Due to the multi-month closure of DVC resorts and low demand following Walt Disney World’s reopening coupled with banking rules, Disney Vacation Club has a “point pool problem” and limited availability. Here we’ll address DVC’s policies and why availability is so limited for the 50th Anniversary and beyond. (Updated July 12, 2022.)
During the closure, Disney Vacation Club made temporary adjustments to certain policies, adding flexibility to its normal rules. Notably, DVC extended some point expiration windows for one year from the current expiration date and relaxed cancellation rules. Standard policies were long ago reinstated, but the impact of those rule changes plus the closure has resulted in availability challenges that will reverberate for years.
Attempting to remedy this, Disney Vacation Club limited point borrowing. Members who want to borrow points to complete a reservation were temporarily only be able to borrow up to 50% of their future Use Year Points per contract. Doing this has helped manage inventory and accommodate more Members who want to schedule their vacations for the next couple of years.
July 12, 2022 Update: Effective today, Disney Vacation Club has removed the aforementioned borrowing limit. Here’s the email that went out to DVC members:
At Disney Vacation Club, we know that flexibility is top of mind when it comes to planning your vacations with us. From accommodation types and length of stay to planning for multiple trips per year, we know you appreciate a variety of options.
With that in mind, our team is pleased to share that you are once again able to borrow your full allotment of Vacation Points from your next Use Year to this Use Year.
Eligible Members are also able to use their points for Disney Collection exchange experiences such as, Disney Cruise Line, National Geographic Expeditions, Adventures by Disney or Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
Now that we’re past the booking window for the popular holiday season at Walt Disney World, this was a logical change to make. While it’s likely that residual effects of the point pool problem will spill over into 2023, the worst of it is likely in the rearview mirror. Most points that could’ve been used during the closure or subsequent early stages of the reopening would be long gone by now–even those that were banked.
With that said, this point pool problem is a bit like the accordion effect with traffic jams. A lack of availability last year led to banking into this year resulting in a lack of availability leading to more banking–and so forth and so on. Of course, there are also the longstanding issues of supply and demand mismatches. (We won’t fixate on that point here, as it’s something covered in our Why is Disney Vacation Club Availability So Limited? post several years ago. Actually, what’s covered here is somewhat of an outgrowth of that discussion. The same ideas apply as there.)
In any case, the worst of the point pool problem has resolved itself, and Disney Vacation Club has restored normal point borrowing policies as a result. That’s really all you need to know for practical purposes, but if you’re wondering how we got to this point, the following explains issue and crunches the numbers of DVC points v. inventory…
If my math is correct, there’s a total of roughly 75.85 million Disney Vacation Club points across all units at all resorts, including the ones outside of Walt Disney World. However, that includes undeclared points, including over 4 million at Disney’s Riviera Resort. That means the actual number in circulation is likely just shy of 70 million points.
It’s important to include the non-WDW resorts like Aulani, Hilton Head Island, Vero Beach, and the Grand Californian in this analysis, as those supplies of points do impact demand at Walt Disney World resorts (VGC much less so than the other three).
Essentially, we have a scenario where the entirety of Disney Vacation Club points represent the water in a pool, and the entire inventory of DVC rooms represent the pool itself. Normally, the water comes pretty close to filling the pool, with a bit of space at the top.
Now imagine lifting up all of that water, losing a bit to splashing, shrinking the size of the physical pool by ~25%, and then attempting to deposit the water back into the pool. You couldn’t. There’s now more water than there is physical space in the pool, meaning over 20% would overflow and be gone forever. (Well, since we’re talking about water, it’d actually evaporate or soak into the ground, but you get the idea.)
If that’s too conceptual, let’s explain with a simplified example. Let’s assume one of the DVC resorts at Walt Disney World has 12 million points (none do–bear with me). Setting aside borrowing and banking rules, which tend to normalize over the course of time, that means 1 million points are available and must be used during each month of the year.
If a resort were closed for two months, the 2 million points of room inventory from that period are gone forever. However, the supply of outstanding points is not. This means that the available unused points for the year exceeds room availability by millions of points.
This is precisely what happened during the closure of Walt Disney World. Compounding that, even when the DVC resorts reopened a few months later, demand did not return. To the contrary, occupancy rates were historically low. Rooms were sitting empty even as the outstanding supply of points didn’t simply evaporate. Hence the pool example, and also why it’s going to be incredibly slim pickins’ for DVC availability the next couple of years.
The closure actually ended up being the smaller of the issues. The significantly larger problem was that Disney Vacation Club resorts were not operating at anywhere close to their normal occupancy rate for many months after reopening, and last minute cancellations become the norm. There were essentially 7 months of low bookings and ample availability at every single resort.
We know this because we were frequently able to book last minute reservations at some of Disney Vacation Club’s most popular resorts and room categories. Options that, in a normal year, would’ve been totally gone at or before the 7 month mark. From Summer 2020 through Spring 2021, there was often wide-open availability only a few days in advance.
Above is a look at availability when we searched for the holidays at the end of last October. You would never see this many options in a normal year only a few weeks before the start of the holiday season. By contrast, if you’re currently searching for availability in the next 3 months–or even in early 2023–there’s very little availability. Thankfully, it’s starting to get better, but still is not back to normal.
In the months after reopening, most DVC resorts were likely lucky to crack 50% occupancy. It improved around Christmas, worsened in January and February 2021, and didn’t really return to normal until Spring Break. Bookings have been sky-high since last summer.
The lack of demand last year followed by off-the-charts demand this year is something that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, we’ve been discussing pent-up demand and “revenge travel” to Walt Disney World for a while, and there still seems to be a lot of pent-up demand thanks to international travel and those who cancelled trips last year, too. Those ideas apply equally to DVC as they do Walt Disney World as a whole. Yet, we didn’t factor that into our original analysis.
Throughout a normal year, Disney Vacation Club resort occupancy is around 95%, which higher than standard hotel rooms at Walt Disney World, and doesn’t fluctuate much at all based upon travel seasons or most external variables. While we don’t know the precise DVC occupancy rate last year, we can say with confidence based upon frequent room availability searches that they almost never came close to that number.
This is because many Disney Vacation Club members opted to bank points and postpone trips with the intent to take them the following year. In particular, Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary looks pretty attractive to a lot of members. In a nutshell, this is the problem facing Disney Vacation Club right now–way more demand than there is supply, and a surplus of points from the last couple of years that now need to be used in 2022 before they expire.
This, in turn, is having a ripple effect. Those scrambling to use the surplus of “old” points from the last couple years are grabbing up availability in 2022, which will then cause current points to be banked and used in 2023. Again, think of this as similar to the accordion effect that causes traffic jams to persist on highways long after the underlying condition that caused the initial slowdown has been remedied. (A more timely example would be with supply chain disruptions.)
Editor’s Note: The second half of this post previously contained extensive discussion about how Walt Disney World could “solve” this point pool problem by allowing Disney Vacation Club members to use their points at non-DVC hotels, which were experiencing low occupancy. This commentary has been removed for a couple of reasons.
First, because Disney Vacation Club clearly has no intentions of doing this. Second, because I was wrong–it would not have solved anything. Disney Vacation Club units were not filling up, regardless. By the time DVC demand picked up, so too had hotel demand, so there would have been a significant opportunity cost. To that latter point, hotels are still facing very similar issues, albeit with their own unique wrinkles. See What’s Up with Sold Out Hotels at Walt Disney World?(Which should also indirectly explain why Disney has no interest in offering up non-DVC rooms to fix inventory issues.)
Ultimately, there is no solution to the lack of Disney Vacation Club availability, which is why we repeatedly and strongly encouraged other members to burn as many of their points as possible when the resorts first reopened and not bank points. At this juncture, all you can really do is book as early as possible, be flexible with your travel dates and/or accommodations preferences, and be willing to do split stays. Availability is not going to get any better anytime soon.
This is going to be a problem for the remainder of 2022, and likely into 2023. About the only other “fix” is the status quo, which is essentially to restrict borrowing rules. That helps a little bit, but it does not address the underlying issue of there being more unused points than available rooms. Legally, there’s nothing more they’re required to do. Owners agreed to the rules of the game when buying, and we are the ones positioned to eat the loss. For continued updates in this ongoing DVC point pool saga, subscribe to our free email newsletter.
Have you had issues finding availability for trips to Walt Disney World in late 2022 or beyond? Think this is going to be an ongoing issue throughout 2022 and even into 2023? Do you have any ideas as to other possible solutions to this Disney Vacation Club point pool problem? Have you lost points as a result of this? Had trouble finding DVC availability for later this year? Other complaints about Member Services or anything else DVC-related? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? If you’re an existing Member, what do you think? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!