Welcome to the March installment of our monthly Disney Vacation Club preview. This month, we round up the latest news, including info about the newest Member Cruise and special member activities at Walt Disney World. We’ll also take a look at some common DVC owner questions.
Here are some booking window dates to keep in mind. For your home resort (11-month booking window), in March, you will be able to book for dates in February 2020. For all other DVC resorts (seven-month booking window), this month you will be able to book for dates in October 2019. Bear in mind that we’re now in range for booking in the Halloween and Christmas season 2019. If you’re planning to enjoy the park decor and parties during the holidays, now’s the time to plan.
Booking directly through Disney, there is virtually no studio unit availability at any DVC property in March. There are 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom villas open at Aulani during most of March, and there are 2- and 3- bedroom units open at Saratoga Springs at WDW during the last week of March. Currently, there is decent non-studio availability in April at Aulani, Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Boulder Ridge. You’ll also find scattered openings at Bay Lake Tower, Hilton Head, and the Polynesian during April.
If you want to expand your options, you may want to explore renting points as an alternative to booking through Disney. (If you rent points through the affiliate link to David’s DVC rentals, TouringPlans receives a commission.)
DVC and Disney News
Disney is starting to drop real information about the upcoming openings of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Speaking as someone who saw A New Hope (for you fellow originalists, you know, STAR WARS) twelve consecutive Saturdays during the summer of 1977, I CAN’T WAIT. Check out our podcast where Len Testa and Jim Hill chat with a journalist who’s had Galaxy’s Edge preview.
In addition to the previously announced DVC member cruises on Disney Cruise Line (see below), DCL has recently announced a new cruise – this time on the Disney Wonder. The member cruise is heading back to Alaska on August 24, 2020. Booking opens April 6, 2019. The Alaska cruise is one of my all-time favorites!
If you’re a sucker for a Disney button, be sure to pick up a free “Member Since” button at the DVC kiosks in the parks or at the DVC lounge at Epcot.
Member Activity Review
Disney Vacation Club offers several 1- to 2-hour classes, just for DVC members. Among these are an animation workshop, a cake decorating workshop, a wine tasting, a craft cocktail class, and a “phone photography workshop.” Most classes cost about $40 and take place at Reunion Station behind the Geyser Point bar at the Wilderness Lodge.
During a recent visit I had some time on my hands and was staying at my home resort, Boulder Ridge, right there at the Wilderness Lodge. I decided to sign up for the Phone Photography Workshop.
Let’s start out by saying that I’m my-daughter-already-graduated-from-college years old (aka, not a spring chicken) and I was easily the youngest person in the room. I suppose that’s not surprising; if you have young children, the odds of you being able to carve out a few mid-afternoon hours during your WDW vacation are small. But the, um, elevated age of the participants did somewhat color the experience, mostly because several of the participants suffered from a stereotypical senior citizen lack of tech savvy.
Reunion Station is a pleasant, airy room, with comfortable, padded chairs. Upon arriving at the Station (a three minute walk from my room), I was greeted by name by cast members (I think it was process of elimination, since I was the only woman taking the class alone) and served a snack of pita bread, cut veggies, hummus, and yogurt dip. I was called a few days before the class to ask about food allergies; there would be other options for guests with allergies. Because I was alone, a was served a tray just for myself. Guests in groups of two or three shared the same size tray I was given for me alone. All guests were offered water, iced tea, or any of the usual Coca-Cola soft drinks.
Our instructor was an affable guy named Kevin. In a brief introduction he described a long career with stints as a professional photographer and photography instructor. He had worked for a while as a photographer with Disney Fine Art Photography and the class contained a minor upsell for the Fine Art photo sessions.
The class started with some basic-beyond-basic first steps like how to adjust the brightness on your phone, how to quickly access the camera, how to change the shape of the image you’re taking (rectangular, square, etc.), and how to select a focal point on a phone camera (touch the screen). Nearly everything else was rudiments of photography in general, not necessarily specific to phone photography: clean your lens, back up your photos, fill the frame, look to see if there are distracting elements in the background of your shot, keep the sun at your back or side, and stabilize your phone/camera. Kevin spent a few minutes discussing composition: rule of thirds, triangle-shaped poses look nice, and leading lines help draw the eye to your subject. There were a few nods to Disney-specific photo situations: a tip to turn off your flash when taking fireworks photos, for example. Toward the end of the session, the group took a quick walk around the exterior areas of the Wilderness Lodge to find examples of things we had learned during the indoor session.
If you were a true novice photographer, you might pick up a few tips on how to compose better pictures, but otherwise there’s not much new information.
As a parting gift, we were all given a small kit with two lenses (macro and fish eye) that could be clipped onto a phone to mimic the results with a lens change on a large digital camera. Similar kits are readily available on Amazon for about $15.
To book any of the classes, call DVC Member Services at 800-800-9800.
We’re anticipating HUGE interest in Disney trips when Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, which means that hotel rooms of all sorts may be hard to find. If you want to be one of the first to experience Star Wars in real life, it’s time to start paying close attention to booking availability to make sure you’re not shut out of using your points toward the end of the year.
There is still limited availability on the DVC member cruises on Disney Cruise Line in 2019. The member cruises currently available are a 5-night sailing of the Disney Wonder from May 15-20 from San Diego to Vancouver, and a 7-night Bermuda sailing from October 5-12 out of New York on the Disney Magic. In addition to all the fun of a regular DCL voyage, member cruises include loads of perks not available to regular guests, including enhanced stateroom gifts, presentations by Disney-affiliated celebrities, member receptions, and other surprises. Members may book up to four staterooms for these sailings. Call member services at 800-800-9800 for more information. If you decide to book a member cruise (or any other Disney cruise sailing), you may want to kickstart your planning with the just-released Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line 2019, co-authored by yours truly.
One of the perkier perks of DVC membership is Moonlight Magic Nights, evenings where members get the run of a park, plus lots of snacks, for freeeeee! Yep, it’s like those big dollar paid late night evenings, but at no extra cost. While there is no fee, advance registration is required and availability is limited. The 2019 Magic Kingdom nights have now passed. Disney’s Hollywood Studio Moonlight Magic will take place on March 20 and 27, 2019, registration opened for all members on February 21. Epcot events will take place on May 13 and 20, 2019, with registration opening on April 3 for members with WDW hotel reservation, and on April 10 for all members. Animal Kingdom will host three events: July 18, August 8, and August 22, 2019, with registration opening on June 5 for members with WDW hotel reservation, and on June 12 for all members. The last Moonlight Magic event of the year will take place at Typhoon Lagoon on September 18 and October 16, 2019, with registration opening on August 14 for members with WDW hotel reservation, and on August 28 for all members.
Here’s where we tackle a frequently asked question or two about Disney Vacation Club.
Question: I’ve heard that there are now parking fees at the Disney hotels. How much are they?
Answer: You are correct that Disney instituted overnight parking fees for most guests staying at WDW resort hotels. The rates are $13 per night at the value resorts, $19 per night at the moderate resorts, and $24 per night at the deluxe resorts. HOWEVER, the fee is waived for DVC members staying at any DVC villa property at WDW, regardless of whether they use Vacation Points or another form of payment. Members also will not be charged to park when using Reservation Points to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. This means that if you’re a member and use points to stay at Coronado Springs, you can get your parking fee waived. BUT, if you’re a member paying cash to stay at a non-villa WDW hotel, then you will be assessed the overnight parking fee.
DVC guests, like all other guests, will not be charged to park at the hotels during the day. If you’re just visiting a WDW for a few hours to shop or dine, then you won’t have a parking fee.
Guests using the valet parking service at Disney hotels, will be charged a fee $33, regardless of their DVC membership status or how they paid for their resort stay.
That does it for this month’s wrap-up. Got any DVC questions? Comments? Let us know below.