The ‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ of the DVC Resorts – By the Numbers – Part 1

I am a bit of a number and spreadsheets nerd and I love a bit of analysis. There is quite a bit of it in this article – you have been warned. I have been doing a massive amount of research into each of the DVC resorts. With that research, I have compared them across a whole range of criteria. From there, I made some interesting discoveries. Some of them will absolutely be things you are aware of and others, maybe not. If you’ve ever wanted to know how the resorts stack up against each other. Perhaps you are weighing them up to potentially make a purchase. Either way, this may be the read for you!

Now, I will put it out there right now. When I say worst, I do not mean, ‘oh that place is terrible’, absolutely not. When I use the term best or worst, it just means that they rank as either the best or worst. In addition, I have only written about things that are purely factual and based on the numbers. I have steered well clear of anything opinion based. For example, I’m not comparing restaurants and their menus. Everybody has different tastes and nor am I comparing the pools. Besides, I am by no means a food afficiendo

That being said, I will be comparing the numbers of restaurants and the type of restaurants in a future article. In addition, I have only compared like-for-like. There are a couple of exceptions, such as Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows but I have pointed those out accordingly.

I should also note, this is a comparison across all DVC resorts, not just the resorts at Walt Disney World. I do have the analysis for those, so if there is a call for it, I can publish another article.

Vacation Points Usage

So let’s jump right in with one of the most important factors. Whether it is how many points you need to purchase right from the outset or when you are using your Disney Vacation Club membership. How many of those Vacation Points will it use? All of the Vacation Points Usage information is taken from 2020 Points Charts. It should also be noted that there are some slight variations when it comes to the ‘seasons’. This is particularly when looking at resorts outside of WDW. Nonetheless, this is a direct comparison of their ‘entry’ levels or their ‘starting from’ cost…

Entry Level or ‘Adventure Season’

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort presents the very lowest entry level vacation points usage across the board, regardless of the room type. If you want touse as few points as possible next year but still want a vacation this is definitely worth looking at. Especially if you are happy to vacation away from the parks.

The ‘worst’ or more specifically the highest entry-level usage is a three-way tie as shown in the table. Effectively, even in ‘Adventure Season’, which is the cheapest time to use points, these resorts rank as having the most point hungry rooms. Some of you eagle-eyed readers may point out an error here. The entry level of a 2-Bed Bungalow at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows is 115 Points per night. Technically that is, by far, the most expensive use of points compared to any other 2-Bed Rooms. However, I omitted it from the comparison simply because it is not, by any means, a standard 2-Bed accommodation.

Top Level or Premier Season

If you are looking to visit during the top level ‘Premier Season’ then I am sure you already know that it is going to use a lot more Vacation Points. That being said, if you still want to make those points go as far as possible then Disney’s Old Key West Resort is the way to go. Oddly, Disney’s Vero Beach has the lowest starting from points level during the premier season but it is worth mentioning that there is a slight difference in some of the dates for Premier Season specific to that resort.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is considered the flagship resort at Walt Disney World and so, quite understandably, it comes with the highest points usage no matter what room you are looking at. Naturally, ‘Premier Seasons’ tends to be those ‘special’ times of the year such as Christmas and so staying at the most special resort is going to use a lot of points.

Annual Dues

Another extremely important factor to consider, perhaps even more so before you purchase, is the yearly annual dues costs. The annual dues, for those who may be new to all of this, are a yearly cost to members which effectively pay for the maintenance and upkeep of that resort. This is all based on the resort budget. The trend when looking at the historical data is that they increase every year too. There is a great deal of analysis and information that can be drawn from the Annual Dues that it could possibly deserve an article all of its own but I will try to summarise it as best as possible.

The annual dues are calculated based on the number of vacation points you own for that resort. For example, the annual dues at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge were $7.4355 per point for 2019. So if you own 120 points your total annual dues would be $892.96. There is a whole range of factors that can have an impact on the annual dues. This is why they can be so different between resorts. It can also highlight a lot of differences when it comes to the increases year-on-year.

Just as an example and sticking with Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. There was a 10% increase in the annual dues for 2019 which was actually the biggest increase across all of the WDW DVC resorts. However, when you look at the previous years, the increases were substantially lower. From 2015 to 2019, the resort has seen an 18.0% increase. This is actually one of the lowest increases when comparing all of DVC resorts for the same time period.

On the other end of the scale, The Villas at the Grand Floridian had the lowest increase in annual dues for 2019 at 4.1%. However, it has seen an increase of 24.0% between from 2015 to 2019 which is almost the biggest increase for any DVC resort. The only resort which had a larger increase for the same time period was Bay Lake Tower. I say all of this because while you can look and compare each resort, it is really important to consider both what the cost of the annual dues will be per point AND what kind of increases have been seen year-on-year historically.

Looking at the total amount payable per point, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa came in at $6.27 which was the cheapest across all DVC resorts. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort came in as the most expensive at $9.48 and by some margin too, the second most expensive was Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort at $8.56 which is a big difference of $0.91!

Naturally, with Copper Creek villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort being one of the newest DVC resorts, you can usually expect to see the year-on-year increases to be lower as less maintenance is required. It had the lowest increase of just +2.2% between 2018 and 2019. That being said, the age of the resort is not always going to directly match up with the annual dues increases. As the oldest DVC resort, opening in 1991, Disney’s Old Key West Resort saw an increase of +7.7% between 2018 and 2019. This was by no means the worst when you look at the +11.1% increase of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

Considering the further historical data of the DVC resorts, Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows has seen the lowest total increase since 2015. It had an increase of +12.3% which is only a little more than what Disney’s Vero Beach Resort increased in a single year! Interestingly, the majority of that +12.3% increase came in 2019 when the increase was +9.1% which was one of the largest for all DVC properties. The prior years that I looked at had an average increase of only 1.0% per year (from 2015 to 2018).

Disney’s Hilton Head Resort has seen the largest increase since 2015 of +31.4%. In addition, it has consistently been one of the resorts with the largest increases year-on-year. (+11.0% for 2019, +6.1% for 2018, +6.7% for 2017 and +4.5% for 2016).

Phew, I did warn you about there being quite a bit of analysis… The annual dues are an area which can be very complex. There are such a vast number of factors that can have an impact. In some ways, this goes beyond looking at the ‘best’ and ‘worst’. Either way, hopefully, you found it interesting nonetheless?

Room Size

Moving on to something a little (sorry, a lot) less complex is the actual square foot size of the rooms. I will be totally up front here, room size has never once been a factor I would have looked at. It really wouldn’t have an impact on my vacation. That being said, I am aware that some people do like the additional space for a whole host of reasons…

The chart is fairly self-explanatory I hope, with Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort having the largest Deluxe Studios available. If you remember it is also the resort with the lowest entry level vacation points usage of any DVC resort. No, I am not trying to convince you to stay at the Hilton Head Island Resort. I don’t set the numbers, I am merely commenting on them.

It is often noted that the rooms at Disney’s Old Key West Resortare so large. For instance, the 1-Bed Villa is 125 sq. ft. larger than those at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Vero Beach is the 2nd largest 1-Beds of all DVC resorts. They are also 161 sq. ft. larger than those at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Those are the 2nd largest 1-Beds of all WDW DVC resorts. Interestingly, these rooms are also among the lowest when it comes to Vacation Points Usage. You definitely get more room for your points at Disney’s Old Key West. It is one of the lowest vacation points usage levels across all DVC resorts. That is alsoregardless of the season you chose to visit (as already mentioned).

The 3-Bed Grand Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort are by far the largest available. The 2nd place overall is at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel (2462 sq. ft.) The 2nd place in Walt Disney World is at Disney’s Old Key West (2375 sq. ft.).

Oddly enough, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge have the smallest Deluxe Studios, 1-Bed Villas and 2-Bed Villas. Yet, it is one of the more ‘expensive’ resorts in terms of vacation points usage in ‘Adventure Season’. It is one of the ‘cheapest’ when looking at the top or ‘Premier Season’ level. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort has the smallest of all 3-Bed Grand Villas. This is also one of the more point hungry resorts too.

Looking at room size in relation to the vacation points usage neatly brings this part full circle. If you made it this far, congratulations! There is so much to consider and compare when looking at Disney Vacation Club resorts. For a numbers geek like me, it is really interesting so I hope you’ve enjoyed it. As mentioned, in Part 2 I will be looking at the levels of amenities available at DVC resorts. If you have any criteria you would like me to look at, let me know in the comments below…

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13 thoughts on “The ‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ of the DVC Resorts – By the Numbers – Part 1

  • July 13, 2019 at 9:35 am
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    Hi Mark,

    Fellow spreadsheet/data analysis nerd here! I loved the article, but it only whetted my appetite for more! Would you be interested in sharing the full spreadsheet? I’d love to know where all the DVC resorts fall on the continuum for each criteria. As you mentioned, we all have our different tastes, so it would be great to be able to prioritize resorts based on the criteria that are important to us.

    At the very least, I’d like to see how the just the resorts located at Walt Disney World stack up against each other.

    Great job with the article! Thanks for the work it took to put it together and for starting the conversation!!!

    John

  • July 13, 2019 at 10:04 am
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    Great article. I’d love to see a spreadsheet of all Disney hotels square footage. Not just best/worst if you have one.

  • July 13, 2019 at 6:51 pm
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    The one item I believe that may impact the cost of points is location. For example, Bay Lake Towers May be more costly on a per point basis because you can walk to the Magic Kingdom. Did you factor that into any of your analysis. I think a lot of people would be interest in the continuum of value.

  • July 13, 2019 at 9:17 pm
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    Great read! Thank you for putting this together. It would be interesting to see (probably depressing) how much of the member dues and buy in go to the mouse’s pocket in profit.

    I once calculated the cost of a cabin at CC (total points in a year that can be sold) and compared it what I thought it would cost Disney to actually build that cabin. Turns out one cabin sold in points is worth somewhere in the ballpark of $5.5 million. Now I don’t know how much Disney spent to build one cabin but I’m thinking that profit margin is wayyyyyyy up there.

  • July 14, 2019 at 9:12 am
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    This was great

  • July 14, 2019 at 2:20 pm
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    Mark
    I liked your article. I am retired from the military and often stay at Shades of Green. I have plenty of money and enjoy Disney about once a year. For two years I have been looking at a DVC purchase. Resale vs direct and have come to the conclusion I was not going to buy. This has reignited my interest and now I will be spending many more hours looking at where I will purchase. Thank you very much I truly appreciate the time you and other contributors invest. It makes everybody’s stay better.

  • July 14, 2019 at 6:22 pm
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    Very interesting read but with flaws. A point is not a point, more telling would be the cost per point (incl annual dues) then a comparison. And I do think the same compares with only WDW resorts would be much more valuable.

  • July 14, 2019 at 8:13 pm
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    I am also interested in the full spreadsheet. Thanks for all your hard work!

  • July 15, 2019 at 10:14 am
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    Great read, but I think we’re forgetting the unicorn Animal Kingdom Value rooms, which are smaller than the smallest on the list.

  • July 15, 2019 at 11:37 am
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    This is an interesting article. We purchased Old Key West in1994, then Saratoga and then Cooper Creek. The rooms in OKW have always been nice, but the bus to the parks are very slow. Every time I think of staying there,I consider, the low point value, but I think of how long and slow the bus ride is. Is there a way to see if it is really slower or is it my imagination.

  • July 15, 2019 at 11:42 am
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    Finally an article i can appreciate. Would love to see the full spreadsheet. What is in PART 2

  • July 17, 2019 at 1:37 pm
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    This was a really great article. I would also love to see the spreadsheet but would understand if you didn’t want to share it. More importantly, I’d love to see this filtered for JUST WDW. Again, really well done.

  • July 18, 2019 at 10:31 am
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    I really enjoyed the article. The only thing not covered is the initial cost of membership vs appreciation of your real estate investment. I bought Bay Lake at $100 per point in 2008. Now listing at $150-$175 per point on the resale market. So while it has a lower square footage and more point cost for a stay- I could sell my real estate investment for a 50-75% profit after using it for 10+ years. I don’t plan on doing that, but the one thing I remember from my real estate friends when purchasing a property is: location , location, location.

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