Does the Disney Vacation Club make sense for us? 16

Well, it’s a good question, and one that was asked recently in Owning the Magic, the Disney Vacation Club forum on the PassPorter message boards.

One of the Disney Vacation Club resorts - Saratoga Springs

The question was specifically about whether the Disney Vacation Club would be any good for a family of five, but it’s something that every single person who’s become a DVC member has had to ask themselves before becoming members. It’s also something that no doubt a lot of people thinking of joining the Disney Vacation Club are probably also asking themselves. And, let’s be honest, with an initial investment of five figures, it’s a really important question that you should answer before you become a Member.

Will you and your family always want to go to Disney? A question to ask when considering buying into the Disney Vacation Club...

The first thing that is probably going to be a winner is if you’re a family that likes to vacation regularly with Disney. Sure, there are other things that you can do with your membership, but predominantly, it’s Disney. If you’ve only been to Disney a couple of times, and have no strong desire to return, this isn’t going to be the investment for you.

Provided you’ve got past that first question, then the second question to answer is how often do you to go to Disney? When we bought in, we were told that you really needed to at least once every two or three years, and that’s good advice. If you know that actually, your vacations are only going to be once every four or five years, then maybe becoming a Disney Vacation Club member isn’t for you. Why? Because you get points to use each year. You can bank forward one year’s worth of points, and borrow back one year’s worth of points, meaning you can combine up to three years’ worth of points for one vacation. Any longer than that and those points are just going to expire.

Perhaps now’s a good time to think about the future as well. We can’t predict it obviously, but Disney Vacation Club points are good until at least 2042, and a lot later for some of the newer accommodations. That’s definitely what you call a long-term investment. It may well be that you know that you’ll be happy to visit Disney for five or ten years, but what about after that? It’s something worth thinking about, particularly if you have kids. Much as we hate to admit it, some children do go through a phase (shock, horror!) of not wanting to visit Disney theme parks any longer….

The cost of spending 19 nights at the Beach Club persuaded us to buy into the Disney Vacation Club!

The next thing you need to ask yourself is what type of accommodation you like to stay at when you visit Walt Disney World. I’m sure a lot of you are screaming “well, given the chance, deluxe resorts”, but I know that there are people that are very happy with staying at value, or moderate resorts. If you fall into that category, then perhaps the Disney Vacation Club may not save that much money for your family over the years, as it’s essentially deluxe level accommodations. I know how much we paid for 19 nights at the Beach Club (I’ll give you a clue-a lot of money!), so for us, buying into the DVC was an absolute no-brainer. I think we recouped our initial investment within our first three vacations, but that may not be the case for you.

Something else to keep in mind on this subject is that, if you’re going to buy into the Disney Vacation Club, and stay on your points, you won’t be able to take advantage of any promotions, like discounts, or free dining any longer. If you make good savings on those, that’s worth building into your budget calculations. Of course, there’s no guarantee on those savings in future years….

Once you’ve made all those calculations, then you need to think about how you’re going to finance buying in, if you’re still committed to the idea. Most of us don’t have five figures of cash just hanging around, and the chances are you may need to finance your down payment. We thought long, and hard about this before we first bought in. We were lucky enough to be moving house, and the house we bought was under budget, so we had a little left over for a Disney Vacation Club investment. 

The answer about whether the Disney Vacation Club makes sense for you is going to vary from one family to the next, and there’s no right or wrong answer to the question. The important thing is making sure you make the right decision for your family, and the way you vacation.

So, for those of you who are Disney Vacation Club members, how did you make the decision to buy in, and if you’re thinking of buying in, what’s on your mind as you grapple with that decision?

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What Do You Think?

16 thoughts on “Does the Disney Vacation Club make sense for us?

  • Susan

    For us, it really came down to the price of a car. We knew we’d use the points, at Disney or elsewhere, and we liked the idea that the points would be around for a long time so our kids could use them when they got older. We thought about how many points we reasonably (and that’s a *very* subjective term in this context) use on a regular basis. As we ran the numbers, it became quite clear that the cost of DVC ownership was about the same as buying a third vehicle (remember, there are vehicles in many price ranges), and the whole process became easier. Looking at it that way, a DVC membership made sense – for the price of a vehicle, we could have regular family vacations for years and create priceless memories. From that point, there was no turning back.

    • Adam Clagg

      Susan, that is EXACTLY how we looked at it… for the price of a car, we can vacation for the rest of our lives. Also, our daughter was a baby when we purchased. We did the five-year payment plan. I told myself… by the time she is ready for kindergarten, we will have this membership paid off and will have vacations for our family forever! 🙂

      • B Smith

        This is the curious thing; I only hear from DVC’ers that they have remained so happy with their choice – no regrets from the vocal ones I guess. However, to “compute” that your vacations are paid forever is surely a strong exaggeration. The DVC purchase does expire even if it is 30 years (for many). Furthermore, there are ongoing taxes and fees around $500/year. Finally, there are plenty of costs besides lodging that typically add up to more than 50% of your vacation budget (e.g. travel, food, and tickets). I can’t help but think this optimistic view (although nice) is a side-affect of our Disney Love 😉

        • Cheryl Pendry Post author

          I often wonder if there are ANY disaffected Disney Vacation Club Members, because if there are, in 10 years of membership and almost as long moderating the DVC forum on the PassPorter boards, I’ve never found any! I think that alone says something for the programme…

          You make some good points about what’s not included in your vacation, although of course DVC members do get discounts on food, shopping and tickets – the Annual Pass discount is perhaps the best perk in my eyes!

  • LisaY

    My husband and i joined DVC in 2000 or 2001. We did the tour and received the info, did the paperwork, etc. while down on an anniversary trip to WDW. We liked the fact that it was not a high-pressure sell and we were allowed plenty of time to check finances, talk it over with our two sons, etc. We bought in at the Villas ay Wilderness Lodge and have since added on Animal Kingdom Villas. We’ve always had a love for Disney (my husband says I just corrupted him!) and have stayed on property (another bonus!) many times now. In fact, we’re going on our fifth Cruise in March ( the Fantasy Maiden Voyage), so I guess you could say that our joining was the right choice. my husband told a co-worker, who checked into it and also bought in due to the fact he and his family like Hawaii, so they bought into Aulani when it was due to open. They, too, are very happy with their choice!

  • Renea

    We vacation at Disney quite often, sometimes just for 4/5 days or sometimes for a full week. Sometimes once a year, Sometimes its 3 times a year. (We live in the Northeast) We also love the Disney Cruise Line. Its fun trying the different resorts and we love the level of quality and comfort of the rooms. We have actually added points twice once we saw how often we would use them. (Once we had grandchildren… it was a no brainer!) DVC works perfectly for this family!

  • linda

    Cheryl’s article presents all the points to consider very well – she’s the expert!
    For us, our blended family ‘gelled’ on our first Disney trip and we decided to buy into DVC and commit to repeating that great experience each year. Last year, we had our Disney wedding. That being said, we are mildly surprised that our older children continue to join us each year – which underscores how great this purchase was. Buying in was a total win-win for this family. No regrets.

  • Jen

    Did I miss any mention of annual maintenance fees? That I think is also something to consider. I am surprised it wasn’t mentioned.

    • Cheryl Pendry Post author

      That’s a really good point Jen – thanks for mentioning that. Just to give you an idea of how much you’re looking at, the annual maintenance fees vary from each property to the next, but start at $4.22 (Bay Lake Tower) and go up to $7.11 (Vero Beach) per point for 2012. So for 200 points, you can expect to pay somewhere between $844 and $1,422.

      Sorry I missed that out of the original blog!

  • Rosalie Baine

    Great article! We were undecided for a couple of years. What lured us in was the construction of Beach Club Villas. We are all big Epcot fans, and being able to walk right in was a big plus. We also love Stormalong Bay. Being able to have some privacy on family trips was definitely a big advantage. My kids loved bringing a friend, and having a place to escape in a two bedroom was fantastic.

    My daughter recently earned her PhD. As a graduation gift, she wanted to go to Disney and “eat at the fancy restaurants”. Our evening at Victoria and Albert’s was very special. Last year, she joined us for the Food and Wine festival, and next year she plans to bring her Canadian boyfriend. I happily reserved a 2 bedroom because my sister is coming too. We will have a mini family reunion! Having a villa is much nicer than just several hotel rooms.

    It isn’t cheap, and the dues go up every year. But the comfort, atmosphere, and flexibility and have been worth it for us.

  • Michelle Dixon

    Excellent points all the way across; something else to factor in is if buying a resale contract makes sense to you too. It used to be a great way to money on older resorts, but with the changes made to new buyers – it may not be so any more with the restrictions on the contracts.

    However if you plan to use the points only at the Disney DVC resorts and notwhere else it is still worth looking into.

    No matter what your guide may imply, you can buy into the older resorts thru Disney if that’s what you want – you just may have to wait for a contract or points to open up.

    That said: since 2008 we’ve stayed at Disney 3 times, Vero beach once, Hilton Head once, traded out for Grove Park Inn, and will be staying 2 nights at Disneyland Paris this year.

    We’ve definitely gotten our use out of it and have plans for a family trip in 2013 when hopefully hubby is home 😛

    • Cheryl Pendry Post author

      You’ve certainly got some good use out of your points since you became Members!

      Good point about buying resale, although of course as you say, with recent changes (the Disney Vacation Club limited where points purchased through resale could be used from March 2011), it’s probably only worth exploring further if you’re happy with just the Disney Vacation Club resorts.

      And don’t worry, we do cover the fact that you can buy into the older resorts through Disney themselves in the guide and we say exactly what you’ve said – that there may be a wait for those points.

  • Erin L.

    My DH and I bought in when we were young, dumb and stupid about money. Fortunately, for us when we moved south in 2007, we sold our house for a profit and paid off the DVC mortgage. That being said, when others ask if they should buy in I always recommend that you can afford the upfront cost. And as the other person said, realize that you may get free lodging every year (that is how often we go every 12-18 months) but you do have to pay the dues. My kids and I love our different trips and look forward to the next one.

  • Fred Transue

    We have members since dec.1993. Old key west is home for us..we average at least one week long trip each year,having bought additional points at Saratoga springs and animal kingdom. Also will be taking our 8th cruise,a week long in the Caribbean,plus already did a 16 day trip from barcelona Spain to port canaveral.our membership had payed for it’s self many times over.
    My son has also bought into the DVC at Saratoga springs and he and his wife love it there.

  • Valerie Saalsaa

    I wanted a place where we could vacation but not have to own and maintain a second residence and where we didn’t have to go to the same place the same week every year. I love the points system! Since becoming members in 2009, we have taken two Disney cruises that we wouldn’t have been able to afford to take, and our children were each able to take a friend along. We have also taken family and friends and stayed at BLT and The Treehouses. And, my mom is planning on taking the family (22 of us!) to Disney for Christmas, and we can use our points to get lodging for everyone. We have also used our membership to stay in Chicago and explore museums and Michigan Avenue, and celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in the Rocky Mountains, all through DVC. Yes, you have to pay annual dues, but those are still cheaper than accommodations and cruises! Future trips include Hawaii, New York, and possibly Adventures By Disney. My biggest complaint is the time limit on ownership. But DVC was an excellent choice for us!