Welcome to the wonderful world of DVC! My family became members in 2012 direct through Disney with our purchase at Saratoga Springs. We initially bought in for 160 points, but quickly added another 40 points to our existing contract after our first DVC vacation. Even with 200 points, I wanted more. We are the vacationers that spend time in our room, and therefore we like nice views, space and good locations. A couple of years after our initial buy-in we began looking into purchasing another contract through The TimeShare Store Inc*. Our experience with the TimeShare Store was flawless. We seamlessly purchased another 130 points at Saratoga Springs and happily secured our second contract with Disney Vacation Club.
We are not the usual DVC famiy — we do not have an emotional attachment to our “home resort.” We chose this resort strategically based on finances. Economically, Saratoga made the most sense for us at the time. We are West Coasters, so Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Hawaii’s Aulani are the DVC properties that we frequent the most. But, “bang for buck” speaking, both of these resorts did not meet our vacation point criteria. We were willing to exchange more points for more stressful bookings.
So, we now have two contracts at a property that we really don’t plan on staying at — Enter the anxiety of the 7-month booking window. How do I ensure the vacation that we want, in the room that we want, on the dates that we want?
Here are some ways that you can get the booking of your DVC dreams at a non-home resort:
- Be flexible with dates/room categories and properties! If you have specifics with properties/rooms and dates, being flexible is important. This means booking rooms BEFORE flights. Once you book your flights, if your DVC plans don’t work out you may end up paying for a hotel room. I am generally only flexible with our dates when flying to Aulani. When we visit the parks, I have strict dates based on crowd forecasts. So, this point is often lost on me, but may be helpful for some.
- Be prepared! Have your booking dates in your calendar with reminders set. Be up the morning of booking at least 20 minutes early. Have all of your booking info entered and as the world clock strikes 8 am EST press ENTER. Warning: You will be competing with other people doing exactly this! So, have a plan B; you may not get the coveted reservation, but this will increase your odds. If you wait the extra hour and call Member Services, you will likely lose your chance at a competitive booking.
- If your dates are firm, go ahead and book your home resort to ensure a place to stay. Once the 7-month window opens up you can call Member Services and switch your reservation to another property, if available. This strategy does not come without risks. Member services does not open until 9 am Monday–Saturday and 10 am on Sundays. This puts you at a disadvantage for competitive bookings. This only works for Walt Disney World.
- Walk your reservation. This strategy is labor intensive, exhausting and is riddled with controversy. For us on the West Coast, this would mean getting up at approximately 4:50 am for days in a row, but for some it may be worth it for a coveted reservation. Not all people think it should be allowed; however, currently there are no rules against walking a reservation, so it is a legitimate way to ensure a booking date. In this situation you make a reservation days or weeks in advance of the dates that you actually want. As each day passes you can then add another day to your current reservation, getting closer and closer to your actual vacation plans. Swapping the first day for an additional day. This is sneaky and does not come without risks, but it can be done.
- Rent Points. Sell Points. This is my go-to plan A for must-do vacations with strict dates. This is NOT the most profitable or efficient way to use your points, but it does get the job done — usually. On more than one occasion I have rented points through a rental company (sometimes multiple companies to better my odds), paid for this trip and then SOLD my points back to fund the holiday. This allows me to use the 11-month booking window for the resort I want and still “use my own points” to fund the payment. At the end of the day this does cost you money, but FAR less than booking direct through Disney. Bonus: less stress and you get the rooms/dates/property that you want. Hint: Best to begin this process closer to the 11-month window to ensure enough time to find a match for your request. Finally, I have been very successful in selling my points. (Although it’s painful to sell points, even with a booking made. I hold onto those little puppies like they are gold.
This is not an exhaustive list, however these are my main rules for booking our vacations. Booking non-home resorts can be stressful and exciting all at the same time; being organized is key. Happy planning!
*Editor’s Note: The Timeshare Store is an official sponsor of The DIS.