If you visit any of the Disney theme parks or resorts, you’ll see many advertisements and marketing for the Disney Vacation Club or DVC. If you and your family love visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland, DVC might be a good investment for you.
Make no mistake, though; a Disney Vacation Club membership is a significant commitment, both financial and otherwise. In this article, we’ll give an overall honest assessment of DVC, including what it is, how it works, how much it costs, where you can use your points, and so much more.
- What Is Disney Vacation Club (DVC)?
- How Does Disney Vacation Club Work?
- Where Can You Use DVC Points?
- How Many Points Do You Need For a Week At Disney World Resort and What Impacts This?
- What Types of Rooms are Available for DVC Members?
- How Much Does a Disney Vacation Club Membership Cost?
- How Do You Book a Resort or Hotel as a DVC Member?
- What Perks Come With Being a Disney Vacation Club Member?
- Does Disney Vacation Club Save You Money?
- How Long Are Disney Vacation Club Contracts?
- Who Is DVC Right For?
- In Conclusion
What Is Disney Vacation Club (DVC)?
According to the Disney Company itself, Disney Vacation Club is a vacation timeshare program. Members buy into the club by purchasing a small percentage of ownership in one of Disney Vacation Club’s several resorts. This resort becomes the new member’s “home resort,” a term we’ll use throughout this article.
When you initially buy into DVC, you purchase a specific number of vacation points that you can use each year. We’ll go into more detail about how to use the points below.
How Does Disney Vacation Club Work?
Disney promises that by becoming a member, you “enjoy magical vacations year after year,” and they make good on this guarantee. As we said above, your DVC membership comes with an allotment of annual points. You buy these points in your home resort when you become a member, and they compose the bulk of your membership costs, in addition to annual dues.
The minimum number of points is 150; the maximum is 325, although some people purchase even more points.
It matters which hotel you choose as your home resort because you’ll enjoy preferential booking here. Reservations are available at your home resort months before all of the others.
This section gives a very rudimentary explanation of how membership works. Keep reading for a lot more details and information.
Where Can You Use DVC Points?
The most obvious place to use your DVC points is at a Disney resort, but there are hundreds of destinations worldwide where you can stay and play with your points. Disney organizes them into three main categories in addition to its resorts.
Complete list of Disney Vacation Club Resorts:
- Aulani (Ko Olina, Hawaii)
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Walt Disney World, or WDW)
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (WDW)
- Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (WDW)
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas (WDW)
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas (WDW)
- Disney’s Boardwalk Villas (WDW)
- Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort (South Carolina)
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort (WDW)
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows (WDW)
- Disney’s Riviera Resort (WDW)
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (WDW)
- Disney’s Vero Beach Resort (Vero Beach, Florida)
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa (Disneyland, California)
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa (WDW)
The Disney Collection
The Disney Collection primarily includes resorts and destinations owned by the Disney Company itself. Walt Disney World consists of all deluxe, moderate, and value hotels owned by Disney and located on Disney Property.
In some instances, they also include the traditional hotel portion of some of the DVC Resorts listed above. For example, the Beach Club has standard hotel accommodations that fit in the Disney Collection and DVC villas.
In Disneyland, the Disney Collection includes the standard rooms at the Grand Californian, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and the Disneyland Hotel.
Disneyland Paris includes Disney’s four hotels, Tokyo Disney has four resorts, and Hong Kong Disneyland has three hotels.
In addition to hotels and resorts, the Disney Collection also includes the Disney Cruise Line. They have four ships: Dream, Fantasy, Magic, and Wonder. Each operates around the world throughout the year, offering a myriad of experiences and destinations. They also provide exclusive DVC members-only cruises, which are highly coveted.
Finally, the Disney Collection also includes Adventures by Disney vacations, which are vacation packages and guided tours of some of the world’s most exciting destinations. Members love these trips because they are safe and family-friendly. Some destinations include Costa Rica, South Africa, a Danube river cruise in Europe, and Japan. They also offer unique cruise experiences, escape adventures (2-5 days), and private adventures.
The Concierge Collection
The Concierge Collection includes several select hotels across the United States and a few international ones. These are accommodations that Disney does not own but with which they partner to offer comparable rates for stays using DVC points.
The hotels in the Concierge Collection include:
- The Fairmont, Chicago
- The Fairmont, San Francisco
- Hotel del Coronado, Coronado, CA
- Parker New York
- Lotte New York Palace
- Mandarin Oriental, Washington, DC
- Kimpton Nine Zero, Boston
- Several other hotels in New York state, Vermont, California, Colorado, Tokyo, and more
The World Collection – RCI Resorts
The World Collection is by far the most expansive option for using DVC points. RCI has hundreds of member resorts worldwide. Members can spend their points on hotels, car rentals, cruises, and even activities or experiences.
With more than one million options globally, the sky is the limit for DVC members who use their points with RCI.
Generally speaking, many members of the Disney Vacation Club enjoy the wide variety of options their membership gives them. While a young family might want to take a trip to Walt Disney World every year, it’s nice to know that as families grow and kids age, your memberships can adjust, too.
How Many Points Do You Need For a Week At Disney World Resort and What Impacts This?
The answer depends on where you stay. Indeed, many people can and do use their vacation points for various accommodations on and off Disney property. This option includes standard hotel rooms, hotel suites, and even vacation rental homes through RCI.
Suppose you prefer staying in standard hotels on Disney property (Disney collection hotels). In that case, you may find that your points don’t go as far as they do in the villas, especially when you consider the features of your accommodations. Disney has deliberately designed it this way; they want their members to stay in their membership properties.
For that reason, all Disney Vacation Club hotels are deluxe hotels. In Disney’s world, this means that they have premium amenities and services, and the rooms are elegantly appointed according to the hotel’s theme (Animal Kingdom is decorated with rustic African-inspired elements while the Beach Club looks like a turn-of-the-century beach resort).
What Types of Rooms are Available for DVC Members?
Disney has a few different types of rooms that are standard at their DVC resorts (WDW and Disneyland, in addition to Aulani, Hilton Head, and Vero Beach). The first is a deluxe studio. These rooms are the most similar to a standard hotel room and typically sleep four guests.
Deluxe studios almost always contain a queen size bed and full-size sleeper sofa. These rooms have kitchenettes with a small refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and other essentials. They have a balcony (different types have different views), beautiful bathrooms, and cable television.
As you are moving up in size, the next option is a 1-bedroom villa, which sleeps up to five people. These rooms have a separate master bedroom with a king-size bed, a full sleeper sofa, and a twin sleeper chair in the main living room. The living room, kitchen, and dining areas are open, facilitating family togetherness.
These rooms come with fully-equipped kitchens, including a full-size refrigerator and freezer, stove and cooktop, and cooking utensils. The bathroom connects to the master directly and to the main living area as well. Many of them have walk-in showers and separate soaking tubs.
All Disney Vacation Club properties also have 2-bedrooms villas. These sleep up to nine guests. The master bedroom with a private en-suite bathroom (most have walk-in showers and soaking tubs) has a king bed, the second bedroom has two queen beds, and there is a sleeper sofa and sometimes a sleeper chair in the living room. They have double bathrooms as well.
For the ultimate experience, try a 3-bedroom grand villa. These sleep twelve people: there is a king bed in the master bedroom and two queen beds in each of the other two bedrooms, and a sleeper sofa in the enormous living room.
Many three-bedroom villas have two-story windows with fabulous views of theme parks, water, or even an African safari. Each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom, and like the other villas, it comes with everything you need in the kitchen and throughout the villa to feel right at home.
Finally, there are also special accommodations at some of the DVC resorts. These include the Bungalows at the Polynesian, the Cabins at Wilderness Lodge, and the Treehouses at Saratoga Springs. Some have two bedrooms (the Bungalows are all two), and others have three (Treehouses at Saratoga).
How Much Does a Disney Vacation Club Membership Cost?
One of the reasons that many people don’t consider a Disney Vacation Club membership is because they assume that it will be too expensive. However, it is more affordable than they might think.
Like any real estate, specific properties are more valuable than others; therefore, the points at one sometimes cost more than at another. For example, the Grand Floridian is Disney’s flagship in Florida, so when they built villas and sold membership, it cost more than at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. Not only does it carry real and symbolic luxury, but the Grand Floridian is also in a better location.
When you buy into Disney Vacation Club, the actual value item you’re purchasing is the vacation points themselves. You will pay a specific dollar amount for every point you buy. Currently, points start at just over $200 each. Since you have to buy at least 150 points to get in, your initial investment will be over $30,000.
Different factors can drive this price up. We already mentioned which resort you buy, and if you buy more than 150 points, you’ll pay more. There are other fees attached as well. Since this is a real estate transaction, you must pay closing costs, which Disney states start at $628. Disney offers a financing program for up to 10 years, and these costs roll into a single payment that includes monthly membership dues.
About those membership dues, you’ll keep paying those throughout the life of your membership, and they rise every year. They’re used to pay for the upkeep of the buildings, grounds, and property taxes on your home resort. You can pay yearly or continue making monthly payments.
As we said, a DVC membership is not cheap. But it’s crucial to remember that membership costs in the Disney Vacation Club aren’t significantly different from comparable vacation timeshare programs. In fact, it’s much more affordable and flexible for many.
Another major factor to consider is whether DVC could potentially save your family money over time on Disney vacations especially. We go into more detail about that below. Especially if you’re repeat Disney vacationers, the chances are good that it can.
How Do You Book a Resort or Hotel as a DVC Member?
There are a few different ways to book your accommodations with the Disney Vacation Club. While it can get tricky, and you may have to call under less typical scenarios, it seems to be simpler than a lot of other timeshare programs.
If you’re making a reservation for a Disney Vacation Club resort, you simply log in to your member portal and use Disney’s online booking system. It’s very straightforward. The only obstacle you may have is availability. Your home resort becomes available 11 months ahead of your check-in date, and all others open seven months in advance.
You can also make Disney Collection reservations online through your membership homepage. These are a bit trickier, and for many members, it’s easier to call and speak to a representative. Also, be aware that you cannot book Disney Collection vacations during the last four months of your use year.
To book the Concierge Collection hotels and resorts, you have to call DVC directly. There are many limitations on what season or how far in advance you can book, which vary by destination. If you hope to use the concierge collection, we recommend that you start planning at least a year in advance.
Finally, to book an RCI vacation, you don’t need to call, but you need to create a login and register directly with RCI, linking your DVC account. There is some good news about RCI, too. While Disney Vacation Club points expire, if you bank them with RCI, they’ll last longer. You can sometimes also find more affordable vacations on RCI, so your points go further.
How Do the Points Work?
Now is an excellent time to talk about the points and how they work. As previously stated, you will purchase your membership by buying at least 150 points. These points will be distributed annually during your “use month.”
You do not have to use all of your points (or even any of them) during the year. Some or all of your points can be “banked” or saved, and then you have one more year to use them. You can also borrow future points, so in total, you could potentially use three years’ worth of points in one vacation: the previous year’s banked points, the current year’s points, and the following year’s borrowed points.
In this way, some DVC members take less frequent vacations but get to stay longer, stay in larger or more premium accommodations, or even both. The relative flexibility of the points is a significant selling point for the Disney Vacation Club.
DVC points expire. If you don’t bank them, they expire at the end of your use year. Banked points must be used by the end of the following year, and you have a separate yearly date by which you have to decide if you’re going to bank your points or not.
You, as the member, do not have to be present for each time that your membership is used. That way, if you want to let other family members or friends use your points, you can. You have to book for them, but you don’t need to be there if their names are on the reservation.
Finally, you can also sell or rent your points if you don’t want to use them but don’t want them to waste. Several third-party booking sites will work with you to find an eager vacationer.
What Perks Come With Being a Disney Vacation Club Member?
Disney offers its potential members a lot of reasons to join. They have also shown appreciation to DVC members, who they recognize as their most loyal patrons.
We’ve discussed a lot of the accommodation-specific benefits, so we’re going to stick only to the little extras in this section., We must mention that this list is accurate at the time of writing, and Disney maintains the right to change or cancel any of these perks at any time (even if they’ve been in place for years).
- Dining discounts: usually limited to select restaurants or items, but it can be as much as 25%
- Shopping and merchandise discounts: many stores on resort property as well as online discount codes
- Access to exclusive DVC merchandise: Disney has a line of products that only current DVC members can buy
- Occasional discount offers on park tickets and deals on waterpark tickets.
- Discounts on special events and ticketed events
- Access to several lounges throughout Disney property, including the Top of the World Lounge on the top floor of Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort
- Access to exclusive events, experiences, and tours: there are members-only experiences as well as events only open to DVC members
- Periodic hotel or vacation package deals: while this is rarer since most members don’t exceed their point allotment each year, some families love to visit so much that they end up paying cash.
Disney sends each of its members an ID card with their member number on it. You will need this, along with proof of identification, to enjoy any of these perks. Always carry your DVC membership card with you on Disney property; you never know when you might be eligible for a surprise discount!
Does Disney Vacation Club Save You Money?
Disney markets their vacation club heavily on the fact that it can save you money over time. The truth is that it can. Here are a few reasons as to how:
Essentially, by buying into the Disney Vacation Club, you’re paying for your next 30 or so years of vacations over ten or fewer years. Once you finish paying for your membership, you own it outright. Let’s crunch some numbers to see how that works.
Assume that you choose the most affordable membership possible, which is around $30,000. If you spread that over the next 30 years (approximately), you’d be spending $1,000 annually on Disney vacations. With 150 points, you can certainly stay for at least several nights each year. While you might be able to find comparable prices at value resorts for less money, remember that by using Disney Vacation Club points, you’re staying at a deluxe resort with much more pleasing accommodations and amenities.
The other major factor that you must consider when weighing the financial benefits is that, in this case, inflation will work in your favor. Disney isn’t getting less expensive; they’ve been raising hotel rates steadily for years, and even as they build more resorts, prices will most likely continue to climb. By buying into the DVC now, you’ve locked in the cost of your vacations for the next 30 years. That’s where you will almost certainly see the most savings over time.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that while it saves you money over time, it costs significantly more in the first few years. If you put $3,000 down on your membership and kept your monthly payment at $500, you’d still spend at least $10,000 in your first year of membership (add at least $1,000 for annual dues). That’s before you buy any park tickets or dining plans or anything else you need for a vacation.
If membership isn’t realistic for you right now, don’t worry; the Disney Vacation Club isn’t going anywhere. It will be waiting for you when you’re ready, and you can fully enjoy it without worrying about the financial impact.
One last thought to consider in this section: many members appreciate their Disney Vacation Club memberships because it almost forces them to take family vacations. DVC is a “use it or lose it” membership, meaning that unused points do expire. Without that deadline, many families report that they probably wouldn’t have taken their vacations at all and would have missed out on the family time they had and the beautiful memories they made.
How Long Are Disney Vacation Club Contracts?
It depends. Disney has adjusted the length of membership over time in response to the program’s popularity and individual members’ feedback. The first group of DVC memberships has technically expired, but Disney provided an option to extend them.
You will know how long your contract is for when you sign up. Many contracts also have provided terms for extending the membership once the contract has been satisfied.
If you choose to finance your membership instead of paying it upfront, you may finance for up to ten years. Some new members opt for shorter terms and thereby end up paying much less interest over time.
If the owner or owners of the membership pass away, their heir will inherit their membership. A Disney Vacation Club membership can be willed to anyone and split up between multiple heirs, though they will likely have to share a single membership unless they make other arrangements on their own. If you have inherited a DVC membership, Disney can help you transition it into your name and get you situated with your new association.
You should also note that you can purchase a DVC membership from someone else besides Disney themselves. For a variety of reasons, current members sometimes opt to sell their memberships. Buying a membership this way has some benefits. For one thing, since the memberships aren’t whole (at least some time has undoubtedly elapsed), they’re less expensive. You may also be able to buy into sold-out resorts.
There are downsides as well, though. The biggest is that it is entirely up to Disney whether or not they will accept the sale in its entirety and grant you full member benefits. Sometimes they don’t. In addition, you will have already missed several years of the membership’s terms.
Who Is DVC Right For?
If you’re still unsure whether membership in the Disney Vacation Club is suitable for you, that’s okay. As we have said a couple of times, it is a significant commitment. We’ll finish up with a handy list of questions to ask yourself to help evaluate whether you should look into it further.
- Do you like Disney? Let’s face it; the DVC wouldn’t be as successful as it is if it wasn’t a fantastic option for Disney-goers. While you can use your membership outside of Disney, if you don’t regularly plan to visit Disney’s properties, it probably won’t end up being your best option. Either way, just make sure to compare it to some other options.
In addition, you want to feel good about the companies with whom you do business. Find a company that’s compatible with your lifestyle all the way around.
- Can you afford it? The bottom line is, it’s expensive. It’s also a pretty big financial commitment; after all, you’ll be a member for 50 years. Even if your membership is paid in full, you will still owe annual dues that rise every year. As we stated above, nothing can drain the joy out of your vacation, quite like knowing you can’t afford it. What’s more, if your membership goes into foreclosure, it will drastically damage your credit score.
- Is now the right time? There are a lot of reasons besides financials why now might not be suitable for you to join. Maybe you’re already planning an exotic vacation or might start a family soon. You don’t want to buy into the club if you can’t use it soon. That might be for practical reasons or because you overspent on membership.
- Are you prepared to plan and organize? If you’re a last-minute traveler who loves to take trips spontaneously, then DVC may not be right for you. Many members have found that getting the most out of your membership means that you have to do a fair amount of planning.
For example, you have a lot of dates to remember: your points for the subsequent use year distribute on the first of a specific month, your payments are due on one date each month, you can book 11 months in advance at your home resort and seven at another, but how do those dates translate to when you want to travel? When do you need to bank your points?
Most of the frustrations we hear about DVC have to do with dates on the calendar coming and going without reminders from Disney. Be ready to mark your calendars or set digital reminders for these days so this doesn’t happen to you. If you don’t want to consider these things regarding vacation planning, evaluate whether DVC is right for you.
We recommend reading through this article carefully and speaking to a member of the Disney Vacation Club sales team about your options and any lingering questions you have. Talk it over with family and a financial adviser, if you have one.
Remember, it doesn’t hurt to check it out! Disney sends free information packages, including an informative DVD, to answer more of your questions or provide different details. Visit their website to order yours and get started on a Disney adventure of your own!
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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