The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is called Disney's "best-kept secret". Secret no more! DVC expert Shaun Brouwer reveals the ins and outs of buying into the DVC, getting the most out of your membership, exploiting little-known techniques, and enjoying its many discounts and rewards.
Joining the DVC isn't cheap. Disney wants you to pay the max, but it's possible to save thousands up-front. Brouwer shows you how. Once you become a DVC member, getting the reservation you want, when you want it, can be surprisingly challenging. Brouwer shows you how to do that, too.
This first-ever, all-in-one guide to the DVC includes:
DON'T DVC WITHOUT THIS BOOK!
Chapter 1: What Is the Disney Vacation Club?
Chapter 2: Is the DVC Right for You?
Chapter 3: Getting Started
Chapter 4: Buying Resale
Chapter 5: Using DVC
Chapter 6: DVC Discounts and Perks
Chapter 7: Tips and Tricks
Chapter 8: DVC Resorts
Chapter 9: Frequently Asked Questions
Chapter 10: Before You Go
I became a Disney fanatic at an early age. I grew up on Disney, visiting Disney World every year during spring break with my family, reading books about the theme parks, listening to Disney music, and watching Disney movies. My first memory of Walt Disney World dates back to the 1984. Up until that point, my family had stopped at Disney World for the day during trips to Florida, but we had never actually stayed on Disney property. The previous year, 1983, marked my father’s 10-year anniversary with his employer, and as a reward for being a loyal employee for all those years, the company offered to pay for our next family vacation. Now, my dad was never one to splurge, but since the company was paying for it, he decided that this time he would do just that. And so began our first Disney trip the following spring.
Walt Disney World was much different then. There were only two theme parks—the Magic Kingdom and the recently opened Epcot Center—and only a handful of Disney hotels. We didn’t technically stay at a Disney resort; we stayed at the Viscount Hotel, across the street from the Disney Village Marketplace (more recently known as Downtown Disney and currently Disney Springs), so we were basically on Disney property.
This was my first memory of WDW, and boy did it make an impression on me! We did a lot of great things on that trip, incluidng a character breakfast with Chip ‘n’ Dale on the Empress Lilly, dinner at the Polynesian Luau, and visits to the parks, of course. The trip got our family hooked on Disney World. My parents wanted to come back each year, but needed to figure out a way to do that without breaking the bank, and Disney had a solution: Fort Wilderness Campground. We had always been campers, and had a pop-up camper that we used for shorter trips during the summer—mostly in local campgrounds and state parks. Since we already had a camper, staying at Fort Wilderness was a natural choice; we just had to tow the camper a little farther—over a thousand miles this time!
And so began our yearly spring break treks to Walt Disney World. Our trips weren’t extravagant, but as kids we thought they were great. The theming of Fort Wilderness was perfect for me and my two older brothers. On top of that, the Contemporary Resort was just a boat ride away, and had what any kid growing up in the 1980s would love—a gigantic arcade known as the Fiesta Fun Center. And once we were at the Contemporary, getting anywhere else was easy, thanks to the monorail.
We usually only went to one park each year, but since there were only two parks at that time it didn’t really seem like a big deal to us. There was a seemingly endless amount of activities at Fort Wilderness, and Disney World as a whole, to keep us plenty busy. We would visit the now-closed River Country water park, Discovery Island zoological park in the middle of Bay Lake, and rent bikes or canoes for the day. As time went on and my older brothers moved out and started their own families and it got to be just me and my parents on Disney trips, my dad started to get a little tired of lugging that pop-up camper all the way down to Florida each year.
When I met my wife I was thrilled to find out that she, too, grew up visiting Disney World each year. For our honeymoon, I don’t think either of us gave it a second thought: we were going to Disney World. We had a magical honeymoon at Wilderness Lodge, with a Disney cruise tacked on. We assumed we’d vacation at Disney World each year, just as we’d done when we were kids, but reality (and kids of our own) set in. Our visits became less frequent.
On one of those visits, we noticed that Disney was going to be giving a presentation on the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) My wife wanted to go and listen to it, but I was hesitant. We had a bad timeshare presentation experience once, and I didn’t want to go through that again. Plus, wasn’t the Disney Vacation Club for rich people? Despite these reservations, we decided to attend.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was a very informative and low-pressure presentation, and both of us really like what we heard. I started running the numbers in my head and began to realize that joining the DVC might be just the thing to enable us to resume our yearly visits to Disney World. The hardest part would be coming up with the money to buy in, but I figured I could sell my travel trailer and use that money to buy into the club. And while there are recurring yearly costs for owning a DVC contract (maintenance fees), I reasoned that I would still be ahead because these fees would be much less than what I was paying for insurance, storage, and maintenance on my travel trailer. There were also financing options for buying in, but I really didn’t want to go down that route if I didn’t have to. The biggest revelation to me in all of this was that we could lock in our yearly vacations at today’s prices for the next 40–50 years!
As great as it all sounded, there was something holding us back. I wanted to do more research. I’m not one to make big financial decisions on a whim. So we gathered as much information as we could from that presentation, packed it in our suitcases, and took it home with us. The real work was soon to come.
Once we returned home, I started on a massive quest to research DVC as thoroughly as I possibly could and make sure it was the right thing for our family. What I found through my research amazed me. There was a way to buy into DVC at a fraction of the cost that I was quoted in the presentation, something that many folks overlook or just simply aren’t aware of: resale DVC contracts.
My original intention for this book was to take a detailed look at the process of buying a resale DVC contract. Instead, I decided to take a more holistic approach, first looking at how to determine if DVC is right for you, then how to buy into DVC, and finally how to best use your DVC contract. Along the way I will detail everything you need to know to make informed decisions.
It is not my intention with this book to convince you to buy into the Disney Vacation Club. I’m sure my enthusiasm for DVC will show through, but I realize that it’s not for everybody. The worst thing that you can do is buy into DVC when it is really not the best fit for you.
But if it is a great fit, I want to help you realize that dream.
Shaun Brouwer has over 20 years of experience planning Walt Disney World vacations and operates a website to help others plan their own Walt Disney World vacations: PlanWDW.com. He is interested in all things Disney, particularly Walt Disney World history and the man that started it all, Walt Disney. Shaun has been visiting Walt Disney World for over 30 years and loves making Disney memories with his wife, Jamie, and their three kids, Zach, Kyle, and Ashleigh.
Buying into the DVC on the resale market can save you money over buying into it through Disney. But it pays to know the ropes...
So, how do you get started with finding and buying a DVC contract on the resale market? First you’re going to have to determine what resort you want to buy into and how many points you want, just as we discussed in the previous chapter. In terms of resorts, you’ll want to balance a few things here. If staying at one particular resort is important to you, then choose that resort as your home resort so you get the benefit of being able to book eleven months out instead of seven. If you are happy with any DVC resort, I recommend you balance maintenance fee cost, buy-in cost, and the length of the contract. For example, Saratoga Springs is usually a good choice as it has one of the lowest resale buy-in costs of all DVC resorts, the second lowest maintenance fee cost, and the contract doesn’t expire until 2054. Contrast this with the Beach Club or Wilderness Lodge resorts which have a higher buy-in cost, higher maintenance fees, and expire in 2042. Remember, just because a DVC resort is not your home resort doesn’t mean you can’t stay there; it just may be a little more difficult to get a reservation, depending on what time of the year you visit.
You will also want to consider choosing the right “use year”. To review, use year refers to the month in which you’ll receive your points each year (on the first of the month). You’ll want your use year to be eight months or less before your vacation. Why eight months? We’ll get into the details of that in the “Using DVC” chapter, but it is basically so that in the event of a cancellation you will have time to bank your points to the following use year before the banking deadline
Once you’ve figured out how many points you want, which home resort you want to target, and a use year that best suits your vacation needs, it’s time to start looking online for resale listings. This is where you will want to be careful of where you search. Some agents are easier to work than others, and this will directly affect how your buying experience goes. One agency that I like and have personally used is Fidelity Resales. Fidelity deals with both Disney timeshares and other timeshares. There are a few more resale agencies that specialize primarily or exclusively in DVC properties, such as ResalesDVC. You will want to browse their website listings and see what they have available. You may also consider contacting the agency and letting them know what you are looking for so they can help you find it—sometimes they have new listings that haven’t gone up on the website yet. Keep in mind as you browse the listings that the price per point that you pay is negotiable with the seller, as are closing costs, so don’t get too hung up on the price. Some sellers are more motivated than others. You will also want to pay attention to how many points the contract has available for the current use year; sometimes you can find a contract that has points banked from the previous year, which is a nice bonus.
Once you have found a listing that you like, it’s time to make an offer. I recommend visiting sites like MouseOwners.com or DISBoards.com, as they have forums discussing the average price that resale contracts are going for. Not all contracts are the same, so you have to be careful here. For example, some contracts may have points that have been banked from previous years, meaning you’ll have plenty of points to use right away—these types of contracts will be worth a premium compared to other contracts that have no banked points, no current use year points, or even those that may have had points borrowed from future use years, meaning you’ll have to wait awhile to actually use your contract. If you make your offer too low and the seller accepts your offer, you may be excited to have found a great deal, but you run the risk of having Disney exercise ROFR on the contract. If this happens, you will have to start the process all over again with a different contract. You will also have to negotiate who pays the closing costs (you or the seller), and who pays the current year’s maintenance fees. I recommend trying to have the seller pay all of the closing costs, or at least a portion of them. However, I also recommend that you as the buyer pay the current year’s maintenance fees, as this will lower your chances of having Disney exercise ROFR on your contract. You may end up going back and forth with the seller a few times before you agree on a price. This is where having a great agent really helps, as they will help to move the process along. Sometimes sellers can be a little bit slow in responding to an offer, and things like this can draw out the process unless you have an agent who really stays on top of things. Don’t be afraid to keep in touch with the agent during this process; remember, that the agent is working for you. Once you agree on a price and terms, your agent will write up an official contract. Writing up the contract will usually takes 2–3 days, sometimes longer if several drafts need to be written until both you and the seller agree on the wording. Make sure the contract is written up correctly and don’t be afraid to have your agent correct anything you don’t like; this is a large purchase and you’ll want to make sure it’s correct.
One aspect of buying a resale DVC contract that you’ll want to consider is if you want the seller to bank any points from the current use year. For example, let’s consider a contract with a use year of December (remember that use year is the month that you receive your points each year). It’s currently July and the contract you are trying to buy has 100 points left on the current use year. You don’t plan to use any of those 100 points during the current use year. DVC points must be banked within the first 8 months of the use year or you will lose them, so in this case the points must be banked by July 31. In case your purchase doesn’t close prior to July 31, you may want to stipulate in the contract that the seller will bank those points so that you do not lose them. This was an opportunity that we missed out on with our first DVC contract because we simply didn’t know about the banking deadline—we assumed that we could bank points until the end of the use year. Luckily, in our case, Disney was nice enough to make an exception and let us bank those points anyway. DVC member services did make it very clear to us that it was a one-time exception since we were buying in, and that in the future they would not make any exceptions to the banking deadline. Once your contract is acceptable to all parties, you’ll be required to put down a deposit to be held in escrow—typically $1000. Depending on the agent you are using, you may have the option of charging the deposit to a credit card, which will speed up the process compared to writing a check and mailing it in.
Continued in "The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Using the Disney Vacation Club"!
The book is a-brim with DVC tips and tricks, like these:
If you are booking a stay that is longer than seven days, an effective strategy for making sure you get the resort is to book a seven-day trip once you enter the booking window, then each subsequent day call DVC member services and ask to add another day to your trip until you have the desired number of days. This is commonly referred to as “walking” a reservation.
Waitlisting is a great strategy if your desired resort is not open for the dates you want. However, waitlisting multiple days is not the best idea, since all of those days would have to open up at the same time for your waitlist to be fulfilled. Instead, book the days that are available, then waitlist the additional days you need one day at a time. You can have two waitlists at once; if you need more than two days, start a new waitlist each time one comes through. It is important to waitlist weekend days first as those are usually most popular. If all of your waitlists come through, you will end up with several reservations—you can then call DVC member services and have them combine all of them into one reservation. With this strategy, you must make sure all of your waitlists and reservations match in terms of room type and view. For example, if you have a reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge for a one-bedroom savannah view, and a second reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge for a one-bedroom standard view, those reservations cannot be combined because they are different view types.
Another tip to be aware of for waitlists is how they are processed. After you complete a waitlist request, it will show up in two places on your online DVC account—on your dashboard, which is the page you see after logging in, and when you click “Waitlist” under the My DVC Account dropdown. You won’t be able to see where you are on the priority list; however, when someone cancels a reservation and you are next on the list, Disney’s computer system will automatically put the reservation into holding so that nobody else can book it, then a DVC Cast Member periodically checks these holds and completes the reservations. This manual process can take a couple of days. When the DVC computers place the reservation in a holding status, you will notice that your waitlist will disappear from your Dashboard. If you click on “Waitlist” under the My DVC Account dropdown, the waitlist will still show up there. This is an indication that your waitlist has come through and is in holding until a DVC reservation specialist can process it. When you see this, call member services and ask them to process the reservation. If you need to combine it with an existing reservation, you can ask them to do that while you’re on the phone with them.
Continued in "The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Using the Disney Vacation Club"!