How Does Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Work? Volume 4: Exchanges

Jason Diffendal

How Does Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Work? Volume 4: Exchanges

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Welcome to the fourth 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 series of articles 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. If you missed Volume 1: Timeshare Basics, we talked about timeshares in general and how Disney Vacation Club is a timeshare but is also very different from a typical timeshare. In Volume 2: DVC Basics – All About Points, we delved into the points system that DVC uses to book accommodations. In Volume 3: DVC Basics – Use Years, Banking, and Borrowing, we took a deep dive into how you can use your points wisely by banking and borrowing points. If you haven’t read those articles yet, I’d recommend you go back and read those first and then come back here.

Disney Vacation Club sign in Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World

Now that you know all of the basics of the points system, you might be asking yourself, “What else can I do with points besides use them for accommodations?” That’s where exchanges come into play.

Back in Volume 1: Timeshare Basics, we touched on traditional timeshares and how they work, and why DVC is better. One of the key selling points for any timeshare is the ability to exchange. As the word implies, you are exchanging or trading your timeshare for someone else’s. In the traditional timeshare world, you’d trade your week at your resort for someone else’s week at a resort you want to visit. As timeshares proliferated, this got super complex because not all weeks (and not all resorts) are created equal. If I owned a week at a resort in Jamaica which happens to be very fancy, would I be willing to trade for your week at the Poconos in Pennsylvania? Maybe in the winter to go skiing, but surely not in the summer. Likewise, if I owned the last week in December, would I want to trade for a week in May? Probably not.

Due to the complexity of exchanges, companies sprang up whose purpose is to help with exchanges. Interval International and RCI are the two major ones. DVC is affiliated with Interval International, which means you can exchange some of your DVC points to book accommodations at any of the more than 3200 properties in 80 countries that are part of the Interval International network. Prior to 2022, DVC was affiliated with RCI. Resorts can and do switch exchange networks for various reasons.

At this point you might be thinking that this ability to exchange and visit other resorts is really awesome. It is, in fact, a big selling point of timeshares. However, as I alluded to above, sometimes it isn’t so easy to get the resort you want when you want to go. There is a lot of demand at the more popular times of the year and much less demand at other times. Coordinating all of this is what the exchange networks do, and they will look at what you are exchanging (weeks or points) and try to make the exchange as even as possible. This means that it will cost more points for a nicer resort at a popular time of year.

Besides exchanging through Interval International, Disney also trumpets what is called the “Disney Collection“, which is basically a mini exchange network run by Disney. DVC members can exchange their points for hotel rooms at almost every Disney resort hotel worldwide, including Disneyland in California, Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan, Disneyland Resort Paris in France, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta Entrance

In addition to Disney hotels, the Disney Collection also includes Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, and Nat Geo Expeditions. DVC will promote this as a tremendous advantage of membership and make it a main selling point to potential buyers. However, in reality it’s not the best use of points.

I’ve been a DVC member for over 20 years, and I’ve only exchanged once. Part of the reason is that my mother also owns a timeshare and we will often use hers for exchanges. Another big reason is that I never have enough points because I spend them all at DVC resorts. But the biggest reason is that the best use of DVC points is to stay at DVC resorts. Anything else means you are not getting the best bang for your points. To illustrate, I’ll give two examples.

The first example is using points to book a Disney hotel. This is not something many members would do in the US because there are DVC resorts at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. But there are no DVC resorts in Paris, Japan, or Hong Kong, so it might be tempting. However, the point costs for Disney hotels are so absurd that it is an absolute waste of points. Lets look at Art of Animation as an example, just because finding the cash rate is easy compared to overseas parks. You can book one of the oft-desired family suites using DVC points. We’ll use Thursday September 19, 2024 in this exercise. Right now, I can book a Lion King Family Suite for $437.60 plus tax for a total of $492.31. Currently there is a promotion for select dates in September, but even if there weren’t, the rack rate for this room is $547.00.

A screen capture showing the cost of the Art of Animation Lion King Family Suite.

To book that same room with points through the Disney Collection, you’d have to use somewhere between 40 – 54 points to book it (why there is such a range I don’t know). Even if you got it for 40 points, that’s valuing your points at just over $12.30 per point ($492.31 divided by 40). What’s the actual value of your points? To understand that, we simply need to look at the rental market. If you rent your points via DVC Rental Store, you can receive up to $19.00 per point. Instead of giving Disney 40 points for that room, you could rent out only 26 points and pay cash (26 x $19.00 = $494). Suffice it to say, Disney is giving you a pretty raw deal for your points. This is just one example, but every hotel in the Disney Collection values your points similarly poorly, even in Tokyo or Paris or Hong Kong.

Disney Wish at sea concept art

I promised you two examples, so here is the second: Disney Cruise Line. For this exercise, we’re going to look at the 4-night Bahamas cruise on the Disney Wish departing on September 16, 2024. Note that this is in the cheapest season for Disney cruises. That 4-night cruise for two people would cost 147 – 178 points per person for an oceanview stateroom (Category 9C). You could book an inside stateroom for less but I like at least an ocean view if not a verandah!

To book that same Category 9C stateroom for cash would cost $2819.20 including all fees and taxes. To be generous we’ll use the lower end of the range to compare the point requirement, 147 points per person. For a party of 2, that’s 294 points for the same stateroom. Calculating the value per point brings you to an even worse number than the hotel example — only $9.59 per point. By renting your points at $19.00 per point you could use literally half as many points and get the same exact trip!

Screen capture showing the cost of a 4-night cruise on the Disney Wish

Astute readers will remember that I said I did exchange once. Here’s the scenario, and it’s a definite “gotcha” from Disney. I sailed on the second voyage of the Disney Wish (because the maiden voyage was way too expensive!). DCL and DVC decided to make that voyage a DVC-exclusive cruise (note that this is not the same as a DVC Member Cruise, which we may get into in a future article). That meant that only DVC members could book the cruise, and at least one person in the stateroom had to book using points (the other guests in the same room could pay cash). Yes it was a pretty raw deal but if I wanted that cruise that’s what I had to do, so I did it. And yes I booked only one person using points and the rest with cash!

Now that we’ve introduced you to 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.

Author

  • Jason Diffendal

    Jason has been a lifelong fan of the Disney parks since his first visit at age 2. His biennial pilgrimages during his childhood accelerated into semi-annual visits by the year 2000, when he also Joined the Disney Vacation Club. Luckily, Jason’s bride-to-be was also a Disney fan, which allowed his infatuation with the Disney parks to continue, and ultimately culminated in their wedding at Disney's Wedding Pavilion in September 2003. Early in 2007, Jason began his involvement with the planning for what became Celebration 25, the unofficial fan gathering to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Epcot®. Soon thereafter, Jason met Tom Corless at a pin trading meet in New Jersey, and became part of the WDW News Today podcast starting with Episode 17. Jason has been involved with the WDWNT Network ever since, and can't seem to escape no matter how hard he tries. Contact Jason at jason@wdwnt.com.

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