Is Disney Vacation Club Worth It?

Timeshares are almost never worth it — and only a few will find value in Disney's version, Disney Vacation Club.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

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The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is The Walt Disney Co.’s own sort of timeshare program. But unlike traditional timeshares, where owners commit to one property and sometimes specific dates each year, Disney Vacation Club owners buy points which can be redeemed across any eligible resorts — as well as for other types of trips around the world.

There are plenty of both pros and cons of DVC, but one thing is for certain: DVC is neither simple nor cheap. Upfront costs are at least $32,550 this year, not including one-time closing costs and recurring annual dues (that increase in cost over time).

While the initial costs are high, it’s the ongoing costs that can be challenging. Joining DVC commits you to a contract, which is typically 50 years from the construction date of the building you bought into.

But for people who navigate the system and vacation at Disney often, DVC can turn out to be more valuable than paying cash prices for rooms as you go. Plus, membership entails many additional DVC benefits, ranging from admission to members-only events to the peace of mind that you have magical vacations locked in for years ahead.

How does Disney Vacation Club work?

To join, you purchase a real estate interest at one of nearly 20 DVC resorts, most of which are located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The Waikolohe Stream is Aulani's lazy river. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

Properties include European-inspired Disney's Riviera Resort and the Victorian-style villas of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Other eligible properties can be found throughout the country, including Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii.

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

  • Disney Vacation Club Villas — Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Jambo House.

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Kidani Village.

  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas.

  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas.

  • Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.

  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.

  • Disney’s Riviera Resort.

  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.

  • Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

  • The Villas at Disneyland Hotel.

Your purchased real estate interest is attached to a specific property, also called your home resort. When joining, you also select the number of Vacation Points you receive annually — minimum 150 — which can be spent on accommodations at your home resort or other eligible properties any night of the year (as long as rooms are available).

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can use points to book Disney vacations beyond DVC resorts, including hotels at international theme parks and trips taken through Disney Cruise Line, National Geographic Expeditions and Adventures by Disney. That said, these bookings tend to provide an abysmal value versus paying cash prices.

Rates start at 6 Vacation Points per night, and members receive a fresh batch of points every year. Note that you cannot change your home resort.

How much does Disney Vacation Club cost in 2023?

Becoming an owner of Disney timeshare rentals isn’t cheap.

Upfront costs

As of 2023, Disney sells Vacation Points for $217 each. To join, you must purchase a minimum of 150 points (that’s at least $32,550).

Disney charges closing costs, which vary depending on the home resort. For example, closing costs for 150 Vacation Points at the Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are $851.84 in 2023.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Disney offers financing, which lets you avoid putting down thousands of dollars at once. However, you’ll owe interest, which makes that initial figure even more expensive.

Disney's timeshares are far more expensive than the national average. According to the American Resort Development Association, which is a trade association representing over 350 companies within the timeshare industry the average price of a timeshare transaction is $23,940 — far less than Disney's minimum upfront cost.

Annual DVC membership dues

There are also ongoing annual dues, which vary based on the home resort and the number of Vacation Points you’ve bought. In 2023, monthly dues for the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are $91.75 for 150 points (that’s $1,101 annually).

And annual dues typically increase every year. In 2023, the lowest dues increase was under 2%; however, the majority of resorts saw dues increases of more than 5%, and some increased in excess of 8%. A 4% or 5% increase might not feel like much on its own, but — after compounding every year for decades — it can be quite painful.

Take Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which saw a 4.64% increase in dues in 2023 versus 2022. Assuming this same increase every year and considering the power of compound interest, 2023’s annual dues of $1,101 can escalate quickly.

These same dues will cost you about $7,000 annually by 2064 (the year that contracts expire at this property).

Don’t be caught off guard when annual dues that you thought were around $1,000 balloon to many times that much.

Other costs to account for

The lodging you book through DVC comprises only a fraction of vacation costs. While there are plenty of free things to do at Disney World, you’ll likely end up paying for tickets, food and souvenirs, plus transportation expenses like airfare or gasoline.

The program also charges a handful of additional expenses:

  • Payment-related fees. You’ll get dinged $25 in late fees for delinquent payments and/or insufficient funds fees of $20 for payments returned by your bank.

  • Fees for using points outside of DVC Resorts. Using points to book non-DVC properties incurs a nonrefundable $95 transaction fee.

Example of estimated DVC costs over a lifetime

Members’ lifetime costs will vary depending on several factors, but let’s consider the example at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa mentioned above.

Say you bought into The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa as your home resort, joined this year and purchased the minimum 150 required Vacation Points. Assuming you keep your contract until it expires in 2064, here’s an estimate of how much you should expect to pay over your membership.

  • Initial purchase price of 150 Vacation Points ($217 each) in 2023: $32,550.

  • Initial closing costs: $852.

  • Annual dues over the next 41 years: $128,633 (assumes 4.64% annual increase, identical to the property’s 2023 dues increase rate).

  • Grand total: $162,035.

At the end of your contract, you’ll have paid an average of nearly $4,000 per year for 41 future years of 150 annual DVC Vacation Points.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Current Disney estimates recommend that a family of four who plans to travel to Disney theme parks for seven days in the summer purchase at least 300 Vacation Points annually to cover the trip.

How much is a DVC Vacation Point worth?

Actually calculating how much a single DVC Vacation Point is worth is incredibly complicated — so much so that Disney won’t even tell you their value. Its website gives what feels like the legalese version of a shrug when you ask it what your points are worth.

But NerdWallet took on the challenge of calculating the value of a Vacation Point.

Our estimates find that for someone buying into the program today, a single DVC Vacation Point is valued between $13 and $34, depending on how you run the numbers.

When buying into DVC, you commit to a set amount of Vacation Points (the minimum is 150). But you’re not simply buying 150 points — it’s actually 150 points that replenish in your account every year throughout the length of your contract. But given that contract length varies by resort and when someone joins, the number of total points granted through their lifetime can also vary.

Take Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Members who select this as their home resort are issued contracts that expire in 2064. Someone who bought the minimum 150 points in 2022 would have their contract for 42 years (and would end up receiving a total of 6,300 points). Meanwhile, someone who joins DVC with the same home resort in 2025 would only hold the contract for 39 years (and would receive just 5,850 points).

Point costs are even tougher to evaluate over a lifetime, as they typically rise every year. For instance, when DVC launched in 1991, a Vacation Point cost $51 apiece, according to DVCinfo.com. By 2001, prices rose to $72 each. But 2001 looks like a deal compared to 2023, when a single point costs $217.

But that does not mean “a DVC Vacation Point is worth $217.” When you pay $217 for a point today, you get not just one point, but rather a point every year until your contract expires. In 2023, purchasing the minimum 150 points at $217 each commands a $32,550 price tag. For those with Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa as their home resort, they’ll get up to 41 years of points.

In short, valuing a DVC point requires some mathematical gymnastics — and you can contort your calculations into a range of valuations. But NerdWallet generated a few ways to assess a point’s cost, using two properties currently for sale by Disney.

A short-term estimate

One way to consider the value of a Vacation Point is to calculate the years left on the contract plus the annual dues. In this case, you could say a Vacation Point is worth between $13.13 and $14.71.

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story, as they’re based on 2023’s annual dues with the assumption that dues never increase — which is about as unlikely as a flying elephant.

Consequently, this estimate can be shortsighted. Since members are committing to a decades-long contract with inevitable annual dues increases, the average cost per point will likely increase once annual dues increases are factored in.

However, if you were to resell your contract before dues increase exponentially, this estimate could become more likely. But that assumes you resell your contract at a value similar to what you paid for it — which is unlikely.

Here’s how we came up with those numbers.

Disney's Riviera Resort

Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas in Ko Olina

Contract expiration year

2070.

2062.

Years left on contract if joined in 2023

47.

39.

Estimated price per Vacation Point

$4.62.

$5.56.

Annual dues per Vacation Point in 2023

$8.51.

$9.15.

Total average short-term cost per Vacation Point in 2023

$13.13.

$14.71.

The “Estimated price per Vacation Point” was determined by dividing the current cost per Vacation Point ($217) by the years left in the contract at either resort for those who join in 2023.

That figure was added to the cost in annual dues per Vacation Point for 2023 to determine the “Total average short-term cost per Vacation Point in 2023.”

A long-term estimate

A long-term, more conservative view accounts for the cost of DVC Vacation Points over the contract’s lifetime and includes projected annual dues increases.

Upon averaging a Vacation Point’s worth over its lifetime when accounting for dues increases, the value ends up between $30.67 and $33.88 per point.

It’s impossible to predict exact annual due increases, but Disney’s fine print estimates assume an annual increase of 4.5%, so we’ll use that figure, too.

Of course, hotel room rates also typically increase, so don’t be alarmed that points “cost” more decades from now — as future cash prices will likely be higher, too.

Here’s how we arrived at these figures.

Disney's Riviera Resort

Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas in Ko Olina

Contract expiration year

2070.

2062.

Years left on contract if joined in 2023

47.

39.

Estimated price per Vacation Point

$4.62.

$5.56.

Estimated cost in annual dues per Vacation Point over contract's lifetime

$29.26.

$25.11.

Total average long-term cost per Vacation Point in 2023

$33.88.

$30.67.

The “Estimated price per Vacation Point” was determined by dividing the current cost per Vacation Point ($217) by the years left in the contract at either resort for those who join in 2023.

The “Estimated cost in annual dues per Vacation Point over contract's lifetime” was calculated based on the assumption that dues per point increase by 4.5% every year throughout the lifetime of the contract. The final figure is the average of the annual dues per point over that period.

Those two figures then determined the “Total average long-term cost per Vacation Point in 2023.”

The current cost to buy a Vacation Point a la carte: $22

There’s an even simpler way to estimate the cost of points, and that’s by pegging it to each Vacation Point’s outright cost. Disney currently allows members to buy one-time-use Vacation Points at $22 each.

Real world redemption costs

So is DVC membership a smart buy? It depends both on your perception of a point’s cost — and then how you spend them.

Let's consider real-world redemptions using NerdWallet's short-term ($14 each) and long-term ($32 each) estimates.

Using Vacation Points at official DVC resorts — a great deal

Here are some examples of actual redemptions in 2023 across three DVC resorts based on a one-night booking for Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.

Number of DVC Vacation Points needed to book

Short-term estimate (assumes $14 cost per Vacation Point)

Long-term estimate (assumes $32 cost per Vacation Point)

Cost to book in cash (including taxes and fees)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Kidani Village, Deluxe Studio with standard view

12.

$168.

$384.

$678.38.

Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, one-bedroom villa

36.

$504.

$1,152.

$1,165.50.

Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, two-bedroom ocean view villa

62.

$868.

$1,984.

$2,116.24.

Even at the conservative end of NerdWallet’s estimates, you always come out ahead when you book the above properties using DVC points versus cash.

Given NerdWallet’s estimates, here’s how much you save by booking these sample DVC resorts as a DVC member using points versus booking with cash (as you’d have to do if you didn’t have any DVC points to your name).

Using Vacation Points to book other trips — a bad deal

Something like 75% savings on a studio at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Kidani Village through DVC feels pretty unbeatable.

But using points at Disney properties that aren’t designated DVC resorts makes for an extremely bad deal.

Number of DVC Vacation Points needed to book

Short-term estimate (assumes $14 cost per Vacation Point)

Long-term estimate (assumes $32 cost per Vacation Point)

Cost to book in cash (including taxes and fees)

Disneyland Hotel room, standard view, Dec. 1, 2023

63.

$882.

$2,016.

$767.52.

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel Beauty and the Beast Room, July 15, 2023

140.

$1,960.

$4,480.

$913.

National Geographic Expeditions 2023 7-Night Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, September 2023, Double Occupancy

681 per person.

$9,534 per person.

$21,792 per person.

$5,795 per person.

Beyond just a brutal exchange rate, Disney also charges a $95 transaction fee for bookings, making a bad deal even worse. Here’s how much more you pay when you hand over points versus if you had just paid in cash.

% more you’d “owe” when paying with DVC points vs. cash (assumes $14 cost per Vacation Point)

% more you’d “owe” when paying with DVC points vs. cash (assumes $32 cost per Vacation Point)

Disneyland Hotel room, standard view, Dec. 1, 2023

27.3%.

175%.

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel Beauty and the Beast Room, July 15, 2023

125%.

401%.

National Geographic Expeditions 2023 7-Night Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, September 2023, Double Occupancy

66.1%.

277.7%.

Disney Vacation Club might be worth it if …

Most of your vacations are to Disneyland or Disney World

There are so many DVC resorts at Walt Disney World that you could visit every year for more than a decade and stay at a different resort each time. For those who truly visit Walt Disney World every year, DVC is an entirely reasonable proposition.

You prioritize big, luxurious rooms at top-tier properties

If you’d otherwise pay cash for stays at DVC resorts, then it’s true that DVC can offer significant savings compared to cash rates. For those who’d otherwise pay for those larger rooms anyway (which typically entail kitchen and laundry), then DVC can be worthwhile.

At Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, families can stretch out in deluxe studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom villas which feature separate bedrooms and living room spaces. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

You’ll commit long enough to break even on upfront costs

Most of DVC’s savings don’t manifest for many years after joining. Even Disney’s fine print acknowledges that the estimated 50% savings don’t even begin until approximately six to 14 years after purchase.

Take an honest look at your stage in life and whether you’ll still vacation like this 20 years from now.

You can afford to pay the upfront costs (mostly) in full

You can finance your DVC stake, but even if you get approved for an interest rate on the low end (Disney’s fixed interest rates go as low as 10% annual percentage rate for a 10-year loan), that’s still money owed in interest.

You snag a discount

While the going rate is $217 per point in 2023, discounts and promotions are frequently offered through Disney’s Savings page.

You’re confident you’ll maximize your membership (or get close to it)

DVC can be a great deal for people who maximize their membership. That means holding onto it long term, using every single point allotted and always spending points at actual DVC properties.

After all, NerdWallet found redemptions at discounts in excess of 50% versus cash rates. But redemptions outside DVC properties offer inferior points value.

Kidani Village, a Disney Vacation Club property at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features thatched roofs and a hewn timber design — and it often provides one of the best point redemptions. (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)

However, if you don’t use every single Vacation Point you’re allotted over the term of the contract, then the deal becomes worse.

Perhaps you receive 150 points each year. But if you book 10 nights in a 14-point room, then you’ve only spent 140 of them. DVC points expire, and if you can’t bank them for the next year, then you’ve experienced the DVC equivalent of losing spare change (but more expensive).

Your perception of “savings” assumes the cash price is fair

Redemptions at DVC properties can often offer well over 50% savings compared to cash prices as we saw in some of our examples. However, take a hard look at whether you consider those reasonable cash prices anyway.

A $2,100 two-bedroom villa at Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina for $870 in Vacation Points might feel like the deal of the century (that’s effectively 59% off). But consider if it's otherwise reasonable to pay that much cash out of pocket for just one night of lodging.

You don’t want to invest that money elsewhere

There’s also that opportunity cost of putting that money to work now, rather than prepaying for vacations decades from now. For what it’s worth, $30,000 invested today with a 6% rate of return would be worth about $350,000 in 41 years from now.

Video preview image

The bottom line

Like most timeshare programs, DVC is not an investment. Consider it a prepaid vacation.

Only the most frequent Disney vacationers will see significant financial benefit from joining DVC. And even still, the high upfront costs coupled with future uncertainty still pose a challenge.

If you lose your job, you’ve found yourself with unanticipated bills or your financial situation otherwise changes, you’re stuck making monthly payments. If you become ill or injured, or maybe you just lose your Disney passion, you’re still saddled with your DVC membership. No amount of numerical calculations can account for scenarios like that.

That said, there can be real, positive psychological benefits to knowing you have Disney vacations locked in on a regular basis. Making monthly payments toward dues might actually better help you budget.

And other membership benefits — like discounts, lounge access and special events — could be valuable to you. After all, many of the benefits from DVC membership may manifest in ways that money can’t buy.

(Top photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)


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