How Does Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Work? Volume 1: Timeshare Basics

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Welcome to the first in a series of articles introducing newbies to Disney Vacation Club. Many vacationers, especially Orlando vacationers, shudder at the mention of a timeshare. And while DVC is a timeshare, it’s unlike a traditional timeshare in almost every way. This article will outline the basics of how Disney Vacation Club works, how to become a member, and how to book stays at a Disney Vacation Club resort.

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Florida

We need to start out by explaining what a timeshare is, and then look at how Disney implements the timeshare concept. In all timeshares, you purchase a real estate interest in a resort. You become a partial owner of that resort. This is true for DVC as well. DVC members are owners of a tiny part of a DVC resort.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Hawaii

In many timeshares, when you purchase your ownership interest, you select a specific accommodation type and a specific week of the year and that’s the week you “own” at the resort. So you have to travel that same week each year to use your ownership interest. In the DVC world, it’s completely different. When you buy into DVC, instead of buying a week that you use every year, you buy an allotment of points that you receive every year. These points can be used to book different types of accommodations at different DVC resorts. There is an immense amount of flexibility in this system, and that makes it much more attractive that a standard timeshare. In fact, after Disney Vacation Club began with the point system in 1991, many other traditional timeshare operators began to sell contracts based on points rather than weeks.

Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Walt Disney World Resort

Because you purchased an ownership interest, you really do own a small piece of the resort. There is a deed just like when you purchase a house. And just like owning a home or any other property, you are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of your property. In the timeshare world, you pay maintenance fees proportional to your ownership interest. The company that runs the resort collects the maintenance fees from all the owners (there can be thousands or tens of thousands of owners) and then uses that money to run the resort, including everything from cleaning and painting to paying the people that run the miniature golf course to putting on a new roof or replacing the plumbing.

Disney’s Riviera Resort, Walt Disney World

These maintenance fees are what gives timeshares a bad name, as the owners don’t have control over how the money is spent. If you’re replacing your roof on your house, you have numerous options for shingles, or you can go with a metal roof, or clay tiles, depending on what fits your budget. But with a timeshare, the company that runs the resort makes these decisions and then sends you the bill. You can’t really say that you think they should go with cheaper shingles; it’s their decision. Maintenance fees typically rise a bit each year, but for older resorts that need major maintenance, they can get quite a bit higher than when you initially purchased.

Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort

While all of this is true for DVC just like any other timeshare, we generally have a pretty good idea of how Disney runs their resorts, so we know what we’re getting for our maintenance fees. Historically, DVC maintenance fees increase slightly each year and have not had any outrageous jumps, except for certain years which involved hurricane damage at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.

The Villas at Disneyland Hotel, Disneyland Resort, California

The other main difference between DVC and a traditional timeshare is that DVC contracts have an end date. Most timeshare contracts extend into perpetuity, and the developers use this as a selling point, saying that you can bequeath the ownership interest to your heirs. What they don’t mention is that the maintenance fees keep going up as the resort ages, and your heirs might not want (or might not be able to afford) your timeshare. Disney Vacation Club contracts all have a defined expiration date. DVC contracts can be handed down to your heirs, but the contract will still expire on the given date. The contracts are usually for 50 years from when the resort opened. For example, the contracts for Old Key West, which began selling in 1991, end in 2042. What that means is that the ownership interest reverts to Disney in 2042. What Disney will do with Old Key West in 2042 remains to be seen.

Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Walt Disney World Resort

Now that we’ve introduced you to timeshares and the Disney Vacation Club concept, are you excited to learn more? If you’re interested but not ready to buy into DVC just yet, I recommend trying out the DVC resorts and see if they’re for you. If you’ve always stayed at the All-Stars, a DVC resort can make a big difference in your vacation. To find out just how big of a difference, and whether you think it’s worth it, you can rent DVC points for your next Disney trip. This gives you the opportunity to stay at a DVC resort just like a DVC member, but without buying into the system just yet. If this sounds like a great idea, contact our friends at DVC Rental Store to book your next resort stay in one of the many DVC resorts at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Hilton Head Island, Vero Beach, or even Hawaii! If you’re in love with this idea and think you’re ready to buy in, get the best deal on a DVC contract from DVC Resale Market, which is staffed by many former DVC cast members who know the ins and outs of buying into DVC.

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