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5 Things You Need to Know Before You Join the Disney Vacation Club

Another happy Disney family

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.

Even the DVC logo is happy!

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.

A Lot Can Happen from Now until 2060

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.

Old Key West

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.

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There are 15 comments.

You are basing your cost of staying at OKW as the MF (maintenance fee) times points, and you state that you paid nothing but your MF.
Nope. You MUST also figure in the amortization of your purchase price! Thus, my September stay of 5 nights at OKW cost me 5 X a little under $7, or about $350. I bought resale and saved a bundle.

You say that you bought a resale. We have been looking at that and can get very little information on season passes. Do you as a resale owner still get the DVC discount on annual passes?

Yes, I still received the discount. In a future column, I plan to explore the direct purchase advantages that resale buyers no longer receive. Earlier in the existence of DVC, there was no such distinguishing between the types of owners. As it is, I find the "lost" features almost irrelevant, but your mileage may vary.

Your point is well taken, but since this piece is intended to be an introduction to DVC membership, the last thing I wanted to do was introduce difficult economic concepts such as the amortization of intangible assets or depreciation of held assets. That would turn the conversation into the Ben Stein teaching scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

We have been thinking about DVC for a while now. But...we are a family of 6. Is it still something that could be good for us??

It even makes more sense you can get 1 bedroom, 2 bedrooms even grand villas that sleep 14.
My wife and I bought in 2009 at Bay Lake Tower and it was the best decision we ever did! Best of luck with your decision.

This is a great question to explore in a future column. The short answer is that you can take a family of 6 via DVC, but it will require either some careful room selection or additional points for the two-bedroom or three-bedroom villas that the other poster kindly mentioned.

Yes in short. The one thing would be the amount of points that will be needed for larger rooms. Saying you buy 150 points and go every other or 3rd your points will work just fine. If you are planning on ever year you may need to get creative and break up into studios or solely in the slowest seasons.

As a previous commentator noted, you must amortize the purchase price. However, you must also amortize the sale of your property IF you decide to sell at some future date. Disney resales do keep their value over time, but eventually must fall as the end of the contract draws near. It will be up to each investor to decide the best time (if at all) to sell a contract as it draws nearer to its expiration.

The other point to keep in mind is that 2047, the first date for contract expiration, could be pushed back. There have already been contract extensions offered for Old Key West, the property that expires the soonest. So, I wouldn't suggest that anyone worry about the expiration dates right now. In a decade, we'll talk.

You say that 70 is too old to want to go to Disney? I beg to differ. I'm 82 and I love going to Disney every chance I get. You never get too old to go to Disney.

So if they are showing "matching developers points" at a property, I'm assuming that's a one time only and is likely the same as "get a stay for free" promo we saw at Aulani?

Do you have to pay annual taxes on property

Yes, but it is minimal. You own only a small fraction of one of the units.

For my 150 point ownership, my property tax last year was $161.28. Property tax is included in your annual maintenance fee bill.

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