Previously, I wrote about various uses of Disney Vacation Club points in order to demonstrate the great variety of location and length of stays available at similar point levels. Along those lines, we’re going to take a look at the best way to maximize the value of a Disney Vacation Club membership. Whether you’re already a member, or just thinking about becoming a member, here are ways to leverage Disney Vacation Club for maximum touring enjoyment.
- Lower your initial point investment: No matter how many points you own, the perks are the same. So don’t be afraid to scrimp on that initial purchase of Disney Vacation Club points. Currently, the minimum buy-in from Disney is 100 points. You can also start with even fewer points by looking to the resale market, where points go for much less. One caveat to buying a DVC contract from a resale broker: The points cannot be used destinations in The Concierge Collection, The Adventurer Collection and The Disney Collection. But in general, these uses –which include cruises, Adventures By Disney and non-DVC Disney resorts — are not the most economical use of points. If your primary concern is value, you’re going to be using your points for DVC resorts only. A lower number of points also means a lower amount of maintenance fees you’re paying out each year. Of course, as many DVC members can tell you, “add-on-itus” is a real thing. It may not be long before you’re in the market for additional DVC points. On the other side of the coin, if you decide that DVC doesn’t work for you, a smaller contract is easier to sell on the resale market than a larger contract.
Now, more tips:
- Consider where you purchase: One of the advantages
to buying resale is that you have access to contracts at home resorts not currently offered direct from Disney. Your home resort determines where you can book at 11 months. Based on availability, you can book any other DVC resort at seven months out. This matters when it comes to rooms where demand outstrips supply or if you travel at high-demand times. If you want to be near Epcot during Food and Wine or on the Monorail during Christmas, a contract at your preferred resort is a good idea. But if you’re traveling during off-peak season and you’re not picky about the resort as long as you’re on property, booking seven months out will likely work for you. In that case, you’re going to look at a mix of how much you’re paying per point for the contract, along with maintenance fees. When calculating price per point, make sure you factor in the number of years left on the contract. Maintenance fees are harder to figure, since there’s no telling how much they’ll rise in the future. This helpful post from the DisBoards will give you an idea of the historic increases at the various DVC properties. Many DVC owners swear by Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa as a property that hits the sweet spot of lower cost per point and lower maintenance fees. You’ll also want to look at the resort point charts to determine how many points you’ll use per stay. It’s a complicated equation to figure out which resort works for you and there’s no one best answer.
- Choose your use year carefully: The term “use year” can be confusing for prospective DVC purchasers. In short, use year refers to the month when your annual allotment of point becomes available each year. Ideally, you want a use year month that occurs just prior to when you typically travel. This gives you a fresh batch of points when you need them, but more importantly, if you have to cancel your plans, your points will still be available to use or bank. Owners can bank unused points to the following use year any time up to four months before their use year (for example, I have a February use year and must bank any unused points by the end of September). However, if you cancel a booking in the last four months before your use year, you will be unable to bank those points. In this case, owners often put their points or their reservation up for rent to avoid losing them. If you want to know more about use year, this post on the MouseOwners board has a comprehensive explanation.
Purchase a discounted annual pass: One of the big perks of DVC membership is access to annual pass discounts. Even with the recent price increases, an annual pass can give you substantial savings if you travel to Walt Disney World more than once in the span of a year. Keep in mind that discounted annual passes are limited to family members in your household. A seven-day ticket with Park Hopper will run you about $425. Meanwhile, an additional $160 will get you a Disney Gold Pass, which gives you admission all year, except for blackout dates around Christmas and spring break. You may now be saying that a smaller contract wouldn’t give you enough points for multiple trips on an annual pass. Keep in mind the flexibility of banking and borrowing points to make it work. Consider this example: A DVC member with a 100 point contract and a March use year plans to purchase an annual pass for use starting July 2016. The member would have 2016 and 2017 points to use during that span, and could also borrow 100 2018 points to use during their 2017 trip. That would be a total of 300 points available to use during the annual pass. You could divide the points up for two trips – 150 points in July 2016 and 150 points in June 2017. Or maybe you want to add a quick trip in October, using 50 points for that, then dividing up 250 remaining points for the longer summer trips.
- Know your discounts and use them: Beyond annual passes, there are a host of other discounts offered to DVC members. Discounts of 10 percent or more are at many table service restaurants, Most retail locations in Walt Disney World give 10 percent merchandise discounts to members. The key here is to not be shy about asking for your discount, because you won’t get it automatically. With all the features the Magic Band provides, it doesn’t let a cashier know that you’re entitled to a discount. You will still need to show your physical membership card. DVC membership will also entitle you to discounts on tours and some hard-ticket events in the parks. Use enough of these and they add up pretty quickly.
I hope you found some helpful advice here for maximizing the value of your DVC membership. If you have tips or thoughts of your own, please share them in the comments.