Disney Vacation Club

After many years of wanting and waiting, this year I finally bought a Disney Vacation Club membership. I'm now a proud owner of a 150 points at Sarasota Springs Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World.

We'll be taking our first official DVC trip to Disney World at the end of August, but I've already used some of my points earlier this year to spend a couple of nights at the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland. The best part is that Disney let me use my DVC points before my closing had even completed.

In this hub I'll give an overview of the Disney Vacation Club properties and how the program works along with links to all the pertinent sites about the DVC Timeshare program. I hope you will enjoy it and if you'd like to join us DVCers, I'll be happy to be one of the first to welcome you home :)

DVC Membership Packet
DVC Membership Packet
Disney's Beach Club Villas at WDW
Disney's Beach Club Villas at WDW

What is the Disney Vacation Club?

The DVC is essentially Disney's version of a points-based timesharing program, using a "right to use" model. Here's a brief outline of how it works:

Points-based timeshare programs

What this means is that instead of having a fixed week at Disney every year, you instead buy a certain number of points and you can use those points anyway you like at different Disney properties. DVC points can be used at the Disney Vacation Club properties, the Disney Resort Hotels all over the world, and on the Disney Cruise Line.

You can also exchange your points for weeks outside of the Disney system through Disney's exchange partner, Intervals International, but this is usually the least effective way to use your points. They retain the most value used at DVC properties.

Points values for any particular stay change seasonally and based upon size of units so you can maximize your vacation time by reserving smaller units outside of Disney's busiest seasons -- Summer, Christmas, and school holidays.

Current DVC prices from Disney directly are $104 per point with a minimum 160 point purchase. Frequently they run specials that nicely discount the points either $8 or $10 a point. For example, I bought my Saratoga Springs points for $91 per point and they let me buy the August 2006 use year so I essentially got those points for free and rolled them all over into 2007.

Right to Use

The "right to use" model of timesharing indicates that instead of buying a real estate interest, you buy the use for a fixed number of years instead. Most of Disney's Vacation Club properties have a use year ending in 2042. Their newest properites, Saratoga Springs and Animal Kingdom Villas, have use years ending 2054 and 2057 respectively.

"Right to Use" is mostly used outside the US, particularly in Mexico and the UK. Disney uses this model in order to retain control over their properties. Speculation by current owners is that they will likely just plow the old resorts under when their "Right to Use" periods end and build all new resorts with entirely new themes. But honestly, no one has any idea what Disney will do when the time comes.

DVC Use Years

DVC points are allocated on an annual basis according to "use year" instead of by calendar years. They should probably really be called the "use month". For example, I bought "use year" August so my point allocations run from August until July. My 2007 points are good from August 2007 to July 2008.

Points can be rolled over or borrowed from one year to another. For example, since Disney bonused me the 2006 point, I rolled those into 2007. Let's say I wanted to take my whole family to Disney World and wanted to stay for longer than my 2007 points would allow. I could borrow all my points from 2008 for the stay. This is handy for people who are not total Disney freaks and only plan a trip to the park every other year. ;)

Home Resort

Even though DVC points can be used at any Disney property, you always buy at a "home resort". My home resort is Saratoga Springs, but my first vacation since buying will actually be at Boardwalk Villas because I want to be close to Epcot.

Where you buy your points only matters if 1.) You want to stay at the same resort every time you visit and always want an 11-month window to make a reservation and 2.) you tend to plan at least 11 months out for your vacations.

At your home resort, you have an 11 month reservation window. For the other resorts, you have a 7 month window. So say I want to stay in Saratoga Springs in December 2008. I could book that trip in January 2008. But if I wanted to stay at Boardwalk Villas, I could not book it until May 2008.

I never know what I'm going to be doing 11 months out so I just bought at Saratoga Springs. If I always planned so far ahead however, I probably would have bought Boardwalk Villas on the resale market because Epcot is my favorite park and the Boardwalk Villas are a very popular resort property.

Annual Maintenance Dues

Maintenance fees at DVC are based upon the number of points you own and where your home resort is. I pay $4.12 per point for Saratoga Springs Resort. Currently Saratoga has the lowest maintenance cost and Vero Beach has the highest at $5.63 per point. Historically, mtce fees increase 3-5% annually, but some years they have not gone up at all and other years they have actually gone down. Larger resorts tend to have lower fees than smaller ones because the costs are spread out among more owners.

Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, SC
Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, SC
Disney's Vero Beach Resort, Florida
Disney's Vero Beach Resort, Florida

DVC Properties

There are currently six DVC Resorts at Walt Disney World, one in Vero Beach, Florida and one on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

Four of the six WDW resorts are officially "sold out" -- Old Key West, Boardwalk Villas, Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and Disney's Beach Club Villas. However, they frequently come up for sale on the resale market and sometimes points can even be bought directly from Disney since Disney has first right of refusal on all timeshare resales and they exercise it frequently in order to keep the resale value of their properties high. Unlike most timeshare properties which easily lose between 50% and 75% or more of their value on the resale market, DVC points can usually only be obtained at resale for a discount of between 10% and 20% because Disney scoops up all the bargains themselves.

DVC resorts currently for sale directly through Disney are Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (which will be sold out soon if it isn't already) and the brand new Animal Kingdom Villas which is currently under construction. The first phase of the property should be open for occupancy this Fall and they expect to complete construction by April 2009.

The resorts at Hilton Head and Vero Beach are also officially sold out.

Old Key West Resort
Old Key West Resort
BoardWalk Villas
BoardWalk Villas
Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Villas at Wilderness Lodge
Villas at Wilderness Lodge
Animal Kingdom Villas Concept Drawing
Animal Kingdom Villas Concept Drawing

WDW Resorts and Vicinity to the Parks

Disney's Old Key West is close to Downtown Disney and about a mile walk. They have a boat launch which takes guests to Downtown Disney or Saratoga Springs Resort and there are buses to all the other parks. Theming is naturally the early 1900s Florida Keys.

Disney's Boardwalk Villas and Disney Beach Club Resorts are both within walking distance of Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios or you can take a short boat ride to either park. Both are themed based upon the Atlantic Coast Resorts (think Atlantic City and Cape May, NJ) of the early 20th century.

Saratoga Springs is closest to Downtown Disney and there's a walking path from the resort to the shopping complex. There's also a boat that runs to Old Key West Resort and Downtown Disney. The Theme is Victorian Horse Racing, circa late 1800s and reminiscent of upstate New York in its resort heyday.

Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge are closets to Magic Kindgom with boat access to the park. You can also take the buses to MK or any of the other parks. Occasionally, they also have boat access to the Contemporary Resort and the monorail. The Resort theme is similiar turn-of-the-century Rocky Mountain National Park during the great railroading building projects.

Notice a common theme between all these resorts? Yep, you guessed it. Those Disney imagineers love the turn of the century motif. And I'm not talking the turn of this century. Heh.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas breaks the turn of the century America motif in favor of the African Savanna, a theme it shares with the Animal Kingdom lodge and Animal Kingdom park. The Villas are within a stone's throw of the Animal Kingdom so in all likelihood Disney will build a walking path between the Villas and the Park. Access to all other parks is by bus.

Transportion is pretty good within Walt Disney World and the buses and boats are all free. However, since the Disney property is enormous, it always makes sense to stay closest to the park where you will be spending the most time.

Is the Disney Vacation Club for you?

It depends. Do you love Disney? Do you go to Walt Disney World at least every other year? Can you imagine doing that for say 25-30 years or so? If you can't, then DVC is probably not for you.

If you travel to different places every year, you'd probably be better off with a different points-based timeshare program -- such as Worldmark or Fairfield. They both offer good value on the resale market and have lots of properties. You can always use those to trade into DVC. DVC is a horrible value if you plan to use it mostly as a trader with the exchange companies. You're best off buying something much cheaper.

On the other hand though, if you love Disney and visit the parks frequently and like to stay at Deluxe Level resorts and would primarily stay at Disney-owned properties, then DVC is probably a great option to consider. Mousesavers has a great guide to the Disney Vacation Club's costs vs returns which you should definitely take a look at if you're not sure buying is right for your lifestyle. It compares staying at DVC resorts compared to the regular deluxe hotels at Disney World and gives a break-even point for various decisions.

Tour of Disney's BoardWalk Grand Villa

How do I become a DVC member?

If you don't have any plans to go to either Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California, then you can just call the Disney Vacation Club on the phone and join that way. That's what I ended up doing since I didn't buy during the presentation. They'll give you the rundown of all the current costs and then mail out the paperwork for you to sign.

DVC's phone number is (866) 240-3817. Since DVC has a great member referral program, if you care to use my name as a referral, just email me at embitca at gmail.com and I'll hook you up with my DVC Guide and give you my full name to give him.

If you are visiting Walt Disney World all of the parks and hotels have a DVC desk. You just sign up for what time you want to do the presentation and if you are staying at a Disney Resort, they'll send someone to collect you and also drop you off at the park of your choice when you are done.

The Disney difference will be immediately clear when you go on a DVC tour if you've ever been to a timeshare presentation before. There is NO pressure to buy at DVC at all and they won't keep you trapped there for hours while they try and talk you into joining. In fact, it is so low key you may get the impression they don't care if you join or not. So feel free to take the tour just to peek at the property and get their info packet and enjoy your free ride to the park. They'll also probably give you some fastpasses as well.

They also have DVC reps at Disneyland. I'm not sure how they handle things there since there's no DVC property there yet, but they might have a model room set up inside the Grand Californian Hotel.

All set? Have fun with Mickey!

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