If you’ve done any research on how to get a “deal” on Disney World vacations, you’ve seen that there is no magic answer. To put it simply, Disney releases their own promotions (sometimes predictable and sometimes not) and there are a couple of places to get a small percentage discount on tickets.
For those of you out there who LOVE sales, like me, it probably just grinds your gears that there is no coupon (code), buy-one-get-one, survey, wholesale broker, shady guy in a back alley, or other way that will save you big buck off of the steep retail prices at WDW.
What in the world is the Disney Vacation Club and why would I rent it?
My guess is, if you’ve researched enough, you’ve stumbled upon that one ray of light shining through the cracks. A-ha! You’ve FOUND IT! Maybe you happened upon these words while using Google: “Rent DVC” or “Disney Vacation Club Rentals“.
What in the world is the Disney Vacation Club and why would I rent it?
I’ll start with the first question: What is the Disney Vacation Club?
Ok, we could follow Alice and her pal really far down the rabbit-hole here, but I’m just going to scratch the surface with as little detail as possible (which I’m terrible at).
Disney Vacation Club (or DVC as I’ll call it from now on) is simply Disney’s version of a timeshare. EWWWW… right? Well, for the most part you can ditch your preconceived notions of super pushy timeshare sales where they lock you in a room and turn up the heat until you’ve agreed to part with your life savings for a week in some bleh condo in Cancun every year. To me, DVC makes much more sense. Again, I’ll try to resist the temptation to give you every detail (until another blog post) and just give you the vitals:
-Instead of faceless condos, Disney’s timeshare is at the Deluxe resorts in Walt Disney World (as well as a few other properties in the US which we’ll ignore for now). Resorts such as The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge… I’ll list them all at the bottom… have part of their resort dedicated to DVC. Sometimes it’s a separate building and sometimes it’s in the same building as regular hotel rooms.
-Like all timeshares, with DVC you are technically buying a tiny real estate interest in a resort. Based on availability, you can buy at any resort (Our family owns at Saratoga Springs). The only difference is that you can book your home resort 11 months out… and other resorts in the DVC family only 7 months out. This is an advantage if you want to stay at a certain resort because several of them book up before that 7 month time window opens. To give an example: Because we own at Saratoga Springs we could book a June 2017 stay there in July of 2016 (11 months). If we wanted to stay at the Boardwalk, we’d have to wait until November (7 months).
-While many timeshares base their booking off of a certain week during the year, Disney uses a point system. Let’s say you buy 200 points. You get a fresh 200 points each year and you can use those points to book rooms anytime they are available. You can even book just one night if you wish. Depending on what time of year, the view from the room, what resort it is, and how many bedrooms in your villa, costs can range from around 10 points a night, to over 1400 a night!
…sometimes owner’s wind up not being able to use their points, and they can rent them out to anyone they choose…
-If owners don’t use their points in a particular year, they are able to bank those points for use in the next year, but sometimes owner’s wind up not being able to use their points, and they can rent them out to anyone they choose… ahh… hopefully you are starting to get an idea of what Disney Vacation Club rentals are all about.
Disclaimer: Before I go any farther, I want to make it clear that I’m not necessarily endorsing what I’m about to share with you. The method I’m about to describe takes you away from the comfy feeling of booking your vacation directly with Disney. While this method is done by thousands of vacationers each year, there are occasionally stories of unhappy customers. Disney will not be able to save you from a DVC rental gone wrong. Would I do it? Yes. But I would make sure to do it a certain way which I’ll mention below. If you are easily stressed, this may not be for you.
So, from here, it’s actually pretty simple. Somehow you need to get connected with the owners who have points to spare and make a deal with them so you can use their points to book your vacation. I’m going to try this part like a Q&A. As always post questions in the comments if you don’t see them answered here.
Why try Disney Vacation Club rentals in the first place?
To me, this is a similar answer to the question “Why should I buy/join DVC?”. If you like the idea of staying at Deluxe Disney resorts for a significantly lower price, this is for you. Sometimes the price is even on par with a value hotel like pop century. If this doesn’t interest you, you probably wouldn’t have read this far.
Renting DVC probably isn’t going to get you the bottom of the barrel price for Disney resorts. It’s just having champagne on a beer budget. Booking a normal Deluxe hotel room through Disney is going to be at least $400 per night. A studio villa at that same resort can be rented for as little as $150 per night.
One great perk is that you can book villas in several room sizes unlike standard resort hotel rooms. Studios are like normal hotel rooms except they have a nice kitchenette with mini fridge, sink, and some cabinets for food storage. One bedroom and two bedroom villas have nice full kitchens and just feel more like “home.” There are also Grand villas with three bedrooms and luxurious amenities but the point costs get really high.
Ok, you mentioned “Connecting with an owner” (sounds creeeepy). So, how do I do it?
I want to be thorough and tell you the couple of ways I know, but giving advice on the internet makes me want to recommend the more mainstream way.
CAUTION Option – Join a Disney Community online. I recommend Mouseowners.com as I have been a part of that community and know there are some good people. They actually have a part of their forum dedicated to people trying to offload or rent unused DVC points. There is definitely danger in this approach. There have been/are/will be predators online trying to steal your money. They run a tight ship on mouseowners but, at the end of the day, there is nothing to ensure some idiot online won’t rip you off.
RECOMMENDED Option – There are several reputable websites out there. www.dvcrequest.com * is my recommendation but a google search will find more for you (Try to ignore the cheesy graphics on their website!). I’ve personally seen these folks go above and beyond with customer service when things have gone terribly wrong for a customer (it happened to my sister! but they made up for it with great customer service). They have incredible resources online to help anyone see what costs will be for a particular resort, room size, and dates of your vacation.
So, I can book any of the DVC resorts I want, then?
NO.. No, no, no. This is where it can get disappointing for some because it’s not like typical hotel room booking. See, most Disney vacationers probably book their stay within 6 months of the actual trip. This kind of time window really limits your options with Disney Vacation Club rentals. There are many many DVC owners and availability goes FAST. For several resorts, depending on the time of year, they can be completely booked by the owners who have that 11 month window. For instance, during the month of October is food and wine festival at Epcot. The Boardwalk Villas are HUGELY popular and book up before the 7 month timeframe because you can walk right into the World Showcase just a few minutes from your hotel room. If you think you are going to book that 3 months ahead of time, you are sorely mistaken.
As an owner, there used to be a couple of resorts that were always available, even about a month out… but the past couple of years have made those harder and harder to come by.
The take-away? If you can be prepared with your vacation dates close to 11 months in advance, you will have 95% of DVC resorts and room categories available to you.
Pro Tip: If you are trying to book within 7 months, you’ll usually see availability at Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Animal Kingdom Lodge. The good news is that those have some really good deals as far as point value.
How much should I be expecting to pay?
This obviously varies a lot depending on time of year, resort, view category, and size of villa. Staying in a studio at Old Key West in September is around 1o points a night. If the going rental rate is $14 per point, then expect around $140 a night. That puts you right in range with a value hotel room at Pop Century. A studio at The Grand Floridian (my FAV) could be closer to 17-21 points a night because of location and the more “luxurious” feel.. So around $275 at $14 per point. That’s more comparable to a moderate resort but you are staying at Disney’s flagship resort, one monorail stop from Magic Kingdom. Also, don’t forget that if you are going during a peak season, you will be paying a lot more, which is exactly the same as booking a normal resort through Disney.
Check out the point/cost calculator from DVC Request here https://www.dvcrequest.com/cost-calculator.asp. They have a few other great Disney Vacation Club rental resources available as well.
Can I still get Magic Bands and Book fastpasses?
Yes. The DVC owner will actually make the reservation for you. They will put the names of your entire party into the reservation and you will get a confirmation number. Even though you won’t be able to control the DVC reservation, you will be able to connect the reservation to My Disney Experience and customize magic bands, add tickets, make fastpasses, dining reservations, etc.
Remind me of the pitfalls again..???
-Be careful because you are not booking through Disney. No refunds, no exchanges, no changing your reservation.
-Also be cautious because, in the end, you are paying a DVC member to making a booking for you, using their points. Just like booking a vacation rental anywhere in the world, it could be someone pretending to have a DVC membership… or they never make your booking and just take your money. This is why I recommend booking through a third party, or with someone who has an incredible rental history on a forum.
-You can’t join in on promotions. No ticket deals, no free dining. You are only booking the hotel part of your vacation! If a better deal comes along, tough luck.
What are all of the DVC resorts like?
(In no particular order)
BAY LAKE TOWER (BLT)– This is literally an extension of the Contemporary Resort right next to Magic Kingdom (about a 7-10 minute walk). As you can imagine, contemporary style and the “tower” has more of a hotel feel. $$$
GRAND FLORIDIAN VILLAS (VGF)– Gorgeous Victorian Resort. Monorail or boat ride from Magic Kingdom. Our favorite by a mile. $$$$
POLYNESIAN VILLAS & BUNGALOWS (PVB)– Newest DVC. Some say Disney’s most luxurious resort. Right next to Magic Kingdom. The new over water bungalows are, by far, the most expensive place to stay on property. $$$$$
THE WILDERNESS LODGE VILLAS (VWL)– A boat ride from Magic Kingdom, this gorgeous resort transports you to the National Parks of the West. $$$
BOARDWALK VILLAS (BWV)– Walking Distance from Epcot, styled after early 20th century Atlantic City.$$$
BEACH CLUB VILLAS (BCV)– Just across the lake from Boardwalk, has an AMAZING pool-almost like a mini water park.$$$
ANIMAL KINGDOM VILLAS (AKV)– Not very close to any resort, AKV is it’s own attraction with some rooms facing the Savannah bringing views of Zebras, Giraffes, and other Wildlife. $$
SARATOGA SPRINGS (SSR)– Very nice resort but feels less deluxe. Not walking distance to parks but is a short walk from Disney Springs.$
OLD KEY WEST (OKW)– The original DVC (1991). While it lacks (for some) in a couple of categories (no walking to any resort, not as “fun” theming), many adore this resort for it’s laid back feel and much bigger rooms than most other DVC resorts. It’s the only DVC resort where the studios have 2 queen beds.$
I truly hope this post helped to educate you, and give you a little bit of insight about renting DVC. Please continue the discussion in the comments below!