I’ve been told that the Disney Vacation Club is good for families of five or more who go to Disney at least every other year. Since this sounds like us, I decided to investigate further. After consulting LOTS of different sources (some positive, some extremely negative), I came to realize that there are many, many factors to take into consideration. However, here’s the essential question that I boiled it down to: how does the cost of DVC membership compare to paying for our Disney vacations as we go?
To run my theoretical numbers, first I had to pick a “home resort.” You can book your trip at your home resort up to 11 months in advance, and at other DVC properties up to 7 months in advance. Of the DVC properties at Walt Disney World, those that sleep 5 people in a 1-bedroom villa are Bay Lake Tower, Animal Kingdom, and Old Key West. At present, BLT and AK are available for membership purchase. If I went with OKW, I’d have to be put on a wait list. For me, this is a no-brainer. My favorite park is Magic Kingdom, and my second fave is Epcot, so naturally BLT (at the Contemporary Resort and therefore on the monorail) is the place for me.
Next, I had to decide how many “vacation points” I needed for the time of year and duration that we normally visit WDW. At this point, with three kids in school, it’s really best for us to go in the summer. Most of the summer (except for the last couple of weeks) falls into the “Magic Season” category in my handy DVC brochure. We’ve stayed anywhere from four to six nights, so I ran the figures for a 5-night vacation. For a 1-bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower for 5 nights during the Magic Season, I need 196 points. (This is just for a standard view, not a lake or theme park view.) I decided to round it up to an even 200 points for my calculations.
Okay, so I contacted a DVC Cast Member to find out how much I would have to pay per point. It was a lot. A whole lot. But, my membership would last until 2060 (this date varies from one DVC property to another), so if I divided up the initial buy-in amount by 48 years, and added in the yearly maintenance fees, it came out to $1490/year.
If I paid “rack rates” for a 1-bedroom villa at BLT, booking it through the WDW website as I normally do for our Disney vacations, 5 nights in late June would cost $3285. This is just for the room, no park tickets. If I rented the DVC points from a DVC member who doesn’t need them next June (using David’s Vacation Club Rentals) the same accommodations would cost me $2548. If I instead booked a family suite at All-Star Music through the WDW website, 5 nights in late June would cost me $1836. So, theoretically, it would be less expensive to buy a DVC membership and stay at the deluxe resort Bay Lake Tower than to “pay-as-you-go” and stay at the value resort All-Star Music.
However, this means I have to go to WDW every year for the next 48 years to get the most out of my membership. Is this realistic? I’d like to say yes (I can totally picture myself at age 89, tooling around the Magic Kingdom on my scooter), but in reality, it’s probably not. I can, however, let friends and family use my points. So, even if I have to skip Disney for a year, someone else can go.
Keeping inflation in mind, the cost of staying at a Disney resort will go up each year. With a DVC membership, maintenance fees will likely go up each year, but I’ll already have paid for the room itself years in advance. So you really can, as they say, lock in tomorrow’s vacations at today’s prices. Sort of. (There’s still airfare, park tickets, food, souvenirs, etc to pay for.)
What don’t I like about the DVC? It sound silly, but my biggest beef with DVC membership (aside from the huge up-front cost) is that daily housekeeping isn’t provided unless you pay extra for it. I make enough beds and clean enough bathrooms at home. I totally do not want to do this while I’m on vacation. I also love to track WDW Special Offers, and try to take advantage of one of them whenever we plan a vacation. I’d miss this bargain hunting.
For me, the emotional satisfaction of “owning” a part of Disney World would be totally worth the up-front cost (provided I had that kind of money laying around), and I highly doubt that going to WDW often enough to get my money’s worth out of my membership would be a problem!
What are your thoughts on DVC membership?