Due to the multi-month closure of DVC resorts and low demand last year following Walt Disney World’s reopening, Disney Vacation Club has a “point pool problem” in 2021. Here we’ll address DVC’s current policies and why availability is so limited for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary and beyond. (Updated July 20, 2021.)
Last year, 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. As of Summer 2021, standard policies have been reinstated.
Additionally, Disney Vacation Club Members who want to borrow points to complete a reservation are temporarily only be able to borrow up to 50% of their future Use Year Points per contract. Doing this will help manage inventory and accommodate more Members who want to schedule their vacations for the next couple of years.
Unsurprisingly, this has led to a lot of questions and issues in 2021 that will continue through at least early 2022 and likely for the entire year. With the future still uncertain and Walt Disney World operating with a variety of modifications and cutbacks, a lot of DVC members have postponed trips. Many more have unsuccessfully tried to book trips for later this year, causing them to postpone (again) until 2022.
All of this has created a problem that will linger for the remainder of 2021, with a rippling effect into 2022. Let’s start by explaining the issue and crunching 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).
We won’t fixate on that point here, as it’s something covered in our Why is Disney Vacation Club Availability So Limited? post from a couple of years ago. Actually, what’s covered here is somewhat of an outgrowth of that discussion. The same ideas apply as there.
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. Hence the pool example, and also why it’s going to be incredibly slim pickins’ for DVC availability the next couple of years.
That was our example back when the resorts were still closed and we anticipated they’d remain that way for 2 months. The actual closure ended up being almost exactly 3 months, so the math changes a bit. That’s not the major issue that alters the calculation, though.
Instead, the significantly larger problem is that Disney Vacation Club resorts were not operating at anywhere close to their normal occupancy rate from June of last year through the first couple months of 2021. 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. Last year and in early 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. Below is a look at October through December 2021 as of today (June 20, 2021). Despite longer lead-time, there are far fewer blue dates.
There are only three dates open for October through December 2021. That’s actually better than Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian, Beach Club, BoardWalk, Wilderness Lodge, and Riviera Resort.
All of those resorts are fully booked. Even Old Key West and Saratoga Springs standard studios are totally sold out for those three months. Anyone who knows OKW and SSR will tell you: that’s a rarity!
Last summer, 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. By contrast, bookings have been sky-high for this summer and beyond.
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 in 2021 since last summer. 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, the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary looked 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 last year that need to be used this year.
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, it wouldn’t have solved anything. Disney Vacation Club units were not filling up last year or in early 2021. 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 facing very similar issues through the end of 2021. 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 last year 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 2021, and likely well into 2022. 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.
Thinking about joining DVC? First 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” and rent points from DVC Rental Store. If you are convinced a membership is for you, check out the discounted options at DVC Resale Market. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.
Have you had issues finding availability for trips to Walt Disney World in Fall 2021 or beyond? Think this is going to be an ongoing issue throughout 2022? 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!