If you're a huge Disney fan and take regular vacations, the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) might be for you. Travelers who like to stay at official Disney Resorts and properties at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World are likely the ones who benefit the most from membership.
What Is the Disney Vacation Club?
Disney Vacation Club, or DVC, is a vacation timeshare program that is owned and operated by a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts division. According to WDW Info, it's one of the fasting growing "clubs" in the travel industry. When you purchase an interest, it basically means your purchase consists of vacation points, which can then be redeemed based on availability. You can use them for reservations throughout the year for certain villas at official club resorts. You can also use them for:
- Other Disney resorts
- Disney Cruise Line
- Adventures by Disney
- Non-Disney hotels and resorts
The real estate interest you purchase becomes your home resort, and you get a priority period to make reservations up to 11 months in advance. Members who don't have ownership at that resort get advance booking times of seven months.
Current Resort Destinations
As of summer 2017, there is a good offering of member resorts in the US. These include:
- Aulani, DVC Villas, Ko Olina, Hawai'i
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Jambo House
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village
- Disney's Beach Club Villas
- Disney's BoardWalk Villas
- Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
- Disney's Old Key West Resort
- Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney's Vero Beach Resort
- The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
- The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Cost of Membership
The cost of membership varies based on point levels, in 25 point increments, starting at 100-124 and going up to 225-250.
100-124 Point Purchase
An example of a 100-124 point purchase would be:
- Aulani, DVC Villas, Ko Olina: Starting price of $17,600, closing costs of $443.46 and recurring dues of $58.58 monthly
- Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows: Starting price of $17,600, closing costs from $442.52, and recurring monthly dues of $51.13
This works out to $176.00 per vacation point. There are financing options with a 10% down payment as well. This level of buy-in is for the traveler who spends an average of:
- 6-8 nights per year in a deluxe studio that sleeps up to 5
- 3-4 nights in a one-bedroom villa that sleeps up to 5
- 2-3 nights in a two-bedroom villa that sleeps up to 10
- 1 night in a three-bedroom grand villa that sleeps up to 12
225-250 Point Purchase
If you're looking for more, an example of 225-250 point buy-in at $176 per vacation point would be:
- Aulani, DVC Villas, Ko Olina: Purchase price from $39,600, potential closing costs from $476.46, and 2017 monthly dues from $131.81
This highest level of buy-in is geared towards travelers who spend the average of:
- More than 11 nights in deluxe studio
- 7-8 nights in a one-bedroom villa
- 5-6 nights in a two-bedroom villa
- 2-3 nights in a three-bedroom grand villa
As USA Today pointed out in their review of Disney Vacation Club, buy-in is around the cost of 7 one-week family vacations at a Disney resort. With DVC, you're getting about 45 years' worth of vacation discounts at Disney.
Other Benefits of Membership
There are additional benefits and discounts offered to Disney Vacation Club members. Some of these are things you may not have even considered in your plan to purchase points. According to Theme Park Tourist, these include:
- Ticket discounts
- Pool hopping at some resorts
- Room discounts when you are out of points and want to pay cash to visit
- Meal discounts of up to 10-20%
- Free laundry
- Miscellaneous discounts to things like Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, spas, golf courses, boating, and biking
- Discounts on VIP park tours
- Free parking at Walt Disney World theme parks
- Some special gifts during events
- Top of the World Lounge fireworks
- Ability to purchase Tables in Wonderland dining
Disney's official DVC club website has a full list of membership benefits so you can get a better look at everything that your points can earn you.
Buying Points from Resellers
According to Mousesavers, points purchased from resellers do not carry the same privileges as points purchased directly from Disney. They are valid for reservations at DVC resorts as well as RCI exchanges, Club Cordial, and Club Intrawest. However, some privileges are lost if you buy points from resellers.
For example, resale points purchased after March 20, 2011 cannot be used to make reservations at Concierge Collection, the Disney Collection, or the Adventurer Collection. Instead, you can only use those at DVC resorts as well as RCI exchanges, Club Cordial, and Club Intrawest. If you purchased resale points after April 4, 2016, these points are also typically not eligible for most ancillary perks like Annual Pass discounts, dining, and merchandise discounts.
Other benefits sacrificed include access to member gatherings or parties, the member cruise, member lounge access at Epcot, and exclusive Adventures by Disney trips.
Positives and Negatives of Joining
Depending on what your travel preferences are, you may find the potential negatives are not negatives at all.
Some pros of the DVC membership include:
- Flexibility to use points any time throughout the year
- Choose the size of accommodations you require
- Bank points from one year to use the following year for a larger vacation
- For people who visit Disney once or more a year, the high buy-in could be a great long term vacation savings
- Look for limited time incentives from Disney to purchase DVC points
Some potential negatives to purchasing membership may include:
- All DVC Resort properties are in the US
- Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, and Shanghai Disney Resorts are not part of the official DVC Resorts
- Limited resorts with buy-in availability right now
- Monthly dues can be pricey, depending on your points level of buy-in, and go up each year
- Although it is a real estate purchase, the deed expires after 45-50 years
- Resale points purchased don't have the same privileges as points purchased directly from Disney
Read Online Reviews
There are a number of sites that offer expert Disney traveler personal reviews of the DVC, but also other resources that explain the general pros and cons to the program as a whole. Most reviewers and sites highly recommend the program for Disney fans. The biggest negatives seem to revolve around the ever-increasing maintenance fees, the deed expiration dates, and high financing charges. Some recommended websites to peruse before buying include:
- Disney Tourist Blog's Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide: Great guide to pros and cons of membership and how to figure out if it's right for you
- Theme Park Tourist's 5 Huge Issues Buying into the Disney Vacation Club: A look at some potential negatives to buying into the vacation ownership program
- TripAdvisor Forums: Look for lots of posts on TripAdvisor from members and non-members asking some important questions
- Fidelity Real Estate Sales' Blog on Long Term Financial Value of Disney Vacation Club Ownership: A thorough explanation of what the membership is and clarification that it's not actually a real estate investment
- Yelp Reviews: Yelp also has a section of good reviews from people who have already purchased membership points
Is DVC Membership Right For You?
At the end of the day, this really becomes a personal choice, and the reviews out there tend to be skewed by travelers' individual needs and whether the DVC membership is right for them. If you travel frequently to a Disney Resort, it may be the perfect fit for you. Those who visit Walt Disney World once every five years, on the other hand, may find it to be a waste of money.
Before making a purchase, you should really sit down and look at your travel habits, do a cost comparison much like Theme Park Insider has, and don't forget to factor in all the additional costs, especially monthly dues and financing charges, since those tend to be the most overlooked.