Bay Lake Tower: Best DVC Home Resort?
For years, we’ve recommended most prospective Disney Vacation Club buyers purchase at Saratoga Springs Resort. Heck, we have an entire section devoted to it in our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide! However, if we were in the market to purchase another DVC contract, we would buy at Bay Lake Tower.
So…what’s changed? For starters, when we bought into Disney Vacation Club, Bay Lake Tower didn’t even exist. Well, it did exist, but Disney denied its existence. It wasn’t for sale yet, and certainly was not on the resale market.
However, Bay Lake Tower has been selling for a while, including on the resale market. Despite this, we’ve still been recommending Saratoga Springs Resort. What has changed is that prices have dropped on Bay Lake Tower, while Saratoga Springs has (almost inexplicably) gained value. In short, the initial purchase price gap has shrunk, which was the big obstacle to overcome in the past between the two.
At present, Bay Lake Tower contract prices seem to hover around $115/point, whereas Saratoga Springs is in the $85/night range. That’s a difference of $30 per point! If you’re financing, this no doubt remains significant. It’s significant even if you’re paying out of pocket, as you are paying more up front (nearly $5,000 more on a standard 160 point contract).
That $5,000 is obviously significant, but it’s at least partially offset by a 6-year longer contract and per point dues that are currently cheaper by $.16 per point. Now, that might not seem like a paltry sum as compared to the $30/point difference, but remember that you’re paying dues every single year, and that $30 is a one-time thing.
A quick way to compare these costs is to calculate the per point cost of Bay Lake Tower versus Saratoga Springs over the life of the contract. Assuming the purchase prices set forth above and current dues (they will actually increase–but it should be proportionately) at each, we end up with a total price of $7.89 per point, per year at Bay Lake Tower, and $7.68 per point, per year at Saratoga Springs Resort. You can see Saratoga still has the edge when you’re looking at the cut and dry numbers.
This is before we even think about the time value of money. Given how much we harp on the time value of money, it is absolutely something about which we should be thinking when running these calculations. Paying more up front is worse than paying more over time. Using this Time Value of Money (TVM) Calculator, you can see just how much that $5,000 difference could end up being over time if invested differently. That, of course, assumes you would invest the money, and realize a return on it. Hardly guarantees.
Despite the price per point favoring Saratoga and the time value of money also favoring Saratoga, we’d choose Bay Lake Tower for one simple reason: we like it more.
Actually, it’s not just that one simple reason. It’s preferring Bay Lake Tower in tandem with the price over time being very comparable to what it is at Saratoga Springs Resort, and the realization that we aren’t robots whose every financial decision is what’s fiscally sound from a time-value of money perspective.
We still are not totally with those who subscribe to the “buy where you want to stay” philosophy (although we’re getting closer) and that’s our frugality showing through. We certainly appreciate this mentality a lot more now than we did 5 years ago, so if that’s your stance, we understand.
However, Bay Lake Tower is not my favorite Disney Vacation Club Resort–and it’s where we’d buy. Our “favorite” crown would go to Wilderness Lodge or the Polynesian (depending upon the season), but with per point, per year costs of $9.25 to $9.75 (plus ridiculous up-front costs for the Poly), we cannot justify that from a financial perspective. The difference there is simply too much for us.
Bay Lake Tower is a solid consolation prize, and it’s a place where home resort priority is actually meaningful (versus Saratoga Springs, which seems to have perpetual availability). It’s also the closest resort at Walt Disney World to Magic Kingdom.
On a personal level, this is important to us as we think about the future. As it’s been just us traveling to Walt Disney World thus far, staying farther from Magic Kingdom–or even doing a split stay as we scrounged for availability at multiple resorts–wasn’t a big deal. We were (are?) young and doing the commando touring thing, anyway.
However, if we have kids, we suspect that proximity to Magic Kingdom will be huge. Being able to walk back to the hotel for a midday pool break is certainly a lot easier and less time-consuming than taking buses (plural) back to the room at Saratoga Springs.
Even if we don’t have kids, we presumably will get older and start slowing down our pace. (I’d like to think Cyberdyne will get its act together with a solution to my “aging” dilemma, but we’ll see.) Regardless, having the room so close for a midday nap will certainly come in handy.
On a less personal level, I would be willing to bet that Bay Lake Tower will hold its value better than Saratoga Springs (should we need to sell). Additionally, if we ever wanted to rent out points, Bay Lake Tower is the more valuable resort of the two to own. As an “investment,” Bay Lake Tower is the better buy.
While the price gap between the two has closed, that’s due to the initial supply shortage for Bay Lake Tower on the resale market and it taking some time to settle on an equilibrium price. I believe that has occurred by now, and BLT is better poised to hold its value as compared to Saratoga Springs, since it does have unique selling points.
At the moment, Saratoga Springs Resort is still the best buy from a strictly financial perspective. Additionally, while we would buy BLT if we were going to buy anywhere, this is a hypothetical scenario for us; we aren’t in the market to add-on Disney Vacation Club points (for now, at least). It’s just something we thought it might be an interesting blog post for those who are in the market to buy DVC points. From our perspective, buying at BLT is an excellent compromise between the contrasting camps of “buy where it’s cheapest” and “buy where you want to stay.” (Well, assuming that you want to stay at Bay Lake Tower!)
If you’re thinking about joining DVC, be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge. If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” with the recommendations in How to Save BIG on Deluxe Disney Accommodations Renting DVC Points.
Do you agree or disagree with our choice of home resorts being Bay Lake Tower if we had to do it again? Where would you–or did you–buy? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!
While right now I am not in the Market .. Bay Lake Tower would be my next choice. I do enjoy the property very much. As a child while staying st the campground with an Uncle; I told him the CR is where I would stay when I was older.. He responded wel you’d better be rich kid! I can tell you the first time I put my key in the lock I cried like a baby. And every stay since I have had the feeling of being and 12 and having that conversation. Can’t put a price on that! Returning for my 50th in October and simply can’t wait!
Can you suggest a room request number lake view so i can see electric parade and pool? We have a 2 bdrm reserved.
One (secondary) factor that played in to our choosing BLT is the number of bathrooms in the 1-bedroom villas. With 2 full baths, it’s a little easier to accommodate 5 people in the mornings pre-parks. Knowing we’d usually visit during northeast school vacation weeks and need the 11 month window, the amenities were key in addition to location & value.
It’s interesting to see how prices have changed in the somewhat short time since you wrote this article. BLT seems to be over $140/point instead of $115 these days, and Saratoga up to $100 from $85.
This question is for your opinion of the comfort level of DVC Studio Villas in general. If we are comparing prices of a Studio Villa to a Moderate Resort, are we going to be sacrificing comfort? Our 16 year old would be sleeping on the pull out sofa so if we are going to be trading her comfort I’m wondering if it will be worth it? Typically she has a queen bed just like we do when we stay at moderate resorts.
I loved reading this piece during the incipient stages of our DVC-buying journey (still ongoing). I do wonder: has your math changed at all as BLT prices have climbed a bit and Poly prices have dropped as they appear with greater frequency on the resale market? SSR still has, by a decent margin, the lowest per point per year cost (~$8.55) but Poly (~$9.30) and BLT (~$9.25) are neck-and-neck based on the numbers I was running this week. Has that changed your math at all?
For us, it’s an easier call: we don’t have any desire to stay at BLT and we both very much like the Poly, even though we expect to stay at BR/CC and AKL with some regularity. But for somebody on the fence, has Poly overtaken BLT?
Would it be possible to buy 50 points from Disney at Bay Lake and then buy 50 points on the resale market at Saratoga? What would this do when dealing with DVC for reservations, etc.?
Depending on what resorts DVC is currently selling, you’d likely have to buy the resale first.
For example, last year when we listened to the DVC pitch in Disney Springs, Poly was still for sale and the CM told us Disney was starting to allow 50 point purchases for the initial buy-in, due to the increase in per point cost (it used to be a minimum of 100 points for your initial direct DVC purchase.)
However, a few days ago we were thinking of buying Copper Creek points direct. We actually almost went through with the purchase until, at the last minute, the CM apologized and said that Copper Creek actually required a minimum of 75 points to purchase. (at this point, we went resale).
One you have resale points, you can buy smaller contracts direct from Disney.
Would it be possible to buy 50 points from Disney at Bay Lake and then buy 50 points on the resale market at Saratoga? Would this mean we’d have two home resorts or it wouldn’T jive in DVC’s computers?
We bought into BLT just a few months ago after renting points and staying there. We got hooked and the whole family caught the Disney bug. In my opinion, BLT is underrated. The rooms are beautiful, the views are amazing, and you can’t beat the location.
We own at BCV (and HHI), but we have stayed at BLT the last two times. It depends on the purpose of the trip, but we love being so close to the MK. I also like that the living room is so big at BLT in a 2 bedroom. We also love being able to walk into World Showcase from BCV, but again it depends on the trip as to which one we choose.
Regarding your consideration of being closer to the park in case you have kids: With kids, being close to the hotel is a huge plus in my opinion. I never realized this until I had kids in tow. The difference between staying at the Dinseyland hotel, where we could go back and forth for naps and downtime, versus bussing back to an offsite hotel was like night and day. As much as the kids love Disneyalnd, after about four hours it gets to be a bit overwhelming for them, and being able to quickly bounce back to the pool or a cool room has made the experience so much better. (I love your website btw!)
Bought into BLT in 2014, and have never looked back. When it came down to adding on I did so at OKW because I got a great deal on the points. I may be selling that soon to buy into AKV instead because I absolutely love that resort.
BLT cannot be beat in terms of convenience, and like you mentioned, that allows me to also rent out points at a premium when I do so. This is definitely something to highlight for those that do rent out points. Not only are BLT dues about the same as SSR, but you can rent them out for $2+ more per point. This offsets the price considerably.
We have a contract and BLT and at SSR, for exactly the reasons you lay out!
In the busy season we can still get a monorail resort if we need, and in the low season, we can use our SSR points to get a place at SSR or another resort.
I still think if you primarily go in the low seasons/or don’t care where you stay, then SSR still may be the better option though. (But longer term, ie getting older or having kids should factor into your decisions)
We were lucky enough to buy into BLT at a great price two years ago, and we went into it with the philosophy of buy where you will be happy to stay. While poly is my favorite resort I will always be happy to stay at BLT and in hindsight it may be the better choice purchase price aside.
People always say in real estate the 3 most important things are location, location, location, and IMO BLT has the best location. You can walk to or monorail Magic Kingdom, Monorail to Epcot, Monorail to 2 other resorts, and many don’t think of the convenience of boating to Wilderness Lodge for Whispering Canyon or Artist Point, and boating to the best breakfast buffet on property at FT Wilderness Campground.
So you have access to 5 deluxe resorts, 2 theme parks, a 2060 expiration date and Top of the World Lounge in one location. For those reasons it can’t be beat.
If upfront cash is no obstacle, then I think you are right on, otherwise SSR is a good affordable option with a long expiration date, though clearly location is not as good, and if you have to go at busy times of year, availability for preferred resorts will likely be an issue.
If you don’t mind an earlier expiration date, then I think a similar argument could be made for Beach Club. Short walk to Epcot, can monorail from there to the monorail loop at MK. Best pool on property (and it’s not even close), view of Boardwalk right across Crescent Lake, Hollywood Studios accessible by ferry. If one prefers Epcot, then Beach Club is best location. Having said that, BLT is a very good choice to buy in for DVC.
Good Points. I thought of mentioning Beach Club and Boardwalk, as they have a great location too. I would definitely add on at one of those if they had a 2060 expiration date. Nothing beats those for a trip taken for Food & Wine Fest.
When we bought into DVC (from Disney – we had no knowledge of re-sale points at the time) BLT was the property which was selling. We have stayed there several times now, as well as at Saratoga Springs and I have also stayed at OKW. We love BLT for the transportation convenience. Being able to walk to MK, take a monorail to the other nearby resorts, or a boat to Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness, take the two monorails to Epcot and only the one bus stop to the other parks and Disney Springs – it’s all very convenient. The view of either the park or the lake is lovely. Most times we have had a lake view and enjoyed that and also going up to the lounge to see the fireworks. We enjoy a short walk over to California Grill or the other restaurants in the Contemporary too.
Thanks for the great article. Does an owner have access to top of the world lounge anytime of year or only during the times when they are actually staying/using their points?
There are blockout dates around New Year’s Eve and July 4th during which it’s only available to members at BLT staying on points, but otherwise, it’s accessible to any DVC member.
We just closed a few months ago at SSR, and your recommendations did factor into my decision, so I wish this article had come out a few months earlier and perhaps we would have considered BLT more.
However, I still think we did well as we got in at $79 pp instead of $84 and we bought 2x the points in your example, (325) so the up front difference is very significant.
In addition, my wife really doesn’t care for the modern, stark feel of the Contemporary, and we really loved the 2BR villa at SSR, as it was very clean, and really nice detail and fine touches, it felt very comfortable and nice. The grounds, though expansive, are also very nice at SSR & Disney Springs becoming a real draw adds value. Did not care for OKW at all though, felt like a moderate in many ways to me, and it is really showing age.
You are dead on about proximity to MK and availability at 11 mo window as being huge advantages for BLT though.
Well, on the plus side, if you described your circumstances to me prior to purchasing, I would’ve recommended SSR as the clear-cut choice, so I don’t think this article would’ve pushed you into the BLT camp.
One thing you did not factor in is the points required for a stay. It takes approximately 50% more points to stay at BLT vs. SSR. In other words you would need 240 points at BLT vs. 160 at SSR for the same size room and length of stay.
That’s intentional. In either case, DVC points can be used at other resorts. It’s a moot point unless you only want to use your points at your home resort. Even then, it isn’t always an issue.
For example, Old Key West is a great value in terms of points, but even if it were my absolute favorite resort, I’d still buy at Saratoga because the per point cost is cheaper, and OKW availability is super easy inside 7 months.
It’s really far from moot, Tom. I can stay closer to the parks but only spend 2/3 the number of nights? That’s a very big consideration.
Tom’s point is that you don’t ever need to stay where you buy! Buy at BLT and stay wherever you like for less points. Why pay more annual maintenance fees somewhere else? We own BLT and usually stay at BWV.
We’re staying there for the first time next month. Got a two bedroom theme park view. I can’t wait!
This sums up why we bought at BLT, and when we did, we found a contract that was being sold at a price point that made it cheaper than SS. So we lucked out there.
To speak to your other points, we have two young children, and the convenience is incredible. There is almost always availability at SS or OKW but not always at BLT, so we figured it was important to have the 11 month window, especially for more desirable/busy times. Maybe we want to get crazy and go over New Year’s Eve, we’d much rather be able to know we can book at BLT than hope we can get wait listed.
Now the studios are pretty cramped with the couch open, a crib in the room, a stroller, and lots of luggage, but we can make it work, especially with this view http://imgur.com/Rz46bXr
And there are a couple rooms classified as standard or lake view that also have views of the castle.
Great piece. As it stands now, do folks who buy on the resale market get access to Top of the World, or has that been limited to people who buy directly from Disney? Thanks!
you have to have a DVC membership card, and purchased directly from Disney to have access to the Top of the World