This summer our family took the plunge and joined the Disney Vacation Club. Just like any real estate purchase, this is a big decision that is not to be acted on lightly. We spent almost a decade telling ourselves, “it would be nice to join someday.” When joining DVC finally became a possibility for our family, we spent months conducting research and reading reviews from current DVC members before we finally committed.
While we were able to find answers to many of our questions online, there were still some that we could not find a satisfactory answer for. Our ultimate concern in purchasing a timeshare was whether or not it was financially beneficial to us. I think the answer to this question will vary for each person depending on the situation. I’ve outlined some questions below that you should ask yourself before deciding to buy into DVC as well as provided an Excel spreadsheet (credit goes to my husband for this one) to help you determine whether or not DVC is cost effective for you. I will also go over why we decided to join and why we chose to make the Polynesian our home resort.
Note: There is a price per point increase coming on 1/17/18.
What is DVC?
Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s timeshare program. Members have access to various Disney Parks resorts as well as other locations like the Aulani (Hawaii), Hilton Head Island, SC and Vero Beach, FL. Members can also use points towards Disney Cruise Line or Adventures by Disney. Those who choose to purchase points directly from Disney have access to various member perks including discounts and exclusive DVC member events (e.g., Moonlight Magic).
So, You’re Interested in Joining DVC. Ask Yourself the Following…
- How many points are you thinking about buying?
- The basic premise of DVC is that you purchase an initial set of points (e.g., 100). These points are replenished each year, and can be exchanged for nights at Disney hotels (or RCI condos, or Disney Cruises, etc.). Resorts such as the Grand Floridian cost the most points per night, so check out the DVC website to see how many points you would need for a typical family vacation.
- Points are expensive! Each point currently costs $176 for Copper Creek and Polynesian, so you will easily spend over $10,000 just to join the club. Additionally, there is an annual maintenance fee that you have to pay during the lifetime of the membership. This maintenance fee is per point, so take that into consideration when you are determining how many points you want to buy.
- How often do you currently visit Disney Parks? Do you see yourself frequenting Disney properties as a part of your future vacation plans?
- DVC allows you to “bank” the previous year’s points, and “borrow” points from the next year. For example, if you purchase 100 points, you could use as many as 300 on (100 banked from the previous year, 100 from the current year, and 100 borrowed from the next year).
- Will you be visiting frequently enough to hit a break even point at the cost of your buy in?
- Are you interested in visiting other Disney destinations like the Aulani or Hilton Head Island, SC? Do you see yourself booking a Disney cruise?
- When visiting the parks, do you prefer to stay on property? If so, at what level property do you stay at (i.e., value, moderate, or deluxe)? If you always stay at the deluxe resorts (e.g., The Grand Floridian), then it would be wise to consider DVC. If you often stay off property or at the value resorts, then DVC is most likely not for you.
- Once again, ask yourself how many points do you need to purchase for your desired home resort and length of stay? For example, does a Deluxe Studio at Copper Creek meet your family’s needs or do you need a two-bedroom cabin? When can you travel? Notice that it will cost you more points during popular travel dates. (Image Source: Disney Vacation Club)
- Are you interested in having access to a kitchen or kitchenette as well as laundry in your resort room?
- Do you currently have access to discounts (e.g., room and tickets)? Are you looking for access to events and perks exclusive to DVC members?
- Are you in a financially stable situation? (e.g., are you an undergrad in college with student loans or are you someone who has a stable job with little to no debts?)
- Are you ready to commit to a long-term contract (e.g., ours is 48 years)? How long into your contract before you break even on your investment? Download our Excel spreadsheet to help determine if DVC is cost effective for you.
Why We Joined
- We visit Disney World or Disneyland every other year. On the rare occassion, we have gone twice within a 365-day period.
- We have talked about taking a trip to Hawaii for years and this is a future goal for our family.
- We love staying on property. We love having access to all the transportation services and it is just more magical to stay somewhere like Animal Kingdom Lodge. Thanks to the Military Salute, we can get a room at a deluxe resort for up to 40% off the going rate (rates vary by season). We have stayed at all three levels and found that it is difficult to go down to a value resort once you have stayed at the deluxe level.
- While we are not looking to cook full meals while on vacation, we see having the kitchenette as a way to save some money. Also, between our son’s milk protein allergy and my numerous food intolerances due to SIBO, we see the kitchenette as a way to relieve some of the stresses we often experience when eating out while on vacation. DVC members can take advantage of the various grocery delivery services and have food delivered to bell services. If you or a member of your party are on a medically prescribed diet, then this feature may be of value to you. As for access to laundry…no, I don’t dream of washing clothes on my vacation, but I don’t mind doing a little laundry if it means we can pack less.
- Since 2009, our family has been taking advantage of Disney’s Military Salute. This is an incredible discount! If you are unfamiliar with the program, it offers a discount on rooms, tickets and, in the last couple of years, Disney’s Photopass service. Every year we have to wait for Disney to announce if they will be continuing the discount and what the discount entails (it changes every year with prices steadily increasing). Disney may choose to discontinue this program at anytime which means we would lose our discount at deluxe resorts like AKL. Also, Disney only opens up so many rooms at each resort for the program which means I have to book ASAP. There have been times where I have called Disney for rates, discussed the options with my husband, called back 10 minutes later and the room we wanted was gone. With DVC, the room, which is the biggest expense of our trip, is already paid for. We book our home resort (Polynesian) 11 months out and any other DVC property 7 months out.
- For us, we saw this as financially worth it because we not only saw ourselves building memories with our son, but with family and friends as well. For our upcoming trip, my brother and his wife will be joining us. Prior to DVC, we did not have the means to get a room large enough to accommodate 5 people.
The Pitch: Our Experience at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa Preview Center
Note: There are DVC preview centers at other Disney locations like Disneyland. This is simply our tour experience at Disney World.
If you are heading out to Disney World and seriously considering joining DVC, then you’ll have the opportunity to speak with a guide and tour sample rooms from the Polynesian, Copper Creek (Fort Wilderness), and the Aulani. We were told the tour would take about 2 hours, but for us this process took about 3 hours because we had a lot of questions.
- While we were thinking of contacting DVC directly for a tour, we were actually approached by a DVC cast member at our resort (AKL). He arranged everything for our tour including child care and shuttle service. We were also offered a $100 Disney gift card and 3 Fastpasses each for our time.
- For your shuttle service you can request to be picked up at your resort or another location like one of the theme parks. There are accessible vans available as well as infant carseats and booster seats.
- Our preview center was Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. Our shuttle driver checked us in at the front desk. Once we were checked in, we took our son to the Kids Clubhouse. You’ll be asked to fill out your contact information as well as any pertinent medical information (e.g., food allergies).
- I would like to note that the SSR Kids Clubhouse was the highlight of Lil’ Man’s trip. He loved it and asked to return! They also have a Dyson machine that washes the kids hands for them when they enter. My kid already loves washing his hands, so he loved using the machine.
- You’ll have access to refreshments while you wait for your DVC guide. Your guide will welcome you “home” and show you to a small room where he/she will go over what DVC is, the perks (e.g., various discounts), properties available for purchase, and, of course, purchasing options.
- Once you have gone over the particulars, you’ll be taken to tour the model villas. At SSR, you can tour the Polynesian’s deluxe studio, the Aulani’s deluxe studio and 1 and 2-bedroom villas, as well as Copper Creek’s deluxe studio and 1-bedroom villa.
- After the tour, you may be shown some of the amenities at SSR (we were shown a lounge area and the pools).
- After the tour, our guide answered our remaining questions and concerns . There was no pressure to purchase. We were told there was the added incentive of receiving points for the 2017 year if we purchased during our stay. Our guide then took us to pick up our son (who was reluctant to leave the Kids Clubhouse), offered us some ice cream before we left and arranged for our shuttle service. We were also given the $100 Disney gift card and had the 3 Fastpasses added to our account before we left SSR.
- That evening we received a follow-up e-mail from our guide, but once again, there was no pressure to purchase. We spent the next few days going over the numbers and finally made the decision to purchase on our last day in the parks.
- We met with our guide at SSR the morning of our departure and signed all the paperwork. We were given a large folder of legal documents to take home as well as a DVC tote bag and member buttons. Note: Had we purchased earlier on in our stay, we would have been able to take advantage of some of the dining and merchandise discounts offered to DVC members.
Why we Chose Disney’s Polynesian for our Home Resort
First of all, what is a DVC home resort?
With your home resort, you will have the ability to book your stay 11 months out. For all other properties, you will have to wait until 7 months out. At the time of our purchase, Disney had points at Aulani, Copper Creek and Polynesian Village for sale.
We chose Disney’s Polynesian out of the three available resorts for the following reasons:
- Aulani was automatically ruled out because of the cost of air fare to Hawaii. I have been able to get reasonably priced airfare to Orlando wherever we have lived (i.e., Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Virginia). Also, we don’t see ourselves visiting Hawaii as often as we would Disney’s parks.
- Location: You can’t beat being able to see Cinderella’s Castle and fireworks from your room. Plus, with a little one, we currently spend the majority of our time at Magic Kingdom, so being able to get quickly to and from MK and our resort is ideal. The location also makes it easier to get to the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary for dining reservations.
- Transportation: My boys love the monorail, so this made the Polynesian stand out over Copper Creek.
- The Showers: We are small family of three, so we have no need for a two-bedroom villa (not available at Poly), but having access to two showers, (especially when our Lil’ Man is not so little anymore), was a bonus for us.
- Annual Dues/Contract Length: While both resorts cost the same per point, Copper Creek’s annual dues were higher. Copper Creek also had a 50-year contract whereas Polynesian’s contract was for 48 years (plenty for us).
- We were comfortable purchasing 100 points. We can bank and borrow points for up to a total of 300 points. Plus, we can purchase 24 one-time-use points for total of 324 points. We only need 269 points to stay in the Polynesian’s lake view studio for a week during the Premier Season and only 148 during Adventure Season. If we find we ever need to accommodate more than 5 people, we can always book 2 studios. We can stretch our points even farther if we choose to stay at other resorts outside of the Magic Kingdom area.
Know before you buy
- We did not think to ask our guide if there were any resale contracts available for other properties. We love Animal Kingdom Lodge and, with its location being so far from Magic Kingdom, it requires less points per stay.
- You can purchase direct with Disney to have access to member benefits. If the member benefits are not of interest to you, then you can always look into the resale market. You will be able to purchase points for cheaper than you can directly from Disney, but you will not have access to the DVC perks.
- Know that you can purchase 24 one-time use points when booking. This means that if you are short 24 points when booking, you can choose to pay cash for the extra points rather than borrow from the following year.
- Make sure you fully understand the rules behind banking and borrowing points. Once you have banked a year’s points, they will be unavailable to use until the next use year.
- DVC membership only covers the room. You will still need to purchase airfare, theme park tickets, and meals. Members do have access to discounts on annual passes and to some dining locations. (Image Source: Disney Vacation Club)
Our Thoughts so Far…
We will be heading out for our first DVC experience during spring break. So far, I have found it much easier to book a room. I no longer have to worry about including the room in our budget (always the biggest expense). I now have the option of booking online whereas I had to call to book under our military discount. I did choose to call DVC directly and have a cast member assist me with our first booking since we were also banking points as well as purchasing one-time-use points for this stay. The cast member that assisted me gave me her direct extension in case I need any future assistance.
Prior to booking with a cast member, I did use the resort availability tool to see where we could stay. I booked our stay within the 7-month window and found, despite traveling during the Premier Season, there was availability at most of the resorts.
Do you have any questions about joining DVC that aren’t addressed here? Are you a DVC member who has some insights to share? Comment below!