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If you’re considering becoming a Disney Vacation Club member or if you’re already a member and want to learn how to get more out of your membership, this “How DVC points work 101” will help you understand the ins and outs of using these vacation points for your vacation.
I’ve been a DVC member since 2018 and I’ve stayed at DVC villas at the following resorts:
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (both Jambo House and Kidani Village)
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
The following resorts are still on my bucket list:
- Disney’s Grand Floridian
- Bay Lake Tower (Disney’s Contemporary Resort)
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
So far, Kidani Village and Wilderness Lodge tie for the top spot.
How DVC Points Work: The Basics
We can start our discussion of how DVC points work with a quick review of the basics.
The Disney Vacation Club is a flexible timeshare program operated by Disney and designed for people who take frequent Disney vacations (not just Walt Disney World).
The Disney Vacation Club is a points-based program that gives you a stake in Disney real estate, albeit a very small slice.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get when I tell people I’m a DVC member is “How much does it cost?” The answer is “it depends” — how many points do you want to buy? The initial fee cost our family about $35,000. Then we pay annual dues, which are around $1,000. That entitles us to 175 points to use each year.
SheBuysTravel Tip: While DVC points can be used at certain non-Disney properties, if you’re not super interested in regular Disney theme park vacations (meaning you want to go every year, year after year), then DVC membership probably isn’t right for you. If you still want to stay in one of these ultra-luxurious Disney resorts, you can try renting DVC points.
Perks of DVC membership
DVC villas provide a more homelike atmosphere than a hotel room. Most have kitchens and an in-room washer and dryer. The DVC Deluxe Villas are at Disney’s most upscale resorts so if top-tier accommodations are a must-have vacation experience, membership is one way to get it at a better price.
(Here’s a good explanation of the differences between deluxe villas and deluxe, moderate and value hotels at Disney World.)
And remember, DVC membership just gets you the accommodations. You’ll still need to buy park tickets!
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How Many Disney Vacation Club Points do You Need?
The answer to this is also “it depends.” It helps to have a vision of how you want your future Disney vacations to look. How many days do you want to vacation per year? How large is your family? Do you plan to invite others to vacation with you regularly?
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Knowing the answer to these questions before you buy is important because determine
. This looks different for a twosome that vacations one week per year than it does for a family of six who vacations two weeks per year and wants to bring the grandparents.
The person who sells you your initial points and the representative you’ll be assigned once you’re a member will help you decide the number of points you’ll need.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Remember that the DVC rep’s goal is to sell DVC memberships! DVC presentations are friendly and low-pressure but it remains a sales pitch, so do some research on your own so you have a good idea of how you’ll want to vacation at Disney each year.
Our family of four has 175 points to use in our “use year.” That gets us a week – give or take – in a one-bedroom Deluxe Villa at a DVC resort each year. I say “give or take” because points have different values at different times of the year. A room might be 20 points a night during non-busy periods but that same room might be 35 points a night during peak season.
Buyer Beware: Resale Points
You can buy points from members who want to unload their membership. You can get some decent deals from motivated sellers, but read all the fine print before you write a check.
If you buy resale points directly from Disney, you should get full member benefits. Buying them from a third party could leave you without some member benefits, such as merchandise discounts and the ability to use those points to make reservations at new resorts.
Establishing your Home Resort
You will be assigned a home resort based on availability when you first buy into DVC membership. When we bought our membership, we were offered Copper Creek Cabins and Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge or Aulani in Hawaii. We chose the former. Your home resort does not change.
You can’t pick Animal Kingdom Lodge as your home resort just because you like it. But you can still use your points to stay at the Animal Kingdom Villas or other resorts. DVC members are not locked into staying at their home resort, but if you do stay there, you get perks, like getting first dibs on reservations.
When Can You Make Reservations?
Knowing when you can book is a big part of how DVC points work. You can book at your home resort 11 months in advance. I recommend marking your calendar or setting a reminder so you do this at exactly 11 months out because this ups your chances of getting what you want.
But what if you don’t want to stay at your home resort? You can book other resorts seven months out.
No matter what your strategy is, I recommend booking as soon as your window opens. My home resort is Copper Creek but my family enjoys staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Instead of waiting until seven months out to book that, I book Copper Creek at 11 months and adjust at the seven-month mark, if another resort is available. I never wait until seven months out. It could mean no room at allfor the week we want to visit Disney World!
It’s possible to make last-minute plans using DVC points. You might not get the resort or room you want. (We once took a deluxe studio room versus a one bedroom villa because that was what was available.) But aside from the busiest periods, your odds of finding something are decent. You can also do split stays, which means dividing your time between two different resorts. Disney will even move your bags.
Understanding Your DVC ‘Use Year’
Your use year refers to the time each year when you receive a new allotment of vacation points. For example, we receive our allotment of points each September, as defined by our contract. Your use year might begin in a different month. Understanding the importance of your use year is a big part of how to use DVC points
Your use year determines when you can bank and borrow points. If you add on to your initial allotment of points, I recommend you align your use years. You don’t have to but it will make it much easier to keep track of your DVC contracts.
Banking and Borrowing DVC Points
While you should probably not give DVC serious consideration if you’ve got doubts that you’ll be able to go every year, there probably are going to be years when you skip due to life events or just opting to do something different. That’s where banking points comes in. Banking your points means rolling them over to the next use year. If you don’t use the points during your use year and don’t bank them by the deadline, you’ll lose those points.
If you find yourself short on points, you can borrow from the next use year. Reasons for borrowing include things such as deciding to take an extra vacation or a longer one. Or you want to take friends or relatives and get a larger villa. You can do that by borrowing points from your next year’s allotment.
If you’re planning a bigger or special trip (hello grand villas and overwater bungalows at the Polynesian!) you could do that by:
- banking this year’s points to next year,
- using your “use year” allotment of points, and
- borrowing points from the following year.
That’s three years’ worth of points to use on one mega vacation. You can also purchase one-time use points if what you’ve got on hand won’t quite cover what you want to do.
You might not bank or borrow every year but it’s important to understand options and deadlines. This is a big part of understanding how DVC points work.
Keeping Track of Everything with Your DVC Membership
Monitoring your points and making sure you understand what you have and what dates are important is on you. Member services are great at breaking things down if you’re unclear . But if you don’t understand the system, you need to ask for help on how to use DVC points.
Here’s a snapshot of my DVC dashboard:
As you can see, I used all my points from use year 2022 and I’ve already used some of the points from 2023. You can’t tell from this, but 14 of my points showing up in use year 2023 are banked from 2022. I can move my 2023 points into the following year, except those 14 that have to be used in use year 2023.
Understanding the points system and how DVC points work can seem complicated. But, it’s not impossible to learn.
What if You Can’t Use Your DVC Points?
One of the big components of how to use DVC points is having a “what if” plan. Banking points will only get you so far down the road and if you don’t use your points, you will eventually lose them.
One option is to gift a stay to someone else. As the DVC owner you can make reservations for family or friends. You can also offer your unused DVC points for someone else to “rent.” There are third-party DVC rental companies that will handle this for you and you’ll be able to recoup your investment versus just wasting your points. Just be sure you’re using a reputable company, such as David’s Vacation Rentals.
If you’re not yet a member, you can rent points to check out a DVC property and life in the villas to see if it’s right for you.
The Easy Part
Making your reservation and “obligating your points” — that’s DVC speak for booking the room with points — is simple. The DVC website has a “book my vacation” calendar that’s similar to the main Disney World or Disneyland reservation sites.
The booking system will know if you don’t have any points available, so make sure to take care of any borrowing or topping up before you try to book because the system won’t let you advance your booking if you don’t have the points.
Once you make your reservation, your points will go into holding. You won’t be able to obligate them against another reservation or bank them while they are in holding.
Your Resort Experience
If you use My Disney Experience and the Disney World app for keeping track of park tickets, reservations and dining reservations, you’ll need to grab your reservation number from the DVC website and link it to your main Disney so it will show up in your “My Plans” section. This won’t automatically happen; you’ll have to do it manually.
You can associate a MagicBand or MagicBand+ with the reservation and link a credit card at check-in if you choose. Your room is covered by whatever accounting you used to buy your points. Any credit card you link to your reservation is a convenience for incidentals.
How to Use DVC Points Outside Walt Disney World
Up to now, I’ve only discussed using points at Disney World because that’s all I’ve used mine for to date. However, I know I can use these points at other places.
Other Disney Resorts
You can use points at all resorts affiliated with Disney parks worldwide: Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii.
Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and National Geographic Exploration
You can use points on Disney cruises and other epic adventures. Points don’t go as far and it is unlikely you’ll have enough points in your allotment (even with banking and borrowing) to cover an entire cruise or an Adventures by Disney trip. Compare the cost of a hotel suite for a family of four versus a 10-day international trip with activities and food included and it’s easy to get your head around the difference.
I am currently looking at an 11-night Antarctica and Patagonia exploration cruise with Adventures by Disney (swoon!) that costs 1364 points per person. My family’s entire allotment for points for three years is 525 points so obviously, our points would only cover a small portion of this trip. If we decide to go, we can buy additional points or book with points and cash.
If you want to use points at non-Disney resorts, there’s a selection of Interval International resorts on the DVC website you can book.
Disney has established strict vetting procedures to ensure you’re getting comparable quality accommodations to what you’d get if you used the points at Disney. The current selection of resorts includes properties such as The Fairmont in San Francisco and the Hyatt Regency Maui, so I’d personally have no qualms about the level of property as compared to Disney.