By 2004, we were on our third Disney vacation in a two and half year period. Brandon and I had gone in 2002, just the two of us. Then in 2003 we returned with Brooklyn, our oldest and only child at the time, and both set of grandparents. My parents returned with us to take Brooklyn and our ten-month old baby, Jaron for his very first visit in October 2004.
On that trip my Dad suggested, “If you guys think this is something you want to keep doing, you should go check out the Disney Vacation Club tour.”
The “something” he was referring to was our enthusiasm to return for annual Disney vacations. But we figured there was a catch to the vacation club thing. We weren’t timeshare people, so we almost dismissed the suggestion. It was the fact that my Dad was a financial planner and not a timeshare person himself that gave us pause to consider his comment.
We scheduled a time to visit with a vacation club guide. They came and picked us up at Old Key West, where we were staying in a two-bedroom villa for that particular trip. We traveled the short distance to Saratoga Springs the resort they were selling vacation ownership at the time.
Listening to the presentation we both had one thought running through both our minds, “there has to be a catch.” This whole two-become-one thing is so beneficial, because without communicating a word regarding those thoughts, we thanked the guide for the information and said we would give it some thought.
After returning home, we took some time before looking through the charts we were given explaining how we could continue to experience magical family vacations for a fraction of the cost. But we couldn’t get on the vacation club train. The guide told us a dining package wasn’t available and we’d still have to purchase our theme park admissions, but that accommodations are the chunk of cost, and it’d be our accommodations that would provide the significant savings.
We had to try to make that make sense for us. So we priced the three vacations we had already taken, breaking it down into hotel accommodations, dining and park tickets. After we looked at it from every angle we could consider, our vacation club guide was right. For us to experience magical vacations year-after-year, Disney Vacation Club was the place for us.
And that’s where our journey as Disney Vacation Club Members began.
If you’re a Disney enthusiast who finds more magic in wearing mouse ears on vacation, then continue reading!
We’d love to have you join our member community!
How it Works
The key to ownership is this one sentence. “By becoming a member, you are locking in today’s purchase price.”
When members becomes members by choosing what amount of points they want to buy in at, they are locking in the price of what those points cost today.
We became members in 2005 purchasing our first vacation club ownership at Saratoga Springs. That ownership provides us a deed for a unit at Saratoga Springs, and we deduct our property tax on our personal taxes. Our Saratoga Springs ownership is for fifty years, giving us 250 vacation points annually until 2055.
In 2015, we bought in again purchasing ownership at Grand Floridian Villas. This was a goal of ours to be able to make Grand Floridian a part of our family vacations, and to call it “home” is a dream! We purchased an additional 250 vacation club points we get in a bank every year until 2065. Like our Saratoga Springs ownership we have a deed to a unit at Grand Floridian Villas and deduct our property tax on our personal taxes.
But as you can imagine, the price per point cost more for our 2nd lot of 250 points in 2015 than it did when we bought our first 250 points in 2005. As time marches on, so does the price per point. Meaning those folks who were part of the original vacation club ownership at Old Key West, the first Vacation Club resort, back in 1991 are truly getting some major bang for their buck today. If they bought 250 points back in 1991, they are able to use those points like they were back in 1991.
So in twenty years, the value of your membership continues to increase.
In the first ten years of our ownership, we had saved the cost of our membership in accommodations for our annual vacations over that time. Planning for our next season of life, hoping to travel to Disney with not just our kids, but with their spouses and grandkids, and having the understanding that the price per point only rises, we felt it was the best approach for our family to purchase additional points when we did at a resort we were ecstatic to have ownership.
All About the Points
Every September our points go into an account. You can look at your points like a check register so to speak, and you get your deposit annually.
There are options when it comes to using those points. These are the three B’s to know in vacation club world—booking, banking, borrowing.
Whatever points are available in your account are available to book a reservation. But let’ say you are taking only a couple’s trip this year, and don’t need to use all your points because you’ll be staying in a studio. Well, the left over points you will need to bank. And banking is very important because if you forget to bank your points by a certain date, you lose them.
Now there’s that other b word—borrow.
Let’s say you didn’t go on vacation in 2016 so you banked those points, and you aren’t planning on going on a trip in 2018 either. Instead you want to take a big family vacation in 2017, so you use your banked 2016 points, and your allotted 2017 points, and you borrow your 2018 points to go on one incredible vacation! That’s three years worth of points in one vacation. And it can equal magic! And many families use their membership that way.
Connecting with members through conversation in the parks, at member events or through social media are great ways to learn how creatively people utilize their membership.
Choosing Your Home Resort
At Disney Vacation Club resorts, you’ll hear “welcome home” from cast members whether you call down to the front desk or walk into the main lobby. Whether at your home resort or just being a guest at any vacation club resort means this is part of your home-away-from home, and Disney receives, speaks and treats you in such a manner.
In fact, they are so convincing that when we were on a vacation several years ago, Caden could not understand why we were packing our bags. He asked, “Where are we going?” I answered, “We are going home.” Puzzled he questioned, “Where?” I said, “Home. To Oklahoma.” Confused he stated, “But this is our home.” We finally circled around to the fact that he had been informed of that information the entire week. And not just hearing it, you really do feel it too. It’s the Disney touch!
So, why is having ownership at a particular resort so valuable?
Here’s the scoop. It’s mostly about which resorts are being offered for purchase at the time. And personal preference has a bit to do with it too. We have some friends who bought into Aulani because they are looking to the next season of their life having raised their children and aiming to escape to Hawaii for couple’s vacations.
Here are two things to know.
At your home resort, the resort you have purchased an ownership interest, you have Home Resort Priority when it comes to making reservations. Meaning you can make your vacation reservations up to 11 months in advance. And since units dedicated for vacation club are numbered, this can be a great advantage when traveling during peak season.
If you’re wanting to make reservations at a resort that is not your home resort, a resort you don’t have ownership interest in, you can book up to 7 months in advance.
For us this means when we have traveled to Aulani we can’t make those reservations any more than 7 months before our requested arrival date.
There has been some resorts we’ve checked into staying that didn’t have availability because the time of year we have to travel now, but I can say we have never been disappointed with our reservation. And Member Services has always helped us game plan the best scenario to making our magical vacations a reality.
Each resort has a chart for how many points it will take to stay in a particular room per night. Some resorts cost more points per night than other resorts.
Vacation Club Resorts feature: Studios, 1 bedroom Villas, 2 bedroom Villas, 3 bedroom Grand Villas.
Our trip we took in 2004 when my Dad suggested we check into DVC, we were staying in a 2 bedroom Villa. The master bedroom has a master bath and closet and the second bedroom contains two queen beds and a full bathroom. In addition is, a kitchen, living room, and a washer and dryer unit. This was a great blessing traveling with a baby and it’s the set-up we have had for our Disney vacations every year since. Some years we were able to get a 1 bedroom, but as our family grew, we came to require the 2-bedroom. But all Villas, with the exception of the studios, offer the home-away-from home amenities like the washer and dryer and kitchen. It’s like having an apartment on Disney property and for this family it truly feels like home.
Using your points isn’t limited to Disney resorts. Disney has contracted with hotels across the country and the world to allow members to use their vacation club points for travel outside of visiting Mickey. The Disney Vacation Club website has the hotels and resorts in the Concierge Collection and World Collection listing how many points per week it takes to reserve accommodations. Over the ten years we have been in the vacation club we have not used this as a points transfer because we focus all our points on Disney travel right now, but we’ve never heard of this process being a difficult one for members to utilize.
The only transfer of points we have used outside of the resorts is for Disney Cruise Line. It may come as a surprise that Disney Cruise Line operates separately from the Disney resorts, but we received all the information and were able to book without a problem or the slightest hiccup. It was an incredibly smooth process and I feel we enjoyed the cruise even more not having had to pay for all six Meadows in our home.
For The Concierge Collection, World Collection and Disney Cruise Line there is a one-time flat $99 fee to transfer the points to the reservation.
Another option to use vacation club points is for Adventure by Disney. But I have to tell you, I know nothing of it. I checked into it a few years ago and determined my points level would not provide for me to explore point use for an Adventures by Disney trip. If we would ever make it happen, it would be a paid, not a point, type of trip.
When joining, DVC members get a membership card. That card doesn’t look too significant at home, except for the fact that it beams Mickey Mouse, but at your home-away-from-home it’s a proud piece of plastic. I think it communicates, “I love Disney so much I invested in what takes place here.” And while it may indirectly relay such a message, what it directly does is open the door to discounts! Yes! Discounts!
Whether it’s Mickey ice cream, popcorn, T-Shirts, luggage, breakfast, lunch or dinner, you share your DVC membership and you very often get a 10% or more discount on your purchase. Isn’t that magical?!
Other perks include special events for members. For instance, when we were in Disney over the Christmas season, we went to a party in Epcot just for members and got a keepsake ornament. We hang it on our tree every year and remember Christmas ’09 when we get out that ornament, because it was Gavin’s first Christmas and first trip to Disney.
There is also an annual Member Cruise stopping at what will permanently be my favorite port of call, Castaway Cay.
And perhaps the one perk that may not seem to get much glam or come with a whole lot of fanfare is the Disney Files magazine. This bit of magic comes straight to my post office box four times a year, with their spring, summer, fall and winter editions. The magazines keep members in the know on all new and upcoming changes and additions to the parks, new resorts, new movies, a featured recipe from a Disney restaurant, and more. I could go on and on about our Disney Files magazine, because it’s one of my highlights getting to sit down and sift through the pages.
There is ongoing cost to membership. Just like if you own a home you have property tax and homeowner’s insurance to pay, for this home-away-from-home you receive a statement to pay annual dues to cover that property’s cost. Disney says since the start of DVC, annual dues have increased 3% to 6% each year across all resorts.
Check it Out
I hope you’ve gotten a personal look into Disney Vacation Club through the lens of these members. I encourage you to visit the DVC Website to request a DVD to be mailed to you or even just watch it online. Either way it will give you more information on this great way of vacationing.
If I could help you, as my Dad helped us, by making this one suggestion, then I’ll close with this one. Call our Disney Vacation Club Guide, Randy Kruger with any questions. He can be reached at 800.501.8671.
Inquiring into DVC is the most non-pushy, non-aggressive, laid back experience you will ever have. So don’t feel concerned about just checking into it. They encourage you to take your time and do your homework. They’re not in any rush. Disney’s not going anywhere, so you take all the time you need!
Oh, and be sure to tell your guide you were referred by this vacation club member, Heather Meadows.