The Pros and Cons of the Disney Vacation Club Resorts–By Someone Who’s Stayed in Them All!



By Dave Shute

The Pros and Cons of Every Disney World Disney Vacation Club Resort from yourfirstvisit.netThis review of the pros and cons of the Disney Vacation Club (“DVC”) resorts is the second entry in a new series highlighting the pros and cons of every Walt Disney World resort.

(The first entry, which explains the background, is here.)

The Disney Vacation Club resorts (sometimes called Disney Deluxe Villas–which I ignore, as many of the rooms in them aren’t villas) are time share resorts that are also available to the general public to rent just like any other hotel room–or for points.

There’s four basic room types–Studios, One-Bedroom Villas, Two Bedroom Villas, and Grand Villas–and eight Disney Vacation Club resorts, which I typical count as ten because of some key differences at two of them.

The material below first does the pros and cons of the Disney Vacation Club resorts themselves.  It’s followed by pros and cons by room type.   For more on the resorts themselves, click the links. And for a basic overview of the DVC rooms types, see this.

Because I’ve stayed in every single Disney World resort hotel for multiple nights in the past four years, usually more than once,  you will find fewer errors of fact, and far fewer questionable judgments, here than you’ll see in other sources written by people who have not actually stayed in the hotels…

…But I’m sure there are errors, omissions and points of disagreement here anyway!  So leave your thoughts/corrections/disagreements in the comment section below!

PROS AND CONS OF DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM VILLAS, JAMBO HOUSE

Uzima Springs Pool at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House from yourfirstvisit.net(Located within Jambo House; excludes the various “value” studios and villas)

Pros

  • Spectacular theming with great kid appeal
  • Unique views of animals
  • Great dining options, running the gamut from exotic to cheeseburgers
  • More livable than some of the other smaller-roomed DVC resorts
  • Only DVC resort with concierge DVC rooms (but they are just about impossible to get…)
  • Spa services

Cons

  • Among the least convenient of the DVC resorts
  • Poor access to off-grounds dining unless you have a car
  • No character meals or distinctively fun dining offerings
  • Smallish rooms, except for Grand Villas
  • No marina

PROS AND CONS OF DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM VILLAS, KIDANI VILLAGE

Samawati Springs Pool at Kidani Village from yourfirstvisit.net(Paired with Jambo House)

Pros

  • Nice theming—spectacular if you also spend time in nearby Jambo House
  • Unique views of animals
  • Among the more livable DVC rooms
  • Fairly convenient parking
  • Own very nice pool and workout room
  • Wonderful restaurant on site, access to other great dining venues at Jambo House
  • Spa services

Cons

  • Some distance from Jambo House, meaning access to Jambo House restaurants, pool, etc. can be a hike, especially if dining there—e.g. at its counter service (no counter service at Kidani)—is frequent
  • Rooms are quite spread out down long undulating halls, with no real shortcuts
  • Among the least convenient of the DVC resorts
  • Poor access to off-grounds dining unless you have a car
  • No character meals or distinctively fun dining offerings
  • No marina

PROS AND CONS OF BAY LAKE TOWER AT DISNEY’S CONTEMPORARY RESORT

Wishes from Bay Lake Tower from yourfirstvisit.net(Paired with Disney’s Contemporary Resort)

Pros

  • Most convenient of the DVC resorts—only one from which you can walk to the Magic Kingdom
  • Monorail resort
  • Monorail running through sister Contemporary Resort a thrill to many kids
  • Great and wide-ranging dining in the Contemporary; easy access to even more dining options via boat and monorail
  • Character meals
  • Most room types—but not studios—have very livable floor plans
  • Nice pool, reserved for Bay Lake Tower guests
  • High-rise architecture makes it more compact than most DVC options
  • Spa services

Cons

  • Smallish rooms
  • No real theming or distinctive kid appeal

PROS AND CONS OF DISNEY’S BEACH CLUB VILLAS

Disney's Beach Club Villas from yourfirstvisit.net(Paired with Disney’s Beach Club Resort)

Pros

  • Very easy access to Epcot via boat or walking; Hollywood Studios accessible through a longer boat ride or walk
  • Access to many nearby table service restaurants, even more if you have tickets for Epcot
  • Character breakfast
  • One of the most compact DVC resorts
  • Shares great pool with Beach Club and Yacht Club guests

Cons

  • No distinctive theming or particular kid appeal—though they are lovely to the eyes of adults
  • No real counter-service offering
  • Rooms on the small side
  • No Grand Villas
  • No spa services

PROS AND CONS OF DISNEY’S BOARDWALK VILLAS

Kitchen at Disney's BoardWalk Villas from yourfirstvisit.net(Paired with Disney’s BoardWalk Inn)

Pros

  • Easy access to Epcot via boat or walking; Hollywood Studios accessible through a longer boat ride or walk
  • Access to many nearby table service restaurants, even more if you have tickets for Epcot
  • The BoardWalk itself is kinda fun
  • Spa services

Cons

  • No distinctive theming or particular kid appeal
  • Among the more sprawling DVC resorts
  • Inconvenient parking
  • No real counter-service offering
  • No character meals or other fun dining.  Closest restaurants not really aimed at kids
  • BoardWalk-view rooms can be noisy
  • No marina

PROS AND CONS OF DISNEY’S OLD KEY WEST RESORT

Disney's Old Key West Resort from yourfirstvisit.net(Standalone resort)

Pros

  • Largest and most livable rooms in every type except for Grand Villas
  • Each room type is offered at the least expensive price among the DVC alternatives
  • Great balconies, especially in one and two bedroom villas
  • Easy parking
  • Great views from rooms
  • On-site marina

Cons

  • Sprawling and distinctly inconvenient if you don’t have a car
  • Theming, for kids, is unremarkable
  • Weak and limited on-resort dining, with no great access to alternatives unless you have a car
  • No character meals or other distinctly fun dining
  • Most buildings have no elevators—only buildings 62, 63 and 64 have elevators
  • Many buildings (numbered 30 and lower) are missing a door from the living area to the baths in the one and two bedroom villas
  • No spa services

PROS AND CONS OF DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT AND SPA, MAIN RESORT

Saratoga Springs Pool from yourfirstvisit.net(Stand-alone resort)

Pros

  • Easy parking
  • Great views from rooms
  • Some areas have easy access to Downtown Disney
  • Typically as inexpensive as any DVC offering
  • Great spa
  • Great pool
  • Not popular, so easy to reserve

Cons

  • Rooms are smallest or among the smallest DVC options (but see below for the Treehouses)
  • Sprawling and distinctly inconvenient if you don’t have a car
  • Theming, for kids, is unremarkable
  • Weak and limited on-resort dining, with no great access to alternatives (other than Downtown Disney) unless you have a car
  • No character meals or other distinctly fun dining
  • No marina

Disney's Treehouse Villas floor plan from yourfirstvisit.netPROS AND CONS OF DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT AND SPA, TREEHOUSES

(Part of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa)

Pros

  • The only DVC space priced and sized like a Two-Bedroom Villa, but with three bedrooms—two with one queen each, and one with a pair of bunk beds
  • Especially livable kitchen/living /dining area
  • Sleeps 9
  • Huge deck with charcoal grill
  • Very quiet spaces
  • Nice views, close to nature
  • Unusual architecture
  • (Hotel services pros as per Saratoga Springs main resort)

Cons

  • Massively inconvenient in every dimension—don’t dream of staying here without a car, and don’t plan on using much of the Saratoga Springs amenities without a hike or a bus ride
  • Unusual architecture
  • Bunk beds in third bedroom are short, limiting the usability of the nine sleeping spaces
  • (Hotel services cons as per Saratoga Springs main resort)

PROS AND CONS OF THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT AND SPA

Kitchen in One and Two Bedroom Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from yourfirstvisit.net(Paired with Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa)

Pros

  • Most room types are the second largest on property, after Old Key West; Grand Villas are largest
  • Distinctive floor plans—split shower and tub, and Murphy Bed for 5th occupant in Studios; dine-in kitchen in One and Two bedroom Villas, plus more Murphy Beds; media room in Grand Villas
  • Higher end fixtures, furnishing and finishes than other DVC resorts
  • Full balconies on every bay
  • Monorail resort
  • Access to wonderful dining at Grand Floridian and easy access via monorail to more
  • Character meals
  • Good convenience for Magic Kingdom
  • Mary Poppins and Dumbo elements may enhance the otherwise weak Grand Floridian kid appeal
  • Lovely to adults
  • Most compact of the DVC resorts
  • Great spa

Cons

  • Limited distinctive kid appeal in the rest of the resort—though lovely to adults
  • The best dining options aren’t really aimed at kids
  • Highest prices
  • A little distant from some Grand Floridian services—e.g. the boat dock.  Has its own check-in, however.
  • Not many rooms, so hard to reserve

PROS AND CONS OF THE VILLAS AT DISNEY’S WILDERNESS LODGE

Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.net(Paired with Disney’s Wilderness Lodge)

Pros

  • Most spectacular and kid-appealing theming of all the Disney World resorts
  • Reasonably convenient for the Magic Kingdom
  • Studios one of only two (the other is Grand Floridian) that sleep 5 rather than 4
  • Great and fun on-site dining, and easy boat access to more great dining at the Contemporary and Fort Wilderness.
  • One of the most compact DVC options
  • Spa services

Cons

  • No Grand Villas
  • Other DVC room types on the small end of the scale
  • No character meals
  • Small number of rooms and wildly popular, so hard to reserve

PROS AND CONS OF THE DVC STUDIOS

Disney's Beach Club Villas Studio Floor Plan from yourfirstvisit.netMost studios sleep 4 in a queen bed and on a fold-out couch.  The couch is both a pro and con—smaller and less comfortable than a queen, but creating a more flexible and livable room when not in use.

Pros:

  • Best theming:  Wilderness Lodge, Jambo House, Kidani
  • Sleeps 5: Villas at the Grand Floridian and Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, with the fifth on a Murphy Bed
  • Two queens: Old Key West
  • Largest: Old Key West, then Grand Floridian
  • Least expensive:  Old Key West and Saratoga Springs
  • Full-width balconies: AKL Jambo and Kidani Villages; Old Key West; Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian
  • Separate tub and shower: Grand Floridian
  • Most convenient: Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian

Cons

  • Weakest theming: Bay Lake Tower
  • Smallest—Bay Lake Tower
  • Small:  Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs,
  • Small balconies: Beach Club, BoardWalk, Saratoga Springs, Wilderness Lodge
  • No elevators: Old Key West
  • Most expensive: Grand Floridian
  • Least convenient:  Saratoga Springs, Old Key West

PROS AND CONS OF THE DVC ONE-BEDROOM VILLAS

Disney's BoardWalk Villas One-Bedroom Floor Plan from yourfirstvisit.netThe DVC One-Bedroom Villas typically sleep 4 on a king in a private bedroom and a fold-out couch in the living room, with one bath.  Exceptions are noted.

Pros:

  • Best theming:  Wilderness Lodge, Jambo House, Kidani
  • Sleeps five: Jambo, Kidani, Old Key West, Bay Lake Tower, and Grand Floridian. In all but GF, the fifth sleeping spot is a fold-out chair; at the Grand Floridian, the fifth is a murphy bed.
  • Two bathrooms: Bay Lake Tower, Kidani
  • Largest: Old Key West
  • Large: Grand Floridian
  • Best balcony, living room, kitchen, dining space: Old Key West
  • Next best balcony, living room, kitchen, dining space: Kidani Village, Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian
  • Least expensive: Old Key West, Saratoga Springs
  • Most convenient: Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian

Cons

  • Weakest theming: Bay Lake Tower
  • Smallest: Saratoga Springs, Jambo House, Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge
  • Smallest closet:  Saratoga Springs
  • No elevators: Most Old Key West
  • No door from living space to bath: Many Old Key West
  • Small balconies: Beach Club, BoardWalk, Saratoga Springs, Wilderness Lodge
  • Most expensive: Grand Floridian
  • Least convenient:  Saratoga Springs, Old Key West

PROS AND CONS OF THE DVC TWO-BEDROOM VILLAS

Disney's Kidani Village Two-Bedroom Villa floor plan from yourfisrtvisit.netThe DVC Two-Bedroom Villas typically sleep 8 –two on a king in a private bedroom, 4 more in another space laid out like a studio, and 2 more on a fold-out couch in the living room–with two baths.  Exceptions are noted.

Pros:

  • Best theming:  Wilderness Lodge, Jambo House, Kidani
  • Sleeps nine: Jambo, Kidani, Old Key West, Bay Lake Tower, and Grand Floridian. In all but GF, the ninth sleeping spot is a fold-out chair in the living room; at the Grand Floridian, the ninth is a murphy bed, found in both the living room and the second bedroom
  • Three bathrooms: Bay Lake Tower, Kidani
  • Largest: Old Key West
  • Large: Grand Floridian
  • Best balcony, living room, kitchen, dining space: Old Key West
  • Next best balcony, living room, kitchen, dining space: Kidani Village, Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian
  • Least expensive: Old Key West, Saratoga Springs
  • Most convenient: Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian

Cons

  • Weakest theming: Bay Lake Tower
  • Smallest: Beach Club, Saratoga Springs, Jambo House, Wilderness Lodge
  • No elevators: Most Old Key West
  • No door from living space to baths: Many Old Key West
  • Small balconies: Beach Club, BoardWalk, Saratoga Springs, Wilderness Lodge
  • Awkward access from second bedroom to living room: Wilderness Lodge, BoardWalk
  • A little too small for families that need to use the fold out couch in the living room: Beach Club, Saratoga Springs, BoardWalk, Wilderness Lodge, Jambo House
  • Most expensive: Grand Floridian
  • Least convenient:  Saratoga Springs, Old Key West

PROS AND CONS OF THE DVC GRAND VILLAS

Disney's Jambo House Grand Villa floor plan from yourfirstvisit.netThe Grand Villas typically occupy six bays and sleep 12 in two four person bedrooms with queen, a two person bedroom with a king, and one or more sofa beds. Most have four baths. Exceptions are noted. (There are no Grand Villas at Wilderness Lodge or Beach Club)

I have not stayed in a Grand Villa—when I do, I’ll be taking Flying Pigs Airline—so these observations are based on floor plans.

Pros

  • Best theming: Jambo House, Kidani Village
  • Largest: Grand Floridian
  • Single level layout: Jambo, Grand Floridian, BoardWalk
  • Dramatic two story living area that wastes living space: Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Bay Lake Tower, Kidani Village
  • Really nice views from dramatic two story living area that wastes living space: Bay Lake Tower, Kidani Village
  • Best overall use of space:  Grand Floridian
  • Six bays of balconies: Jambo, BoardWalk
  • Five bays of balconies: Kidani
  • Least Expensive: Old Key West, Saratoga Springs
  • Most convenient: Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian

Cons:

  • Weakest theming: Bay Lake Tower
  • Smallest: Saratoga Springs and Bay Lake Tower
  • Three baths: Boardwalk Villas
  • One balcony: Old Key West, Saratoga Springs
  • No elevators: Most Old Key West
  • Most expensive: Grand Floridian
  • Least convenient:  Saratoga Springs, Old Key West

MY TOP DVC RANKINGS FOR FIRST TIME FAMILY VISITORS

My top two or three choices focus first on kid appeal, and then on convenience, and are listed in order:

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2 comments

1 Gretchen { 10.24.13 at 10:42 pm }

WOW! Lots of great information. On our trip to Disney last week, we split our stay between Art of Animation and a villa at Kidani. While Kidani is definitely beautiful, I agree with the cons you mentioned. My family also ran into a problem with the pool as well. We came down to the pool area at 8 pm and the life guards were going off duty and turned off the slide and the water in the children’s play area for the remainder of the evening. When we were at Art of Animation, the pool area was still hopping till at least 10 pm. It just seemed so early on a warm night to be turning everything off. Is the pool areas closing early just something at Kidani or is it a practice at other DVCs as well? If so, that is something for a family to consider if they enjoy pool activities after a day at the parks.
Thanks again, for all your information. My husband just passed your website on to his barber who is looking to plan a trip! You really do help out a lot of people! (:

2 Dave { 10.25.13 at 12:41 pm }

Hi Gretchen and thanks! Honestly, I’m not certain of the pool closure hours by resort and how they vary, but guess they vary depending on how busy the individual hotels are…

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