Disney Vacation Club, Explained!

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Disney Vacation Club, I’d like to take a minute to discuss just what it is and how it works.

 

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Overview

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is a point-based time share that allows you to stay at any of the designated DVC resorts using points that you purchase either directly through Disney or through a resale company (more on that later).

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Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House

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Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House

DVC Resorts at Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Villas at Jambo House

Animal Kingdom Villas at Kidani Village

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Disney’s Beach Club Villas

Disney’s BoardWalk Villas

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Other DVC Resort Locations

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort – Vero Beach, Florida

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina – Hawaii

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa – Disneyland Resort

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort – Hilton Head, South Carolina

How It Works

Home Resort:

When you buy a DVC contract, you buy a certain amount of points at a “home resort” that are replenished each year for the length of the contract (contract length varies depending on which home resort you choose).

With those points, you can book different sized rooms at any of the resorts listed above.  Room sizes are available anywhere from a studio that can fit up to four people, all the way up to a Grand Villa which can fit up to 12.

The amount of points you will need depends on where you would like to stay, time of year, the accommodation size you want, as well as the length of stay you’d prefer.

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Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House -1 BR

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Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House -1 BR

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Old Key West – Studio (2 Queen Beds)

Booking Window:

You can book your home resort beginning at 11 months out.  You can choose to stay at any of the other DVC resorts as well, however you cannot book those resorts until the 7 month mark.

Some resorts can be harder to book than others (Beach Club and Boardwalk especially), so it is recommended that you do some research to see which resort you like best before you buy in order to have the best advantage at staying there.

Use Year:

Every contract has a “use year”.  The beginning of your use year is when you receive your yearly allotment of points.  I will use our contract as an example throughout this section for reference.  We have a December use year, so each December 1st we receive our points for the year.

For us, the use year was not a huge factor, but there are a few things you need to consider.  Unused points need to be banked by the end of the 8th month of the use year (that’s July 31st for us).  Unused points expire the last day of the month before your next use year begins (November 30th for us).  Any points that are not used or banked by that time will be lost if you don’t use them.

The best thing to do is buy a use year that coincides with the months you would like to vacation (in our case, that’s December through July).  Then if you need to cancel your plans, you can do so and still have time to bank the points that won’t be used.

All that said, we haven’t had any issues yet.  We’ve had to cancel vacations that were planned passed our banking deadline.  That just meant we had to use our points up before the end of November.

Just be aware of what your deadlines are for your contract (Disney does send out reminders as well), and you should be fine.  If you are getting close to the end of your use year and still have points left, it’s time to plan a trip! 🙂

Banking and Borrowing:

One of the things I love best is the flexibility of it.  If you decide not to go on vacation one year, you can bank your points into the following year.  Then when that next year rolls around, you will have the previous year’s points as well as the current year’s points to use, meaning you can take a longer vacation or stay in larger accommodations.  You can even borrow the upcoming year’s points if you would like, so you could then have three year’s points at one time if you really want to go all out.

If you do that though, just keep in mind that when the next year rolls around you won’t have any points left, and that can be extremely depressing. 😉 It may even send you into a situation where you would need to borrow every year, which isn’t really the best scenario.

Also keep in mind that banked and borrowed points can’t be put back into the year they came from, so once you do that, there’s no going back.  Use them or lose them, and points are a terrible thing to waste!  It’s just like tossing money out the window.  Ouch.

Costs:

There are two costs involved with purchasing a DVC contract.  The first cost would be the contract itself.  That can either be paid in full up front, or financed over a few years.  The other cost involved is the annual dues, which must be paid every single year for the entire length of the contract.

The annual dues vary depending on which home resort you choose, as well as the amount of points purchased (dues are calculated per point).  

No matter where you own though, just be aware that the fees do go up slightly every year (typically just a few cents per point).

Ways to Purchase DVC

There are two ways you can buy a DVC contract:  buying directly through Disney or buying a resale contract through a broker.

So what are the differences?  Buying directly through Disney is the quickest, most straightforward route to take, but it is also the priciest.  We bought ours via resale for a fraction of the cost.

That said, there are some restrictions on resale contracts.  The two that come to mind first are the facts that if you buy resale, you can’t use your points for a Disney Cruise and you can’t use your points to stay at the regular resorts at Walt Disney World.

Update as of April 4, 2016:  DVC has announced that beginning 4/4/16 those that buy via resale will no longer have access to the discounts (typically 10%) offered on dining, shopping and events.  However, those who bought a contract before that date will be grandfathered in, and will still receive the same discounts they always had.  Just another thing to be aware of if considering a resale contract.

I recommend doing a lot of research before deciding what is right for you.  For us, it wasn’t a big deal that we couldn’t use the points for cruises or regular resorts, so we went with a resale.  What appealed to us was the much lower price point.

Both options have financing available.

What’s Different About DVC?

If you are used to traditional Disney vacations, there are some differences I should mention when compared to staying via DVC.

One big difference is that they don’t have regular housekeeping.  You only get trash and towel service on the 4th day of your stay if you’re staying less than 8 nights.  If you’re staying 8 nights or longer, you’ll receive one full cleaning on the 4th day, then trash and towel on the 8th day.  However, you can pay for additional service if you’d like:

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Next, DVC is room only.  If you want tickets, Magical Express or the dining plan, you have to add them separately.

We typically don’t use the dining plan, but it’s easy enough to add if you want it.  You just go onto the DVC website to choose which one you want and pay for it separately.  It will then link right to your account.  Note, free dining promotions do not apply to DVC.

To add Magical Express, you just have to fill out the form on the DVC website and they will add it on for you at no extra cost.

If you buy tickets directly from Disney, they will automatically link to your My Disney Experience (MDE) account.  You just have to link the tickets to the appropriate person in your party.  We usually buy ours from Undercover Tourist though because they are a tad cheaper.  Also, they are an authorized Disney ticket seller and have a great reputation, so there is nothing to worry about.  The only drawback is that you have to wait for them to come in the mail before you can link them.  But, as long as you order far enough in advance, that shouldn’t be any problem.  Either way, tickets are easy to add on.

Otherwise, everything else is the same.  You can make all your dining reservations and select your Fast Passes right on the regular Disney site through your MDE account.  You can still do online check in, and you will still receive Magic Bands.

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So What’s It Like, Really??

Now that you know the basics, you may be wondering what it’s really like to be a DVC member.  Well, let me just say…I LOVE IT!!!  I consider it one of the the best things we’ve ever done!  There is nothing like hearing that “Welcome Home” when you arrive!  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 😉

But seriously, the resorts are beautiful and we never would have been able to stay at them without our DVC membership.  We’ve only owned since 2013 and I already feel like we’ve gotten our money’s worth.  We have stayed at Saratoga Springs (our Home Resort), Old Key West and Animal Kingdom Lodge so far.  We’ve stayed in studios, 1 bedrooms and last year we took my whole family and stayed in a 2 bedroom.  Again, that would not have been possible without DVC!

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Old Key West

I also love the fact that I am in 100% control of my vacation.  If anything needs to be changed, I can take care of it myself.

In addition, there are quite a few perks.  There are many discounts on certain tickets and tours, restaurants and shops, spa services, as well as golf and other recreational activities (which are now only available if you buy direct, see update listed above in the “Ways to Purchase” section).  There are also several member-only events you can attend.

Summing It Up

So are you wondering if DVC would be right for you?  All I can say is research, research, research!!  This post gives you a good idea of what it’s all about, but do your own investigating.  Learn as much as you can.  It is a very large investment, but one that is certainly worth it if the circumstances are right.

If you do decide to join, Welcome Home!  If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment!

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