Disney Vacation Club’s “Point Pool Problem”
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.
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.
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!
Frustrated with no availability at DVC and have to wonder if many people are selling because of this. Disney seems to not care about extending time for people to use points that will expire due to no availability. I have to wonder why the state of Florida has not put something in place to prevent these companies that sell timeshares from creating a nightmare for people who have paid a lot of money for something they cannot use or book reservations at.
I am retired and can travel anytime, but as I look online for any DVC to stay out, there is nothing with a reasonable collection of consecutive nights.
I’ve heard from.Cast Members that Disney is more interested in selling unused DVC room inventory than serving DVC point members. Given Chapek’s profit-oriented philosophy I wouldn’t doubt it. We can’t get five consecutive nights in the same resort anywhere. Disney was profitable before Iger and Chapek. Apparently being content with half a loaf isn’t enough. Disney World is fast becoming Carnival Coaster World with little regard for its history. Ride themes, even park themes, take a backseat to thrills. They slap a few character pictures in the queue and on the ride and that’s their excuse for another coaster. Got some room in EPCOT where Ellen’s Energy Adventure used to be? Great! Toss in another coaster with no connection to EPCOT at all. Meanwhile, let’s dump more perks and pass availability, reduce services and lay off more people so we can make more money. At least Scrooge McDuck was a benign rich guy. Disney hasn’t only jumped the shark, they ate it!
It makes sense that the fullest effect lasted about a calendar year, with a little push past the Fourth of July holiday for the rule to be changed back. (I’ll save my ridiculous guesses about the future effects until we have three months worth of experience, at which point they’ll only be “ridiculous” rather than “completely random.”)
I understand what you are saying. But the main issue we have seen is the availability of studios and 1 bedroom villas. But for 2 and 3bd villas there is availability But bc of the borrowing restrictions we can’t book them as easily. There should be an exception within the dvc system if booking a villa with open availability then you can bank/use/borrow how need be.
Annie and Deb and Tom
This is interesting. I booked a 2br at copper creek as a cash customer directly through Disney 11 months out for early this August. No problem. Even though I am happy to have secured the reservation, seems as though Disney shouldn’t be allowing that for cash customers until dvc members have had a chance to reserve? I was surprised at the time since on previous trips we couldn’t do cash at dvc before 10 months out.
Agreed! Especially for dvc rooms!!
We bought in 2018 following your advice here on this blog. So many lessons learned as we are buying our third contract (First 2 at copper creek, one direct, on resell) at Grand Floridian.
I made sure I bought a Guaranteed Week to eliminate the hassle of split stays during the week that has been harder to book in Early December for us.
Getting a reservation for those that want to use their points like me has been a part time job.
I remember your advice on allowing DVC members to book non-dvc resorts with points. I wonder the impact of those who also used DVC points for a cruise (not the best use of points) but having Cruises not operating might have also not burned points in that way.
I think Disney is willing to have the DVC owner take the hit, because there are some practical solutions that might impact Disney’s bottom line but not as much as each individual member.
Thanks for always taking the time to share more insight on these topics that are interesting for me.
Maybe the recent insane price and buy-in increase is their strategy for slowing down the points pool. I kid, but as a prospective new member who can’t purchase quite yet due to other financial obligations that need taken care of first, the 150 point minimum to buy direct in combination to every WDW resort minus BRV now having a base price at $200+ is unwelcome news. I get that the cash prices for rooms are going up even faster, but that growing upfront purchase for DVC has to be a non-starter for a lot of families who would otherwise be inclined to buy. Im definitely jealous of the people who were able to buy into OKW decades ago. Anyway, Disney is slowly pushing me from “I’m 100% going to work up to enough points to cover a week over Christmas plus several long weekends a year” to “hmm we’ll see.” I cringe to think what this will all cost in a couple years when I’m ready to buy, but hey, at least I won’t be taking up space in the points pool!
With current operations going into foreseeable future, choosing the right home resort becomes ever more important for someone considering buying. You just can’t count on 7 month availability.
One easy temporary solution is to simply make more points available for use than are sold. In other words, add some of those unsold Riviera and Aulani points into the bookable mix, as well as upcoming unsold GFV points. But WDW is under no obligation to offer such a fix — They would rather rent out those unsold points as cash rooms.
My main complaint about DVC right now isn’t lack of availability. It’s something much simpler — Customer Service. 2+ hour wait time is the standard now for every phone call. And being there are lots of things you still can’t do online, it’s crazy that there are such long phone holds, every day, with no call back system.
Come on — Just hire a few more phone reps AND implement a call back system. (And add more functions to online.)
Totally agree with every single point, ESPECIALLY the call back system. Virtually every business I deal with now that has long wait times has this–and has for years.
Walt Disney World’s refusal to implement this simple feature says to me is that Disney does not value my time and doesn’t care how long I wait. That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s utterly inexcusable that this problem persists.
The secret reason Disney doesn’t implement a call back system — Same as long posted standby waits. The long queue discourages people from calling. It leads to many people hanging up the phone and finding the answer elsewhere.
With an easy call back system — MORE people would call and request a call back. Backing up the phone cast members even more, or forcing Disney to hire even more phone cast members.
But for a company that prides itself on customer service, it really is insane.
And the Rodent is still selling DVC contracts at a new and higher price. What’s next? Pay toilets,?
Sorry but I blame part of this on Chapek. He seems determined to make up every penny of what was “lost” during the closure and restrictions and the public be damned! Thing is, we long time DVC members are the ones who suffer because we remember what is was BC (Before Chapek) but the newcomers don’t have any other frame of reference!
“Sorry but I blame part of this on Chapek.”
So do I.
Between his time as the head of Parks & Resorts to now, it’s clear that DVC expansion was a big part of his strategic “vision” and a way to increase revenue. It’s one thing to build DVC in a thoughtful way, but the recent approach has been short-sighted and lazy. While not everything is directly Chapek’s fault (for example, I wouldn’t blame all the DVC member website errors or long phone hold times on him), the general direction most definitely is his doing.
This is an interesting issue, even as a non DVC member. While DVC was never a viable plan for my family -we take short, last minute trips and don’t put much of a premium on personal space or cooking within our hotel room – Covid really got rid of any lingering thoughts of buying. In addition to the pool of points issue here, my understanding is that dealing with DVC member service is challenging lately too.
(Of course, hotel rack rates are “challenging” too.)
Dealing with DVC is a *nightmare* right now. I’ve been meaning to write an article about it and just haven’t had the time yet. It’s so awful that I’m surprised more owners aren’t selling as a result.
Having read the update, I feel like I called it on opportunity cost and hotel inventory reallocation.
As for whether Disney was right not to voluntarily eat the costs, let’s just say that I was neatly sold on DVC in early 2020, and now do not see the circumstances under which I would buy.
We just returned home after leaving AKL 1 hour after we checked in. They sold our
villa that we booked 1l months ago to cash customer. They put us in a hotel room with
no kitchenette. We had just gone grocery shopping while waiting for our villa assignment and had no place to put the groceries. We would have to leave them on the floor for a week. It did have a wine cooler in the room, but it’s not cold enough to hold milk, etc.
They plopped a microwave on the bureau in front of the tv. We had no place to wash the dishes except the bathroom sink or shower. I prepared some meals from home. No sofa – no kitchen counter – just a hotel room.
Apparently, there is not sufficient fast food and restaurant service people in the parks and people are having a hard time getting food. Therefore, the DVC villas are prime units and AKL can get between $400-$700 per night and people will pay it. They just have to swap the villas for hotel rooms and they are getting away with it. This, as far as I am concerned, is a deliberate breach of the contract. this is not what we bought, and I’m going to file a suit. It may not do any good, but I won’t get any satisfaction if I don’t try. We are not the only DVC owners that this has happened to. We are truly disgusted with the greed.
Looks like Disney is trying to address their “points problem” by requiring dvc members to book the Star Wars hotel with points (at least one guest) during the presale. Do you think this will put much of a dent in the points deficit?
Jacqueline:If you waited until Sept to book Dec, you waited far too long. Dec reservations need to be made 11 months out. Even trying to switch at seven months out can be very hard. Disney Reservation Center can only sell DVC resort villas for cash if the inventory isn’t owned by members or has been traded by members for a non-DVC stay. In addition, DVC turns over available inventory at 60 days out if it hasn’t been booked by members. That inventory can be called back if an owner wants to make a last minute reservation.
I have been a member since 2000. I went to Disneyworld in August and had problems getting the days I wanted and changed my days. Same problem for December. A lot of rooms were empty in several resorts when I was there. First time since 2000 I am serious about selling. I pay 4200.00 in dues a year plus what I paid for the points and can’t get a room. I could pay cash for my vacation which would cost me less! I truly believe Disney is holding back on the members and letting cash paying customers book the resorts.
I count myself lucky to have borrowed all my points for Dec 2019 use year in August 2019, not needing to worry about COVID or banking. I’m in Canada so travel is restricted and inconvenient. I had no desire to travel 2021. But I lucked out for March 2022. I’m good with a split stay as it gives me a chance to try both WL dvc. Hopefully it’ll iron out 2022 and beyond.
My family of 4 went to Disney Paris 2 years ago. It was awesome, but think of it more of the size of Disneyland vs. Disneyworld. We loved it, but believe 2-3 days is plenty. It takes about an hour to get into the city via train. We loved having a VRBO apartment near all the sights in Paris. Tom’s articles on Paris were incredibly useful. Time the Eiffel tower to be up there right at sunset… spectacular! Have fun!
Annie: Most of the DVC resort are sold out to members. Other than the 2% that DVC owns that they use to cover maintenance and other problems, plus inventory traded by owners to book non-DVC stays, there really isn’t much inventory left for DVC to sell for cash reservation. Also, any inventory not yet sold or inventory purchased back by DVC from Right of First Refusal or lack of payment on annual fees and lack of payment on mortgages can be used to sell for cash reservations. Technically there are only enough points available for booking that are owned free and clear by DVC owners. If owners had to bank their points because of covid, they will need to use them before the end of their next UY or they lose them. Which is really a bad deal for owners who might live outside of the US and cannot travel here because of covid. The best they can do is transfer their points to RCI to use at another timeshare that trades with Disney or make a reservation with their points and sell the reservation.
The large pool of points needing to be used is the reason DVC limited borrowing to 50% of points owned by members. That’s what Robert Kimmel is doing. Banking a year, using a year and borrowing half the points from the next year to get the biggest pool of his own points that he can get. Owners can also transfer points to other owners to use the points.
Would this issue decrease availability of DVC rooms through cash reservations? Does Disney, specifically WDW, have an established number of DVC rooms for cash reservations or is that something they would adjust to meet this increased member demand?
We are planning a large family vacation to Disneyland Paris in 2023 for 10-12 people. Our annual point total is 250 and our anniversary date is September 1. We plan to bank 250 points in April 2022 and another 250 points will be added on September 1, 2022. On that we will also borrow 125 points for 2023. That will be a total of 625 points for our vacation for 2023. Do you think this is a viable plan?
I really enjoy your blog. We have been members since 2001 and have taken some very memorable vacations.
Thanks so much.
What changes are “in the wind?”