Disney’s take on timeshares: Guide to the Disney Vacation Club

Mar 30, 2022

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I’m often asked how our family manages to take several Disney vacations annually without going broke and my answer is always three words: Disney Vacation Club.

If you’re an annual (or more frequent) traveler to Walt Disney World or Disneyland and usually stay on Disney property when you visit, you could be missing a major trick if you haven’t taken the time to learn more about Disney Vacation Club (DVC). DVC is Disney’s more flexible take on the traditional timeshare. The DVC can deliver significant savings over the life of a membership for guests who regularly stay at Disney’s deluxe tier of resorts.

(Photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy)

Disney Vacation Club travelers can choose from 16 properties and counting across Walt Disney World, Disneyland and several beach destinations. This gives travelers who can’t get enough Disney, but still want some variety to where and when they visit, the flexibility to change up the resort and room types while locking in their long-term vacation spend for decades.

Joining won’t make financial sense for everyone, but if making the House of Mouse your home away from home sounds like your vacation dreams come true, here’s everything you need to know about becoming a DVC member. 

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In This Post

What is Disney Vacation Club?

More flexible than a traditional timeshare, Disney Vacation Club is a points-based program that allows you to purchase an end-dated real-estate interest at select Disney resorts. Purchase a certain number of “vacation points” per year at a designated “home resort,” and use them annually to book stays at any Disney Vacation Club resort, in any room type, and for any dates (availability permitting).

Depending on the “home” resort, contracts currently available expire between 2042 and 2070.

Use your DVC points at Disney’s Polynesian Village. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Who should consider purchasing a Disney Vacation Club contract?

When you’re crunching the numbers to determine whether Disney Vacation Club makes sense for you, a good start is to evaluate your current travel preferences and patterns. If you visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland every year or two, stay on Disney property in a deluxe resort and plan to do so for years to come, those are clues that the Disney Vacation Club could make a lot of sense for you.

If you enjoy easy access to the parks and the immersion that comes with staying at a Disney property, but would like more space and more of the comforts of home than a traditional hotel room, Disney Vacation Club Villas check that box.

Studio villas include kitchenettes with a wet bar, refrigerator, toaster and microwave. One-bedroom and larger villas include a full kitchen with a dishwasher, as well as washers and dryers.

(Photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy)

If you typically stay in moderate resorts, it could still be cost-effective to purchase a DVC contract, which effectively locks in the annual cost of your Disney lodging for decades to come. However, it will take longer to reach your break-even point. If you’re a budget traveler and typically book the lowest-priced value resorts, a DVC contract might not be right for you. Additionally, if you only sometimes stay in Disney resorts, and only sometimes want those conveniences of home, then renting may be best for you (more on that soon).

Related: Exploring Disney World on three different budgets 

Choosing a home resort

The price per point varies across Disney Vacation Club resorts, and even though points can be used at any property, it’s important to give serious consideration up front to your “home resort” choice. DVC members can use their points to book stays at their home resort 11 months in advance and at any other DVC resort seven months in advance.

Popular weeks and room types do fill up at the 11-month window. So, if you have your heart set on, for example, a week at the Polynesian between Christmas and New Year’s every year, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get the dates you want at the seven-month mark if you purchased at a different home resort.

If you’re more flexible with your dates and where you stay, you can save a lot by purchasing at a lower price-per-point resort, booking your home resort as a backup at the 11-month mark, then trying your luck inside the seven-month window if you’d like to stay elsewhere. We bought our primary contract at Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, our favorite resort, to ensure we always have a room there during peak demand times when our kids are out of school.

(Photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy)

We later bought a second, smaller contract at a lower price per point at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, and have used those points to stay in every single other Disney Vacation Club resort at Walt Disney World.

To get a sense of how many points you would need to take your ideal annual vacation, view the current points charts or use this cost calculator.

Related: These are the best Disney World hotels 

Maintenance fees

In addition to the price per point, annual maintenance fees are another important consideration when choosing a home resort. At some resorts, like Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, a lower price per point is offset by above-average maintenance fees, which have continued to increase over time.

Banking, borrowing and use years

Even if you don’t plan to use your DVC points every year, membership features known as “banking” and “borrowing” can still make it cost-effective to purchase a contract you only plan to use every two or even three years.

A DVC “use year” is the time each year when you get your new allocation of vacation points. DVC members can “bank” vacation points from their current use year to use the following year, or “borrow” vacation points from the next use year to book a stay in their current use year.

In other words, you could purchase a contract for fewer points than your ideal stay requires, but through banking and borrowing from previous or future use years, you could have enough points to book the reservation you want every two or three years. Note that a temporary COVID-19 policy change has imposed a borrowing restriction that prevents members from borrowing more than 50% of their vacation points contract.

Disney’s Copper Creek Cabins. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Membership perks

DVC members get access to quite a few perks and discounts that can really add up, depending on how you travel.

Members receive discounts on select dining, merchandise, select tickets and tours. They normally even get access to a Walt Disney World annual pass type — the Sorcerer Pass — only available to Florida residents and DVC members (note: Sorcerer Pass sales are temporarily paused).

Other perks include a Member Lounge at Epcot with complimentary soft drinks, Wi-Fi and charging stations, access to special member cruises on Disney Cruise Line, free parking when staying at DVC resorts and a special after-hours event, Moonlight Magic.

Relaunched March 17 (after a pandemic pause) as a slightly scaled-back version of Disney’s hard-ticketed After Hours events, Moonlight Magic gives members and guests complimentary after-hours access to a Walt Disney World theme park. It also includes complimentary snacks and soft drinks, unique character sightings, lower ride wait times and entertainment.

We checked out the March 17 Disney Villains-themed Moonlight Magic event at Epcot and couldn’t believe all the rare character sightings — Captain Hook and Smee, Kronk and Oogie Boogie.

Exchange options

DVC members can also exchange their points for stays at select resorts worldwide through Interval International, as well as use points for other Disney vacations including Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures By Disney and National Geographic Expeditions.

An interior view of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel at Walt Disney World. (Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

However, exchanging your DVC points for any of these options will not get you as much value for your points as you get when you use them at a DVC resort. A smarter move, if you don’t need them for your own Disney vacation in a particular year is to rent out your points (more on that below) and use the cash to book an alternative vacation.

Saving money by staying in

Another way many DVC members squeeze extra savings out of their membership is by utilizing their in-villa kitchens.

One-bedroom and larger villas have full kitchens, so families often save by ordering groceries and replacing pricey meals out with meals in the room. Even studio villas have kitchenettes and small tables. We save a small fortune — and valuable morning time, when lines in the parks are typically shorter — by eating a quick breakfast in our villa before heading out for the day.

(Photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy)

Buying direct or resale

Buying into Disney Vacation Club is purchasing a real-estate interest, and contracts are also available for purchase and resale on the secondary market, with resale purchases yielding substantial savings — sometimes up to 50% — off direct-from-Disney prices. However, buying a resale contract does come with limitations — some of them potentially significant.

Only members who have purchased at least 150 points directly from Disney (versus resale) are eligible for all of the previously detailed perks. Additionally, members who purchase a resale contract at any resort other than Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney Vacation Club’s newest property, which opened in December of 2019, are not able to use their points to book at Riviera.

Disney Riviera Resort. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

On the flip side, anyone who purchases a resale contract at Riviera can only use their vacation points to book stays at Riviera.

The benefits of being a DVC member — a personal take

Joining Disney Vacation Club was a no-brainer for our family.

We were visiting Walt Disney World at least once a year and had young kids who needed naps and quiet time. Also, my husband and I wanted to have our own space when the kids napped or went to bed before us.

We bought our first DVC contract at our favorite resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas. We based our number of purchased points on staying in a one-bedroom, Boardwalk-view villa once a year. As our kids got older, no longer needed naps and we were spending less time in the room, we quickly figured out that, by changing our room to a smaller, studio villa with a standard view and visiting at off-peak times, we could get nearly four times as many nights on Walt Disney World property for the same number of points.

Our DVC points have also been used to stay at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian and Aulani in Hawaii.

(Photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy)

The ability to use your points at different times of the year, at different resorts, and in different room types means you can adjust your approach as your family grows and changes.

Disney Vacation Club properties

Currently, there are 15 Disney Vacation Club resorts, with additional projects announced and under construction.

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House and Kidani Village.
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas.
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas.
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort.
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort.
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel.
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
  • Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
  • Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.
  • Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas.
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort.
(Photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy)

Expansions and new properties in progress

Three new Disney Vacation Club properties are also at various stages of development.

The first to become available will be 200 new DVC resort studios under construction as an expansion of the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. These are expected to open in late June 2022. The new resort studios will be a DVC room type unique to the Grand Floridian.

These villas are now on sale to existing DVC members and will go on sale to the public on March 31.

(Image courtesy of Disney)

Disney recently announced plans to develop new Disney Vacation Club Villas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The new villas are projected to open in late 2024, along with new recreation offerings and dining options. Disney has not yet shared additional details about on-sale dates and room types, but has said that the proposed property “would complement the existing resort and evoke the spirit of the Pacific Islands.”

Artist rendering of new Disney Polynesian expansion for DVC (Photo courtesy of Disney)

A new tower is also underway at the Disneyland Hotel, with theming inspired by characters and stories from classic Walt Disney Animation Studios films.

More Disney Vacation Club villas coming to the Disneyland Resort is good news for current and prospective DVC members. With only one DVC property at Disneyland now, the Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, it’s nearly impossible for members at any other home resort to secure a room at the seven-month mark, and new contracts are not currently for sale at the resort.

Related reading: Magic at every budget: These are the best hotels at Walt Disney World

Help choosing a home resort

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge but not sure which home resort to choose, considering location and your vacation style is usually the best way to start narrowing down your choices.

Monorail loop resorts with easy access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, and The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort are the three Magic Kingdom-area resorts on the monorail loop. If proximity to Magic Kingdom and a simple walk, boat ride or monorail back to your home away from home after fireworks is your priority, these resorts should top your list.

Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios area resorts

If Epcot is your jam and a simple stroll back to your room after drinking or festival-ing around World Showcase sounds like a dream, Disney’s Beach Club Villas and Disney’s BoardWalk Villas are unbeatable. They’re a 15- to 20-minute walk or boat ride to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, too. Disney’s Beach Club Villas boasts the most desirable pool on property and the BoardWalk is home to a lively mix of nightlife and entertainment.

Enjoy Stormalong Bay pool at the Beach and Yacht Club. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Just behind these two, DVC’s newest resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, is a quick, scenic ride on the Disney Skyliner from both parks. Riviera’s upscale European theming, breathtaking views and luxe details make it arguably the most elegant DVC resort.

Easy access to Disney Springs and golf

If being close to the parks isn’t a top priority — particularly if you drive or rent car — then Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa are two sprawling, lower price-per-point resorts with spacious, recently renovated rooms and easy access to both Disney Springs and Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.

(Photo by Brooke McDonald for The Points Guy)

Immersive escapes

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge sets the bar for Disney resort theming at its most ambitious and immersive.

The African-inspired resort, which includes two separate branches of DVC villas, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas — Jambo House and Kidani Village, is filled with stunning African art and artifacts. The property is surrounded by four expansive savannas that are home to more than 30 different species of African wildlife, including giraffes and zebras, that can be seen from the balcony of many villas.

Animal Kingdom Lodge. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Also topping the list of idyllic retreats that feel miles from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks are the Copper Creek Cabins and Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. Rustic grandeur is the name of the game in the breathtaking main building, and a stay in one of the 26 waterfront Cascade Cabins on the shores of Bay Lake tops my DVC bucket list.

Exterior of Copper Creek Cabin at Disney's Fort Wilderness Lodge
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Disneyland

If the Disneyland Resort is your Disney vacation of choice, you only have one DVC resort to choose from right now, and unfortunately, you’ve got some serious company.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is Disneyland’s grand dame resort, with rustic California craftsman-style architecture, a stunning lobby and an unbeatable location with dedicated entrances to both Disney California Adventure Park and the Downtown Disney District. 

Disneyland Grand Californian Hotel Lobby
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Beach and island resorts

Many DVC members love the resorts as much as the theme parks, and three DVC resorts bring Disney’s signature theming and service to beachfront escapes.

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort give members a way to get their Disney fix on the Atlantic coast.

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, in Ko’ Olina, Hawaii, deserves a spot on every Disney bucket list. Next-level Walt Disney Imagineering helmed by famed Imagineer Joe Rohde integrates Hawaiian history and culture, top-notch dining and recreation, and plenty of Disney magic into this highly authentic Oahu retreat.

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, in Ko’ Olina, Hawaii. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Renting points

Not ready to take the plunge or just want a way to save on occasional Disney trips?

A great way to try before you buy is to rent DVC points from an existing DVC member. If you don’t happen to know anyone with points to spare, there are a number of third-party companies that help make the process smooth for parties on both sides of the transaction.

Reputable sites include DVC Rental Store and David’s Vacation Club Rentals. You can read more about how that rental process worked for a stay in a three-bedroom at Bay Lake Tower at Disney World.

You may find that occasionally renting DVC points is the perfect way to control costs while enjoying some comforts of home and staying in the ‘Disney bubble’. Or, once you get a taste, you may decide to jump all the way in and explore whether buying some DVC points of your own might just be the best path forward for your family’s Disney trips for years to come.

Featured image courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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