The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is one of the best kept secrets of the theme park industry. Since 1991, The Walt Disney Company has provided their biggest fans with a wonderful opportunity to save money during a vacation. Guests can stay at the same Disney Deluxe Resorts for a fraction of the cost. They simply need to understand the trick.
By reading this, you’re demonstrating that you’re at least casually interested in joining DVC. You’re likely feeling a bit overwhelmed, though. The internet contains a lot of information about the process, but a lot of it is difficult to decipher. Today, let’s examine the situation in simpler terms. When you’re looking to buy into the DVC program, here are a few points you should consider.
Should You Buy DVC?
This question is somehow both the simplest and the most complex. You only have two options, but you can go very wrong by making the wrong decision. I don’t mean to stress you at the start of the conversation, but I want to be blunt. This investment will cost you thousands of dollars…and it IS an investment.
Unlike standard timeshares, DVC memberships appreciate in value over time. Yes, that could change at any moment, especially if the American and/or global economy collapses. Save for a doomsday scenario, however, the value of your DVC ownership interest is unlikely to do anything but rise in the short term. Also, with the impending arrival of Star Wars Land: Galaxy’s Edge, the Disney Skyliner, and a ton of exciting new attractions, Disneyland and Walt Disney World will only increase in appeal over the next few years. More people will want into the Disney Vacation Club for that reason.
Disney knows this statement is true. They’re building an entirely new DVC property, Disney Riviera Resort, for just this reason. They also recently announced massive increases in the prices of DVC membership. They’re doing these things because they understand that the demand and value of DVC aren’t in parallel right now. In other words, it’s too good a deal. Disney’s raising the rates to make it less good, and they STILL think they’ll have so many new members that they’re adding another property to satisfy the demand.
Disney’s pretty smart, folks. It’s one of the best-run companies in the world, which is why the company was able to swallow Fox whole. When a business run this well shows confidence in the future of their products, you as a buyer can feel good about investing in them, too.
Should You Buy Direct or via Resales?
Just to build your confidence, I want to show you some math. When you hear the word “timeshare,” you get nervous. You’ve seen enough shady news reports to know that many of these places aren’t reliable. The Disney Vacation Club is different…and not just because of the presence of Disney.
In 1991, Disney’s Old Key West Resort opened as the first DVC property. At the time, the cost for membership was $51 per point. That’s the equivalent of $91.17 today. Should you choose to purchase the same ownership interest today, you’ll pay $151 per point. Yes, DVC membership hasn’t merely gained in value. It’s done so at a rate that exceeds inflation over the past 27 years…by a LOT.
Now that you feel more comfortable about your purchasing decision, knowing that it’s a strong investment, you’re faced with a choice. Should you buy a DVC contract directly from Disney or should you purchase one through the resales market?
The answer depends entirely on how much you want to spend. You can check with our friends at DVC News to see the current prices to buy at various DVC resorts. What you’ll notice is that Disney has two standards in place. Potential buyers who aren’t current participants in the DVC program must purchase at least 100 points at most resorts. The bare minimum is 50 points, meaning that ownership at a Walt Disney World resort costs at least $7,550. For monorail resorts, you’ll pay at least $19,100. That’s a huge amount that may have you reconsidering purchase.
The price is why a resales purchase is a more practical solution. Resales contracts work exactly the same as direct purchases in terms of staying at resorts. You can book your home resort the same way, you can book other resorts the same way, and no cast member will even know the difference when you stay at the hotel. They wouldn’t care, either. Disney employees love everyone who participates in DVC, because those are oftentimes the company’s most devoted fans.
The main difference with a resale contract is the price. Instead of paying $19,100 for a monorail resort, you can get the same ownership interest for somewhere in the $13,500 – $15,000 range, depending on the contract. DVC resales is like a coupon for 30 percent off the purchase price.
What do you give up? It’s debatable. Disney does offer some extra benefits to guests who buy directly. You should investigate the value of those, but I’m not going to discuss them in detail for a simple reason. There’s a strategy you can take to have the best of both worlds. At a later date, if you desire the extra benefits, you can add 25 points directly through Disney. After a DVC resales purchase, you no longer have the minimum 100-point restriction. You can add 25 points and become a direct buyer, too. It’s the best of both worlds for those guests who covet the benefits. For everyone else, the ownership interest alone is plenty. After all, that’s what gets you free Disney hotel stays at their finest properties!
Where Should You Buy?
Speaking of the finest properties, Disney currently has 14 participating locations in the DVC program. The company also plans to add a 15th one in 2019. Out of the 15 potential properties, 12 are at Disney theme parks. The other three are at beaches: Vero Beach, Hilton Head, and Aulani. Here’s what you need to know when you decide where to buy.
Disney employs a clever method for booking DVC resorts. You will have a Home Resort, a place where you get to book 11 months in advance. The underlying premise is that the ability to book that far in advance virtually guarantees you a room at your favorite DVC hotel. For all other resorts, you’ll have a 7-month booking window. As long as you schedule your trip the moment your 7-month window opens, you should still get a room at a preferred DVC property, but it’s less guaranteed.
As such, the most important factor here is where you want to stay. Most DVC members have a favorite resort – mine is Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – and that’s where you should buy. You’ll probably stay at your Home Resort the most, which is why one of the maxims of DVC members is to buy where you love.
When you’re not sure or want to keep your options open, other factors come into play. Proximity is the main one. Fans of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival prefer to book at Disney’s BoardWalk Villas and Disney’s Beach Club Villas due to the backdoor entrance to Epcot. Some guests also prefer Disney’s Old Key West and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa for their tennis and golf options plus their short trips to Disney Springs.
Finally, if you’re a fan of Disneyland, you currently only have one choice: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Not coincidentally, that one books up in advance. So, you should absolutely buy there if you want to stay there a lot.
How Many Points Do You Need?
This question seems overwhelming, but it’s actually one of the easiest to answer. How often do you visit Walt Disney World and/or Disneyland? How often do you WANT to visit? A week’s stay at the various DVC resorts costs somewhere between 100 and 200 points, depending on the property’s logistics. The monorail resorts and others with proximity to parks generally have a larger points cost. Similarly, new resorts have higher points totals.
I should also note that there’s a daily points chart, too. I’m speaking in general vacation terms when I say “a week’s stay.” Anyone who is close enough to take weekend getaway will spend more time and thereby need more points than someone a long plane flight away from Disney’s parks. The points chart also has variance depending on the time of year. You’ll spend fewer points when you visit during Disney’s off-seasons and more points during times such as Spring Break and the holiday season.
When you debate how many points to buy, you need to know how often you’ll visit. Do you go to Walt Disney World annually? Twice a year?Every other year? The calculation from there is quite simple. You will look at the points chart and see how much the resort costs for the number of days you’ll need.
For example, let’s say that you plan to visit every other year at a resort that costs 200 points. A 100-point annual contract is perfect for your vacation. You’ll use a process called Banking Points to save the 100 points one year so that you’ll have them the following year. In combination with the 100 points you’ll get the following year, you’ll have enough for a 200-point stay. So, you should target a 100-point contract. I’m a huge believer that more points are better, but I also understand that everyone has a budget.
What Does Use Year Mean?
You’ll hear the term Use Year a lot with DVC. I don’t want to bog you down with the jargon here, so let’s keep things simple. When you hear Use Year, think of it as “when I get a new set of points.” That’s the crux of it. The Use Year is the time when Disney replenishes your points supply.
You will have a decision with regards to your Use Year. Here’s the way that I suggest picking your month. When are you most likely to visit Disney? You want to pick a Use Year that puts points in your account right before then. That way, should something happen that causes you to cancel your trip, you’ll have plenty of time to use or bank your points. Last-minute cancellations cause points to go into a Holding Account. Disney has precise rules about these points. It’s easiest to avoid the issue by scheduling your Use Year right at the start of your annual visit timeframe.
When Does Ownership Interest End?
This is the final major topic for DVC members. Your ownership interest isn’t permanent. It is deed-eligible, meaning that you can will it to loved ones. It won’t last forever, though. Starting in 2042, the DVC memberships will start to expire. Sure, 2042 is a long time from now, but it’s still something you should keep in mind.
The oldest resorts participating in the DVC program are the ones that generally expire first. Old Key West, Beach Club, and BoardWalk Resort are all among the ones set to end in 2042. Some of the newer participants last into the late 2060s, a time when I expect all of us to vacation at the Happiest Place on Mars.
How much should you worry about this expiration date? Well, that depends on your age. A baby born in January of 2018 will be 50 when Copper Creek’s ownership interest ends. An adult who is 50 right now will be 100 then and probably not a huge fan of Space Mountain by that point. The expiration is only a factor if you’re young and 100 percent confident that you’ll die old and healthy enough to still visit Disney all the time. Personally, I view it as The Me of 25 Years from Now’s problem. Today, it’s not even a minor concern.
Okay, that’s everything that I believe you need to know about buying into the DVC program. As a member for several years, I recommend it strongly and feel just as passionately about the value of DVC resales over direct purchase. You should research the situation fully and make your own buying decision. Personally, I’ve never regretted it once and gained memories that will last a lifetime.