If you are one of the many people who are considering purchasing Disney Vacation Club but are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information you need to know in order to buy the contract that’s perfect for you…you’ve come to the right place. This article is a follow-up to a previous article I wrote, “Some Hard Truths about DVC” and it’s based on the comments that members of our DVC Fan Facebook group had regarding the hard truths they learned after their DVC purchases. A few things that might have made a difference in the contract and resort they initially bought.
Use Year Matters
Disney Vacation Club is full of terms, phrases, and acronyms that are going to seem like a foreign language to you when you first consider purchasing. And there are a lot of terms to know if you want your purchase to be a smart one. One of the first you’ll encounter is “Use Year.” DVC guides tend to gloss over this in the presentation (at least mine did), but it’s very important and can affect the way you vacation at Disney.
First…what is it? Use Year is the date on which your annual allotment of DVC points renews. Disney Vacation Club does not operate on the regular calendar year (ie. everybody’s points renew in January); it works based on the Use Year you choose for your contract. Or if you buy resale, the Use Year is printed on the original contract. Clear as mud, right? Let me give you an example:
My Use Year is April. That means that every April 1st, the annual points in my DVC account renew. I chose April because we take our main family WDW trip in May each year. With an April Use Year, that means I can take advantage of not only any points I may have banked from the previous year, but the current year’s points, as well as the next year’s points that are available for borrowing after April 1st.
So, I currently have 203 points that I will bank from this year (thanks, Covid). On April 1st, 2021, the 300 points for 2022 became “current points” for any vacations that take place after April 2022, AND I get 2023’s points available for borrowing as well (pending removal of Covid borrowing restrictions…more about that later). That allows me to have ALL of those points available for booking a May 2022 vacation. And I know it sounds confusing because it’s not 2022 yet, but because my May vacation takes place in 2022, those points are considered the current year’s points for booking purposes.
That’s why Use Year matters. If I’d wanted to book a trip for February 2022, I would not have had any 2022 points in my account yet, unless I wanted to borrow them, because my Use Year is April, and that’s when my points renew. I also wouldn’t have any 2023 points available to borrow, and would not have been able to secure the accommodations I wanted. So be sure and figure out what time of year you plan to vacation the most, and then choose your Use Year accordingly. The months Disney allocates for Use Years are: February, March, April, June, August, September, October, and December. Choose the one that works best for your vacation style. One more important caveat….you do not have to wait for your points to become the “current year’s points” to use them when booking a future vacation. If you are planning a 2022 vacation now, as long as the vacation takes place beyond your Use Year month, those 2022 points are considered “current points.” You can book your vacation at the 11-month mark, even if your Use Year is months away. All that matters is the date you are traveling, not the date on which you’re booking your trip. For a more thorough explanation of Use Year and how it works (including info on banking points), check out this wonderful thread by Carol on the DISboards.
Resort Availability Is Never Guaranteed
This is another point that needs serious consideration. Part of the sales pitch for DVC is that while you can only book at your home resort eleven months prior to your vacation date, you can always switch to any of the other resorts seven months out from your vacation date. This is true…except when there’s no availability at the resort you want to switch to.
This is because some resorts are more popular than others, or have a limited amount of DVC villas, and therefore they are usually booked by owners at that particular resort by the time the seven-month booking window rolls around. Of course, unless you’ve done your research before you buy, you won’t know which resorts that include, and this can lead to some disappointment when you can’t get into the resort of your choosing at the seven-month mark. Of course, you can always “waitlist” the resort of your choice, but there are no guarantees that it will become available on the dates you want.
The resorts that are notorious for being difficult to get at the seven-month window are:
Animal Kingdom Lodge value studios or concierge rooms. These are pretty much impossible even for owners to book at the eleven-month mark.
Beach Club. This one is tough, because their pool, “Stormalong Bay” is very popular with families. You can sometimes get a waitlist to come through, but that depends on the time of year you’re trying to go. If you want to guarantee a room at Beach Club, it’s best to own there.
BoardWalk can also be difficult at times, but I’ve always lucked out with a waitlist. No guarantees, however.
Studio rooms at most resorts with the exception of Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Now that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get a studio at the more popular resorts, but often they don’t have “standard view” studios available at the 7-month window during popular times. That means you can still get a studio, but it will cost you more points because you will have to book a preferred view.
Riviera Resort is not available to buyers of new resale contracts if your resale contract is at any other resort besides Riviera. If you own a Riviera resale contract, that will be the only DVC resort at which you can stay. So if you’re desperate to stay at Riviera, but also want to enjoy other DVC resorts, you need to purchase directly from Disney.
So what does all this mean when you want to purchase DVC? Well, that depends. If you know that you want to have a studio at the Grand Floridian for every trip, and that your vacation will be ruined if you don’t stay there….then buy there. If you’re not picky about where you stay, or you don’t mind doing split stays (staying at two or more resorts during one trip), then purchase the resort that gives you the most bang for your buck. We own at Old Key West for exactly that reason. I love it there, and I’m never mad if it’s the only resort we can book. I also love split stays (my article about doing those HERE), and I’m not that picky about staying at any particular resort. I love them all!
Read the Fine Print
So that borrowing thing I mentioned before? Well, that has become an issue since the pandemic. Borrowing points from the next Use Year has always been something that DVC owners rely on to secure all the points they need for their vacations. In fact, some people buy a smaller contract with the intention of banking the previous year’s points, using the current year’s points, and borrowing the entire allotment of the following year’s points for one vacation. Except now you can’t. Because of the glut of banked points in the DVC reservoir from members not traveling during the pandemic, Disney has restricted owners to only being able to borrow half of the following year’s points when booking a vacation. This was necessary in order to ensure availability for all owners who want it, but it has left some owners in a pickle, with banked points they need to use, but without having the ability to borrow the additional points they normally would. This now means a much shorter vacation than they had planned or a resort switch to one with lower point requirements. It also led to the realization that point borrowing was never a guarantee, but simply a perk that Disney offered. And like all perks…it can disappear on a moment’s notice. Now, I’m not anticipating borrowing restrictions being permanent. I expect full borrowing privileges to return once the glut of banked points has been eliminated. Hopefully by 2023.
The next hard truth deals with the point charts. This is probably also something you’re not super familiar with if you’re just beginning your DVC journey. The point charts are issued every year, and every resort has its own (see the charts you can zoom in on HERE). This chart is a breakdown of how many points each villa will cost you to book during any given period throughout the year. Disney has grouped the booking times into “travel periods”, and the point requirements vary from the minimum number required for the resort (during the month of September) to the maximum number (Easter and Christmas week). So sticking with Old Key West as an example, a week in a studio from September 1st – 19th will cost you 71 points. That same studio during Christmas week will cost 162 points. Timing is everything.
The problem with the point charts arises when Disney shuffles the points around each year. Now by law, they are not allowed to increase the total number of points allocated to each resort from year to year (although there are exceptions for holiday weeks, leap years, and other technicalities beyond the scope of this article. Check the DISboards for an in-depth discussion of this topic). But they are allowed to move the points around. So, a week that might have cost you 125 points in October in 2021, might now cost you 137 points for the same week in 2022. However, that means that the number of points required for other times during the year at that resort should have decreased by the same number. So you can see how this could work in your favor….or not. If you can only vacation during a certain time every year, make sure you buy 50 or so extra points as a buffer, in case year-to-year calendar point shifts end up working against you. If you’re flexible in when you travel to Disney, this won’t be a big deal.
Add-on-itis is Real
And now we come to perhaps the most dangerous hard truth of all. As soon as your first contract is finalized and you are DVC owners, you will immediately discover that you did not buy enough points. It’s inevitable. This will most likely happen after your first official DVC vacation…when you attempt to book another one as soon as possible and realize you don’t have the points to do it. Don’t worry, we get it. And there is a cure…adding on. We’ve pretty much all done it, so no need to feel guilty or embarrassed. Just take a deep breath and call your DVC guide or an agent at the DVC Resale Market. They’ll get you all fixed up. Until the time you need even more points, that is. So pretty much just rinse and repeat….and most importantly…enjoy!! Disney Vacation Club really is all it’s cracked up to be. And if you purchase knowing as much as you can about the process and the product beforehand, your purchase will be a smart one, and you will have many years of wonderful Disney vacations ahead of you.