We’ve received a lot of emails from prospective Disney Vacation Club members, and by far the most common question in those is, “how many Disney Vacation Club points do I need?” Putting aside the tongue-in-cheek “zero” answer since no one really “needs” Disney Vacation Club points, this is a really difficult question for us to answer without knowing a lot more about the person asking it.
Instead of picking a number that would end up being arbitrary for at least 75% of you based on our circumstances, here are the variables we think you should consider when determining how many Disney Vacation Club points to purchase, along with some additional insight and analysis. We’re pretty cautious when it comes to these things and we also approach Disney Vacation Club primarily from the perspective of value rather than convenience or quality of life, so your mileage may vary on all of this.
Consider this article a companion piece to our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide. That Guide has been one of the most popular articles on our blog (and we’ve updated it a few times since originally posting it), and reading that is sort of a pre-requisite to reading this, as much of what’s there is assumed in this post. For instance, we don’t explicitly mention it here, but this article assumes you’re purchasing via resale (well, now we explicitly mentioned it!), which is the smart thing to do, and gives you ability to purchase fewer points than Disney’s minimum. Other things are assumed as well, and if you’re thinking about buying into Disney Vacation Club, it’s a good read. This post also assumes that you’re going to buy Disney Vacation Club in the first place. While we are members, Disney Vacation Club is not a good option for everyone. Don’t just assume it’s going to be great for you–read and do the math.
With that said, here are some of the things you should consider before determining how many Disney Vacation Club points you should buy…
When you first sit down with a Disney Vacation Club Guide, they will tout Disney Vacation Club as the ultimate vacation solution, a membership that will allow you to vacation at thousands of destinations around the world without worrying about accommodations. The fact of the matter is that the only pragmatic use of Disney Vacation Club points is on Disney Vacation Club accommodations, most of which are at Walt Disney World. (Yeah, we know there are Disney Vacation Club resorts in Hawaii, California, Hilton Head, and Vero Beach). You can certainly use your points elsewhere, but in virtually every single one of those situations, you’re better off paying for those hotels out of pocket. We cover the reasons why in our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide, but this is irrefutable fact.
That’s something to let sink in. In order to get actual value out of Disney Vacation Club, you have to use it at the Walt Disney World Disney Vacation Club resorts, and the handful of other DVC resorts that are out there. When determining how many Disney Vacation Club points you need, we highly recommend not approaching it from the perspective that if you want to visit some international destination or go on a cruise, you can always put your points to good use that way. Yes, you can put them to use that way. No, you won’t be putting them to “good” use.
So, how frequently will you use your points at those resorts, most of which are at Walt Disney World?
This variable and the next one are pretty obvious, so I’m not going to waste too much time on them. Average length of stay is largely self-explanatory, but it also contemplates how that stay is broken up. If you visit 6 days per year, but those are all weekend nights, you’re going to need more points than someone who stays 8 days per year all on weeknights.
A second part of this is when do you visit? If your family tradition is an Easter visit, you will need to purchase more points than someone who likes to visit in mid-January. In fact, you’re going to need about double the points.
Pretty self-explanatory. Do you have a particular Disney Vacation Club resort at which you must stay? (If so, you need to buy there as your home resort.) Are you flexible on accommodations, not minding a mix of different Disney Vacation Club resorts? Do you primarily want Studio, 1-Bedroom, 2-Bedroom, or Grand Villa accommodations? What about view and other categories? Will you always want the same type of room? Will you want to do occasional trips where you take the whole family and stay in a Grand Villa? Will you want the occasional couples’ getaway in a studio?
Do you have kids now? Will you have kids in the future? Will you be empty nesters in the future? Do you like taking advantage of the “free” dining promotion or pin codes? Will you get a part-time job as a monorail pilot at Walt Disney World when you retire? Will you want to take a break from Walt Disney World to see the world? Will Disney build a super-rad Disney Vacation Club resort in West Virginia? Will your kids go into the College Program?
The above are just a handful of questions, many of which you can’t possibly answer now, but all of which would be changed circumstances that might lead to you “needing” more or less Disney Vacation Club points. The presence or absence of kids is a big one most people probably consider, but have you thought about the others? If you or someone you know works as a Cast Member, that gives you access to discounts and special offers almost all of which are better deals than Disney Vacation Club. If you’re a free dining fan, you might not want to miss out on that. If Disney builds a Disney Vacation Club resort in West Virginia, obviously you’re going to need all of the points you can get.
These examples are really just for the sake of illustrating the point that your circumstances today aren’t a good proxy for how many points you’ll need in the future. Disney Vacation Club is a long-term commitment, and the break-even point is a long way down the road (unless you do fuzzy math that doesn’t account for maintenance fees or the time value of money).
We wholly reject the common advice that it’s better to have too many points than too few. If you’re approaching Disney Vacation Club from a value perspective, that doesn’t even begin to make sense. (And if you’re not, just buy the maximum number of points you can afford–after all, if it’s not a matter of value, why not just buy as many as possible?) A common refrain we hear from owners is that they wish they would have bought more points initially (and many do add on), but many owners don’t get enough use out of their vacation. You can always add on more points, you cannot get money back for points you find yourself not using. Because of this, our mantra when it comes to buying Disney Vacation Club point is, “how few points can you get by with?”
Granted, there’s a transaction cost to adding on points, but you’re still much better off buying 50 more points via resale than you are buying 220 points to start and later finding out that you only needed 120. We think you’re better off playing it conservative with your initial buy, and adding on points if necessary once you have your feet wet and have a better handle on how you’ll use the membership. (You should get your feet wet before you even buy, and we highly recommend doing this by renting Disney Vacation Club points to make sure it’s right for you, so you don’t make an expensive mistake.)
To that end, if you’re unsure if the number you’ve arrived at based on the above factors is right for you, our advice is to purchase half as many points as you “need.” Planning for vacations decades in advance is downright impossible, and this strategy gives you the best of both worlds. You have the Disney Vacation Club membership and its perks, plus the ability to use it to book rooms when necessary, but you also (in the immediate future at least) don’t have as many points as you “need,” allowing you to take advantages of good promotions (like the “Free” Disney Dining Plan) or vacation elsewhere if you want a change of pace.
This strategy isn’t going to be ideal for everyone. If a big part of Disney Vacation Club for you is getting good value for your money, we recommend you embrace this. If Disney Vacation Club is more about convenience for you rather than value, you might just want to purchase as many points as you currently “need.”
Letting someone else do the work and not thinking is the American way! Here, let’s assume we’re figuring this out for a family of 4 that wants 1-bedroom units for a week each year, with no preference as to resort or time of visit. This family is full of die-hard, 3rd generation Disney fans that never plans on vacationing elsewhere and doesn’t want to hassle with booking stays out of pocket. In 2014, this family would need a minimum of 222 points to be guaranteed accommodations at Old Key West in Magic Season, which is the second highest season.
We think this is a good starting point for the decision. We chose Magic Season as the season to consider for these “travel anytime” folks to allow them to visit whenever. No, they won’t be able to visit during Dream Season, but that’s only Easter week and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and they’d have to be crazy to visit then. We chose Old Key West as our benchmark resort as Old Key West is pretty easy to book, and if these people want to play it safe, having enough points to book at Old Key West is a smart bet.
These folks are the conservative example. If we were calling the shots in that family, we’d get around 100 points. With only 100 points, the family definitely wouldn’t be able to do a 7-day stay in a 1-bedroom unit once per year, but they’d definitely have enough points to do it every other year by banking and/or borrowing, or they could use points for weekdays, pay out of pocket for weekends, etc. Plus, this allows them more flexibility in changing over time. As the kids get older and get out on their own, the parents can do weekend trips for Food & Wine Festival and adjust their traveling. They aren’t quite as locked into Disney if their habits change, but they still have enough points to get a lot of use out of Disney Vacation Club.
Overall, how many Disney Vacation Club points you need to buy is a personal decision that depends on a variety of factors. No one can tell you how many you need, and even though Disney Vacation Club guides are low-pressure relative to other timeshare salespeople, it’s important to remember that their job still is to sell you points, and some will try to sell you as many points as they can, not how many you actually need. Most are very helpful and will make great recommendations, but you ultimately are the one who has to live with your Disney Vacation Club purchase. Rather than just taking their word as the gospel, give serious thought to how many points you really need. We recommend purchasing “as few points as you can get by with,” but this advice may not work for everyone. By following this advice, some of you may find you need 0 points and some of you may still need 500. We’re not suggesting a small amount of points for everyone (buying a very large allotment of points is going to be the right decision for some people), just a conservative number relative to how many you think you need. At the very least, hopefully this article gives you some good food for thought in considering how many points to buy!
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How many Disney Vacation Club points do you own? How many do you recommend others start by purchasing? If you’re considering buying into Disney Vacation Club, how many points do you think you’ll buy? It would be great to get some actual numbers from others, so please share in the comments!