Jennifer Ferguson never planned to join a timeshare.
“We're not timeshare people, but we're Disney people," she said.
Her family would visit Walt Disney World every year, spending a week or more there.
“We realized that Disney Vacation Club was going to make that easier for us, and we were going to have an enhanced experience by having resorts that had better access to the parks and more amenities,” she said. “That was a big selling point for us.”
They joined DVC in 2017 and have since added on. Ferguson now helps others navigate membership via YouTube as The Magic in the Music, which isn't sponsored by Disney.
Disney Vacation Club isn’t for everyone, however. Here’s what you should know about DVC and whether it’s worth it.
Is Disney Vacation Club a timeshare?
“Disney Vacation Club is really Disney’s version of vacation ownership,” said Jordan Hartley, sales director for Disney Vacation Club.
DVC is a points-based system; members can use their points on various experiences in and outside of Disney World and Disneyland.
The points renew annually for decades and can be passed down from generation to generation, but each deed expires eventually.
How many years is a DVC membership?
“Our resorts, when they do open, have a deed that goes for 50 years, but you can purchase at other resorts,” Hartley explained.
Contracts at older resorts can have fewer years and lower prices.
“But that deed length doesn't change," she said. "It's tied to the resort, not necessarily when you purchase."
What can you do with your DVC points?
Guests can book stays at Disney Vacation Club’s 16 properties in Disney World, Disneyland, Hawaii, Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina.
“You also have the opportunity to use your membership to take other Disney vacations,” said Cesar Avila, senior manager of marketing and sales strategy at Disney Vacation Club. “You can sail with the cruise line. You can go on an Adventures by Disney trip. You can go on an expedition with National Geographic or visit one of our international parks as well.”
Points also can be converted for stays at partner properties outside Disney’s portfolio, worldwide.
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Is DVC a one-time cost?
No. Beyond the initial points purchase, members must pay annual maintenance fees, which vary by location, as with timeshare programs.
“It is a commitment,” Avila said.
Why would anyone buy DVC?
Disney Vacation Club is made for Disney fans who want to keep coming back to Disney, like Kelva Stroud-Cooper, who visits Disneyland every year with her family.
“Being able to go to Disneyland, Disney World, Aulani and have a place to stay and only having to pay for your plane tickets and food … honestly, that's the best part,” Stroud-Cooper said. “And it’s a luxury stay on property.”
How much do you have to pay for Disney Vacation Club?
It depends on which resort you’re buying into, whom you’re buying from and how many points you’re purchasing.
When purchasing directly from Disney, new contracts start at 100 points, but at least 150 points are required for members to access the full slate of benefits, which Disney refers to as Membership Magic.
Ferguson noted existing members can sometimes add on points at lower thresholds.
It’s also possible to buy contracts from existing DVC members through third-party resellers, but those may be subject to limitations and may not be eligible for all benefits.
Stroud-Cooper was on the fence for years before purchasing her first DVC contract through the resale market in 2021.
“I knew at the time that you don't get the perks that you get by buying direct, but you're also saving” − in her case, thousands of dollars, she said. She recently bought a second contact directly from Disney.
How much is 1 DVC point worth?
Currently, each point at the new Villas at Disneyland Hotel and the Villas at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa costs $230 when purchasing through Disney. Points at Disney’s Riviera Resort and Aulani, Disney Vacation Club villas in Hawaii, each cost $217 through Disney. Pricing for older properties is available through Disney, pending inventory.
Their worth, however, is fuzzier because the number of points needed for each stay depends on location, trip duration, room type and time of year.
Historically, both Disney Vacation Club and Disney hotel prices have continued to climb, but previously purchased DVC points retain their value.
“Ask any member who bought into the original Disney Vacation Club resort, Old Key West, and they will tell you that their Disney Vacation Club contract has appreciated over time,” Ferguson said.
What's the benefit of Disney Vacation Club?
Disney Vacation Club members get the same privileges as other Disney hotel guests, like early park admission and at Disney World, free Disney transportation, free parking and Extended Evening Hours in the parks. DVC members may also be eligible for discounts on Disney purchases.
Then there’s that Membership Magic, which includes exclusive experiences like member lounges and experiences like Moonlight Magic in the parks.
The lounges are places for members to recharge with beverages, light snacks, comfy chairs and outlets for phones. There’s one in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and two at Disney World, at EPCOT and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Moonlight Magic is a special after-hours event held at Disney theme parks.
“Members and their guests can come and experience shorter than usual wait times. They can get complimentary snacks or special entertainment, things like DJ dance parties and special character interactions,” said Amy Regan, senior manager of marketing strategy for Disney Vacation Club.
What happens after you pay off Disney Vacation Club?
DVC members still need to pay maintenance fees throughout the duration of their deed(s).
Deeds plural, because many members go on to sign additional contracts in what is sometimes referred to as add-on-itis.
“You get your first contract and then you realize: ‘Hey, it would be great if I had more points. I want to be able to stay in a different room type or more expensive time of year or longer,’ and people just want to add on more,” Ferguson said. “It's a pretty natural progression for DVC members.”
Is it hard to book with DVC?
“One of the biggest factors that can impact your experience at Disney Vacation Club is what kind of a planner you are,” Ferguson said. “If you tend to plan your vacations around a year in advance, really seven months up to 11 or 12 months in advance or more, then you're probably going to have a really good experience with Disney Vacation Club because you're going to get to have a lot of the accommodations that you want to book. But if you are a last-minute planner, if you change your plans a lot, in seven months or less, then you're probably going to be dealing with a lot of frustration.”
That’s why it’s important to pick the right home resort. Members can book stays at their home resort up to 11 months in advance but have to wait until seven months in advance to book at other DVC properties.
Is DVC worth it if you go once a year?
Many DVC members take only one trip a year; others bank or borrow their points to take an even bigger trip every two or three years.
Stroud-Cooper stretches her points into multiple shorter trips. Since joining DVC with 130 points a couple of years ago, she's already visited Aulani twice, Disneyland and Disney World.
“We get the smallest studio room. It just has to fit my husband and I and our daughter,” she said. “We do try to budget as much as possible so we can make more trips.”
They also travel off peak, when fewer points are required per night.
Can I make money renting my DVC?
DVC members may bank a year’s points to use the following year, but they can’t generally carry them over beyond that. Those who won’t use their points before they expire sometimes choose to rent them out through a third-party provider like DVC Rental Store or David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
Ferguson said fellow members often recommend renting out unused points and using the proceeds to pay cash for experiences like Disney cruises instead of converting their points.
“That's a better value,” she said. “I have not rented out points because my points are gold. I don't want to give them away.”
What if you no longer want DVC?
If a new member changes their mind after signing a contract, they have a few days to rescind if purchasing directly through Disney. After that, it’s a binding real estate transaction, but that doesn’t mean they’re stuck for decades.
“Since you own the membership, you can choose to do whatever you want with it,” Avila said. If you choose to sell the membership, that is an option for all the members.”
There are a number of third-party companies who specialize in DVC resales. Disney also repurchases some properties and maintains the right of first refusal.
Who shouldn't buy DVC?
“No. 1, are you a Disney fan? Do you see yourself vacationing in these places?” Stroud-Cooper asked.
You don’t have to be a Disney fan to enjoy DVC properties, but if you’re not a Disney fan or wouldn’t enjoy visiting Disney destinations year after year, save your money.
Sure, you can use points toward partner properties around the world, but if you don’t envision visiting DVC properties at all, you’re better off booking hotels or vacation rentals at those other destinations directly.
Even if you enjoy visiting Disney regularly, but try to do it cheaply, DVC may not be for you. Many DVC properties are akin to and located within deluxe Disney resorts and priced accordingly. Read: Expensive.
“You do have to have a considerable sum of money to make that initial purchase, and you can finance that," Ferguson said. "I, personally, am not a huge fan of financing that because it cuts into the savings significantly."
DVC has paid off for many members like her and Stroud-Cooper, but again, it’s not for everybody.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disney Vacation Club lets fans live in the magic, if only for a while