Disney Vacation Club
One of the best known vacation clubs in Florida is of course Disney and they offer their members (over 100,000 families) access to all the Disney resorts throughout the world plus over 500 other Getaways destinations around the world.
The Disney Vacation Club started in 1991 and they now have eight Vacation Club Resorts (plus another one planned) of which seven are in Florida.
Disney's Vero Beach Resort on the Treasure Coast [Courtesy of Walt Disney World]
Disney Vacation Club Resorts
Within the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando itself there are the six Disney Vacation Club Resorts:
- Disney's Beach Club Villas
- Disney's BoardWalk Villas
- Disney's Old Key West Resort
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and
- The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas
The sixth resort, Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas started to open in the fall of 2007 and was completed in 2009.
There are also two Atlantic Coast resorts; the Vero Beach Resort on Florida's Treasure Coast and the Disney Hilton Head Island Resort in nearby South Carolina plus Disney announced in late 2007 plans to build a resort in the Ko Olina area on the western side of Oahu in Hawaii which will also include Vacation Club units.
Properties range from Studio apartments to three bedroom Grand Villas. The villas are all equipped with kitchens and the one bedroom villas will sleep 4, two bedroom villas will sleep up to 8 and the three bedroom Grand Villas (only available in certain resorts) will sleep up to 12.
Disney Vacation Club Membership
The cost to join the Disney Vacation Club today starts from just over $15,000 (plus around $200 closing costs and annual fees) and this will get you an annual allowance of 150 Vacation Points (the minimum number you can buy, at $98 per point) though Disney say most members buy between 210 and 270 points.
Annual fees are based the number of points you purchase and the resort and are currently around $4 per point per year. The more money you spend, the more points you get each year.
Disney reckon 150 points is equivalent to the cost of seven, one week family vacations in a Disney Resort; i.e. just over $2,000 in accommodation costs per year but this does not take account of the annual fees which currently start around $600 per year for the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (slightly more for the older resorts).
Today, new members are buying into the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, the life of the membership is until January 31, 2054 (45 years) and it is deeded and transferable. It is also possible to buy a resale from an earlier Disney Vacation Club Resort, all of which expire on January 31, 2042 and typically these will be less than the current Saratoga prices, though annual fees may be higher.
If you buy a resale, there is no minimum point level. You can also add on additional points at other resorts once you are a member.
The resort you buy into affects your annual fees and how far in advance you can make a booking. You can book up to 11 months in advance at your 'home' resort and 7 months in advance at all other destinations so when considering Disney Vacation Club membership, you need to decide whether it actually matters which resort is your 'home' resort.
Disney Vacation Club Points
When you join the Disney Vacation Club either through Disney or through a resale, you are allocated a specific number of Vacation Points each year to use as and when you please. These points are allocated to you on the anniversary of your joining; i.e. the same month every year so if you tend to take your annual vacation at the same time every year it might make sense to join in a specific month to give you maximum flexibility in terms of banking and borrowing.
The cost of each stay is determined by the size of the property and the time of year; each accommodation is worth a specific number of points depending upon length of stay and season.
For example, one week in a Studio apartment at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa in high season would be around 150 Vacation Points and a three day Friday to Sunday weekend stay in a Studio apartment at Disney's BoardWalk Villas in September would be around 50 Vacation Points.
You can if you wish, bank (save up) your annual allocation and/or borrow (loan) from next year's allocation to spend on a more expensive vacation or you can take several shorter vacations every year though Disney have quite complex rules regarding banking points and their subsequent use.
By both banking and borrowing you can actually spend three times your annual allowance in one year.
It is also possible to rent Vacation Points so a non Disney Vacation Club member can buy their accommodation from a Disney Vacation Club member who makes the reservation on their behalf.
Disney Vacation Club Perks
One of the perks of being a Disney Vacation Club member is that you can get discounts on dining, entertainment, attractions like the Disney golf courses and Walt Disney World annual passes plus all the other Walt Disney World Resort guest benefits like Extra Magic Hours at the parks and buying the Disney Dining Plan.
Also, it will not cost you extra if more than two adults are staying in the property, unlike staying as a regular Disney guest.
Disney offer over 500 alternative vacations through their Getaways Destinations program including:
- selected timeshare properties through Interval International (one of the main timeshare exchange program companies)
- selected full service hotels throughout the world
- adventure holidays including African safaris, eco-trips, backpacking and cruises
- all the other Disney hotels worldwide
Staying at a Disney property is generally cheaper than one of the other Getaways destinations available to members in points terms and you have to pay a $75 to $95 arrangement fee for non Disney hotels, so it is not really worth joining the Disney Vacation Club unless you plan to stay at one of the Disney Resorts on a regular basis.