This coming Sept. marks the 3rd anniversary of our membership into the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). It will also mark the last of our payment into buying our first DVC timeshare (we bought a smaller number of points last year when the DVC preview center - Disney's Doorway to Dreams store - opened at the Woodfield Mall near Chicago). So other than the yearly maintenance fee, we will be done with paying our "mortgage" for our first DVC home.
I've always looked back on the point where we decided to seriously looked carefully at buying into the DVC. I think it was starting in 2003 when we started going to WDW more than once a year. We first decided that we should start getting an annual pass, especially when, at that time, it was cheaper than getting two 5-day park hopper. That then led to us making 2 to 3 trips a year to WDW, and that's when getting into the DVC started to look rather attractive. Still, we didn't rush immediately into it. It took almost a year of seriously looking into it, researching online, and asking people on various online forums (especially at WDWMagic.com) on their experience, how much it would cost, etc.
By early Sept. 2005, after getting as much information that we can get, we were almost sure that we wanted to buy into it. I still remember the morning that we were at Midway airport here in Chicago waiting to board our Southwest plane to Orlando to start another week of vacation at WDW (and also attending our first ever Pin Celebration event which kicked into high gear our Disney pin addiction, but that's another story). There were many people who obviously were Disney fans as well, but a few of them had DVC bags and bag tags with them. So as we were waiting in line (or rather, sitting on the floor in line while we wait for our boarding group to be called), I asked a lady next to me if she was a DVC member. She said yes and so were a lot of others there since most of them were on their way to Orlando to get on a special DVC member cruise. Of course, I took the opportunity to ask her some more questions about DVC. The one that I wanted more clarification was on the banking of points, and how often and how long of a stay would one consider such investment to be "financially justifiable". She told me that if we go to WDW at least 2 weeks a year, then it would be a good buy. She explained a bit about the banking of points, which kinda jived with what I had been told already. When I told her that we were both seriously thinking of buying into it, she gave me her business card and told us to give DVC her name as a reference so that we could get something if we decided to buy into it. We said that we will do that!
After spending a few days at WDW, we finally decided to approach a DVC booth (we went to the one at Epcot right after the breezeway on the way to Mission Space/Test Track) to ask a few more questions and to make an appointment for a tour. I think by then, the only thing we weren't quite sure of was how many points we would need, and how much it will cost in terms of the total cost, and the monthly payments. We got picked up at Epcot and was brought over to the DVC preview center at Saratoga Springs. I must say that I was quite impressed right off the bat with the accommodations. The 3-bedroom villa was a jaw-dropper.
When we finally got to sit down with the DVC sales rep., we asked him every single thing that we have found out already, just to confirm that we understood those correctly. After a few minutes of discussion, we ended up thinking that 230 points might be suitable for us to buy in. What was nice was that our sales rep. left us to ourselves to play around with the cost calculator that they had set up on the computer in that room. We could change the number of points and see how much it would cost, and how much we would be paying each month. This let us figure out how many points we would be comfortable in paying.
Needless to say, we bought into it that very day. Our sales rep. told us that it is not usual for someone to buy into the DVC on their first ever DVC tour, but he also told us that we have done a lot more research into it and knew more about it than most people walking in the first time, so he wasn't surprised by our decision. And oh, we did give the woman we talked to at the airport the reference. I hope she got something out of it. :)
As far as the DVC experience goes, it has been one of the best thing we bought into. I don't think we save that much money in terms of accommodations. But DVC resorts and rooms are really not your standard rooms, and having a small kitchenette with a refrigerator is a major plus. I can bring back leftovers from the places I had dinner at, and I can buy food items and drinks to keep cool in the refrigerator. The DVC resorts themselves are rather nice. We would have never stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge if it weren't for the DVC villas. And of course, the bonus with DVC memberships are all the discounts, special events, and pins that we have access to.
One of these days, we will do the DVC members cruise. That would be a hoot, I would think. There's still so many things left to do......