What is Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and is it Worth It?
What is Disney Vacation Club?
Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s timeshare program. It is commonly known as DVC within Disney circles.
But before you go clicking somewhere else because you read the word “timeshare,” you should know that this is unlike any other timeshare program out there. In true Disney style, they took a concept that had some merit and improved upon it to make it work for all (and it can be a very good investment for certain Disney travelers).
Since the time that it was founded in 1991, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) has become one of the highest-rated vacation-ownership programs in the industry — and a prime example of how Disney Parks and Resorts is growing its family vacation business by addressing a broad range of vacation experiences. DVC was originally created as a unique alternative experience for guests who like to return to Walt Disney World Resort on an annual basis. If you are regular luxury Disney traveler, then Disney Vacation Club is definitely something worth considering. It has quickly grown to include a wide range of vacation offerings both inside and outside Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
How Does DVC Work?
Members purchase points that are used to pay for rooms at any of the 14+ DVC resorts located across the U.S. (including their DVC resort in Hawaii). Similar to room rates at other luxury resort hotels, each DVC resort has rates per night for their rooms in the form of points. One point is not equal to one dollar, but you spend points int he same way. Rates for rooms using points can also vary by time of year, the same way as regular rates.
Disney Vacation Club rooms are called Villas and they are different than the regular hotel rooms. So when you stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, for example, the Villas are located in their own building. You can think of DVC Deluxe Villas as condominium-type accommodations. There are studio villas with kitchenettes, all the way up to two- and three-bedroom grand villas with full kitchen and laundry machine that can sleep up to 12 in some cases. It costs more points per nights for a two-bedroom villa versus a studio villa, for example.
How to Buy-In to Disney Vacation Club
You can buy points directly from Disney (or on the resale market) and then you can spend those points each year (you have the allotted number of points that you purchased for a 12-month period and then they renew and reset every year). There is a very lively resale market as well because these are real estate interests (see links at the end of the article for resale agency information). You don’t actually own a property, but you essentially own a share in one. People who want to sell their points on the resale market (for whatever reason) list them for sale via various agencies. Also, you don’t own the points for life, but the term of the contracts are quite long (several decades at least). Once you buy the points, you get those points every year. The only additional payment you have are annual maintenance fees, which vary by resort.
You can buy as many points as you wish (for as much as you would like to travel each year and for as much as you can afford), but for example’s sake let’s say you own 160 points (a “typical” standard amount for one week of travel per year in a studio villa). Each year you would have 160 points to spend and you can spend them however you like. Without getting too granular (and for illustration purposes only), you could spend 160 points in several ways, including any one of the following:
- a one-week stay at a Resort studio villa;
- a 3-night stay in a two-bedroom villa,
- three weekends in a studio villa.
You can use the points at Walt Disney World Resort, at Disney Aulani in Hawaii, at either of Disney’s Beach Resorts in Florida and South Carolina, and at Disneyland Resort in California. Wherever there is a DVC property, you can use your member points.
The idea is that you make a significant outlay for your points initially, but after the initial cost, you get those points to use every year (with only a small annual maintenance fee) until the end of your agreement period (which is in the range of years 2050 to 2060 at the moment).
So if you currently spend US$3,500 on a Disney Resort reservation each year and you buy 160 points (let’s pretend you spent US$24,000 — 160points x US$150/point), it will take you roughly seven years to break even on that cash outlay. The benefits start in your eighth year, when all of your vacation accommodations are basically free until your contract expires (30 to 50 years from now). You can see how you come out way ahead by joining DVC in an example like this. Plus, you could decide to visit any other DVC Resort at any time instead of Walt Disney World if you wanted a change of pace (and you can bank your points and even rent them out to someone else for cash if you do not want to travel in a given year).
Flexibility is the Key with DVC
Unlike other timeshare operations, with DVC you are not buying a specific week at a single resort. With DVC you are buying points as currency that you can spend how and when you like at whichever resort you like. You can even choose not to use your points one year and then have twice as many the next year. So flexibility is king. This allows you to tailor your vacations to your needs and it all starts fresh each year.
Is Disney Vacation Club Worth It?
This important question is what everyone wants to know.
We have been satisfied DVC members ourselves for many years now, so here is my take on the program. Generally speaking, if you typically take one trip to Walt Disney World each year and stay in a Deluxe Resort–and you plan to keep doing this–then DVC is something that you may want to explore as it will likely save you significant money on accommodations over time.
How Much Does DVC Cost?
Realistically you will be looking at something in the range of at least US$25,000 at the 160 point level if you buy direct from Disney. The overall cost depends on how many points you purchase (more points, more money). If you plan to buy-in then there are two ways you can do it:
- You can buy direct from Disney, or
- You can buy resale from one of several reputable US-based timeshare real estate firms (since these are considered to be real estate interests). This will cost you less, but you will lose out on a few perks and options by going this route. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the trade-off.
What if You Aren’t American? Is it a Hassle to buy-in to DVC if you’re Canadian (or from any other country)?
It is no hassle for Canadians to purchase DVC memberships. In fact, there are many Canadian DVC members.
I have purchased points through both methods (direct and resale) and from a transactional perspective, both work well — from Canada or anywhere else. Resale takes approximately eight weeks to close, while direct from Disney is much faster with much less paperwork required. You do not have to visit the U.S. to complete the transactions–it is all done by phone, email and couriers.
Buying direct from Disney typically costs more (per point) than buying resale. Buying from Disney usually means buying points at the newest and most current resorts, which are being sold for the first time (there are a limited number of points allocated to each property). You pay a premium for this privilege but you also get extra flexibility and benefits not given when you buy resale. One of the main reasons to buy direct is if you absolutely want to get “Home Resort” status (see below) at a new resort that would not yet have inventory on the resale market.
Buying resale offers some real bargains from a pure cost perspective and if you are looking for the lowest-cost way to get in and you are not picky about your Home Resort, you can buy-in at a lower cost resale and still buy additional points direct from Disney at a later date.
Is Disney Vacation Club a Good Investment from a Real Estate Perspective
I wouldn’t think of DVC the same way you think of traditional real estate–it’s not something that you’d buy on spec in the hopes of selling for a profit (although technically you can make a profit if you time it right when buying and selling resale). However, for all resale contracts Disney maintains right of first refusal to buy back those points. This ensures that the points values do not drop below a certain level, which means that as a points owner the value of your “investment” is fairly protected.
The Concept of a Disney Vacation Club Home Resort
There are DVC points allocated to each specific Disney Vacation Club resort. So when you buy points (either direct from Disney or resale) your points will be tied to a particular resort. You can still book and stay at any DVC resort, but you will have a special booking advantage at your home resort. You can make reservations 11 months in advance at your home resort and 7 months in advance at all other DVC properties. So ideally you would purchase your points at the resort you like to stay at most of all and most frequently.
More Information about DVC
The point of this post is to let you know that DVC is a good viable option for any luxury Disney traveler and there are really no downfalls for buying-in to DVC if your are a frequent luxury Disney traveler.
The only minor irritant is that some Canadian provinces (including Ontario) and some U.S. states do not allow incentives to be paid by Disney for anything relating to real estate purchases (as part of their agreement with these jurisdictions). So while some members may get a referral bonus for prospects who become members, the Ontario government will not allow Disney to do this here (the same applies to residents of California and other U.S. states, so don’t feel too bad). It just means that if you refer a friend and they buy-in, Disney is not allowed (due to regulations) to compensate you in any way for that referral, even though they would otherwise be happy to do so.
For more details about Disney Vacation Club, please read this post on my overview of the Disney Vacation Club Resorts at Walt Disney World.
Other DVC resources include:
- Official Disney DVC site (Disney’s official site for the Disney Vacation Club)
- DVCNews.com (A very comprehensive resource. Visit the DVC Program tab in particular)
- Fidelity Resales (A popular reseller where you can get an idea of the current resale rates and purchase DVC points on the resale market)
In addition to Fidelity, there are many other DVC Resellers online. A Google search will help you to find more.
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Mike Belobradic: The Finer Side of Disney Travel
Luxury Travel Blogger – Deluxe Disney Travel Specialist