There are lots of Disney World fans out there, but DVC members have taken their love for the parks to a whole other level. The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is essentially a timeshare program for Disney World, and it’s been a popular club since it was founded in 1991.
Although the DVC is made up of lots of loyal Disney fans, some of those fans have started to question their devotion to the parks. We’ve heard from several members who are wondering if now is the time to drop their membership and, if it is, how they should go about doing it. We’ve spoken to DVC members and timeshare experts to discover what the timeshare market looks like right now, why so many DVC members are considering leaving, and whether now is the time to jump ship on DVC holdings.
To get to the bottom of this mystery, we need to start at the beginning with a quick overview of what the DVC actually is. We’ll then dive into how the DVC has changed recently, including why some members are becoming disillusioned with it. Then we’ll analyze the current timeshare market and discover whether DVC members should sell their timeshares. Finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to get out of the DVC and other timeshares if you choose to do that.
What Is the DVC?
The Disney Vacation Club is like a timeshare program, but it has some differences from most timeshares. For example, members aren’t “locked in” to a specific Disney destination, resort, season of travel, or length of stay. Instead, members use a vacation points system to book their Disney trips.
DVC members get a yearly allotment of vacation points, which is based on the size of their real estate interest or their “home” DVC resort hotel. They use those points to book vacations!
DVC members can “bank” vacation points, which means they can save unused points from the current year to use the next year, or “borrow” points from the coming year to put toward the current year’s vacation.
How the DVC Has Changed Recently
Now that you’ve got an idea about what the DVC is, you might be wondering why some DVC members are starting to change their minds now. There are a variety of possible reasons, but most of them have to do with recent changes to the club.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when Disney World closed its parks and hotels, Disney made a few adjustments to the DVC points policy for a limited time. For example, the DVC lifted the close-in reservation cancellation restrictions and returned points that had previously been used to book reservations during the pandemic.
When all the DVC resorts were open again, bookings returned to the pre-COVID cancellation policies. However, some changes remained in place. There is now a 50% borrowing restriction, meaning that members can only borrow 50% of the next year’s points to put towards the current year.
The normal banking deadlines returned as well, and the rules for canceling and modifying reservations (which affect what happens to your unused points) are back in place.
How DVC Members’ Feelings Have Changed
We spoke with one DVC member, Melody, who has been a member since 2006. She noted that some of the recent changes have been aggravating and have impacted how she feels now about the club. She said, “I’m a die-hard Disney fan. I love Disney, and I’ll put up with a lot. But they’ve really pushed my buttons with how they’ve been holding [points] and will only let you borrow 50% of your points.”
She pointed out that this isn’t how most timeshares work — “When you own a timeshare, you own that. You pay taxes on that. But then I could only borrow 50% of my points.” When she went to Disney to ask about why this policy didn’t return to the pre-COVID rules, Cast Members told us that it was because Disney wants everyone to be able to come and enjoy the parks, so limiting the points available makes that possible. But Melody pointed out that she “paid for an extra tier of service” that, now, she’s not getting.
In fact, Melody and others have told us that “existing DVC members seem to be forgotten” as Disney continues to push for new people to join the club.
Melody initially joined the DVC because she wanted her kids to have the same Disney memories growing up as she did. She was told by the DVC that they would hold points for members so that they could book vacations at any moment and be able to find availability reserved for them. Since she owns her own business and doesn’t always have a set schedule, this kind of booking flexibility was very appealing. However, Melody said, “You find out later that everything is not what they said it was.” When she tried to book a vacation on short notice, she was unable to find any rooms available. She’s tried frequently since then, and only once has Disney had a room available.
Although recent changes have been difficult, she added that there wasn’t anything hidden about the DVC when they signed up. The DVC hadn’t been dishonest necessarily, but members have “lost a lot of the perks.” The extra service that members paid for still holds true, and she said, “There was always someone to talk to, and they listened to what I wanted to say. They’ve treated us OK, and everyone’s been kind.”
Although it’s “really disheartening” for Melody to see the value of the DVC going down, she has continued to hold onto her membership, despite being contacted twice by lawyers who were working to file a class-action suit against the DVC and wanted her to take part in that. These lawsuits are a response to DVC members’ feelings that they are being treated unfairly and not being given what they were initially promised. According to those involved with the lawsuits, members are given many perks at first, when they sign up to the DVC, and those perks are taken away slowly until it seems that Disney is not meeting the contract originally sold to the members.
Besides the changes within the DVC itself, many members are also upset with recent changes at Disney World. Price increases, the introduction of Park Pass Reservations, the replacement of FastPass+ with Genie+, the loss of Magical Express, and other adjustments have caused some members to consider dropping their DVC membership. Melody said she’s thought about getting out of the DVC before: “Yes, I’ve thought about it. I’ve even called them [about selling my points back].”
Ultimately, however, Melody decided to keep her membership and now frequently chooses to rent her points out to other people. By renting out points through third-party groups (like David’s Vacation Rentals), members can avoid losing points they won’t use that year. Melody said that she can rent her DVC points and use that to make enough money to pay taxes on the locations, which means it’s not costing her anything to keep the points.
When asked if she would ever leave the DVC, Melody said, “I still think about it. It’s not off the table. But I don’t think this is the right time to do it. Disney is going through a big transition right now […] and I don’t think I’ll get top dollar for [my points] now.” She mentioned that she expects Disney CEO Bob Chapek will have to reverse some of the recent changes because “what’s going on is going to bite [Disney] in the butt,” particularly if demand for the parks settles down.
Melody’s advice to DVC members who aren’t sure what to do with their membership is to rent out points you won’t use to others for now rather than selling your points back completely. You can contact the DVC to get started, or use third-party groups. Just be sure to research whichever group you’ll rent through to make sure they’re reliable. (As a side note, if you want to stay at a Disney World Deluxe hotel but you don’t want to pay full price and you aren’t a DVC member, renting those points can sometimes be a much cheaper way of staying at those hotels!)
For non-DVC members who are thinking about joining, Melody said, “I think I would wait until things even out again. I don’t think there are a lot of perks anymore, so I don’t know why you would want to put that kind of money into it. I would wait and see.”
In general, the current feeling of some DVC members, including Melody, is that the DVC isn’t what it used to be. Changes within the club and within Disney World as a whole have made them question their dedication to the brand, and they’re hoping that things will go back to normal soon.
So should you drop out of the DVC if you’re currently a member? We spoke to some timeshare experts to find out.
The Current Market for Timeshares
To get a better understanding of the current market for timeshares, we spoke to Christopher Elliot, who owns Elliot Advocacy — a company that helps customers resolve conflicts with businesses and has worked with several clients who had problems with timeshares. We also talked to the CEO of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA), Jason Gamel. The ARDA is the trade association for the timeshare industry and works with timeshares in a variety of ways.
Elliot and Gamel represent 2 different sides of the issue, with Elliot working mainly with dissatisfied timeshare customers and Gamel working to advocate for timeshare owners and developers.
According to Elliot, the current market surrounding timeshares could be considered a buyer’s market. He said, “I’ve been hearing from a lot of travelers who are trying to unload their timeshares, and I suspect I’ll see more if a recession happens.” Part of the reason for this shift might have been the COVID-19 pandemic, which potentially made people realize “that timeshares weren’t as valuable as [buyers] thought they were.”
By contrast, Gamel said that the timeshare business is still booming. He said that it’s difficult to accurately determine if it’s a buyer’s market because there are many different outlets for buying and selling timeshares. But from a new sales standpoint, “the last 2 years have reinforced that it’s a great way to travel.”
Owning a timeshare gives people more flexibility and often more space, so “demand has remained relatively high.” He reported that owners are seeing that “occupancies are still full,” which shows that timeshares are still popular options.
Timeshares: Hold Onto Them or Drop Out?
With conflicting views on the timeshare market, it might be tricky to decide whether to keep your own timeshares or DVC membership. Your decision will ultimately come down to your priorities and budget. If an annual vacation is very important to you, and if you feel comfortable with the cost of your timeshare, it’d be a good idea to hold onto your timeshare.
Gamel said that, during the 2008 recession, many people still weren’t looking to sell their timeshares. People didn’t want to stop vacationing and may have needed the rest more than ever. With inflation affecting hotel and Airbnb prices, owning a timeshare might be a cheaper way to keep those vacations going.
However, Elliot also said that timeshare owners who are considering getting rid of their timeshares should sell now. He said, “I doubt their timeshares will be appreciating in value anytime soon — if ever.” If your timeshare is getting to be more of a burden than a blessing, it might be a good idea to get rid of it sooner rather than later.
It could be a gamble to decide if and when to sell your timeshare or vacate the DVC, so you’ll need to look at what works best for you. One indication that the DVC is still going strong and will likely continue to do well is how invested Disney seems to be in the club. Gamel pointed out that Disney seems to be focusing a lot on new and existing DVC hotels.
For example, Disney recently renovated some DVC rooms at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, and they’re currently clearing the space to build a new DVC building at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Over in Disneyland, 350 new DVC villas are expected to come to the Disneyland Hotel by 2023.
What To Do If You Want Out
So how do you get out of your timeshare, and specifically out of the DVC? According to Gamel, your first step should be to contact the DVC directly. They may be able to connect you with other people who are looking to buy into the club, and you could sell your points to them.
Another option would be to rent your points instead of selling them. As we mentioned previously, DVC member Melody prefers this option as it allows for her to use the points if she wants to or to rent and thus make her money back so that her membership isn’t a financial burden.
For other timeshares, Elliot gave this advice for selling your timeshare back: “A site like ARDA’s Responsibleexit.com can connect you with timeshare developers who have free or low-cost exit options or professional licensed real estate brokers who specialize in timeshares. (Note: Some of our readers have reported that this site is unresponsive.) You can list your timeshare on a website like the Timeshare Users Group. Or you can also contact a timeshare reseller, although that can be complicated” (Elliot Advocacy). You can ask the company you bought your timeshare from about exit options, and they may be able to help you out.
While the DVC may be a great way to plan for lots of Disney vacations in the future, many members are currently feeling disillusioned by the club and by Disney in general. Many experts are fairly certain about a recession coming soon, so for some, now may be the time to start learning how to rent points or to contemplate leaving in preparation. But like we stated above, this will really depend on you and your wants and needs when it comes to DVC.
However, members also don’t necessarily need to panic. Timeshares have proven to be a fairly common and useful investment, so your commitment to taking time off and spending that time in Disney World may be exactly what you need. It’ll depend on your own situation and priorities.
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Are you a DVC member? If so, do you plan on keeping your membership? Let us know in the comments.
The post Why Some Members Are LEAVING the Disney Vacation Club first appeared on the disney food blog.