One solution to the high cost of staying at a Disney deluxe property is to rent Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points. DVC is Disney’s version of a timeshare, but put all your old notions of timeshares aside. The fact that you’re staying in a timeshare won’t be apparent in the least, as Disney doesn’t try to “hard sell” their timeshares. In fact, they don’t really have to, since they’re very popular.
There are two stand-alone DVC properties, Saratoga Springs and Old Key West. You’ll also find DVC units attached to Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk, the Contemporary, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and in the next year, the Grand Floridian. Most DVC properties have their own pool and other amenities, but you can take advantage of anything at the main resort as well.
DVC units come in studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom villas. All but the studios have full kitchens and a washer and dryer. I love the convenience of staying in a DVC property and it’s my first choice–when I can afford it! So how can you make it work? Well, for a lot of people that means buying into DVC and becoming an owner, but for many more, that’s simply not practical, either because they don’t visit Disney World enough or because of the price. You can stay on a “cash” basis in these units, but it’s very expensive. One solution is to rent points from a DVC owner. It’s generally a painless transaction, but you’ll need a few pointers to get you started.
1. Become familiar with how DVC works. One of the best sources I’ve found for non-owners is MouseOwners. The site has active rental boards if you choose to rent directly from an owner. You’ll need to be registered to post questions and view some areas of the site. You can also ask DVC questions right here in the MiceChat DVC Forum.
2. Check out the point charts for your stay. DVC owners buy a certain amounts of points and those points allow them to “buy” nights. It’s like cash, basically. Their points are good any time of the year, but some nights cost more than others. For example, you could get a week in an Animal Kingdom Lodge one-bedroom standard view for around 180 points in January, but during busier times of the year, that same rental can go up to 260 points!
3. Decide if you’re going to rent directly from an owner or use a points broker. Here are the basic differences:
- Are more expensive, usually $12 to $15 per point.
- Have no contact with Disney because they act as an intermediary between you and the owner. Think of them as a silent partner. If something goes wrong with Disney, they don’t exist and can’t help.
- Offer some amount of protection as owners are carefully vetted.
- Require more trust.
- Will need to be verified by you.
- Deal directly with Disney.
- Cost several dollars less per point.
4. Ask yourself how you vacation. Can you make plans far in advance without fear of cancellations? Most DVC rentals will need to be made at least 6 months in advance; more so for highly desirable properties like Bay Lake Tower and Beach Club. What about free dining? If you’re a guest who frequently travels with a free dining promotion, you need to know up front that you will not qualify for that or any other discounts; your discount is your room. A lot of guests are surprised to rent DVC only to find out that it precludes all other promotions. Finally, do you need all that space?
5. Know the risks up front. One reason renting DVC points is such a great deal is that there’s a certain amount of risk involved. Most brokers and owners will not work with you in the event that you need to cancel. They actually can’t, because DVC points lose their “value” closer to travel. While most transactions go smoothly, there’s always the chance that you could show up and there could be something wrong with your reservation: Unpaid dues, bankruptcies, and other issues mean your reservation is “frozen” and you won’t be able to check in. Your job as a smart consumer means that you’ll ensure that your owner is legitimate (and most are) but in the end, there’s a certain amount of nervousness that comes from renting from someone that doesn’t abate until you check in and are handed your room keys!
Having said all this, I have rented points frequently in the past and have never had a transaction go wrong. Make sure you have a solid contract (you’ll find examples on MouseOwners), that you buy trip insurance (this is an absolute necessity), and that you’ve fully investigated whether or not the owner is who she says she is. Finally, never rent from Ebay or Craigslist. Every single one of the transactions I’ve heard bad things about came from one of these sources.
Have you ever wanted to stay in a DVC villa? If so, did you consider renting points? Please let us know about your experience below.