Disney Vacation Club Experiences?
March 8, 2006 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Anyone else on here have experience with the Disney Vacation Club? I'm seriously thinking of buying into it, but was wondering what people's experiences have been with it. Or perhaps even other similar "vacation club" programs.
posted by tittergrrl to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Best answer: I assume you've found this page. Keep in mind that you're buying into a form of a timeshare and pre-paying for vacations for the next 35 years. So this is a big chunk of money up front with the idea that you get benefits for a long time.

From a traditional financial outlook you need to consider that you're losing the investment potential of that $14,700 (we'll assume you buy 150 points at $98 per and pay cash in full) by spending it now. So if you only ever use up what would have otherwise cost you $14,700 this is a bad deal - you could be in an Orange/INGDirect savings account earning 4.75% with that money or making DOW average of 11% annually instead.

More concretely, if you put $14,700 in either account and at the end of every year withdrew $420 to pay for your vacation ($14,700/35 meaning you spread your vacation costs evenly with that $14,700) at the end of 35 years you'd have over $34,000 in the savings account and about $37,000 in the investment account.

None of this takes into account financing that purchase, which odds are you will do. In that case your total cost will end up being more like $17,000 to 20,000 depending on the loan terms. Also there's a booking fee every year it seems and that could go up. At the moment it looks like it would add $100 to the cost. There's also that membership fee which looks to be around $600 for 150 points.

That's $1120 a year assuming you pay no interest and disregarding the $30k you'd make if you plopped $14,700 in a savings account and withdrew $420 a year. What would it cost you to just go where you want when you want to? If that's still a good deal for you, consider the big risks:

You are hoping what you want will be available when you want it. Do you typically plan your vacations way in advance? If so, great. If not, you may often be disappointed by this deal.

Are you willing to commit to a disney-fied vacation every year, or at least every 3 (since that seems to be the max time you can "bank" points)? If not you're paying for something you don't use, which cuts into how good a deal this is.
posted by phearlez at 1:36 PM on March 8, 2006

I know people who have had other vacation timeshares. They were great for a decade or so, then their lives changed and they've scarcely used it in the past 10 years but they've been reluctant unload it and move on because of fond memories, and the general human attachment to sunk costs.
posted by Good Brain at 1:53 PM on March 8, 2006

I think it's pretty important to note that your ownership ceases after a certain amount of years. So it's certainly not like real estate and not even like more timeshares. After like 50 years you no longer own anything, nothing to resell, nothing to enjoy, and nothing to deed to your children.

It's more like an expensive 50 year lease agreement.

I love my Disney Vacations, but I just don't see how this is a good deal.
posted by visual mechanic at 3:11 PM on March 8, 2006

The only major difference in your stay as a DVC member is that you will get housekeeping services less frequently....DVC members get a "trash and tidy" day on the fourth day of their stay...Additional housekeeping services are available for a fee.

Members have pool-hopping privileges at other Walt Disney World Resorts when pools are not at capacity.

Wow. Sounds like they really take care of you.

Everyone I know who have these timeshare vacation things simply can't stand them after five or ten years. It also doesn't quite work like you think it will as your children grow up and your needs and desires as a family change. Disney resorts I'm sure are very nice, but why not follow Phearlez's marvelously-argued advice and put the money in an interest-bearing account so you can pick and choose what vacations you want? And aren't they all in Florida? I mean hey, Florida's fun and all, but... there are many other amazing and stupendous places in the world. Some with maid service every day.
posted by incessant at 3:24 PM on March 8, 2006

Best answer: As phearlez points out, it really only pays off if you use it every year (or within the banking time limit). That being said, I love my DVC.

Before I babble on, let me point you over to the Disney Vacation Club message board on the Disboards. They have in-depth discussions for potential buyers all the time (like this one)

I have no regrets for buying in, except that I didn't buy into it enough. The option to borrow points from the following year has allowed my family to take vacations we normally wouldn't have been able to afford. Just this past July we booked three rooms for 9 days a piece to take our parents down to Disney. When I get married down in Disney this July, I'll be using our points for part of our Honeymoon, which will get us to WDW's Wilderness Lodge, Vero Beach, Hilton Head and Washington DC. I use the timeshare as a prepaid vacation. Now that it's just a bill like everything else, I can justify lengthier and more extravagant vacations in a way I wouldn't when just saving up for it like before.

As for what the resorts themselves are like...have you taken a tour? There are pictures of all the resorts, both grounds and rooms, on the main DVC website and Allearsnet.com. The Studio is much like a room at any of Disney's Deluxe Resorts except that it includes a mini-kitchen area. The addition of a fridge to your vacation can make a ton of difference, both convenience and cost-wise. The One-Bedroom is a lightyear leap ahead of the studio. The massive bathroom alone is in stark contrast to the paltry baths at other Disney Resorts. It consists of three rooms: a room for the toilet, a room with a large shower and a sink, and a room with a hot tub and vanity. The rest of the room is fairly spacious, coming in at 712 sq. ft. (vs. a Studio at 359 sq. ft, a Two Bedroom at 1,071 sq. ft. and a Grand Villa at 2,142 sq. ft.) and contains a full kitchen, living room w/ fold-out couch, and my personal favorite, the Washer/Dryer combo, a lifesaver on longer vacations.

Each resort has its own unique theme and draw, just like every other Disney hotel. The Beach Club Villas, where I own, is built right alongside the World Showcase at EPCOT. It has its own entrance that you can walk to from the hotel (the International Gateway, which you may have seen while walking over the bridge from England to France) as well as dedicated boat service that it shares with the Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin hotels (which will get you to MGM Studios, too). If that wasn't enough, it has the best pool on Disney property, Stormalong Bay, which is basically a mini-waterpark.

The drawbacks? No daily maid service. If you're not a slob, it shouldn't make much of a difference. They do come every 4 days for Trash and Towel service, otherwise you're going to have to pay for it. At DVC resorts that also share a hotel, the DVC rooms tend to be further away from the lobby than the regular hotel rooms. At Beach Club Villas, they're actually closer to the EPCOT entrance, so it balances out.

Also, if you're not selling it to yourself as a prepaid vacation, using your points anywhere but the DVC resorts isn't going to save you any money. For anything in the Concierge Collection, the Disney Cruises, etc., you're more often than not paying more (at a cost per point level) than if you were paying cash. This balances out if you weren't going to end up staying at a Concierge Collection hotel if you didn't use points, at least that's how I justify it.

If you're NOT financing (or would like to finance outside of Disney), you might want to consider buying a resale from somewhere like the Timeshare Store. You can buy into a DVC resort like Vero Beach for as little as $64 a point. Points at any DVC resort are worth exactly the same, the only difference is that you can book your Home Resort (the one you own points at) 11 months out and other DVC resorts 7 months out. If you vacation only during major holidays, this might cause some problems, but otherwise it should be fine.

I think I've said enough. I could go on for hours on the subject. One last thing, $420 a year to pay for a Disney vacation? A night at the All Star Movies is $79. Plane tickets from NY...$79 each way if you're quick to snatch the deal from Jetblue. A single day's ticket to the park is $67.10. We're already at $300+ and we haven't set foot in the parks yet. That being said, with DVC, the only thing you're deducting from that scenario is the room...Oh well, good luck with whatever you end up doing!
posted by unsupervised at 3:50 PM on March 8, 2006

Members have pool-hopping privileges at other Walt Disney World Resorts when pools are not at capacity.

Why is this odd? When pools are at full capacity, the people staying at that hotel get priority over non-guests.

That being said, it's not really a privelege, either. Anyone staying at a Disney resort can pool hop (and some not staying at a Disney Resort.) There are, however, two pools on property that you're NOT allowed to pool hop to (they check your Resort ID and give you a bracelet to wear at the pool): Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club and the Uzima Pool at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
posted by unsupervised at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2006

The DVC is essentially a form of timesharing. Some people love timeshares. Some people can't stand them. This is often directly related to how much those people knew before going into the timeshare game, and what their travelling habits are like over the life of their timeshare.

You should seriously consider joining TUG the timeshare users group. There's no better resource on the Internet for these things.

The short version: buy resale, get the lowest maintenance fees that you can find, bank your points/weeks early if you know you're not going to use them, and try to be flexible when choosing destinations.

Timeshares are not investments. You won't get your money back. You will get the opportunity to travel to interesting places, staying in places (often with kitchens) that aren't usually available to the casual renter.

(FWIW, I own a week in a very nice place in Curaçao. I've never actually stayed there, but I've traded it to stay for some amazing places, including an obscene apartment in Vail that would've probably rented for $1000 a day. The trading power of our Curaçao unit has lots to do with the fact that there are very few available timeshare units on the island -- we bought it for its trading power, and did a lot of research before choosing it.)
posted by toxic at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2006

Speaking as a child who grew up in a family that owned a DVC, my sisters and I loved it! My folks bought it when I was about 10 and we went yearly or sometimes twice a year. Disney pretty much became our second home.

Our home base is Old Key West (that was the only one open when we bought it), but we usually stay at other hotels that have DVC rooms like the Boardwalk. That's nice because it's in one of the "regular" hotels, but many rooms have kitchenettes so our vacation is a little more flexible in terms of how often we eat out.

My folks have used the points at the resort in Hilton Head and had a blast. So we've really used

When we first bought it Disney had a deal where each time we stayed we would get four passes to all the parks for the length of our stay. I know that was a HUGE incentive when we bought and saved us a lot of money, but I don't think they're doing it anymore.

Obviously our trips have changed over the years (there are a lot more family cocktail hours than waiting in line for the dumbo ride), but I'm almost 27 and still look forward to the occasional trips when we can all get together in Orlando.
posted by awegz at 5:44 PM on March 8, 2006

unsupervised - could you elaborate on the matter of the annual membership fees? When I was composing the above message I was initially inclined to say it would be an excellent deal if you were committed to Disney, then I saw how sizable that amount can be. While $600 wouldn't cover a whole week's hotel stay at Disney it certainly would be a sizable chunk. It that was a little less onerous I'd be inclined to think this could be a good plan but I'm put off by the recurring cost.
posted by phearlez at 10:12 PM on March 9, 2006

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