This week I took a field trip with my "work husband" and signed up for a Disney Vacation Club timeshare presentation tour. DVC (as the savants call it) has become quite the game changer! From their no-pressure sales tactics, to their unique take on a points based membership, they have revolutionized the timeshare industry for today's family vacationers. I may have just went on the tour out of curiosity, but to be honest they really spell it out in a way that makes owning a DVC timeshare a no-brainer.
First thing's first - where do you sign up for a DVC tour?
To schedule a tour in your pajamas at home, head over to the DVC website and look for the section titled "Explore Membership". (Or click here). If you find yourself visiting Disney, there are Disney Vacation Club Membership Information kiosks all over DVC resorts, within the theme parks and throughout Disney Springs (Florida) and Downtown Disney (California). At Disney Springs, there are actually 2 information booths- the smaller one is located between the AMC theaters and the Aerophile hot air balloon while a larger booth is across from the stage in the heart of the Disney Springs Marketplace side. We recommend going to this one, especially if you have little ones, as they have a little area of games for them to play with and it is right across from the train. We went to the smaller one since it was just the two of us... and it was the first one we spotted.
When you walk up, you will be greeted by a friendly DVC sales rep with a bubbly inviting personality. They can answer any questions you might have, set you up with a tour at the resort of your choice and even arrange transportation from anywhere on Disney property. We chose to take the tour at Saratoga Springs where they have built an entire Disney Vacation Club Preview Center complete with full scale models of a few different resorts around the world! Plus, it was walking distance from Disney Springs so we could take our time and site see. Just a heads up: if you are looking to score free Disney tickets for taking the timeshare tour, you will be disappointed! I have heard of FastPasses being given out but Disney does not use the same sales tactics as your typical timeshare sales company. The market is too hot right now and these babies sell themselves!
Who can take a DVC tour?
While Disney may not tell you no if you don't meet their criteria (aka "qualify") they will schedule you for the tour and show you around quickly, not to waste their time. DVC salespeople will not give you the full scope and spend a lot of time with people that don't fit into a profile that they have pre-determined to have a high rate of closing or getting approved for financing. Most timeshare companies follow this same rule of thumb, based on ARDA's profile of today's timeshare owners. To answer the question "Can anyone take a DVC tour?", yes. The sales person you are assigned to will ask you a few qualifying questions right out of the gate, guised as casual conversation, to gauge where you fall on the scale.
What to expect on your DVC tour at Saratoga Springs
Disney has built a massive preview center at one of their most prestigious DVC properties, Saratoga Springs. A Victorian-style resort modeled after the famous 1800's New York equestrian spa retreat of the same name, Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is located just across the water from Disney Springs at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. DVC will provide transportation, but we actually walked over from the Disney Springs Marketplace side. The DVC preview center is located next to the resort's main check in building and welcomes potential Disney timeshare owners with pastries, coffee, fresh tropical juices and other refreshments while you wait to get checked in for your tour appointment.
Once you have received your name tag and have a moment to take it all in, you are escorted into a mini-movie theater to watch a brief video of what life looks like bring a DVC owner... smiling faces and laughing families splashing in a resort pool, character meet-and-greets on the Disney Cruise Line, multiple generations sitting around a spacious villa... you get the idea. They really drive home that DVC lets you stay in the heart of the magic year after year, showing young couples, families, and grandparents with their grandchildren. Once the movie ends, the attendant that was hiding in the back the whole time introduces you to your assigned DVC tour guide.
DVC Sales reps are nothing like a typical timeshare salesperson
You are taken into a private sitting room (one of many... it seemed like we walked down a never ending hallway!) Each room has a table in the center and a console against the opposite wall with a huge touchscreen computer. To start the presentation, the salesperson, let's call him "Mick", tried to talk us OUT of buying. Saying things like "If you don't do ___, then this isn't for you." This was honestly the most aggressive part of the whole tour! I get what he did though... hyped us up until we were the ones convincing him that we were ready to buy that day. He was very subtle as he slipped little qualifying questions in, like do we own our own home, are we married, do we want children, etc. He went through a slideshow on the big computer screen, showing us video clips and informative slides on how amazing ownership is, the DVC membership benefits, how many resorts and hotels we can use the points at and how the points system breaks down. At one point he took out a blank piece of paper and wrote 2068 at the top. After a dramatic pause, he explained the legality of a deeded timeshare making it very clear that it ISSSSS A TIMESHARE and it expires in 50 years. Any time we asked a question about this deed, money, taxes or fees he was very careful to say "We will get into that in a little bit." After a while we stopped asking questions at all when asked if we had any. Then the real tour began...
Full scale models of Aulani and Copper Creek
Before getting into the brass tax of how much a DVC timeshare would cost if we purchased today, we took a little walk into the secured building next door. Right in the entrance was a huge encased 3D model of the Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, Hawaiʻi resort. This thing was impressive, little tiny people swimming in the ocean, towels on the beach chairs. I mean wow. As you walked around the room, there were framed photos of each of the DVC properties, a map of the world marking each one, characters posing with families... just enough to paint the picture of a luxurious life of Disney traveling waiting for you.
A little walk down a hallway and BOOM you are entering a built-to-spec model of a Deluxe Studio Villa from Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. These villas show upgraded features like a whirlpool tub and stainless appliances amid organic wood accents - the perfect blend of lux and natural. The next room down is a 1 bedroom villa, allowing you to compare the difference of amenities from a studio to 1 bedroom. For instance, the studio features a kitchenette and a little 2 person table against the wall across from your bed. These units share an interior door to connect them, making up the 2 bedroom villa! Our DVC salesperson / tour guide also explained that they share a connecting balcony, which is opened to walk through by removing a temporary wall divider. Wow.
The 1 bedroom villa shows you what their full kitchen looks like and how much more space you get, with a dining room table large enough for the whole family. I have to say, we were really impressed with how they set this model up to make you feel like you were really in Copper Creek. Even the balcony had a huge backdrop poster with an image of what the view could look like from your room. They also sell you on the maximum occupancy... there are sleeper sofas and fold out beds from almost every piece of furniture - including the entertainment center! Makes since why a 1 bedroom has such a huge dining table!
Another feature of both the studio and 1 bedroom villas that is worth mentioning was the bathroom layout. While both rooms offer very nice, spacious bathrooms with granite counter tops and a luxury feel, they also have a divider door between the toilet and shower, separating a sink and large counter top just outside. This is HUGE for families traveling together, one more bonus of space and privacy, enabling more than one person to get ready at a time. Also, since this is a timeshare villa, not a hotel, keep in mind housekeeping does not visit your room daily! In providing all of the comforts of home, they do provide everything you need to keep your space tidy yourself - even a laundry basket to use with the washer and dryer!
Just next door, Hawaii!
If previewing one DVC property was not enough for the day, the geniuses behind this membership center have built a full scale model of a 1 bedroom Aulani villa also! Disney spared no expense reconstructing the entire room, making you feel like you are actually at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai'i. Speaking of the model, I have to say this one had my favorite kitchen layout - open to the living room with a beautiful banquette large enough to seat 6 comfortably (more if you smoosh!).
The close... to buy or not to buy?
With stars still spinning in our eyes, we were whisked back to the sitting room we started the presentation in. All hyped up by every person we passed greeting us with "Welcome Home!" and the idea of a lifetime of luxurious Disney vacations all over the world, our sales person finally got into the brass tax. Currently DVC is focusing on only these 2 properties they want you to buy into as your "Home Resort" - Aulani and Copper Creek. They are the newest Disney timeshare resorts to hit the market and have the most inventory. "Mick" directed our attention to the big computer screen again and this time asked us questions like which resort we wanted to visit, how many people we would be traveling with and how many nights we would stay. He explained the minimum points we can purchase is 75, with the maximum being hundreds of thousands of dollars, joking that he would take the rest of the day off to take us out for a steak dinner if that's the route we went! Suggesting we look at 150 points, he showed us what the price would be, closing costs and annual maintenance dues. (These 3 figures were displayed inside 3 circles resembling Mickey Mouse, fluctuating up and down with the adjustment of a points slider on the bottom of the screen). He explained how to use the points, banking, borrowing, exchanging in a third-party network, all the good stuff! We have compiled all of this information, everything you need to know about the ins-and-outs of owning a Disney timeshare, into a Family Guide you can download for FREE here!
It is worth mentioning that during "the close", we brought up buying DVC points on the resale market and asked what the difference was. "Mick" seemed to get a little flustered with this line of questioning, and quickly dismissed the idea, stating that resale membership does not include any of the benefits of trading, exchanging, dining, shopping or annual pass discounts, use of points at the hundreds of Disney hotels etc. He made it seem like resale points are only good at the 14 DVC resorts. What he failed to clarify is that Disney Vacation Club points can be exchanged through RCI (the largest timeshare exchange network in the world). When it comes to the other members-only events and discounts, the extra DVC benefits are accessed with the show of an "Official" DVC Membership Card, which does not transfer to new ownership. (To be honest, we are really only talking about a few hundred dollars per year in potential savings assuming we consistently get annual passes and shop or dine on Disney property often. Compare that to thousands saved on the purchase up front... it's a tough one).
When we broke the news that we were not going to buy today and that we wanted to do a little more research, Mick's tone instantly took a turn, almost to annoyance. "I thought you said you were going to buy today," "I have never actually had someone call me back to buy once they leave to sleep on it," and "I wouldn't have spent so much time if I knew you weren't ready" were just some of the comments made as we wrapped up the tour and were escorted to an ice cream parlor for a free treat.
To sum up: Buying DVC Points from Disney vs. DVC Resale
After we left the tour, the first thing I did was compare the pro's and con's of buying DVC Points directly from Disney versus on the DVC resale market. The price difference was shocking! I'm talking thousands of dollars of a difference in some cases. For tips on how to follow the market and when you will get the best price per point check out this article. All in all, I do recommend taking a tour of a Disney Vacation Club property... you can see first hand what all the fuss is about. Be prepared to be impressed! A little note of caution though, no matter what they tell you about special discounts expiring or not being able to get any benefits if you buy on the resale market, do your own research. When it comes to Disney timeshare, it's not like buying a car where there is negotiation. The price is the price. Any "specials" they have are nominal compared to the investment. Stick to your guns and be upfront about not buying that day. Check out the current listings for DVC Resale Points here and see for yourself the savings available by buying DVC resale vs. retail. To stay "in the know" on new listings as they come on the market, Fidelity Resales has put together a Priority Mail List. Once per week, new DVC Points Resale listings come straight to your inbox. Heads up - they sell fast! Don't wait to make an offer if you see a deal. 90% of Disney Vacation Club resale listings are sold within 30 days of being on market!