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

Aug. 25, 2022
19 min read
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I’m often asked how our family manages to take several Disney vacations annually without going broke. My answer is always three words: Disney Vacation Club.

If you’re an annual (or even 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 is Disney’s more flexible take on the traditional timeshare. It can deliver significant savings over the life of a membership for guests who regularly stay at Disney’s deluxe tier of resorts.

BROOKE MCDONALDS/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 vacationers who can’t get enough Disney but still want some variety when it comes 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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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 you choose, you'll find contracts currently available until between 2042 and 2070.

Use your DVC points at Disney’s Polynesian Village. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

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

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Members receive discounts on select dining, merchandise, tickets and tours. They normally even get access to a Walt Disney World annual pass category called the Sorcerer Pass, which is only available to Florida residents and DVC members. However, Sorcerer Pass sales are temporarily paused to manage capacity limits in the parks.

Other perks include use of a member lounge at Epcot where complimentary soft drinks, Wi-Fi and charging stations are available, plus access to special member cruises on Disney Cruise Line and free parking when staying at DVC resorts. Additionally, members can attend a special event called Moonlight Magic, which provides complimentary after-hours access to a Walt Disney World theme park and includes free snacks and soft drinks, unique character sightings and shorter wait times at rides.

How does Disney Vacation Club work?

When you sign a Disney Vacation Club contract and become a DVC member, you are essentially purchasing a yearly allotment of DVC vacation points.

You can choose the number of points that best fits your travel style. With your points, you can reserve accommodations at Disney Vacation Club resorts at Disney parks worldwide and other select destinations like Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii, Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina and Disney's Vero Beach Resort in Florida.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

How many points you'll need for each stay depends on which resort you book, how many nights you're reserving, what time of year you visit and what type of room you choose. For example, rooms at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World currently start at 7 points per night for a standard studio villa room that sleeps up to four guests and go up to 36 points per night for a club-level room with a savanna view.

You can use your points any way you wish, either for one over-the-top vacation or a handful of shorter getaways throughout the year. You also have the option to "bank" vacation points to use the following year or can "borrow" them from the next year to book a stay in the current "use year" — or the time each year when you get your new allocation of vacation points.

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.

Through banking and borrowing, it may still be cost-effective to purchase a contract you only plan to use every two or even three years.

Related: What it's really like doing Disney World 3 different ways: Budget, moderate and blow-out luxury

How much does Disney Vacation Club cost?

The cost of your Disney Vacation Club contract depends primarily on how many annual points you purchase when you become a member.

A contract includes between 150 and 1,000 vacation points, which are currently priced at $207 per point for available resorts like the newly remodeled villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Riviera Resort and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.

DISNEY VACATION CLUB

Based on sample pricing of 150 points at $207 per point, plus a $250 document preparation fee, $578.30 in closing costs and a small discount currently available (DVC often runs similar specials for new members), the total one-time membership cost is $31,728.30 for 150 points purchased directly from Disney.

DISNEY VACATION CLUB

Of course, this all-in pricing only applies if you pay the full amount up front. Disney also offers fixed annual percentage rate financing, but you'll pay significantly more over the life of your contract if you go that route. Using the sample numbers supplied by Disney, you would pay $53,860.80 during the course of a 10-year loan, $22,132.50 more than if you paid the full amount upfront.

You'll also be responsible for annual maintenance fees. 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.

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 which are 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 property other than Disney’s Riviera Resort, which opened in December of 2019 and is Disney Vacation Club’s newest property, cannot use their points to book at Riviera. On the flip side, anyone who purchases a resale contract at Riviera can only use their vacation points to book stays at Riviera.

Disney Riviera Resort. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

There are many details and options to consider when deciding if Disney Vacation Club is right for you — and how to purchase your points if you decide to take the plunge. But for some families, like mine, this is the key to unlocking more Disney without always being tied to paying the rack rate at the resorts.

Does Disney Vacation Club save you money?

A Disney Vacation Club membership may save you money, but you have to think long and hard about how likely you are to spend the next 40 or so years visiting Disney resorts with your family.

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, odds are Disney Vacation Club could make a lot of sense for you.

BROOKE MCDONALD/THE POINTS GUY

Additionally, Disney Vacation Club villas may be the right way to go if you enjoy easy access to the parks and the immersion that comes with staying at a Disney property but crave more space and the comforts of home. Studio villas include kitchenettes with wet bars, refrigerators, toasters and microwaves. Larger villas with at least one bedroom offer even more amenities, including full kitchens with dishwashers, as well as washers and dryers.

Even if you typically stay in moderate resorts, it could still be cost effective to purchase a DVC contract. Know, though, that it will take you 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. Or, if you only sometimes stay in Disney resorts, then renting may be the better option for you (more on that soon).

Where can I stay with Disney Vacation Club?

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.
  • 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 & Spa.
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
  • Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.
  • Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.
  • Disney Vacation Club Villas — Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort.
BROOKE MCDONALD/THE POINTS GUY

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

The first to become available was The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The 200 new DVC resort studios that comprise this property opened in late June of 2022 and are a DVC room type unique to the Grand Floridian.

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Disney recently announced plans to develop new Disney Vacation Club villas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort as well. 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 the company has said that the proposed property “would complement the existing resort and evoke the spirit of the Pacific Islands.”

Artist rendering of the new Disney Polynesian expansion for DVC. DISNEY

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

More Disney Vacation Club villas coming to Disneyland Resort is good news for current and prospective DVC members. With only one DVC property — The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa — currently available at Disneyland, 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: Where to stay at Disneyland: On- vs. off-property hotel comparisons

How to choose a home resort

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

Monorail loop resorts with easy access to the 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 & Spa are the three Magic Kingdom-area resorts on the monorail loop. If proximity to the Magic Kingdom and a simple walk, boat ride or monorail trip back to your home away from home after fireworks are your No. 1 priorities, then 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 the World Showcase sounds like a dream, Disney’s Beach Club Villas and Disney’s BoardWalk Villas can't be beat. Both properties are also a 15- to 20-minute walk or boat ride from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so you can easily visit each park without a ton of effort. Disney’s Beach Club Villas boasts the most desirable pool on Disney property, while Disney's BoardWalk Villas is home to a lively mix of nightlife and entertainment.

Enjoy Stormalong Bay pool at the Beach and Yacht Club. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Just behind these two properties is DVC’s newest resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort. It's 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.

Convenient access to Disney Springs and golf

For those who are not as concerned about being close to the parks — particularly those with a car — there are two properties worth considering: Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Both are sprawling, more affordable resorts with spacious, recently renovated rooms and easy access to Disney Springs and Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.

BROOKE MCDONALD/THE POINTS GUY

Related: The Disney Springs hotels: How to get Disney benefits at bargain prices

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 — one in its Jambo House and another in the 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. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Also topping the list of idyllic retreats that feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks are the Copper Creek Cabins and Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. 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.

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Disneyland

If Disneyland Resort is your Disney vacation of choice, you only have one DVC resort to choose from right now. 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.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. 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. Meanwhile, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu 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 Hawaiian retreat.

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, in Ko’ Olina, Hawaii. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

How can I book a Disney Vacation Club stay?

Booking a Disney Vacation Club stay is similar to booking any Disney resort stay, aside from the difference in booking windows. At 8 a.m. Eastern time 11 months before check-in for your home resort or seven months before check-in for other DVC resorts, you can log in to your Disney account and book a DVC stay. DVC has a booking window calculator to help you determine when you can make your reservation.

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 stays, Disney Cruise Line sailings, Adventures By Disney packages and National Geographic Expeditions. However, exchanging your DVC points for any of these options will not get you as much value for your points as you'll receive when you use them at a DVC resort.

An interior view of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel at Walt Disney World. WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

A smarter move, if you don’t need your points for your own Disney vacation in a particular year, is to rent out your points and use the cash to book an alternative vacation.

Will I be able to upgrade to a bigger room if I am a Disney Vacation Club member?

One of the biggest perks of Disney Vacation Club is having access to multiple room types at some of Disney's best on-site resorts. For example, at Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, you can stay in studio rooms that sleep up to four guests or one-, two- or three-bedroom villas that can accommodate up to 12 guests. The latter come with full kitchens and laundry machines.

At Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, you can go all-out and stay in an overwater bungalow that sleeps up to eight guests and has a private plunge pool and Magic Kingdom views. Room sizing and layout options vary by property, but each DVC resort has multiple room types to choose from.

Renting Disney Vacation Club 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 everyone involved in the transaction. Reputable sites include DVC Rental Store and David’s Vacation Club Rentals.

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 future Disney trips.

Related: Can you really save hundreds of dollars renting Disney Vacation Club points? We tested it and found out

Bottom line

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. Not to mention, my husband and I wanted to have our own space to lounge in when the kids slept.

BROOKE MCDONALD/THE POINTS GUY

We bought our first DVC contract at our favorite resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, and based our number of purchased points on staying in a one-bedroom, boardwalk-view villa once a year. As our kids got older and no longer needed naps, meaning we could spend more time outside our room, we decided to change our accommodation to a smaller studio villa with a standard view. By making this switch and visiting at off-peak times, we realized that 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 Hotel & Spa and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. The ability to use your points at different times of the year, at different resorts and in different room types makes it so you can adjust your approach to Disney vacations as your family grows and changes.

Additional reporting by Tarah Chieffi.

Featured image by Disney's Aulani (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023