I have heard the question asked many times in many forums and in many discussions I have had with people: Why DVC? With this question, I have decided it is time to explain why it’s right for me and my family and hopefully this helps you make your decision if DVC is right for you. As with everything, there are pros and cons, you just have to figure out if the pros outweigh the cons in your situation. Here are some of the issues I have heard and been part of. There is no question that buying into DVC is expensive, after all it is a 50 year commitment. How expensive depends on how many points you need. You will have to figure out how many times a year you want to go, what accommodations you want/need and what time of year you will typically go.
Accommodations- There are four different room sizes: Studio, One Bedroom, Two Bedroom and Grand Villa. A studio sleeps 4-5 people; one bedroom, 4-5 people; two bedroom 8-9 people; and grand villas 12-13 people. In addition to these numbers you can have a child under 3 in a pack and play or crib.
Points- The resorts have different point values. There is also a point per night difference from weekdays and weekends. On top of this they have five different points “seasons”. The most expensive point season is Premier, which is Christmas and Easter break. Next is Magic, which is essentially whenever kids are typically on a school break. Dream season starts in early May and ends in the middle of June, then starts again in the middle of August and ends on August 31st. Then Choice is from the beginning of October to Thanksgiving week and from mid December to right before Christmas. Finally, the Adventure Season which is all of September and the first two weeks of December. We have stayed in each season except Premier (which we avoid due to the crowds) and each has their advantages.
Resorts- There are DVC resorts in Hawaii, Disneyland California, Hilton Head NC, Vero Beach FL and Disney World. For this article we will discuss Disney World. In Disney World there are 9 DVC resorts. Near the Magic Kingdom there is the Grand Floridian, Bay Lake Towers, Wilderness Lodge and Polynesian Village. Epcot area resorts are Beach Club and Boardwalk. Animal Kingdom area resorts are Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House and Kidani Village. Downtown Disney Area has Saratoga Springs and Old Key West. Each one of these resorts have many details and services that make them special. My family has ownerships at Saratoga Springs since 2004 and Animal Kingdom Lodge since 2009. With so many resorts, there is a lot of flexibility on where you can stay. For example, my family has stayed at Beach Club, Boardwalk, Old Key West and Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village. Notice how I said I have a membership at Saratoga Springs but have never stayed there. We do intend to stay there, however with four younger kids the Epcot resort area is key for us. We can walk to two of the parks (and have many times) and when we leave the Magic Kingdom in the early evening, we can push the stroller right onto the monorail. When we get off at Epcot, I enjoy a quick beer before exiting the park and finish our walk to the hotel. This past August was the first time we stayed at Kidani Village, and we loved it.
Multiple Memberships- The downside to owning multiple memberships is the juggling of points and booking windows. Let’s talk about booking windows first. At your home resort (the one you actually own your membership at) you can book up to 11 months out from your trip. If you want to stay at a resort that is not your home resort you can book 7 months out. That being said, here are the complications with owning multiple memberships. With any membership you can bank, borrow or transfer points. With planning trips this can get complicated, however the Castmembers are very helpful. On almost all of our trips, we have had linked reservations. This means that we had to book two different reservations, one under each membership because we didn’t have enough points in one membership for the length of the stay that we wanted. This is not a problem overall, we just end up banking or borrowing more often. The down side is that we typically have to wait until we are 7 months away from our desired vacation time to book. Luckily under the member website you can check how many points you have to bank and borrow. There is also a new resort availability section to see if what you want is available.
Cost- For discussing cost purposes I will use my family as an example to illustrate how this works. When my wife and I first purchased a DVC membership, we had no children so our needs were simple. We started with the lowest amount you could buy from Disney which was 150 points at Saratoga Springs Resort. Since I am a numbers guy, I figured out the cost of ownership compared to the cost of staying at moderate resorts and value resorts, keeping in mind the cost of dues will go up year to year (but so would hotel prices). After doing my numbers I found that even compared to the value resorts, DVC was a good value for us, not to mention we are now staying at deluxe resorts at comparatively value prices. When we bought our points we financed our purchase through Disney, which had a horrible interest rate, but was comparable to others at the time. We paid off our loan as soon as possible and only had to pay our annual dues and there was no penalty for paying it off early. Having 150 points suited us fine for a short time, but before we knew it we had kids and bought another membership at Kidani Village through resale (before the rule changes). We were now a family of six, which meant that we needed a two bedroom unit every time we wanted to go on vacation. Using the resale market for our Kidani Village membership was simple and the prices were better than Disney’s. The only difference was that I only had the remaining years left in the contract and not a full 50 years as in new contracts with Disney, but the expiration was still after my Saratoga Springs membership. This time, instead of financing, we were able to pay off the whole amount at once leaving just the annual dues. Even with the cost of the new membership it was still cheaper for our family than splitting our family up into two value rooms each time we go, or even getting a family suite. Currently with our memberships we can go multiple times a year. We also take advantage of discounts offered through DVC on annual passes, dining and merchandise.
Commitment- After cost, another thing to figure out is how often do you plan to stay at the Disney Resorts in the next 50 years. If you are a hardcore Disney fan the answer is simple “as often and as many times as I can” then it is probably a good investment for you. If you are an occasional Disney vacationer you have to figure out how many times in the next 50 years you will go to Disney or trade your points for other vacation experiences. Trading to other non Disney resorts is an option through RCI exchange if you bought your points from Disney, or bought resale points prior to March 21, 2011 when the rules changed.
With that being said, DVC was the right choice for us. Without it we would not be able to afford to go as frequently as we do. In conversations with people when they find out that we own DVC memberships they have commented they could never afford it. To this I tell them they are wrong, at least look into it if you are interested. There are many different payment plans so select the one that is right for you. Also take advantage of the special offers. For our first membership there was a down payment match up to 10% of the total cost of membership, which helped us and we financed the rest. With DVC, Walt’s goals for the parks ring clear for our family: we can all enjoy being together and doing activities together. We learn new things while we are having fun.
I hope this helps you to figure out if DVC is right for you. Please leave a comment on here, like us on Facebook at Disneyhelp or click the link below. You can also follow us on Twitter @Disneyhelp.