The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

While my family was cruising on the Disney Wonder to Alaska earlier this summer, I attended an onboard presentation about Disney Vacation Club (DVC) ownership. In case you are not familiar with DVC, it is Disney’s version of a timeshare, but slightly different. I had always been interested in attending one of these seminars, but until our most recent cruise I had never managed to fit it into our schedule.

The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

DVC Ownership Group Preview On Disney Cruise Line

I attended the DVC Ownership “group preview” on the morning of our scheduled port stop in Ketchikan. One of the biggest incentives for me to attend is that during each presentation there is a drawing for a $200 onboard credit. And $200 aint too shabby!

I arrived just a few minutes before the presentation started, and there were only two other people attending. I thought my odds were pretty good! Unfortunately, as the presentation went on, more people filed in the room, so my odds of winning went down to about 1 in 15.

Two DVC cast members offered us bottled water, and we watched a video that showcased the current properties for sale. The entire presentation was heavily weighted toward nostalgia and making more family memories with Disney. Seriously, I was getting choked up.

The presenters were also very upfront about the costs involved. The presentation was not like the typical high pressure timeshare presentations I have attended in the past. It was much more relaxed and almost like a pep rally for Disney.

They encouraged us to sign up for a one-on-one session in the DVC office on board the ship to ask questions and learn more. We would get a $50 stateroom credit for our time if we attended one of these solo Q&A meetings.

I didn’t win the $200 drawing, and I didn’t sign up for an individual Q&A session since I knew I would not be purchasing that week. When I got back from the presentation, my husband could see how excited I was about DVC. He asked me nervously, “So, you didn’t buy it, did you???”

The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

My oldest son’s first trip to Disney World at age 4

Crunching the Numbers

WARNING! Lots of math here.

At the time of the presentation in June 2017, these were the numbers for DVC ownership for Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort:

Purchase Price: $176 per point

Closing costs: $3-$4 per point

Annual dues: $6.13 per point (varies by resort—see this chart for more information)

Trading fee on RCI (timeshare exchange): $95 per transaction

If you purchased DVC on board, you would also get a $500 onboard credit for the current cruise. There were also promotional discounts for reaching certain points levels by resort.

For my family, I would want to buy enough points to afford one week in a studio villa each year. The studios at some of the resorts fit five people. The points chart cost varies by resort, but I’m basing my assumptions on needing ~170 points. So the math for my family at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is this:

Purchase price: 170 points * $176 per point = $29,920

Closing costs: 170 points * $3.50 = $595

Annual dues: 170 points * $6.13 = $1042.10 per year (subject to increases each year)

Unlike traditional timeshares that you own forever, DVC deeds have an expiration date, typically 50 years from construction date.

I worked out a comparison of DVC ownership costs vs. paying cash for a deluxe room for 50 years on a spreadsheet. Assumptions: Annual dues rates will increase by 3% each year based on historical growth rates, cash rates at Disney’s Polynesian Village will be 25% below rack rates based on historical promos and cost of cash rates will increase 3% each year.

My calculations determined that I would break even between years 12 and 13. After the breakeven point, the cost of the annual dues is roughly 1/3 of the cost of the cash price for the deluxe room.

The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

My middle son’s first trip to Disney World at age 2. He was terrified of the characters

Does the Math Work for my Family?

When I looked at the totals at the end of 50 years, buying DVC definitely makes sense for people who want to stay onsite at Disney properties every year. For 50 years. Fifty years. Five Zero. Wowza, that’s a huge commitment.

But the thing is, my family doesn’t stay in deluxe resorts every year. We are quite comfortable in our favorite moderate resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Or, in the past, we have gotten unbelievable group rates for conventions at deluxe resorts.

Maybe in the future, we will stay offsite using points. Or, we will want even more space and go for renting a house offsite with a pool. Oooh la la!

Trading DVC through RCI for another timeshare around the world is another possibility. DVC properties are in high demand, so the value through RCI is good. However, we use miles and points so much for free or deeply discounted stays that the math still doesn’t work out in our favor.

Of course, we could always buy DVC on the resale market or rent out our points, which would change the math. But we would also lose some of the benefits of buying directly through Disney, like the ability to use points for cruises.

The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

My daughter’s first trip to Disney World at 20 months old.

The Emotional Tug of Disney

While the math says no, my heart still can’t help but say “maybe” to DVC.

Here’s the thing. I really want to give my kids the gift of travel for years to come. Not just while they’re with us, but after they are grown and out of the house. And DVC ownership would be a convenient way to do that.

When I was in college in my early 20s on my own for the first time, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income for vacations. I basically traveled back to my hometown for “vacation”, and that’s it. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have another option?

I envision sharing our points with our kids when they are grown so that they can take their families to Disney World, the beach, or anywhere. Sure, I can train them up in this miles and points hobby, but who knows if the signup bonuses will be as lucrative in the future.

Just the word Disney is sentimental to me, and I tear up looking at photos of my family’s vacations there over the years. The thought of my children making those same memories with their kids makes me happy. (Check out this wonderful post about a nostalgic vacation to Disneyland. Sigh).

We could pool the points from three years (carry over points from one year and borrow points from the next year) to rent multiple rooms for a big family vacation with our grandkids. I could see us doing that for a big milestone wedding anniversary.

Or, we could let each of our kids use the points on alternating years however they wish. They could even use the points to go on a Disney Cruise.

Having points at our disposal would be less awkward and controversial than just giving our kids money for vacations, in my opinion. Letting them use the points would be a fair and consistent method of spreading vacation joy.

The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

All 3 kids on our last trip to Disneyland

Bottom Line

To be clear, I did not purchase DVC on our last cruise. I would want to buy it without having to finance it, and we’re just not in a position to do that yet. We still have a mortgage, and we have three kids to get through college.

However, I am not ruling out DVC ownership in the future. It may be in the way distant future, or after we win the lottery.

My husband thinks we would be better off just buying a vacation condo on the beach for our entire family to use. And I’m not ruling that idea out, either!

Do you own DVC? Have you attended a DVC presentation on a Disney Cruise? Are you considering DVC ownership? What at the pros and cons for your family? I’d love to hear your comments.

Author: Nancy

Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.

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31 thoughts on “The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

  1. A very interesting post! Personally, I would never consider purchasing a timeshare. The biggest reason is loss of flexibility. I don’t like to prepay my vacations, and here you are prepaying for the next 50 years. Ouch! Too many unknowns are involved. Will increase in maintenance fees outpace inflation? Will quality of the units still be as high as it is today? To me, it seems like too much of gamble, even for hardcore Disney fans. Renting just makes more sense, even if the yearly cost is higher when comparing to timeshare owners. Once again, flexibility and ability to spend money in whatever way you please each year can not be overstated. Also, we can’t afford it anyway, so that solves the dilemma right off the bat.
    That being said, I can see why this option is appealing to you. Out of all companies, I would trust Disney to deliver on their promise. Also, I’ve seen some people do quite well with timeshares in Hawaii. They bought during recession dirt cheap and enjoy it each year, while renting it out the rest of the time.

    • @Leana I understand what you mean about losing flexibility. However, I think that the risk is less with DVC compared to other timeshares. On-site Disney hotel rooms are in such high demand that we could easily rent our points every year and just use the cash for whatever we need (whether it’s vacations, house stuff, bills, etc.). But you know me, I’m a total sucker for Disney, so maybe I have my Disney blinders on.

  2. WARNING: cheap rant ensuing.

    Disney, like a lot of timeshare sellers, like to position their timeshares as an opportunity to guarantee your family great vacations for years. But 10 trips to Disney, 4 trips to Mexico, a trip a piece to the Cayman Islands, Boca Raton, and next years trip to Hawaii (all in the space of about 5 years) would tell you we are doing a pretty good job without paying $30,000+ for their help.

    We go to Disney 1-2 times a year. DVC is a downright no way, no how, not ever for us. We still have access to DVC properties, and have stayed at one and explored the grounds of others, and there are plenty of options to rent points/weeks from owners.

    The accommodations side of a trip to Disney World often represent the most low hanging fruit for savings and flexibility. Us buying DVC would be like giving up our saving money superpower. It’d be like Superman getting a kryptonite necklace because the salesman (lex Luther), said it looked good on him in the store.

    We are just too good at saving money on our Disney trips, and the off site resorts around Disney are just plain better than their Disney alternatives. And if you want to stay at Disney properties, there’s plenty of ways to do that considerably cheaper than purchasing DVC from Disney. The Orlando area is saturated with incredible options as far as vacation accommodations. Why pay $30k to have access to paying $1,000+ a year just to have access to a resort in Orlando?

    But the theming! The pools! Yeah, sure, DVCs are pretty, and their pool areas can be solid to great. But they can be bested by properties all over Orlando that can be had for less cash or downright free with points. And DVC rooms are smaller and less thoughtful in their designs than staying at a comparable timeshare unit at a property like Wyndham Bonnet Creek, or Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lakes. And by the way, the multiple pool complexes are better at those facilities as well.

    I’d love to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge sometime. It’s a singular experience that no one else can recreate. But I don’t need a DVC timeshare to try it out. Even paying for separate rooms for a large family at the non timeshare part of Animal Kingdom Lodge would be a better financial decision than buying a DVC. The same goes for buying into the location, amenities, and service of any of the monorail resorts. Just pay cash for a few rooms for a few nights for your fam at one of the 3, but for gooodness sake everyone, please don’t pay or finance $30k for vacations when Nancy and Liana are giving you the tools to do these vacations for super cheap. Even if you ignore everything on this site and others like it, you still are better off not financing a timeshare purchase.

    Okay, rant over. It’s worth noting, We have a timeshare. We split it with another couple. We paid $1 for it. We get tons of value out of it. We pay fees for it every year. And every year we use it at least 2 times. We don’t hate timeshares. But they can really get people in trouble. Only buy resale, only buy if you are in a financial position to invest every year in a vacation. Have an emergency fund. Have all/most of your consumer debt paid off. Be contributing 10%+ in retirement savings. Be contributing to your children’s college savings plans. Then, you can start to explore the lunacy of paying for the right or pay for a vacation.

    • @Cheapblackdad You make a lot of good points here! Also, your rant sounds similar to my husband’s arguments about DVC. I’m a very practical person who likes to crunch numbers, so I get it. We have rented DVC points for two stays (at Saratoga Springs and Animal Kingdom) and I feel we got a really good deal on our stays. But there is still that sentimental part of me that would be overjoyed if I could pass along a Disney legacy to my kids and grandkids if we are ever in the financial position to do so. 🙂

    • @Cheapblackdad You are hilarious! “Us buying DVC would be like giving up our saving money superpower. It’d be like Superman getting a kryptonite necklace because the salesman (lex Luther), said it looked good on him in the store.”
      So Disney is Lex Luthor in this analogy? That would make it evil, wouldn’t it? 🙂

      • A part of my rant was actually going to expound upon how Disney is not our friend when planning our vacation. Remember, my first rule of saving money on Disney is “Don’t do anything through Disney.” Don’t buy the tickets, stay at the resorts, eat the food. Nothing. Grab some Arby’s and an ice cream cake at Dairy Queen. Bring in an Olive Garden to go half gallon of soup. Buy the tickets through the mouse savers email under cover tourist link. Do whatever you need to do to not give Disney your money and your Disney world trip will be awesome and affordable.

        I don’t splurge on Disney World trips. I travel hack Disney World trips.

  3. Wow DVC is expensive! I love that points can help to make Disney memories affordable! We have been able to visit Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris. We went once to each. Sometimes we considered going back, but other trips and expenses took priority. This year we sent our oldest to college, and I am so glad that we prioritized saving for college. It seems 25k a year is about the average now for in state tuition and living expenses (not living at home.) Many colleges were 40-50k total a year. There was not much aid for families who made over the US average. And the scholarships have so much competition that even if you are near the top at your high school so are so many other students in the US. I knew it would be expensive but it really hits when you get the actual bill and have to send the money! My plan is to use points for one or two cheap(paid almost completely with points) family trips a year and then put the money saved into the college savings accounts!

    • @Anonymous Helping my kids with college expenses is a priority for me, too. My parents helped fund my college education, and I am so grateful. College expenses are crazy these days! I’m glad you are able to use miles and points to still travel while helping save for college.

  4. I haven’t done much research about the DVC but I can say that my family definitely makes the most of our Diamond Resorts timeshare. We can trade in points for flights as well as hotels, cruises, all inclusive resorts, and so much more! We definitely have gotten our money’s worth in the last five years and we use it probably 10-20 times per year for all of us. But if you only plan to use it once a year I can see how the numbers might not work out!

    • @Brittany I’m glad your family has gotten so much value out of your timeshare. My brother’s family owns one and they also use it a lot for off-season travel.

  5. Wow. That is a huge commitment of both time and money. We actually haven’t even taken our boys to Disney yet, but it’s something we want to do in the next couple years. I had no idea these kind of timeshares even existed, so thanks for all the info.

  6. We LOVE Disney and I know families who this would actually work out for. (Twice a year they fly down, could take advantage of all the discount you get with with DVC, etc)
    But that being said, we did the math too just a couple weeks ago and you break even to far down the road in my opinion.
    In comparison to other time share options, they’re the most transparent. Which I really like.And honestly not as expensive as I expected.

    We have plans to take a tour soon and get all the details. With the intent to use that information to rent some points in the coming year and truly experience a DVC stay.

  7. Hi Nancy, I just wanted to comment a couple things you may not have considered. Disney is a great fit for your family right now, and your kids have loved it time and time again, but that may change somewhere down the line. I know it’s lovely to think about your kids (and grandkids, though that is literally counting your eggs before they hatch 😉 enjoying Disney with you through adulthood… but you know very well how much kids change over the course of their lives and how individual their personalities are. And you will change too–possibly even in your Disney love! Or there may be other unforeseen factors that keep you from reaping as much benefit from the timeshare as you think now. Life is so unpredictable… and that is one of the many reasons I don’t think I will ever commit to even a bargain timeshare in destination I truly loved. I value flexibility too much.

    I also kind of have to think of my aunt and uncle, who bought this huge (I’m talking resort-like) second house in Arizona that they anticipated their kids, grandkids, extended family would join them at several times a year… but it hasn’t worked out quite like that, and the house stays empty a lot more than they had hoped. It’s kind of sad. They are wealthy and thoughtlessly generous people who gave their kids the gift of frequent travel through adulthood, footing the bill for just about everything… and unfortunately and related things had quite a negative effect on their family dynamic. I know you weren’t talking about paying for entire vacations for your grown kids! I just think carefully considering what exactly you are going to pay for as they grow up is important. My dad and mom certainly took a lot from the example of my uncle’s family. They are quite generous with the smaller things when we visit on vacations, but have let us plan and pay for our travels independently–though they did let me burn the entire family stock of miles, of which their portion had been maintained for decades through flying alone for our honeymoon! It’s already rebounding nicely already through credit card signups. 😀

    Anyway, just a couple thoughts for you. And let me also say that I always really enjoy your contributions and trip reports, even though I’m not a huge Disney fan myself!

    • @Debra Thank you for your thoughtful comment! You certainly bring up some points I didn’t think about. It’s hard to imagine my family (especially me!) not loving Disney in the future. But who knows! Disney could experience a corporate takeover and completely change. And you’re right, I need to think about what we will and won’t pay for regarding my kids when they are grown up. I’d like to raise independent kids who will be able to make it on their own and not rely on us. But, I do hope we vacation together occasionally. Realistically, we are many years away from affording DVC ownership, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about it. 🙂

  8. That’s just way too much money to tie up especially for my family. Fortunately, we live close enough that we have Disneyland passes and get our Disney fix that way. I love having the option to plan for roadtrips to national monuments, big cities for sightseeing, cruises, islands, and maybe even Europe soon.

    We live in a high cost of living area, and we need to make our dollar stretch, but Disney does make the DVC look enticing.

    • @Stephanie You are lucky to live close to Disneyland! Disney sure does make DVC ownership look appealing to me. Realistically, it’s not happening any time soon for my family.

  9. If the compelling factor is family legacy vacations, why not just invest the money you would pay for DVC and later take some out each year to take your kids on trips? Then you can go anywhere.

    I’ve briefly reviewed how DVC works out of morbid curiosity and I don’t see how it could possibly be worth it unless you 100% know you want go to a Disney every year AND stay in a Disney Deluxe resort every time. On the first half of that, I couldn’t fathom going to the same place every year but recognize you are a big Disney fan. On the second half of it, I could rehash cheapblackdad’s comments on Orlando hotel inventory, but he did a great job breaking it down.

  10. I think you and I were on the same cruise! We did end up buying, and we are definitely not Disney people. For us, DVC was compelling for a number of reasons:

    1) We travel. Even though we are not Disney people, we are Hawaii people. Aulani was a big plus for us. We have stayed at a friends timeshare at the Hilton Wikiloa Village and I priced that out. Not cheap. Living on the West Coast, both Hawaii and Orlando are reasonably cheap to fly to.
    2) We will use DVC, whether we go or rent out the points. I spoke to two rental brokers during the contract cancellation period. There is no shortage of people who will rent points. You can also “trade” points for a Disney cruise or Adventures by Disney, though it’s better just to have them rent your points and then use the proceeds to do a non-Disney trip or book Disney yourself.
    3) it’s real estate. i will deduct the interest on my taxes.
    4) people always warn you about timeshares, but I truly believe Disney is in a different class. It is virtually recession proof. We all complain about prices but still go anyway, right?
    5) Before I bought, I talked to other owners, and they all had positive things to say.
    6) Maybe most importantly, we ran the numbers, and we can afford it.

    I’m not making the mistake of viewing this as an investment, I view it as a commodity.

    Though I’ve yet to take a trip, I have made some payments, and i don’t regret the decision.

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  12. Unless you are planning to stay at the most expensive resorts at the most popular times, 170 points are too much for a studio once per year.

    Buying old properties direct is a waste of money. The perks are not worth the large amount of money either. As for losing the cruise for points “perk” that is a waste of good points. Savvy DVC owners rent their points and use cash to book cruises. This is the best use of your points whether you buy direct or resale.

    I bought 150 points at Beach Club Villas via resale and saved $12,750!!! I have yet to see a “perk” that will motivate me enough to throw that money out the window.

    I would love to see you revamp this article with a resale contract.

    • @Susan Thanks for your perspective! I agree that owners are better off renting points and then using the cash to book cruises. We are thinking about renting DVC points to stay at Beach Club Villas next year.

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