For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been comparing Disney’s rack rates to renting points for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas. Last week I posted a chart showing the nightly average to rent points for some of the DVC resorts during different times of the year. If you were reading, you might have noticed summer averages of $262 per night at Boardwalk and $274 per night at Animal Kingdom Lodge and thought that those prices didn’t look all that different from what you might pay to stay at a Moderate — or maybe even a Value. Spoiler alert: you were right!
Art of Animation vs. Beach Club? Fort Wilderness Cabin vs. Wilderness Lodge? Is it ever cheaper to stay in a regular hotel room? OK, OK, I hear you: that’s pushing it. Still, let’s find out when it is and when it isn’t. This is a pretty long post (because it covers 12 different room types), so if you just want the TL;DR, click here to go to the summary.
Why Stay In a DVC Room?
If you’re not familiar with DVC, you might wonder why you’d do this aside from savings? If the savings aren’t huge, are there any big gotchas that might make them not worth it? We’ve written about this extensively elsewhere, so I’m just going to quickly summarize and refer you to our previous articles.
- TL;DR: DVC Villas have more space, better kitchens, free laundry, and free parking — and they’re always at Deluxe resorts
- The rental process is different: Don’t Be Intimidated, How to Rent
- Cancellation policies are different, as is the planning timeline: Pros & Cons of renting
One thing that bears mentioning since some of the matchups today feature Family Suites that you might be looking into because you’ve got Grandma & Grandpa on your trip. For regular hotel rooms Disney charges extra for each adult (over 18) after the first two. However, there is no charge for additional adults when staying in DVC rooms reserved with points.
If you’re reading this and think that it sounds awesome to stay in a DVC Villa, but the idea of renting is a no-go, these rooms can sometimes be reserved through Disney as hotel inventory. They don’t always appear in search; if you’re interested your best bet is to check with a travel agent such as our own TouringPlans Travel. And if you do decide to go the rental route, and you choose to use David’s Vacation Rentals, this is our affiliate link (which means we get a commission if you use it to access David’s site). Even if you choose to rent, the TA can still help you with tickets and travel arrangements should you so desire.
About the Numbers
As you might imagine, there are a gajillion different combinations of dates and length of stay. To keep things manageable we’re going to look at 1-week stays (beginning on Sunday) over the whole year.
For hotel room prices I’ll use rack rates. For the cost of a point rental, we have more options. I’ll focus on pricing for Your Choice-type reservations, where you pick your week and resort and an owner makes the reservation for you. These reservations are typically $19-22 per point, and I’ll use $20 per point as our marker.
One thing to keep an eye on is occupancy. DVC Studios and 1-Bedroom units sleep either 4 or 5, and so do regular hotel rooms. Since many of the rooms that sleep 5 have a child-size pull-down, occupancy will be given as either “5” or “4/1” to differentiate between adult and child-size pull-downs. Those numbers don’t include a child under 3 in a Pack ‘n’ Play.
Regular Value Resort Rooms
I agree that asking whether it’s ever cheaper to stay in a regular hotel room compared to renting a DVC Villa was pushing it. But I like facts and not assumptions, so let’s do our due diligence.
Art of Animation Little Mermaid Room
I figured I’d start at the top: out of all the Value rooms, the Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation tend to be the most expensive. If you can’t save it there, then you can’t save it anywhere. After a little data wrangling, I ended up with the chart below.
I don’t like to use really crowded charts like this unless there’s a good reason, and there’s a good reason here. In earlier articles comparing renting to reserving through Disney, I didn’t need to show the data week-by-week because the savings were so huge, commonly 50% or more. I could use the average over a month or two, wave my hands, and say that there might be a week or two in there that was way off the average. But with the moderates and values the price differences are smaller, and we need to see each week to know what’s going on.
On this chart, the vertical bars are the price of the hotel room. The horizontal marks are the prices to rent points for the DVC rooms. Every time the column is taller than a resort marker, that means you can save money by renting DVC points to stay at that resort. The legend is a little small, but if you look at the first week the top-to-bottom order of the resorts is the same as the left-to-right order in the legend.
DVC resorts that never offer savings have been left out in order to keep it as uncluttered as possible. Which resorts made the cut? Let’s take a look at our Amenities chart.
As with all dense visuals, we’re looking for high-level takeaways. First up: just about every week you can save at least $200-400 (10% or more) by renting points for a Value studio at Animal Kingdom Lodge instead of getting a Little Mermaid room. (The major gridlines are $200 apart here, so I’m just eyeballing).
This is a lot of money, like we’re talking take your family of four to a Signature for dinner money. You’d have to trade in walking past the Lion King theming for the real giraffes and zebra — and seriously, depending on your family that might be a no-go. You’d also have to give up the Skyliner, and that might be a harder sell.
Second: for most of September you can save that $200 against a studio at the Boardwalk. You could be walking distance to Food & Wine! The caveat is that Boardwalk studios during Food & Wine are popular rentals with DVC owners, so if you want to score one you should be prepared to try for it 11 months out. This is also generally true of the Animal Kingdom Value studios.
Third: from late April through early October, most weeks have this room within $50 of some additional DVC options. Saratoga Springs and Old Key West both often have availability 3-4 months out. These two resorts have boat access to Disney Springs, and we’ve already talked about the merits of AKV and Boardwalk. For me, $50 is well into “we could save that on parking or extra-adult fees” territory.
Fourth: now I’m going to have to spend some time digging into what’s happening at Pop Century and the All Stars. Oh well … win some, lose some.
Pop Century Preferred Room
Pop Century Preferred rooms look similar to the Little Mermaid rooms, but they’re squeaking down below the valuable savings range. They’re $100-$200 cheaper per week, on average. You might only save enough for a regular table service meal instead of a Signature.
In many weeks you might be looking at a break-even Old Key West switch; you’ll just be trading up to a bigger room. This is where you’ll need to decide if boat access to Disney Springs and a pool with a waterslide is enough compensation for losing Skyliner access. The exception is September and early December, where there are solid savings to be had even at Boardwalk, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs.
Pop Century Standard Room
For Pop Century Standard rooms, now we see the gap really begin to open up. Keep in mind the Confirmed-Reservation type rentals, where you don’t get to pick the week but you can find some incredible savings. But unless you hit the jackpot there, May, September, and the first little bit of December are the only months where the hotel room isn’t ahead of most rentals by $100 or more. I’ve collapsed the chart because there’s not much that’s useful, but you can click below to open it.
All Star Movies Preferred Room
The All Star Movies Preferred room is even cheaper than the Pop Century Standard Room, and we’re about $400 below the cost of the Little Mermaid room here. So it’s not too surprising to see that the potential for savings from a point rental has basically evaporated except occasionally for the AKV Value Studio.
All Stars Standard Room
I admit that just ran the numbers on this one for completeness. Unless you can grab that AKV Value studio during June or July, you are not going to save money or even break even by renting points. And let’s face it, if you’re staying in an All Stars Standard Room, you’re likely to be doing it because it’s absolute rock bottom. You’re not interested in spending an extra $100 a week even if it could get you into Old Key West in September. Unless you’re bringing a car, because then you could save it on parking.
Family Suites and Cabins
If you have 4 kids, or if you just want a little extra space, Disney offers suites at almost every Deluxe hotel. For the most part, these suites are only a tiny percentage of inventory and they’re quite expensive. For many looking for more square footage or more beds, the targets are the Family Suites found at Art of Animation, or the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.
When we think about what kinds of DVC Villas might be suitable, the studios are out. Even though many DVC studios sleep 5, so do a number of rooms at Moderate resorts — and usually for less money. So I’m going to assume that if those were your starting point, you’re looking for the extra bedroom or you have 6 in your party. If you are looking at these rooms because you have 6, then your only DVC option is a 2-bedroom Villa. Keep these numbers in mind as we walk through the charts.
Art of Animation Lion King Family Suite
I was really excited about some of the possibilities here. Trading in the Big Blue Pool for the Beach Club? Swapping out your Lion King-themed room for a hotel with an actual savanna and real animals? There are always trade-offs, but I could definitely see the shine.
Alas, my dreams mostly don’t turn out to make the cut financially; the Beach Club didn’t even make it onto the chart. There are a lot of resorts where you can save in a few weeks, but very few resorts where you can save in many weeks.
If you only have 5, then swapping to that 1-BR at Animal Kingdom Villas looks good in many weeks, although you will have to decide how much Skyliner access matters to you. A 1-BR at Old Key West, with boat access to Disney Springs, is frequently a good option.
All hope isn’t lost if you’re a party of 6 — for much of May, June, and July the AKV 2-BR Value room is about a break-even call. As we saw with the studios though, these Value rooms are in demand so you should be prepared to book at the 11-month mark if you want to try this.
All Star Music Family Suite
This one is short and sweet: the Family Suite at All Star Music offers very little in the way of opportunities to upgrade in any way by renting DVC points. Should you choose, you can click below to view the stupendous amounts of whitespace separating the price for these rooms from the price to rent points for a DVC-equivalent.
Fort Wilderness Cabins
Fort Wilderness is another one where I could see some awesome swap possibilities. Fort Wilderness Cabin to a Saratoga Springs Treehouse? Sign me up!
After looking at the Art of Animation Suites, I wasn’t surprised by what I found here. The Treehouses didn’t make the chart, and neither did anything at Wilderness Lodge. If you’re only a party of 5, a 1-bedroom at Old Key West or Animal Kingdom Villas is in reach for much of the year.
Old Key West has an internal bus loop, but it’s less complex, and if you’ve brought a car for increased mobility then you’ll save the parking fees by staying at OKW. Another advantage is that DVC layout has 2 in the bedroom and 3 in the living room, whereas Cabins have 4 in the bedroom and 2 in the living room. But it’s a very different atmosphere, and many people really enjoy the vibe of Fort Wilderness.
About September …
For a few weeks in September and early December, the picture really changes. At Art of Animation, that Animal Kingdom 2-BR is in reach some of the time, and you can even squeak onto the monorail in a 1-BR at Bay Lake Tower. There are also more options compared to Fort Wilderness. Even at All Star Music, you can break even with the Old Key West 1-BR in the last two weeks shown here, and that is definitely an upgrade from almost every perspective.
Regular Rooms at Moderate Resorts
There are a grand total of 25 different room types at Disney’s three Moderate resorts. I love a good chart-fest as much as the next person (OK, probably like 1,000,000 times more than the next person), but even I know that we need to slim this down. We’re only going to consider the most expensive non-themed rooms at each resort, for two reasons:
- People who are willing to pay extra for a more expensive view might also be those most likely to consider pushing just a tiny bit more to get to a Deluxe resort.
- When I looked at the values I started with the most expensive (AoA), because if you can’t save money there you can’t save it anywhere. Same thing here.
Let’s take a look at the rooms we’ll be using for comparison, and if you remember that I’m not including DVC rooms that never save you money, you might get pretty excited to see what’s here.
If you want to know about a Moderate room that isn’t the type chosen to chart? In each section I’ll give the average difference in cost (numbers will be rounded) between the room types for each resort.
Coronado Springs Tower Water View Room
Ladies and gentlemen, we have struck GOLD. It is not an exaggeration to say that for more than half the year, you can save money by renting points to stay at almost any DVC resort instead. The exception is a studio at the Polynesian, where you can only save money 35% of the time. That is astounding, and if we remember that the major gridlines are only $200 apart, it’s easy to see that you will have plenty of savings options even when comparing to other room types. Unless you cannot be parted from the Lost City of Cibola pool (and it is a great pool), a points rental could be a terrific option here.
Caribbean Beach Preferred Room
More golden results! I’ve spent a lot of time earlier in this post saying things like “you’ll have to decide if trading away the Skyliner access is worth it”, but renting points can often get you into a studio at the Riviera for the same price — or less. As with Coronado Springs, some of those DVC rooms will offer savings even when compared to the lower room categories. If moving to another Skyliner resort doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, how about the monorail? Many weeks you can do break-even or better moving from a Standard View to Bay Lake Tower.
There’s only $50 between the average price of this room and the Coronado Springs room that we just looked at, so the charts are pretty similar. You can click to view if you’d like to check out individual details.
Port Orleans Riverside
The $200 average difference between our Port Orleans Riverside room and the Coronado Springs Tower Water View is most evident when looking at the monorail resorts. For Coronado Springs all three monorail resorts were frequent contenders, but at Port Orleans we see break-even or better access to the Poly and the Grand Flo becoming less and less frequent. Only the Bay Lake Towers studio is a reliably good trade. Across the lower tier of resorts such as Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and the Standard rooms at Animal Kingdom Villas we still routinely see savings of $500 or more. That makes these options favorable comparisons even to the Standard View rooms at Port Orleans Riverside.
Port Orleans French Quarter
We’ve dropped down another $200 or so from our Riverside room, and it shows. The bars are creeping ever lower, with more and more resort marks floating above. But Bay Lake Tower is still a frequent break-even option here, and all the lower-tier DVC resorts routinely offer savings. Importantly, since the gap between most expensive Pool View and the least expensive Standard View is only about $275, those lower-tier resorts are solid options across the whole range of available rooms.
What to Take Away
Yes! You can save money by renting points for a DVC Villa instead of staying at Values and Moderates.
- At Art of Animation, lower-tier DVC resorts can offer savings against both Little Mermaid rooms and Family Suites, but you’ll have to decide how much Skyliner access means to you. At Pop Century and the All Stars, savings are mostly either non-existent or highly dependent on Value rooms at Animal Kingdom Villas, which are in limited supply.
- At the Moderates, renting at the lower tier of DVC resorts is favorable across all room types at all three Moderate resorts. For higher tiers of rooms, even renting at monorail resorts or the Riviera can save money.
If you’re considering renting and the price is close, remember that not paying for parking or extra adults in the room might make up some of the difference depending on your vacation plans. And it never hurts to look for Confirmed-Reservation type rentals; these have a very wide range of per-point prices and can offer savings even greater than what we saw here if you find one that works for you.
Would you give up the Skyliner for easy access to Disney Springs? Have you rented points for DVC instead of staying in a Moderate or Value? Let us know in the comments!
Other articles in this series:
- Renting points for Disney Vacation Club Villas vs. reserving through Disney
- Renting DVC Studios vs. reserving a hotel room at the same resort