For Disney lovers, going on a vacation to one of the parks happens as regularly as they can afford it. Planning a vacation to a Disney resort or to go on a Disney cruise takes a lot of time, effort, and funds. If you are really dedicated to Disney, though, you’re probably wondering how does Disney Vacation Club work?
Disney describes the club as a “flexible timeshare” for all Disney vacations. Unlike the usual timeshare, though, this program does not limit you to one place at one time. Instead of paying for a specific place, your money instead goes towards a number of points that you can put towards different kinds of vacations. There are tons of options when it comes to those vacations by the way, so it’s a good idea to look over all of them and see what you might be interested in doing if you decide to join.
Destinations Included in Disney Vacation Club
“All Disney vacations” entails a pretty large variety of experiences, including all 17 Disney Vacation Club Resorts. These options include the beautiful Aulani resort in Hawaii and the brand-new Riviera resort coming to Orlando in 2019.
The now thirty Disney resorts surrounding Disney parks are also included in the membership. This includes hotels in the United States, like Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida and Paradise Pier in California. These options are not limited to resorts in the United States, either. You are also able to use your points at all international Disney resorts, like the Disneyland Hotel Paris and the Tokyo Disney Celebration Hotel.
Membership includes all Disney cruise lines as well, with more than ten different destinations to choose from at a given time. Vacation Club members even have their own line of cruises for each year, exclusive to members. This year, the cruises include a trip through Alaskan waters, a week-long sail to Bermuda, and five nights on Pacific waters. The least expensive of these cruises at the time of writing costs fewer points than a majority of the hotels that you can get with this membership.
If you are looking for a much larger vacation, members can also use their points for the very extensive Adventures by Disney vacation plans. This service is an entire, often multi-location, trip. The plans include travel, lodging, activity, and food costs. There are currently 31 Adventures destinations to choose from, not including their twelve “escapes”, that are only two to five days instead of the usual eight to twelve.
Lastly, included are hotels that are not owned by or associated with Disney at all. These are described as Beyond Disney destinations. This opens your vacation possibilities a LOT. Instead of being forced to have a Disney vacation every year, the option to use your points instead for one of the more than 3,000 Beyond Disney hotels is available. These hotels are significantly cheaper than Disney resorts as well, offering much more travel opportunities.
Additional Perks to Disney Vacation Club
Beside specific vacation destinations, members have access to various extra perks. Most of them are pretty significant discounts on Disney-related dining, merchandise, tickets, and experiences. These perks do not rely on the number of points that you have at a given time, so they can be used whenever you want. Unfortunately, these perks do not include discounts on actual park tickets. Tickets to Disney parks are entirely untouched by the Disney Vacation Club program.
How the Disney Vacation Club Points System Works
If you have ever invested in a timeshare or even considered it, this is only a vaguely similar concept. As stated at the beginning of this article, the purchase of a membership to the Disney Vacation Club is really a purchase of what they call Vacation Points. These points can be thought of a bit like vouchers. You invest in whatever amount of points you are comfortable with each year, and each different kind of vacation costs a certain amount of points.
Sometimes, the vacations that you want to go on will be more points than you get in one year. Thankfully, whatever points you don’t use one year are automatically rolled into the next. That way, you can save up points over several years for a more expensive vacation if you want—this is called “banking”. If you want, you can even take points that would be used for the following year to get even more points—this is “borrowing”. Both of these strategies can be helpful for those who have large families or want to go on a very long vacation.
If you still can’t seem to get enough points for the vacation that you want, even with moving points from other years around, the program offers up to 24 one-time-use points for each year. The rates for the one-time-use points are not consistent, so make sure to check the rate online.
The Disney Vacation Club offers different amounts of point programs for purchase. The amount that one is able to buy starts at 100 points and caps off at 300 points per year. According to Disney, each point costs $188. This makes the lowest possible cost for a year of points go for $18,800 and the highest possible cost a whopping $56,400.
If this seems like an impossible amount of money to pay, don’t worry. Even though you have the option to pay for your yearly membership in full, Disney also gives the option of a monthly payment plan. For the most affordable plan, the total cost would end up being around $20,000 for the year (this includes a closing cost of at least $550). If you were to choose the monthly payment plan instead of a one-time payment, you would be paying around $250 monthly for ten years. This does not include the $65+ monthly Disney Vacation Club membership dues.
While points are expensive, Disney regularly gives seasonal offers that can save you large chunks of money on a membership. These savings usually depend on the number of points that you are purchasing each year and can save you as much as $11,000. They are only valid on the year that they are purchased, but you can also get savings offers added to your current year if they are offered after you have become a member.
Disney Vacation Club Membership Types
Much different from the different point allotments, there are different levels of involvement in the process of being a member. The actual Disney Vacation Club Member (presumably, you) is the “Purchaser”. If multiple people are paying for the membership, there may be a Primary Purchaser and other Additional Purchasers. All Purchasers have access to the account’s details and have all of the perks of being a Disney Vacation Club Member.
If you are not a Purchaser but have been given access to use the Vacation Points of an account, you are listed as an “Associate” instead. Associates can view the main account with authorization from a Purchaser, but they do not have access to any perks.
When splitting such a big investment between people, you may have disagreements. If you are worried about a disagreement possibly getting out of hand and being a dispute between multiple Purchasers or Associates, adding a “Principal Contact” can help. The Principal Contact on the account only has the ability to make the final decision in a dispute situation but does not have any other advantages.
For businesses who want to invest in Disney Vacation Club membership, you would be called a “Corporate Member”. An “Officer” is an individual that is working through a Corporate Member’s account. Officers have access to all of the perks and advantages of being a member. An “Affiliate”, however, is the individual that actually manages and uses Corporate Member Vacation Points. Affiliates also have all of the perks of being a member, but they do not have access to all of the financial information that Corporate Members and Officers do.
Last Minute Trips
As you might be able to tell, planning a vacation through the Disney Vacation Club is not an overnight process. Most reservations for vacations made through the club are started months, or even years, in advance. If you are looking to take a trip soon, there are options available.
Information for open rooms for dozens of Disney resorts are available online. This includes rooms available for up to 2 months in the future and the availability is updated weekly. Reserving one of the spots requires a call to Member Services who will confirm if the room is available and can help guide you through the reservation process.
Changing or Canceling Vacations
Since you are working through the points system, it’s important to know what the policies are on changing or canceling your vacation plans. When it comes to Disney resort hotels, it is safest to make sure that you are making any changes at least 31 days before the check-in date. If you end up having to change plans after 31 days, you open yourself up to the possibility of having those points forfeited or held. Points that are put into a holding account are unable to be borrowed or banked, so be proactive about changing plans!
Disney cruise line reservations are even less lenient about plan changes. While some stateroom reservations can be modified 90 days prior to sailing without any negative repercussions, certain room policies are so strict that any modification will result in a forfeiture of at least 20% of points used on the reservation. If you are planning on using points on a cruise, make sure to have your plans set in stone.
Late or Missed Payments
It’s important to remember that when joining the Disney Vacation Club, you are essentially taking out a loan (unless you paid it all at once). This loan is going to need to be paid off in increments over those ten years. Like all loans, missing one payment isn’t the end of the world as long as you pay it off eventually. Disney has built in some precautions so that you are encouraged to pay on time.
If late, your ability to move points around or make reservations is barred for the time being. This means that you’re not really affected unless you are actively planning a vacation. With so many different payments that you will have to make per month, it’s understandable that at least one of them will be behind at some point. If you are in a situation where you don’t feel like you can pay it all on the due date required, prioritize the annual dues. While being late on other payments may not have too many serious long-term effects, being more than three months late on your annual dues payment will result in a cancelation of any reservations that you have made and a total suspension of your membership.
Reselling Your Disney Vacation Club Membership
If you ever decide that you would like to end your membership, you do have the option to resell it. Unfortunately, Disney does not offer a resale program directly through them, but you can still do the process on your own. This process includes working with a real estate broker to find a buyer for the membership and then working with both Disney and the buyer to come to an agreement in the form of a contract. Disney requires the contract to contain information including the buyer’s price, closing costs, the date of the closing, real estate/attorney fees, and the remaining annual dues.
Taking an Open House Tour
If you are really interested in becoming a Disney Vacation Club member, the club offers open house tours virtually and in person. If you are interested in taking a tour in person, there are a few available options to choose from. If you live in or are near either of the United States Disney park locations, there are preview centers in both Florida and California. If you are already on a vacation at Disney’s resort in Hawaii, you very easily set up a tour with them there as well. Disney also has presentations available if you are on any of their Disney cruise lines.
If you are not interested in going out of your way to physically see an open house, you can always take a virtual tour. The virtual tour is done on your laptop or tablet where ever you are and as you are virtually viewing your surroundings, a Cast Disney Member will be on the phone with you to give details about what you are seeing and answer any questions that you may have about the program.
Both the virtual and the in-person tours are a very good resource for anyone seriously considering the Disney Vacation Club program, as becoming a member is a very big financial responsibility. While this article outlines most of the information needed to understand the process, and there is even more information on the website, being able to ask even the most seemingly insignificant questions to a professional is an incredible resource.
Is the Disney Vacation Club for You?
I think it’s clear that this program isn’t going to be for everyone. As stated above, becoming a member is a very serious financial move and should not be taken lightly. For comparison, investing in a Disney Vacation Club membership is actually very similar to buying a house. It should only be considered if you feel financially stable and feel that vacations are essential to your personal happiness.
The Vacation Club is great for families who are obsessed with Disney and even better for companies that want to be able to host retreats regularly. The responsibility is great, but so are the opportunities. Without the membership, vacations have to be budgeted in advance every year, which can really set back plans. A membership to this club can help solidify your goal to visit a Disney resort or cruise line each year, or it can help you finance a very large vacation for some time in the future.
The most important thing to do if you really are interested in joining is getting as much information as possible. As much as we have covered, there are still always going to be more questions to be answered. The Vacation Club website offers a free DVD outlining all of your possible questions and the tour, again, is a great resource to check out. It is also a good idea to talk to anyone who works with you on your budget or taxes to see if joining is a realistic financial step for you at the moment.
Remember that if you decide to do a payment plan instead of a one-time payment on your loan, you will be paying it off for ten years. Make sure that your family or company is going to be able to afford the payments for that long and is going to be interested in using the program for that long. The last thing you want to do is sign up to be a member and end up not actually using any of the benefits that you’re paying for after a couple of years.