It’s pretty common to see references to the Value, Moderate, and Deluxe tiers of Disney World on-site resort rooms, but did you know there’s a 4th category? The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas are in a class of their own, and last week Becky took a look at the how of renting DVC points to stay in them. It’s easier than many people think, but it still isn’t for everyone. To help you decide whether or not it’s for you, this series of posts will break down the money to see how much you can save. This week we’ll be looking at how much you might get to keep in your pocket when renting DVC Villas, instead of reserving those same rooms for cash through Disney. In the future, we’ll compare the cost of renting DVC Villas against regular hotel rooms.
How Are DVC Villas Different?
Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s timeshare, and the Villas offer more amenities than a standard Disney hotel room. Studio Villas are the closest to a regular room, but are often a little more spacious and come with extra kitchen features like a microwave. Larger villas are similar to timeshare condos and have multiple rooms, kitchens, and laundry. If you aren’t a Disney Vacation Club owner, then you have two options. You can pay Disney directly if you find a room available to reserve, or you can use another owner’s points to stay.
When searching for rooms on Disney’s website, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find any of the DVC Villas available. When Disney is able to offer these rooms for cash they typically come from three sources: Exchange, Developer-Owned, and Breakage inventories. Exchange inventory is created when owners use DVC points for anything that isn’t a stay in a DVC Villa, such as paying for a cruise or using them to exchange through RCI. Developer-Owned inventory simply means points that Disney owns itself, either because it never sold them, or because it purchased them back in a resale transaction. Breakage is rooms that are still available within 60 days of the requested date – rooms that will go empty if someone doesn’t do something in a hurry. If you’re interested in staying in a Villa and don’t want to rent points, your best bet is usually to use the services of a travel agent such as our own TouringPlans Travel.
Alternately, you can rent points from an owner. The cheapest rates are usually available when renting directly from the owner, however, many people prefer to use one of several sites that serve as a middleman and reduce the risk of renting from an unknown person. There are two kinds of reservations available through these sites; Confirmed Reservation and Your Choice. Confirmed reservations are already booked, and are offered for a fixed price that has a good deal of variance. With a Your Choice reservation you choose the time and resort, and the site will connect you with an owner. These reservations are usually billed at $19-22 per point. If you choose to rent through David’s Vacation Club Rentals, TouringPlans receives a commission through this affiliate link, and the Travel Agency can still help you with flights and tickets if you would like.
About The Numbers
Despite not having guaranteed inventory for any particular resort or date, Disney publishes rack rates for these rooms and that’s what we’ll be using in our comparisons. Since these rooms are often included in special offers at the same discount rate as Deluxe Resorts, I’ll also show a “Special” rate of 25% off. For the cost to rent points, I’ll use a fixed price of $20 per point.
If you’re familiar with DVC, you might wonder why certain room types seem to be missing. For instance, as you go through the charts and numbers below, you might notice that there don’t seem to be any 2-bedroom Villas available at Jambo House! One reason for this might be that Disney simply hasn’t published rates for this room type. If you look, the most common missing room is a 2-bedroom villa in a resort where those rooms consist of a lock-off with a 1-bedroom villa on one side of a connecting door and a studio villa on the other side. I have a suspicion that if Disney has one of those available, they simply offer it as a 1-bedroom and a studio because the total fees will be higher than renting the 2-bedroom.
One of the challenges of doing this type of analysis is that there’s So Much Data. Showing it all is overwhelming … and it actually turns out to be pretty uninformative, because most people want some kind of a big-picture answer. But sometimes it’s fun to pore over the details, so zooming too far out is a problem as well. I’m going to do a medium-dive into each room size, and then put a summary at the end. Feel free to skim and skip ahead if you just want the view from above.
Of course we all know that Disney hotel rooms aren’t the same price all year. In this case I’ve broken the data down into DVC Seasons, but we’re only going to look at Seasons 2, 4, and 6.
Season 2: Jan 1-31, Dec 1-14. Two things apply to the weeks here: the first is that almost no schools have holidays or breaks, and the second is that the weather may be quite cold, at least on the Florida scale.
Season 4: Feb 1-15, Jun 11-Aug 31, Oct 1-Nov 22, Nov. 26-30. This season has more days than any other, accounting for about 5 months in total. It encompasses all of the school summer break season, as well as the period in October and November when visitors may be trying to avoid crowds while still capturing some of the summer weather.
Season 6: Feb 16-28, Mar 1-Apr 9, Apr 18-23, Nov 23-25. This is school break season: some schools are out for spring breaks (but not all of them at the same time) and families are able to travel accordingly.
Season 5 is only 1 week long, and Season 7 is Christmas and Easter — if you’re not an owner, your options for renting in those weeks are going to be very limited. And Seasons 1 and 3 would just add extra charts without really adding extra information; I did take a peek at the numbers, and I promise we’re not missing anything by leaving them out.
All numbers in this analysis are based on a 1-week stay beginning on Sunday; total cost for the week was calculated by adding the cost of the individual days. After I had the total cost for the week based on the rack rates, the special rates, and paying cash for points, I simply subtracted to find the savings for that week. I pooled all the weeks for a specific season together and then picked out useful stats like the median, mininum, and maximum to give us that “forest level view”.
Studios are the rooms most similar to a regular hotel room, and many guests seek them out just for a bit of extra space (and in some cases, better soundproofing). All the charts below show the median price you’d pay to rent points for a full week’s stay as the interior green bar, with the outer bar showing the full rack rate and also the 25% off “Special” rate. You can click on the charts to enlarge them, but we’re mostly looking for patterns.
I put all the charts one after another here because I wanted to highlight how very similar the pattern is in each chart. In each case, it’s obvious that renting points will come out ahead whether or not you’re eligible for a special rate. How does that translate to actual numbers? Well, in Season 2 the minimum savings over any week is just under $1 K and the maximum is $4.5 K for a Boardwalk view studio at Boardwalk Villas in early December; that comes out as a savings of 32% and 68% respectively. That’s not chump change. On the other end in Season 6, the low end is $1.3 K in savings for Boulder Ridge at the end of March, and the high end is just under $4K, again at the Boardwalk. Note to self: always investigate renting points at Boardwalk.
Where might you not save? One thing that’s tricky about the charts above is that we’ve pooled all the weeks from each Season together, so within Seasons there still might be weeks that you don’t save very much. If you’re looking to stay at Boulder Ridge or Copper Creek in July and August, you might want to see if there’s a 25% off deal going on. You’ll come out just about even with the deal, and you’ll get Disney’s more friendly cancellation policies.
There’s a lot more variation in the 1-bedrooms, and in some places we see that the median price to rent may actually come out behind any deals that Disney might be offering. Of course, that might just mean that these rooms would be excluded from any deal. For the Riviera Preferred room, there are actually a few weeks in August and October where you can save a whopping $11 by renting points. Definitely check, but don’t forget that if you’re set on those weeks you may not be able to find the room through Disney. The minimum savings that cracks the $100 mark is an SSR 1-BR Preferred, again in August.
There are good savings to be had in July and August though; renting 1-bedroom at Copper Creek will save you about $3.5 K on a few different weeks in the summer, that’s about 60% off the rack rate. If we take Season 4 off the list and look at Season 2, the minimum savings is $1 K / 13% (again in that Riviera Preferred room), and the maximum is $5 K / 70% at Copper Creek in early December. For Season 6, the brackets are at $343 / 4% (Riviera Preferred again!) and $5.4 K / 67% at Copper Creek in the lull between Spring Break and Easter.
As a DVC owner with three kids, I’m just going to throw in my opinion here that 2-bedroom units are the bomb. (And yet, somehow, we still have children arguing over not wanting to sleep with each other. I don’t get this: when I was a kid you slept where your parents put you and you were grateful to be on vacation, right? Or at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Don’t ask my parents, they may have different recollections.)
For 2-bedroom units, we are back in rent-with-confidence territory, at least against the full rack rate. The overall minimums are in Season 4, somewhere around $1K / 15% at an assortment of Old Key West and Saratoga Springs rooms. The maximum for Season 4 is $6 K / 58% at Kidani Village in early October.
In Season 2 it’s all SSR and OKW at the low end, in the $1,500 range — some of these are very close to the 25% off price, so if you can find a room through Disney you’ll probably be better off in those cases. That’s a big if, though. At the higher end you’re saving $8.5 K on a Lake View room at the Grand Floridian in early December; that’s about 50% compared to renting directly.
In Season 6, we’re still only looking at $1.5 K on the low end, again from SSR … and again, that’s less than 25%. At the high end we’re still saving about $8.7 K on the monorail loop, but this time it’s a Theme Park view at Bay Lake Tower.
It’s arguable that we should have just skipped the 3-bedroom Villas, because they’re relatively limited inventory and can be hard to book even if you’re a DVC member booking on points. (By that logic I should probably have left out all the Club Level rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge as well). But hey, here we are.
From a quick glance at the charts it looks like this is really a scenario where you definitely want to confirm the numbers first if you think there might be a live discount offer, but that’s probably misleading. Why? Because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a discount offer that included the 3-bedroom Villas. On the flip side, the maximum on these charts is now $30,000 and if you’re going to be spending that much in one week, it can’t hurt to check … just in case.
How does this look as a range of savings? Well, on the low end we have a lot of Saratoga Springs between $1.3 and $2 K representing about a 10% savings; that’s mixed between Season 4 and Season 6. On the higher end you could save between $12 and $13 K (about 50%) on rooms at Kidani Village, Bay Lake Tower, and the Villas at the Grand Floridian, all in Season 2.
What to Take Away
There are a very, very few week/resort combos where you won’t save much money by renting DVC points instead of booking direct through Disney — so few that you’d need to be lucky to find that Disney had them available, since they are limited in what rooms they can offer for cash. For the most part, you’ll see savings at a minimum of about $1,000 over the cash cost of the room if you rent points, and up to a maximum of just over $8,000 for a 2-bedroom on the monorail loop.
It’s also useful to look at the savings as a percentage of the total cost, since these rooms are sometimes included in discounted room offers. It’s much more common to find rooms and weeks where renting does not provide savings over a 25% off special, particularly when you take into account Disney’s more friendly cancellation policies. But again, this only matters if Disney actually has a room in inventory to sell you. On the high end, more than 1 in 5 times, renting saves you 50-75%.
The most reliable savings are on Studios, which are almost always positive or break-even, even when compared to a discount. And although you might think that there wouldn’t be as much to save when rooms are cheaper, there are numerous examples of excellent savings in Season 2 which is on the less popular end of the range.
There are pros and cons to renting DVC points, and if you’re interested you should do a bit of research and become better acquainted with them. However, you can save some serious dough by going the rental route, and more importantly you can get access to room types (such as suites with kitchens and separate sleeping spaces) that are in short supply otherwise.
Other articles in this series:
- Renting DVC Studios vs. reserving a hotel room at the same resort
- Renting points for Disney Vacation Club Villas vs. Moderate and Value hotel rooms