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Is My Disney Vacation Club Membership Worth It? [1 Year In]

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James Larounis
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James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
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A little over a year ago, I did something that most in the miles and points world would laugh at: I bought a timeshare. But it wasn’t just any timeshare — it was a membership with Disney Vacation Club, the exclusive timeshare for properties owned by Disney. Now that I’m a year in, I think my membership has become super valuable, and I’m more than happy with my purchase. Read on to find out why.

What Is Disney Vacation Club?

Before getting into the details of my membership, it’s important to understand what Disney Vacation Club (or DVC, as it’s usually known) is: a points-based vacation timeshare program operated by Disney.

DVC has several resorts, most located at Walt Disney World in Florida. There are a few other resorts not at Walt Disney World, including Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, Hawai‘i. You need to be a DVC member to stay at these resorts.

If you’ve ever visited Walt Disney World, you know that staying on the property is essential for a good experience. There’s a world of difference between staying at a Disney-owned resort over staying at a traditional hotel. Disney resorts include bus transportation into the theme parts, as well as opportunities to stay late at the parks, among many other benefits. If you value this type of experience, purchasing into DVC is valuable.

How Does Disney Vacation Club Work?

Most timeshares require you to purchase a set week of the year when you intend on visiting, but this was highly impractical for me as my schedule is super variable. Instead, Disney uses a system of vacation points. Each resort property has various room types, and each room type is assigned a specific point value depending on the time of year you visit.

While it’s impossible to list out every combination, let’s take a look at a few examples using the September 1st to 30th time period, which is usually the slowest and cheapest time period to visit Walt Disney World. We’ll also use the Sunday to Thursday days of the week since these are the cheapest days to visit:

Disney Vacation Club villa
Many resort villas include spacious dining and living areas. Image Credit: Disney Vacation Club

Each resort has its own pros and cons for sure:

  • Each resort is located in a different part of the country; some are at Walt Disney World and others are at Disneyland, Hawaii, or other locations.
  • Each resort has different perks. Some resorts have monorail access, while others have better pools, are walkable to a theme park, or have better restaurants.
  • Some resorts have bigger rooms or more desirable views.

There are infinite combinations of how each resort is structured, but when you buy into DVC, you purchase a set amount of points at a specific home resort where you have a booking window advantage. After that booking advantage window ends, you’re allowed to book at any other DVC resort. There’s a lot of complexity to this, and new members learn the ropes quickly after purchasing.

Where the Value Is

Some may ask why purchasing a DVC membership is worth it, and there are a few points to highlight:

  • While the initial purchase price of DVC won’t go up since it’s a one-time investment, the real estate taxes and annual dues will go up, so you want to keep this in mind when you purchase. Over time, the initial purchase price will increase for new members, so if you’re debating on purchasing DVC, you’ll want to do so sooner rather than later.
  • You could use non-DVC points or miles to stay at a branded property at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and other areas. But without a DVC membership, you may not receive valuable perks open only to members.
  • The cost of a DVC membership is what you make of it. You can stay a lot of times in a cheaper resort or room, or fewer times in a nicer resort or larger room. How you use your DVC points is up to you, and everyone judges the value they receive differently.
  • Villas at DVC resorts are traditionally very expensive, so there’s a premium to pay simply for the Disney name. When you stay in a DVC resort, there is some level of elevated service. Still, you’re always going to be in a resort that is much more expensive than comparable properties nearby.

Example 1: Disney’s Old Key West Resort

My first contract was at Disney’s Old Key West, and here was how that contract broke out:

  • $27,000 base purchase price for 150 points
  • $612.75 in purchaser’s closing costs
  • $27,612.75 total purchase price 
  • $1,403.15 current annual dues, which include property taxes and maintenance
  • $193.43 per point this year

A down payment of 10% is required to secure the contract, and you’re required to pay the balance off within 30 days if you’re not using financing. As noted previously, you’re far better off not taking out any loan to purchase DVC, otherwise, your purchase price will include some hefty interest charges.

Example 2: The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Like any “good” DVC owner, I was so excited with my contract and enjoyed visiting Disney so much that I purchased a second contract at Disney’s Grand Floridian. This resort is the nicest hotel on the property and I caught the “add-on-itis” bug (as it’s known) and paid for a 50-point contract to add to my 150-point Old Key West contract.

Just to give you some math, I’m going to break out the Grand Floridian contract I purchased. This contract is for 50 points (manageable for most people) and is at one of the nicest DVC resorts:

  • $10,350 base purchase price for 50 points
  • $550 in purchaser’s closing costs
  • $10,900 total purchase price
  • $350.50 current annual dues, which include property taxes and maintenance
  • $225.01 per point this year

Savings Compared to Cash Rates and in the Parks

Disney Vacation Club resorts can also be used by non-owners if you rent your nights with cash (similar to a hotel night). The cost of nights will likely far exceed the costs you otherwise would incur when purchasing DVC, which is where the value of DVC comes in. Essentially, with DVC, you’re pre-purchasing your future vacations at current rates.

For example, looking at a random Wednesday night in September 2023, the charges for a 1-night stay are $744 without taxes. With about $600 in annual charges, I already come out ahead by having a DVC contract, assuming I want to visit Disney every year.

Grand Floridian purchase
Image Credit: Walt Disney World Resort

My 50-point Disney contract can roughly get me 2 to 3 nights a year at the Grand Floridian, so my $600 annual investment can save me about $888 to $1,632 per year for 2 to 3 nights compared to cash rates.

This of course does not include savings from Membership Extras. I tend to use the shopping and dining discounts the most, and these are anywhere between 10% to 15% off.

Assuming I spend 2 nights a year at Disney (and that’s conservative), I’m likely to spend at least $100 or so on food and merchandise. Assuming I save $10 of that $100, over the course of my contract, that’s an additional $410 in savings, and that’s of course a very conservative number.

Hot Tip: As it relates to Walt Disney World annual passes, DVC members are able to purchase a Disney Sorcerer Pass, only otherwise available to Florida residents. This is $400 cheaper than the Disney Incredi-Pass available to the general public.

Purchasing a Disney Vacation Club Membership

If you intend on purchasing a DVC membership, you need to consider whether to purchase direct or resale. Direct means that you’re purchasing directly from Disney, while resale means you’re purchasing from a reseller and not directly through Disney. Although resale contracts are considerably cheaper than direct contracts, Disney has made resale contracts a lot less enticing, as those under resale contracts do not get access to Membership Extras.

Resale contracts are usually about 20% to 30% cheaper than a direct contract, but come with 2 huge restrictions:

  • You do not receive any Membership Extras.
  • You are restricted as to what resorts you can stay in. For example, if you purchase a resale Disney’s Riviera Resort contract, you can only use those points to stay at that resort. Disney has put restrictions on resale contracts for those points to only be used in limited circumstances.

For me, a resale contract just didn’t make sense for most of my points, even with the savings. I wanted to have the chance to stay at all resorts, and saving on dining and merchandise throughout a stay is a big incentive I just wasn’t willing to pass up.

For reference, I later purchased a 50-point resale contract (once you have a DVC direct contract, purchasing resale contracts afterward still gets all the usual benefits) at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort for $7,250 (and approximately $550 in closing costs). This prices out overall at ~$164 per point — a huge savings, but not something I’d consider until I owned a direct contract so I can get my Membership Extras. Similarly, the 50-point Old Key West resale contract I purchased priced out around $130 per point, an enormous savings vs. purchasing direct.

Membership Extras include special nights in the theme parks only open to members, access to the DVC lounge on top of the Bay Lake Tower, and, probably most useful, discounts at restaurants and stores throughout Disney, among many other benefits. You’ll need to do the math on what makes sense for you, but the question of whether you should purchase resale or direct is something that every first-time buyer needs to consider.

Paying via Credit Card

A cool thing about purchasing direct is that you can fund the entire purchase on your credit card, so it’s a great way to meet any minimum spend thresholds. Obviously, you need to ensure you can pay off the entire balance. Disney does have financing options for those that need them, but these options will never make as much financial sense as paying the contract upfront.

It’s worth noting that in my experience, most credit cards will not code this purchase as travel, so you may want to use a credit card for everyday purchases. However, Chase cards may be an exception, as my purchase was coded as travel on my Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

You might also consider using the Disney® Premier Visa® card or the Disney® Visa® Card for 0% APR for 6 months on membership financing (these cards also offer 10% off select Disney merchandise and Disney dining purchases). Otherwise, financing a DVC contract in any capacity rarely makes any sense.

Hot Tip: DVC is able to split the cost of your contract up into multiple purchases, so if you have several cards to use, the representative you’re speaking with will be able to charge different cards upon your request.

My Disney Vacation Club Points

Old Key West patio
Condos at Disney’s Old Key West Resort are the largest on the Disney property. Image Credit: Walt Disney World Resort

I hold 4 property contracts with Disney Vacation Club:

  • 150 points at Disney’s Old Key West Resort (direct)
  • 50 points at Disney’s Old Key West Resort (resale)
  • 50 points at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort (resale)
  • 50 points at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (direct)
SCROLL FOR MORE

 

Direct or Resale

Number of Points

Base Purchase Price

Closing Costs

Total Purchase Price

Annual Dues

Price per Point This Year

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Direct

150

$27,000

$613

$27,613

$1,403

$193

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Resale

50

$5,500

$529

$6,029

$468

$130

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort

Resale

50

$7,250

$550

$7,800

$391

$164

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Direct

50

$10,350

$500

$10,900

$351

$225

Total Investment

 

300

$50,100

$2,192

$52,342

$2,613

average of $183

I mentioned that you don’t receive Membership Extras benefits under a resale contract, but if you hold a certain amount of points under a direct contract, any subsequently purchased points will have the perks. In my case, my 150 points at Old Key West allow me to enjoy the benefits no matter which DVC points I use to book my stay.

There are lots of complexities to using points, but a question that gets asked a lot is which home resort you should purchase.

In my case, I own at 3 facilities: Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and Grand Floridian. I get a 12-month booking window at each of those resorts, and then am able to book at any other DVC resort for 7 months. So if there’s a particular resort you like to frequent often, it’s best to purchase it as your home resort since you have the home team advantage. Under the 7-month window, availability can be slim and you’ll often have to be very flexible with your dates or be willing to move around resorts.

Here’s why I chose these 3 properties to amass my DVC points in:

  • I chose Old Key West because these are the largest villas on the property. Even the most basic 1-bedroom villa is enormous. In addition, Old Key West rooms are some of the easiest to book. It’s an older resort and many DVC owners prefer the newer resorts. The ease of knowing a room would be available is important to me.
  • Saratoga Springs is located right near Disney Springs. There are some trips I go on when I don’t want to visit the theme park. Being within walking distance of Disney Springs is a huge plus.
  • The Grand Floridian is the most luxurious facility on property and is connected to the Magic Kingdom by monorail. In addition, this monorail serves several other Disney resorts, each with great restaurants. I purchased the Grand Floridian contract for those moments when I want to splurge. Grand Floridian rates are some of the highest, so these require the most points.

Bottom Line: With a Disney Vacation Club membership, you’ll get to choose the resorts you own, and how many points you wish to purchase at that resort.

Final Thoughts

I’m definitely glad I’ve purchased a Disney Vacation Club contract, and, to be honest, I wish I had purchased it many years ago when it was far cheaper. While the prices are higher now, I’m still getting incredible value from my membership and think it was a wise investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to be in the Disney Vacation Club?

The price to join Disney Vacation Club depends on a variety of factors, but mostly depends on the resort, when the contract expires, and how many points you’re purchasing. You can purchase a contract directly from Disney for a minimum of 150 points, which will typically cost north of $20,000.

Is Disney Vacation Club a 1-time purchase?

DVC membership itself is a 1-time purchase, and you’ll also need to factor in closing costs that depend on the number of points you’re purchasing. Additionally, every year you’ll pay annual dues, which cover property taxes and traditionally go up year after year.

Do people sell their Disney Vacation Club memberships?

People sell their DVC memberships all the time. When you purchase one of these contracts through a real estate agent, you’d be purchasing a resale contract, which does come with some limitations.

How many years do you own DVC?

Each contract you purchase comes with an expiration, so it entirely depends on the contract you purchase as to how long it is good for, but in most circumstances, for someone in their 20s or 30s, the contract would be good for the remainder of their life. If you purchase a contract that extends past your lifespan, you can deed or will it to someone else when you pass away.

James Larounis's image

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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