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Frequent Walt Disney World visitors know it can be expensive at any of its parks — let alone paying for lodging in the area. When you have the whole family in tow, the cost can grow exponentially, even if there are opportunities to save cash.
For dedicated Mickey Mouse fans who want to bet on their long-term interest in Disney-related vacations, the Disney Vacation Club can make some financial sense.
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What is Disney Vacation Club?
Similar to a timeshare, Disney Vacation Club allows you to buy Vacation Points that you can redeem at eligible Disney resort properties. These points are not the same as the miles and points you accrue via airline, hotel or credit card loyalty programs. Instead, they are part of a separate Disney points system for Vacation Club members.
The program's promise is that members who plan to stay at Disney resorts (or travel to other destinations associated with the program) can save money in the long term. The company estimates that in the majority of cases, it will take 6-14 years' worth of trips before savings begin.
These are the resorts where you can redeem Disney Vacation Club points:
Beyond Disney Vacation Club resorts, members can book other Disney destinations — such as cruises, Adventures by Disney tours, and accommodations near Disney theme parks around the world. And vacation accommodations are available to members via a partnership with Interval International, opening additional destinations and trip types.
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How does Disney Vacation Club work?
Members buy a real estate interest, which is a flexible timeshare, and receive a stash of Vacation Club points that can be redeemed for hotel stays at Disney properties and beyond.
Not all membership packages are created equally; you can customize the number of points you buy based on how often you plan to redeem them. The more Vacation Points you buy, the higher the discount per Vacation Point. For instance, a deal offered through Nov. 16, 2022, incentivizes purchasing a higher quantity of points. Points come at a $10 discount each if you buy 175-199 of them, but only $8 off per point if you buy 150-174 of them.
Your real estate interest contract covers an annual number of Vacation Points that you agree to buy, which you'll then redeem for future vacations.
When you initially buy Vacation Points, you must select a home resort.
A home resort doesn't designate where you have to redeem your points; instead, it is the resort that determines the price of your Vacation Points and where a club member owns a real estate interest.
You'll be able to book a stay at your home resort 11 months in advance — four months earlier than other Disney Vacation Club members.
When you buy points and become a member, your name goes on the deed of the real estate interest.
Joining the Disney Vacation Club gives you flexibility to use Vacation Points throughout the Disney network of vacation options.
This setup is different from typical timeshares or vacation clubs, which often require a minimum length of stay annually or stick members with a sole vacation location.
In addition, the properties in some locations offer sleeping accommodations for as many as 12 people.
Access to other perks
Members enjoy several unique benefits, such as access to a member lounge at Disney World's Epcot theme park, with free refreshments, charging ports and special after-hour events.
Members also get discounts for select events, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or for certain dining experiences, such as 50's Prime Time Cafe in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
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How much is Disney Vacation Club?
Disney Vacation Club costs at least $32,985 to join. Here's how those costs break down:
Members must buy at least 150 Vacation Points at enrollment, and as of 2022, the cost per Vacation Point is $207, giving you a purchase price starting at $31,050. You also pay a one-time document preparation fee of $250.
You'll need to spend at least $629 in closing costs, plus — at minimum — $88 monthly for your membership dues (those can be remitted as an annual one-time payment of $1,056). Closing and membership fees vary based on your home resort, and membership fees can rise year over year.
A trip that costs 150 Vacation Points is a romantic getaway at Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort. This covers a seven-night vacation for two in a deluxe studio.
So, how much does Disney Vacation Club cost per month? As of now, at least $88 for membership fees. For those who want to make payments on their upfront costs over a period of time, financing is available; it starts at $434 per month for a 10-year loan with a 10% minimum down payment (at least $3,298.50 given our figures above).
Another option is to buy points on the resale market, which means you are buying them from another member and not from Disney. This is a solid way to secure more savings.
» Learn more: How to go to Disney World for cheap
How to buy Disney Vacation Club points
As a member, you buy a set number of Vacation Points upfront by signing a contract. These points are added to your account annually — provided you're in good standing and still submitting monthly dues.
The number of points needed for your trip will depend on the property, the room type, the view and when/how long you plan to travel. Each property has a unique points chart, so you can plan your redemptions accordingly.
For example, here is the 2023 points chart for Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, in Ko Olina, Hawaii.
For some, it may be difficult to decide how many points they will need. Because you're buying for the long term, you'll need to consider whether you or your family will be using the points a few decades from now. Luckily, you can bank points for a future year or put your membership on the resale market.
This long-term planning is what may make Disney Vacation Club daunting for some people.
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How to rent Disney Vacation Club points
If you don’t plan to use your full allotment of points in a given year, you can rent them to other members. You can also rent from others to cover a gap in the number of Vacation Points you have available versus the amount your next redemption requires.
You can borrow Vacation Points from your future self if you'd like to splurge on vacation this year and take a cheaper one next year.
These strategies can help you avoid losing the value you invested or customize your membership to better fit your current, rather than projected, needs and wants.
Disney Vacation Club rental tips
It helps to know someone: To rent points, work through an established points rental company or find a friend (or even a stranger on social media) who is a member and wants to rent their Vacation Points.
You can roll over Vacation Points: There is also the option to bank points from year to year. If you plan to travel more next year than this year, you can save points for a future redemption.
Timing matters: You can decide to roll over points only during the first eight months of a calendar year. During the last third of the year, your points become frozen and must be used during that year.
Disney Vacation Club, recapped
If you travel often enough to Disney properties or enjoy cruises and guided trips with the brand, Disney Vacation Club can save you money in the long run. However, if you prefer to take vacations on a whim or have travel choices that vary by year, perhaps committing your funds in advance to such a program makes less sense.
(Top photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort)
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card