Updated 2 May 2018
Have you heard Disney's "best kept secret"? Most likely you have! It's not much of a secret anymore considering how much Disney advertises Disney Vacation Club all over both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. We're happy members of the club and love it, but I do not feel that this is the answer for everyone. To help you decide if this is right for you and your family, here are some of the major pros & cons we've found with Disney Vacation Club.
Disney Vacation Club is a very flexible timeshare-like option that makes it easy to enjoy your Disney trips. You purchase a certain number of points which you receive each year that you, in turn, use to book any room you like anytime you'd like. It rarely feels as though you're actually "sharing" with anyone and you can make your vacations fit your schedule instead of the other way around.
There are 14 official DVC resorts to choose from:
- Walt Disney World Resort
- Old Key West Resort
- Saratoga Springs Resort
- Boardwalk Resort
- Beach Club Resort
- Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani Village & Jambo House)
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Grand Floridian Resort
- Disney's Vero Beach Resort
- South Carolina
- Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
- Disneyland Resort
You also get your choice in the type of room you book. Choices include:
- Deluxe Studio - sleeps up to 4 (some 5)
- 1-Bedroom Villa - sleeps up to 5 (some 4, not available at all resorts)
- 2-Bedroom Villa - sleeps up to 9 (some 10)
- 3-Bedroom Grand Villa - sleeps up to 12 (not available at all resorts)
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. You can use your DVC points to book rooms at any Disney Resort Hotel in the world, Adventures by Disney excursions, Disney Cruise Line packages and you even have access to the arsenal of RCI International, one of the largest timeshare companies with thousands of destinations across the globe.
BEST ROOM IN THE HOUSE
In addition to having so many options to choose from, the DVC villas are the best rooms the hotels have to offer, barring only specialty suites. For example, I personally feel the Grand Californian Hotel is okay but the DVC villas are super nice and have greater attention to detail than every other room in the hotel. On top of all that you still get all the added perks of staying on property, including Extra Magic Hours.
SPECIAL EVENTS & DISCOUNTS
DVC members get access to tons of discounts through the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts as well as special member-only perks.
When you purchase (and pay off) a DVC membership you get the pleasure of seeing a bill at the end of your stay reading "$0". That's a great perk that will last the lifetime of your membership!
If you don't happen to use all of your points within the year, don't panic! Your unused points will roll-over into the next year where you can use them on larger trips. They don't roll-over into a second year, but you can also sell them to other guests and make some money off your unused vacation points!
Just like any other Disney entity, DVC is operated by the friendliest and most helpful staff you could ever come across and the hospitality in the resorts can't be beat. It may seem strange, but one of my favourite parts of staying with DVC is when the CMs tell you "Welcome home!" as you arrive, check in, or simply walk around the resort. That's right - Disney has become your home!
When you purchase Disney Vacation Club points they are attached to a specific property (eg. ours are primarily at Aulani) which becomes your "home resort". You're still able to use your points to book rooms at any other resort up to 7 months in advance. However you are allowed to book stays at your home resort up to 11 months in advance, giving you 4 months' advantage over other DVC members. It can be a perk, but if you have your eye on a specific resort or room size (Studio, 1-BD, 2-BD or 3-BD) they may be booked up before the 7 month booking window arrives requiring you to alter your plans, change resorts or spend more points to get a room at all. Note that this doesn't happen all the time, but it can get frustrating.
You can have more than one home resort by purchasing additional points at other properties (eg. we also have points at the Polynesian and Grand Californian). These, though, are subject to availability since each resort only has a certain number of points attached to it they only become available once people sell their memberships. We had to wait several years for points at the Grand Californian Hotel, for instance.
DISNEY RESORT HOTEL ROOMS
As I mentioned, you can use DVC points to book rooms at any Disney Resort Hotel. These are incredibly expensive in terms of points, however. A room at the Grand Californian can cost as little as 17 points per night, but the same night will cost you about 28 points at the Paradise Pier Hotel. It's in your best interest to save your points for DVC resorts.
The only recurring fee you have to pay, even after you've paid off your membership in full, is annual dues which are based on the number of points you purchased. Depending on how many points you have, this could be a pretty penny.
CALIFORNIA IS SNUBBED
As you can see from the list of DVC resorts, there is only one set of DVC villas in Disneyland. The villas at the Grand Californian are limited and sell out super fast. If you vacation almost exclusively in California or are not willing to purchase a large number of points to increase your room size options, then this may not be the best option for you since the system favours Walt Disney World visitors.
FAMILY- VS. ROOM-SIZE
Each type of room gets progressively more expensive as it gets larger in terms of points, some costing over 100 points per night. If you have a large family that would require a 2-BD Villa for each stay then you really have to consider how many points you would need to buy in order to make a DVC membership worth it. It works perfectly for us but a family of 6 may find the options restricting.
These are just a few observations I've made of Disney Vacation Club, but all-in-all I feel it has been a fantastic decision. If you feel like you want a ton more information, visit a DVC Showroom in Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort or in Florida or Hawaii. If you have other questions about our experience, feel free to ask!