Maximizing the value of Disney Vacation Club

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Previously, I wrote about various uses of Disney Vacation Club points in order to demonstrate the great variety of location and length of stays available at similar point levels. Along those lines, we’re going to take a look at the best way to maximize the value of a Disney Vacation Club membership. Whether you’re already a member, or just thinking about becoming a member, here are ways to leverage Disney Vacation Club for maximum touring enjoyment.dvc-logo

  • Lower your initial point investment: No matter how many points you own, the perks are the same. So don’t be afraid to scrimp on that initial purchase of Disney Vacation Club points. Currently, the minimum buy-in from Disney is 100 points. You can also start with even fewer points by looking to the resale market, where points go for much less. One caveat to buying a DVC contract from a resale broker: The points cannot be used destinations in The Concierge Collection, The Adventurer Collection and The Disney Collection. But in general, these uses –which include cruises, Adventures By Disney and non-DVC Disney resorts — are not the most economical use of points. If your primary concern is value, you’re going to be using your points for DVC resorts only. A lower number of points also means a lower amount of maintenance fees you’re paying out each year. Of course, as many DVC members can tell you, “add-on-itus” is a real thing. It may not be long before you’re in the market for additional DVC points. On the other side of the coin, if you decide that DVC doesn’t work for you, a smaller contract is easier to sell on the resale market than a larger contract.

Now, more tips:

  • Consider where you purchase: One of the advantages
    Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
    Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa – ©Disney

    to buying resale is that you have access to contracts at home resorts not currently offered direct from Disney. Your home resort determines where you can book at 11 months. Based on availability, you can book any other DVC resort at seven months out. This matters when it comes to rooms where demand outstrips supply or if you travel at high-demand times. If you want to be near Epcot during Food and Wine or on the Monorail during Christmas, a contract at your preferred resort is a good idea. But if you’re traveling during off-peak season and you’re not picky about the resort as long as you’re on property, booking seven months out will likely work for you. In that case, you’re going to look at a mix of how much you’re paying per point for the contract, along with maintenance fees. When calculating price per point, make sure you factor in the number of years left on the contract. Maintenance fees are harder to figure, since there’s no telling how much they’ll rise in the future. This helpful post from the DisBoards will give you an idea of the historic increases at the various DVC properties. Many DVC owners swear by Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa as a property that hits the sweet spot of lower cost per point and lower maintenance fees. You’ll also want to look at the resort point charts to determine how many points you’ll use per stay. It’s a complicated equation to figure out which resort works for you and there’s no one best answer.

  • Choose your use year carefully: The term “use year” can be confusing for prospective DVC purchasers. In short, use year refers to the month when your annual allotment of point becomes available each year. Ideally, you want a use year month that occurs just prior to when you typically travel. This gives you a fresh batch of points when you need them, but more importantly, if you have to cancel your plans, your points will still be available to use or bank. Owners can bank unused points to the following use year any time up to four months before their use year (for example, I have a February use year and must bank any unused points by the end of September). However, if you cancel a booking in the last four months before your use year, you will be unable to bank those points. In this case, owners often put their points or their reservation up for rent to avoid losing them. If you want to know more about use year, this post on the MouseOwners board has a comprehensive explanation.
  • Annual Passholder Box
    Annual Passholder MagicBands – © John Kivus

    Purchase a discounted annual pass: One of the big perks of DVC membership is access to annual pass discounts. Even with the recent price increases, an annual pass can give you substantial savings if you travel to Walt Disney World more than once in the span of a year. Keep in mind that discounted annual passes are limited to family members in your household. A seven-day ticket with Park Hopper will run you about $425. Meanwhile, an additional $160 will get you a Disney Gold Pass, which gives you admission all year, except for blackout dates around Christmas and spring break. You may now be saying that a smaller contract wouldn’t give you enough points for multiple trips on an annual pass. Keep in mind the flexibility of banking and borrowing points to make it work. Consider this example: A DVC member with a 100 point contract and a March use year plans to purchase an annual pass for use starting July 2016. The member would have 2016 and 2017 points to use during that span, and could also borrow 100 2018 points to use during their 2017 trip. That would be a total of 300 points available to use during the annual pass. You could divide the points up for two trips – 150 points in July 2016 and 150 points in June 2017. Or maybe you want to add a quick trip in October, using 50 points for that, then dividing up 250 remaining points for the longer summer trips.

  • Know your discounts and use them: Beyond annual passes, there are a host of other discounts offered to DVC members. Discounts of 10 percent or more are at many table service restaurants, Most retail locations in Walt Disney World give 10 percent merchandise discounts to members. The key here is to not be shy about asking for your discount, because you won’t get it automatically. With all the features the Magic Band provides, it doesn’t let a cashier know that you’re entitled to a discount. You will still need to show your physical membership card. DVC membership will also entitle you to discounts on tours and some hard-ticket events in the parks. Use enough of these and they add up pretty quickly.

I hope you found some helpful advice here for maximizing the value of your DVC membership. If you have tips or thoughts of your own, please share them in the comments.

15 thoughts on “Maximizing the value of Disney Vacation Club

  • October 20, 2015 at 8:33 am

    I am guessing that the price per point will differ depending on the home resort and that resale may be cheaper than buying from Disney but if I did want to buy direct from Disney what sort of price is a point – are we looking at $100, $1000 or £10,000 a point? Just want a rough idea. Also are the points for 50 years? And if so won’t the first DVC points ever sold soon be up for sale? Thanks

    • October 20, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Currently Disney is offering Polynesian Villas and Bungalows and Aulani at $165 a point. They do have offers occasionally where they will add in additional points for immediate use. Depending on where you buy, the number of years will differ. Each contract has an expiration year. The newer resorts will be close to 50 years. As for the older resorts, like Old Key West, they have offered owners the option of extending their contracts, but it’s unknown what will happen in 2042 when the first contracts expire.

  • October 20, 2015 at 8:46 am

    When you “You could divide the points up for two trips – 150 points in July 2016 and 150 points in June 2016”, do you actually mean June 2017? I think it makes a big difference in your explanation of which year you’re using what.

    • October 20, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Yes, that’s what I meant. Good catch. I’ll fix that.

  • October 20, 2015 at 8:48 am

    “You’ll also want to look at the resort point charts to determine how many points you’ll use per stay.”
    This is the magic factor that eludes me. Where are these point charts, and how can we find out exactly how much it costs to stay somewhere on DVC points? I think that’s the biggest deciding factor of all.

    • October 20, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Sure. Here’s a link to the DVC point charts. A good exercise is to determine when and how long you would like to travel. Then look at the point charts of the various properties to see how they compare. The amount of points you use will vary based on when you travel and the room type you want.

    • October 20, 2015 at 9:05 am

      Just Google ‘DVC point chart’. You’ll find them on a lot of DVC rental sites.

  • October 20, 2015 at 11:26 am

    We decided to buy DVC when we got hooked on staying on property. Our large family size (7) meant that we’d always need 2 rooms or ideally a 2br villa. We bought at Saratoga resale because we always travel off-peak and we wouldn’t mind staying there if we couldn’t stay elsewhere. Also we only go every other year so we bought only half the points we’d need per trip because we’d be combining points from 2 years.

    • October 20, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      Bella, what do you mean by “we wouldn’t mind staying there if we couldn’t stay elsewhere”? Do you mean you pay less points when you stay at you “Home” resort? Or do you mean you always have a confirmed availability to reserve at you “Home” resort, whether the others might be sold out?

      • October 20, 2015 at 1:48 pm

        You can book your home resort 11 months in advance, and everywhere else 7 months in advance. This means that you are almost guaranteed to be able to get the room you want at your home resort, as long as you book more than 7 months out, but by the time you can book other resorts they may be full.

        • October 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm

          Thanks Tim, now its clear to me.

  • October 20, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I wasn’t aware that you could choose when your use year begins. I don’t recall being given that option.

    • October 20, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      When buying direct from Disney, you can choose your use year. When buying resale, the use year on the contract cannot be changed.

  • October 20, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    The value of DVC has always eluded me. For the initial buy in value to become a member, I could get at least 4 vacations out of, and that’s INCLUDING travel expenses from NY to FL, 3 kids.
    If I added up all the cost and fees over a 10 year period I could buy a small house in Orlando.

    • October 20, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      For us the buy in would have been equivalent to less than two trips. A couple of things make this true; one is we bought resale at less than half the cost of direct, and second, we always stay in a 2br villa.
      Interestingly, we bought last summer and since then the resale price has gone up by about $10 per point so right now we don’t consider the buy in cost of our contract much at all. Besides that amount we paid closing fees of about $400 and 2 years worth of membership fees of about $1800. On our trip in January we stayed for 4 nights at Old Key West and 4 nights in Animal Kingdom Lodge (Savannah View), both in 2br villas and we got an additional 1br (standard view) for 4 nights as well. The total rack cost of these reservations after the winter room only discount that Disney offered for those dates was over $7000. We think we did pretty well!
      That said, if we could still fit in an Art of Animation family suite or would be happy renting a villa off property it would still cost a lot less.

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