You may have read a pair of our articles regarding the best and worst Walt Disney properties for their Disney Vacation Club and wondered, at least for a moment, if you should join. There are several aspects of such a timeshare purchase that concern you, not the least of them being the negative stigma attached to the word timeshare.
We do not want to mislead you. Not every person will be a great fit with DVC membership. Instead, what we want to do is identify the positives and negatives of DVC ownership, thereby providing you with the relevant information to form your own conclusion. Similar to last time, there will be a series of upcoming columns regarding the Disney Vacation Club. This one will focus on the club itself, while the next two will examine the positives and the negatives. After these pieces, we will begin a monthly series about DVC membership.
1. The basics
The first thing you are probably wondering is exactly what the Disney Vacation Club is. The answer is simple. It is a Disney timeshare service that allows members to purchase a small portion of Disney’s elite properties in exchange for “free” hotel stays. A consumer buys DVC points that can be used to book rooms at the most luxurious Disney resorts such as The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Animal Kingdom Villas in exchange for one lump sum purchase fee followed by a modest annual maintenance fee.
Think of DVC points as a type of Disney store credit that can be exchanged for a stay at one of a dozen DVC properties, eight of which are located at Walt Disney World. A ninth is located at Disneyland. The others are positioned in the beach cities of Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. There is also one exotic destination, Aulani a Disney Resort & Spa, in Ko Olina, Hawaii. Suffice to say that a lot of your vacations will be planned moving forward if you do choose to join DVC, because there are so many wonderful options.
How you utilize your DVC membership is entirely a personal choice. Using the special DVC store credit affords you with the opportunity to pick your dates to visit for “free”. Keep in mind that not all dates cost the same number of points, even at the same hotel.
Consider this matter from Disney’s perspective. They want to have maximum occupancy as much of the time as is possible. During the summer and holiday season, that will happen with or without DVC members visiting. In January and September, attendance is down. So, it is the perfect opportunity to reduce the number of points required for visits in order to encourage members to travel to Disney more frequently.
2. The lifespan
The concept of DVC timeshare ownership can be confusing, so let me use a basic scenario to explain the process. Let’s say that you purchase 100 points from Disney. What you have actually bought is a recurring series of hotel visits from now until the time when your contract expires, which is no sooner than 2047.
Unlike regular timeshares, you do not own the property forever, but the newest DVC properties last into the mid-2060s. If you are 20 when you read this, you will be in your 70s and presumably past your theme park days when your timeshare contract expires. For most readers, it is fair to think of a DVC investment as a permanent one. Best of all, it can be deeded to other family members once you grow too old for Disney, assuming that ever happens.
3. The cost of a DVC vacation
I realize that this is a lot of information to consider. Let’s consider an example involving an actual stay at a DVC property using DVC points. This past May, my wife and I chose to spend eight days at Magic Kingdom to celebrate her birthday and our anniversary. If you are not saying “Awwww!” right now, your heart is made of stone. But I digress.
We arrived on May 16 and departed the morning of May 24 or, as we knew it, Dark Saturday. Leaving Walt Disney World and heading back to the real world is always depressing. Since we are a childless couple who happen to be Parrotheads, Old Key West is our One Particular Harbor, the perfect hotel for us to stay. Note: ignore the eighth night of our stay for the purposes of the scenario below. Most travelers stay for six or seven nights.
A weekly stay at Old Key West costs 99 points. Assuming the above 100 points owned, we could have stayed one full week for no charge at a property that otherwise costs approximately $350 a night. That is a grand total of $2,450 for a full week to which we were entitled thanks to our DVC membership.
We paid nothing out of pocket for our accommodations save for our annual maintenance fee, which is currently $5.54 per point or $554 per 100 points. The maintenance fee pays for upkeep, which ensures that the property you love so much right now is still an elite facility every time you visit. This fee is paid as a lump sum at the start of every year, but it can also be paid monthly if that is your preference.
The fair way to look at our stay is that it cost $554 for something Disney values at $2,450. Had we stayed off-property at a $100/night location, $700 in total, we would have spent $146 more for much less satisfying accommodations. Make no mistake on the point. Staying onsite at Walt Disney World is the best way to handle your vacation.
In exchange for our points purchase, we were provided the ability to choose the time frame we preferred at the DVC property we desired. If you love waking up to see giraffes outside your window, you could have stayed at Animal Kingdom for as little as 76 points for the same visit. Then again, if you do want that Savannah view that gives you giraffe access, the point cost is 123. Just like anything else in life, getting what you want comes at a price. With DVC, the “price” is more points spent for the same hotel stay.