Home » The Hidden Trick to Staying at Walt Disney World’s Best Resorts for CHEAP

The Hidden Trick to Staying at Walt Disney World’s Best Resorts for CHEAP

Have you ever dreamt of staying at one Walt Disney World or Disneyland’s deluxe resorts? These Disney properties represent the finest hotel accentuations of theme parks in the entire world. Imitators are constantly trying to provide similar accommodations to lure away some of Disney’s business, yet hotels such as Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa remain the gold standard in the industry.

The problem with staying at either location is the price tag. Disney’s best resorts come with Disney’s highest rack rates. Disney fans as well as Disney Vacation Club members know that there’s a trick, though. Yes, you can spend a few nights at a luxurious Disney resort for a fraction of the price. Plus, you can use the experience as a trial run to see whether DVC membership is for you. Here’s everything you need to know about renting DVC points to stay at Disney’s best hotels. 

Disney’s most famous properties all participate

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While new DVC resorts such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas are breathtaking, longtime Disney fans know that a few resorts have more cachet. Generally, that list includes the first two official Walt Disney World hotels, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The other most revered resorts are the aforementioned Grand Floridian and its similar Disneyland property, the Grand Californian.

All four of these properties participate in the DVC program, which means that if you rent points, you can stay at any of them. Note that the Contemporary isn’t technically an option, but the replacement is, if anything, better. Bay Lake Tower was built in 2009 as an addition to The Contemporary, and it features a connecting bridge on the fifth floor. You have access to all the features of The Contemporary, but you get to stay in a newer, more modern room through the DVC program. Along those lines, the Grand Floridian and Polynesian include new buildings/bungalows made specifically for DVC, so they offer newer rooms as well. It’s fair to state that DVC rooms are better than regular rooms at these resorts for this reason.

If there are other Disney resorts that interest you more, that’s fine, too. A total of nine DVC properties are available at Walt Disney World plus the Grand Californian at Disneyland. The other Orlando resorts available are Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. There are literally thousands of rooms available each night at Disney properties that you can rent using DVC points. And it’s much easier to set up than you realize.

Yes, you can afford it

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There are several major DVC rental services. Most of them rent points at a price of $14 each. If you need a refresher on points, refer to my previous DVC intro article. Depending on the time of season when you visit Walt Disney World/Disneyland, you stay for a night for as little as 9 for a studio room that sleeps four to five people. Many great rooms are available for 20 points or less each night.

I realize that the numbers above mean little to you, so let’s use an example. Let’s presume that you’ve always wanted to stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian. You just couldn’t afford it. While the nightly rate is a moving target, staying at this resort generally costs about $675 per night plus tax. To get more specific with the example, we’ll say that you want to go in mid-May next year, after college finals are over but before Memorial Day. After that, the crowds increase dramatically. When crowds increase, Disney charges more for their nightly rates, and they also charge more DVC points. One directly influences the other.

Mid-May occurs in what Disney calls Dream Season. A room at this property costs 21 points for a weekday and 24 points for a weekend night (i.e. Friday night or Saturday night but NOT Sunday night). I could explain this in greater detail, but I’m trying not to make your eyes glaze from the math.

The gist is this. That same room that costs $675 plus tax is only $294 per night on Sunday-Thursday and $336 per night on Friday and Saturday. You’re literally saving more than half, and rooms rented via DVC points don’t include tax. That’s an additional savings of $84 for a $675 room. In other words, the same room that costs $760 through Disney is only $294-$336 using rental points. You don’t need to scour the web for discounts and coupons when you can get this offer on virtually any night (as long as you plan ahead).

Appreciating the value

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I realize that $300 a night is still too much for some people. Let’s use a more interesting example. Old Key West was the first DVC resort in the early 1990s. It’s also one of the best kept secrets. People who stay there know that its rooms are among the largest of any DVC resort at a minimum of 390 square feet. Compare that to staying at an All-Star resort. Most of their basic rooms are 260 square feet. That’s 50 percent more space. So, you’re getting a much better room at a higher quality resort.

Here’s where the value comes into play. In the same scenario above, Old Key West costs 13 points for weekdays and 17 points for weekend nights. That’s $182-$238 per night for a room that costs $414 plus tax otherwise. If you wanted to stay an entire week, the cost would be 99 points, which is $1,386. And again, there’s no surcharge for taxes.

Compare that to a week at an All-Star resort or Port Orleans, the lowest tier and second lowest tier of Disney resorts. Staying at All-Star Movies for that same time frame would cost $1,079 including tax. Port Orleans Riverside would cost $1,853. In other words, for less than $45 a night more than an All-Star resort and $67 cheaper than a mid-tier resort, you could stay at one of the nicest properties at Walt Disney World. Even if money is tight, you can find a way to afford staying a few nights at a DVC property.

The added benefits

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Remember that staying at a Disney property includes additional benefits. You’ll have access to the parks during Extra Magic Hours. You can sign up for the Disney Dining Plan just as you normally would. You’ll enjoy the ability to set up Advance Dinner Reservations at 180 days and FastPass+ at 60 days the same as anyone else staying on property. You can even set up Magic Express to make your flight easier if that’s how you’re traveling to Walt Disney World. It’s cosmologically identical to any other resort stay. You’re simply saving money while staying at a spectacular hotel.

Where you can buy points

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There are several great services for DVC points rentals. On a recent trip, I had to rent points even though I’m a DVC member. I had used up all my points for the year, but I wanted to stay at The Polynesian right after it opened. I rented points from The DVC Rental Store to book my room. Coincidentally, Dave’s DVC, another DVC rental company, was doing a live broadcast while we were at the resort that week. Both of them are highly recommended companies with wonderful reputations for customer service.

If you want to do some bargain hunting, there are even ways to get points for cheaper. A few popular Disney message boards include points rental forums. I’ve rented for as little as $11 per point before. In the Old Key West calculation above, $11 a point would reduce the cost of a week’s stay to $1,089, only $10 more than All-Star Movies. If you can find that deal, you’d be *CRAZY* to stay at an All-Star Resort rather than Old Key West, one of the best Disney hotels in the United States.

Words of warning

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If you’re wondering if there’s a catch, the answer is somewhere between yes and no. Since points rental services aren’t run by Disney themselves, there’s always a small danger. Only Disney can guarantee a perfect transaction. You’re taking on a slight risk if you use a third party. That’s why I tend toward the established points rental services rather than individual renters. I’m willing to pay a few dollars more per point to guarantee a smoothly facilitated transaction. Overall, more than 99 percent of rental transactions are efficient and honest, so there’s little cause for concern. I only mention it so that you’ll research the potential dangers on your own prior to completing a transaction.

Planning a trip

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The one thing to keep in mind about renting DVC points is that the standard rules apply. You’ll need to plan ahead of time in order to get the resort you want. I suggest having someone ready to rent for you seven months prior to your arrival. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of the room you want selling out. While there is generally availability at Old Key West, Animal Kingdom and Saratoga Springs up until three months prior to a date, you don’t want to get shut out.

In order to understand how many points you’ll need, bookmark a DVC points chart. This is the one I use. If you have additional questions about the process, please leave them in the comments section below. I’ll provide you with as much information as I can.