, you’re a boat away from Epcot and Hollywood Studios. At Bay Lake Tower, you’re a monorail ride (or two) away from Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

Okay, now you have the facts about each resort. Which one is the better purchase and which one is the better place to stay? Look, I don’t know much you love Epcot or Magic Kingdom, and I don’t know how much you swim while at Walt Disney World. Those aspects matter here. For my family, I deem Bay Lake Tower the slightly better purchase option due to our love of the Contemporary and our plans to still be vacationing there in the 2050s (it’s there or Mars for us!). For a vacation, the allure of Stormalong Bay tips the scale for us. Plus, we love World Showcase, the unofficial food capital of Orlando. It’s nice to stay right next to it. Do you agree or disagree? Tell us why or why not!