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Is Disney Vacation Club Worth it?

History of Timeshare & The Disney Vacation Club

 
Timeshare first originated in the 1960’s and was introduced to the United States by a ski resort owner who was trying to figure out a way to keep his hotel occupied during the slow season in the warmer months. Originally the idea behind timeshare was to sell a fixed week, meaning that you owned a specific week each year in perpetuity. The idea of owning a vacation property was the main motivator behind timeshare ownership. Individuals who normally couldn’t afford the expenses associated with owning a second home could buy into a property and own 1/50th of a condo and share the expenses amongst the other owners. I should clarify that with fixed week timeshares there were typically 50 weeks sold and the remaining two weeks were reserved for maintenance purposes.

Timeshares are typically built in popular destinations such as beaches, big cities, and of course the biggest timeshare location of them all… Orlando, the home of the theme parks. Orlando first saw timeshares rise to popularity when entrepreneur David Siegel introduced the concept to the area with Westgate Resorts. Mr. Siegel has become one of the most successful individuals in the timeshare industry with Westgate and also one of the most documented. Siegel and his wife were the stars of a recent documentary titled “The Queen of Versailles” which initially followed their journey to build the largest single-family home in America, but ended up documenting their struggles to maintain their lavish lifestyle amidst the great recession. Following Westgate a number of other major brands including Disney have entered into the timeshare industry and the Orlando market.

The Disney Vacation Club was started in 1991 and revolutionized the way the timeshare industry works today. DVC introduced the concept of points. Instead of buying a fixed week you would purchase a set number of points that could be used to make a reservation. This allowed for more flexibility so that you could vacation whenever you wanted instead of having set dates. The points concept was very well received by DVC owners, which pushed just about every other major timeshare competitor to adopt a similar program.  Disney also diverged from the pack by referring to their program as a vacation club instead of timeshare. Disney realized the negative stereotype associated with the word timeshare and wanted to differentiate themselves from the rest of the timeshare industry.

 

How Reservations Work

 

When you buy into the Disney Vacation Club you are still buying into a home resort. Your home resort will be where you have priority booking. This means that you will be able to book reservations at your home resort eleven months in advance. With your points you are welcome to stay at any of the Disney Vacation Club resorts, but if you want to stay at any resort outside of your home resort you will only be able to book your reservation seven months in advance. This establishes a priority status for owners to book at their home resort, so that they can be sure to get the reservation they want. This advanced reservation window is particularly useful for those who want to spend a major holiday at their DVC resort. This is important to take into consideration if you and your family plan on vacationing at Disney during the Christmas or Fourth of July holidays. These are both some of the busiest times at Walt Disney World, making it almost impossible to get a DVC reservation outside of your home resort at the seven-month window. If you plan on visiting during the slower seasons or you are at least a little flexible with your travel dates then it really shouldn’t make a difference where your home resort is.

How Points Work

 

Like I mentioned above, the industry has moved away from selling fixed weeks and instead has focused on selling points. These points are basically credits that you will use to book your reservation. The amount of points needed to book your reservation will vary based on a number of factors including season, resort, and room type. Disney divides their seasons up into five different categories, which are listed from cheapest to most expensive: Adventure, Choice, Dream, Magic, and Premier Season. To make a reservation during the Premier season it will take nearly double the amount of points needed during the Adventure season.

If you are buying into the Disney Vacation Club from Disney themselves then the minimum amount of points that you are required to purchase are 160. You can buy these points either annually or biannually meaning that every year or every other year you will have 160 points that you can use towards DVC reservations. In the event that you do not use all of your allotted points you also have the option of banking them with a vacation exchange network.

Vacation exchange networks allow you to exchange your timeshare for other timeshares outside of your ownership network. This enables you to travel to timeshares all over the world and is one of the major reasons people buy into timeshares. The most popular vacation exchange company is RCI, but there are a number of other companies out there as well such as ICE, and Interval International. Since every timeshare company has different point systems, the timeshare exchange company will weigh or grade the timeshare based upon it’s location and resort rating. The benefit of owning DVC points is that they are always in high demand, which means that you will have a higher trading power compared to a timeshare in Branson, Missouri.

 

Right to Use Ownership

 

One of the most important aspects of your DVC purchase that sets Disney apart from the rest of the timeshare industry is that your ownership interest is a right to use ownership. Typically, when you buy into a timeshare you are the absolute owner of that week or those points forever and those points or deeded week(s) can be left to your heirs. With Disney you are actually buying the right to use the property for a set number of years. Your expiration date depends on which resort you buy into, and when the resort was first opened. It is very important to realize that your expiration date does not reflect upon the day you buy into the DVC. For example, everyone who owns at the Animal Kingdom Villas will have an expiration date of 2057. At that point the contract is up and Disney has the legal right to do whatever they would like with the property at that point. So far none of the Disney properties have reached the end of their contract, the first batch is set for 2042, so we do not know how they will handle DVC points in the future or if there will be an option to extend. Below is a list of the contract end dates for all of the Disney Vacation Club resorts.

Resort NameExpiration Year
Aulani2062
Animal Kingdom2057
Bay Lake Tower2060
Beach Club2042
Boardwalk2042
Grand Californian2060
Grand Floridian2064
Hilton Head2042
Old Key West - Original Phase2042
Old Key West - New Phase2057
Polynesian2066
Saratoga Springs2054
Vero Beach2042
Wilderness Lodge2042

 

DVC resales

 

The best advice I can give anyone considering the purchase of a timeshare is to buy a resale. There are so many deals out there (especially in this economy) that there really isn’t anything the resort or developer can offer you to outweigh the savings. This is also important to remember when evaluating your finances and whether or not you can afford the purchase. Do not look at the purchase of your timeshare as a real estate investment opportunity. Your timeshare will not increase in price and will most likely sell for a significant loss on the resale market. It’s better to look at it more like the purchase of a car except that this car will continue to have monthly payments (maintenance fees) forever.

 

There are a few websites that specialize specifically in Disney Vacation Club resale. See below:

The Timeshare Store
DVC Resale Market
Sell My Timeshare Now

 

DVC Rental Points

 

If you have decided that maybe a timeshare isn’t right for you or perhaps you would like the opportunity to test drive the DVC ownership experience you have the option of renting DVC points from another owner. By renting points you will have access to any of the DVC resorts just like any of the regular DVC owners without having to commit to the price of ownership. If you are going to go this route it important that you stick with a reputable company. You can expect to pay around $15 per rented point.

David’s Vacation Club Rentals
DVC Rental Store

 

Wyndham Bonnet Creek

 

For those of you looking to get into a timeshare for as cheap as possible and are not as concerned with actually belonging to the DVC you should look no further than a Wyndham timeshare. Wyndham operates on a points system that is very similar to Disney’s but they have a much larger selection of resorts within their brand. The best part is that the Wyndham Bonnet Creek resort is located right on Walt Disney World property. If you go on eBay you can find some amazing deals on Wyndham timeshares. Some people are even giving them away as they can no longer afford the financial commitment. Bonnet Creek is one of the most desired resorts so ownership interest typically sells for a premium (a few hundred dollars).  Remember, just like DVC points it really doesn’t matter where your home resort is located, you will have access to the entire Wyndham chain.

Wyndham owners, like Disney, will have a first preference opportunity at their home resort, so if you dead set on vacationing a specific week, especially during a peak travel season, you might be better off buying at Bonnet Creek. However, for most timeshare owners I would recommend for you to look for timeshares located somewhere remote away from any possibility of natural disasters. Remember in the event of a hurricane, flood, earthquake, tornado etc., the owners are subjected to special assessment fees, which can be a costly added expense. It might be enticing to buy a timeshare in Hawaii, Florida, or Myrtle Beach, but the maintenance fees and the risk of a natural disaster are much higher in these locations. This is why it is best to buy in some place like Branson, Missouri, or the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina where you will be relatively safe from any disasters.

RCI Membership

 

Another added benefit of Wyndham ownership is the free membership to RCI, which is the largest timeshare exchange network in the world, and happens to be owned by Wyndham. RCI allows you to deposit your points and exchange them for access to resorts around the world. You will have to pay a small exchange fee, but the annual membership fee is waived for Wyndham owners. This really opens up your opportunities to travel outside of the Wyndham brand and is one of the best benefits of timeshare ownership.

RCI also has what they call “Last Call Vacations” these are weeks that are offered for cash instead of points at an extremely discounted rate. Typically you can expect to find deals for around $250 for one week in a 2-bedroom unit at an RCI affiliated resort. Usually the featured resorts are properties that are in their market’s slower travel seasons or places that are really overbuilt with timeshares (Orlando and Vegas). Last Calls are offered less than 6 weeks before the arrival date so if you have the flexibility these are an amazing way to vacation at an extremely affordable rate. Some of the resorts will even allow you to purchase a guest certificate for a last call deal, which allows you to gift or possibly sell the rental to a friend or family member.

Banking and Borrowing

 

Another concept popular with timeshare owners is banking and borrowing. Like I said above, RCI allows you to bank your points for a later usage, but you can also bank and borrow. For example, say you do not think that you will have the time this year or perhaps you want to save up for an extra long vacation next year. You do not have to use any of your points this year and can instead bank them for double the points next year. The same can be applied to your future points. Perhaps you want an even longer vacation or you need a ton of extra points to vacation at one of the premier destinations like Hawaii. You can use your banked points from last year combined with this year’s points and next year’s points. This is very popular with people who like to save up their vacation days and then take an extra long vacation every few years.  Keep in mind that banking and borrow points isn’t a concept unique to just Wyndham / RCI properties.  Disney Vacation Club along with most other timeshare companies allow their owners to bank and borrow their points as needed.

 

Overall Opinion – Is it Worth it?

 

If I had to advise someone who was considering the purchase of a timeshare I would say to buy a Wyndham resale. With the prices of Wyndham timeshares being so cheap it is really hard to justify buying anything else. With that said, I’m sure some people are still going to be dead set on being a Disney Vacation Club owner, so if you fall into that category please do yourself a favor and buy resale. There is absolutely nothing that Disney offers that justifies paying such a premium for their timeshare. Remember that just because you are buying in perhaps a less desirable resort that does not mean you cannot stay in the newer nicer resorts. This holds true for both Wyndham and Disney Vacation Club owners.

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