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Joining the Disney Vacation Club is a bold decision. Admittedly, membership isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive to join, and nobody will ever describe a trip to a Disney theme park as cheap. Still, if you do sign up for DVC, you’ll enjoy a lot of ancillary benefits that can maximize your vacation as well as your spending power. Here’s a guide to the best current advantages of DVC membership.

1. “Free” Rooms

Okay, whenever we discuss DVC membership, this topic proves to be the most divisive. No, the rooms aren’t free in the purest sense. You have to buy into DVC to get one. Alternately, you can rent a room on DVC points. In the latter example, you’re still paying. For DVC members, the cost comes at the front and then annually in the form of maintenance fees that amount to about $600 annually in exchange for a week’s stay at one of Disney’s finest resorts.

Independent of all other potential benefits, this room discount is and always shall be the seminal aspect of DVC ownership. It assures participants that as long as their contract exists, they’ll have an opportunity to vacation close to a Disney theme park whenever inclined.

Image: Disney

As a current owner, I’m clearly biased in my opinion about the value of this benefit. I want to flip the script a bit by adding that I was once like you. My older brother constantly mentioned DVC membership to me over the years. The idea of paying in advance for future vacations never seemed smart to me. Then, I gave DVC a shot one year and promptly fell victim not just to obsession with the program but also an affliction members call Add-on-itis. That’s when someone constantly feels the temptation to add more points to their membership in order to get to stay at a Disney resort that much longer. We’re approaching 50 days at Disney over the past few years, and that’s a drop in the bucket compared to some participants, especially retirees.

In a vacuum, virtually everyone wants to stay at a Disney resort due to the extra privileges such as Extra Magic Hours, which open the gates of Disney theme parks early or close them late for everyone staying onsite. It gives visitors a chance to ride several more attractions each day. Personally, I’m becoming one of those people who enjoy visiting the various Disney resorts to appreciate the amenities and architecture of each one. Every DVC property is a cathedral with delicious restaurants, impeccable pools, and stunning landscaping.

Some people argue that staying at Disney’s finest resorts is a waste of money since you aren’t in the room that much. I maintain that having the ability to combine a theme park visit with a stay at a luxury resort is like doubling up on the quality of your vacation. My “free” room allows me to do that at an affordable rate. The next time you’re planning to visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland, book a DVC room via points rental. See if you feel the same way about the value of the premise.

2. Imagination Pavilion lounge

Okay, here are a couple of dirty secrets about Central Florida. It rains all the time, and the temperature is oftentimes on a par with the surface of the sun. At least it feels that way to me…and I’m a native southerner. During our most recent two trips to Walt Disney World, the Heat Index was over 100 degrees more than 80 percent of the time, and we went during mid-May and mid-September. Anyone who has visited one of the American parks in July knows that the combination of heat and humidity can overwhelm the senses, especially early in the afternoon.

In 2016, Disney offered something special to DVC members as a way to show gratitude for their loyal patronage over the years. One of the 25th anniversary benefits seems a bit frivolous on the surface. Once you’re in the habit of using it, however, you won’t want to go back to the old ways when you visit Epcot. It’s that much of an enhancement.

The addition in question is the Imagination Pavilion’s DVC Lounge. Park guests at Epcot who are also DVC members can enter this blissfully temperature-controlled facility whenever they want. All they must do is show their membership card. In exchange, DVC owners get to walk up a few flights of stairs (or ride an elevator) to the top floor. Here, they’ll enjoy a glorious view of the second gate at Walt Disney World. More importantly, they’ll get out of the blistering heat for a while.

Image: Disney

The DVC Lounge is more than just a few couches and chairs. It has a videogame and cartoon area for children. Here, they can play Disney Infinity games or watch classic Disney animated clips as their parents savor a respite from the outdoors…and the constant demands of parenthood.Plus, you and your kids can juice your phones and tablets in the conveniently provided USB outlets and power stations. And if you didn't bring a tablet, a few monster-sized 12.9" iPads are up for grabs.

Also available is a Coca-Cola Freestyle vending machine. These devices offer 165 flavors, meaning that you’ll get your favorite beverage here. Notably, drinks are free at the DVC Lounge. When you need to hydrate, simply head over to the Imagination Pavilion rather than wasting valuable money or snack credits.

After only two visits, this DVC member was totally hooked on the DVC Lounge. The concern is that it might go away after the 25-year celebration ends. Here’s hoping it stays indefinitely. The lounge vastly improved our mood during a 105-degree day at Epcot.

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