The Disney Vacation Club (“DVC”) Resorts at Walt Disney World
By Dave Shute
OVERVIEW: THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS
The Disney Vacation Club (“DVC”) Resorts at Walt Disney World are time-share resorts whose rooms can also be reserved by anyone like any other Disney World resort hotel rooms.
Moreover, the rooms at these resorts can also be gained (usually at a huge cost saving) by privately renting “points” from Disney Vacation Club members on websites like SellMyTimeshareNOW.com, a sponsor of this site. See this for how.
For most first time family visitors, the Disney Vacation Club Resorts are worth considering only under a few circumstances:
- Large families—especially those aimed at a Deluxe property—who are not willing to bet on actually getting connecting rooms. (You can request connecting rooms at WDW, but getting them is not guaranteed.) See this for more on large families. “Villas” which can sleep 8, 9 and 12 people are available.
- Families aimed at a deluxe hotel, but who can only pull it off through the cost savings of renting DVC points. See this for more on renting DVC points
- Families who for one reason or another have targeted a resort with which a DVC property is paired, find it is sold out, but can get into the DVC resort
- People who already are DVC owners
For other first-time visitors looking for deluxe lodging, the Polynesian remains the best choice. No DVC property has the combination of kid appeal and convenience that the Polynesian presents.
THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS
There are currently nine DVC resorts at Walt Disney World.
DVC Resorts include seven paired with regular resorts, and two standalone DVC resorts.
The paired resorts are the Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek Villas at the Wilderness lodge, Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort, the Animal Kingdom (Lodge) Villas, the Beach Club Villas, the Boardwalk Villas, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows.
Each is paired with the regular resort of similar name, sharing services, restaurants, pools, transportation, etc., and having (mostly) the same convenience and kid appeal as the regular resort.
Because the two sets of options at the Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Saratoga Springs are so different, and the Polynesian offering is so distinctive, for review purposes I count a total of twelve resorts, but rank only eleven.
Their overall ranking for first time family visitors is as follows:
- Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (after 7/17)
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (after 7/17)
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Kidani Village
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, main resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, Treehouse Villas area
My rankings exclude the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, as it does not offer one or two bedroom villas. If the ranking were based solely on studios, the Polynesian offering would be near the top.
There’s variability within these overall rankings by room type–click the reviews themselves for what’s what.
DVC RESORT ROOM OPTIONS: STUDIOS THROUGH GRAND VILLAS
All DVC resorts except the Polynesian offering have three room types: Studios, One Bedroom Villas, and Two Bedroom Villas.
In addition, most DVC resorts also have a fourth room type, Grand Villas (Boulder Creek Villas at the Wilderness Lodge and the Beach Club Villas do not have Grand Villas).
The Treehouses section at Saratoga Springs offers a unique fifth room type, a three bedroom layout that sleeps 9.
The Polynesian Villas and Bungalows offers Studios and a unique sixth room type, a waterside Bungalow. Bungalow-like Cascade Cabins will open at the Wilderness Lodge in July 2017.
Studio rooms sleep 4 (except at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, where 5 can sleep (either in two queens, or a queen and a couch that folds out into a full size bed; the fifth spot at the Grand Floridian is a murphy bed), or the Studios in the Boulder Creek Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, at the Polynesian, the Beach Club Villas, and the BoardWalk, which sleep two on a queen, two on a fold-out couch, and one on a murphy bed).
They are similar to regular deluxe hotel rooms with the exception of having a microwave, a toaster, and (usually) a little more space.
For first time family visitors, Studios are without merit except under three circumstances:
- As a backup means of getting into a resort whose normal rooms are sold out, or
- For getting a major price break compared to the regular rooms at that resort by successfully renting points from a DVC member to pay for the room, or
- For getting a five person space at the Wilderness Lodge
However, most One Bedrooms at the Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Old Key West, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Bay Lake Tower sleep 5.
All these One Bedroom Villas have a private bedroom with a king bed, one bathroom (most 5 person AK and all 5 person Bay Lake Villas have two bathrooms), a washer and dryer, and a combined full kitchen/dining/living room.
The couch in the living room folds out into a bed for two more, and in the 5 person villas, in most, a chair in the living room unfolds into a bed for another person. At The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, the fifth spot is a Murphy Bed.
For first time visitors the value of the kitchen and extra space is small, as you will be spending little time in your room, and eating few meals other than breakfasts there.
Moreover, in all the villas except for those at Old Key West, and the 5 person villas at Bay Lake Tower, the Animal Kingdom Villas, and the Grand Floridian, the living room area is so small that it becomes essentially unusable when the chairs are turned into beds.
The combined living/kitchen/dining space in the One and Two Bedroom Villas at Old Key West are remarkably large—great value for the money—and do not have this problem.
Two Bedroom Villas combine the floor plan and features of both of a Studio and a One Bedroom Villa, and typically sleep 8 (most at the Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and all at Old Key West, and Bay Lake Tower sleep 9; Some two bedrooms at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian can be booked for ten).
These two bedroom spaces are very well suited to large families, except that in all but Old Key West and the Treehouses (see below) not all eight or nine can comfortably fit into the living room or at the dining table.
The Treehouses at Saratoga Springs provide a different floor plan option.
They sleep up to 9 in square footage comparable to two bedroom villas, but in three bedrooms and a living room, rather than two bedrooms and a living room, and have two baths.
Two bedrooms have a queen in each, one bedroom has bunk beds sleeping two shorter than 6′ tall, and the living room has a couch that folds out into a full sized bed and a chair that folds out into a twin.
Their extreme distance from the main pool and services, and separate bus service that requires a transfer to get to the parks, makes them very inconvenient for first-time visitors. However, they provide an interesting option for families or groups looking for more privacy and sleeping options than the two bedroom options can give.
For even larger families, Grand Villas, available at all Disney World DVC Resorts except for Boulder Ridge Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, and the Beach Club Villas, sleep 12 and are spectacular—and spectacularly expensive.
However, they are often not much more expensive than 3 deluxe regular rooms—which is what you would need to reserve to find space for more than 10 people—while providing a single space for your entire family and around twice the square footage.
If you can rent points, they are less money than three regular rooms at most of the deluxes.
It has three distinct bedrooms—two sleeping 4 in two queens, and one sleeping two in a king. Two more sleeping spaces are available in sofa-beds in the common rooms.
Grand Villas are remarkable. If you think (as hotel designers do) of a standard room as being one “bay,” then the DVC Studios are one bay, the One Bedroom Villas are two bays, and the Two Bedrooms Villas are three bays.
(Old Key West is an exception. Because its architecture yields such a large kitchen/dining/living room, a one bedroom is 2.5ish bays, and a two bedroom is 3.5ish bays.)
Grand Villas are 6 bays—twice as big as most Two Bedroom Villas. They range from 2044 square feet at Bay Lake Tower to 2800 square feet at the Grand Floridian. (One regular room at the Grand Floridian, sleeping 5, is 440 square feet—so, at maximum capacity, the Grand Villas provide more than twice as much square feet per person)
The 2.5 to 3 extra bays compared to a Two Bedroom include one more bedroom that sleeps 4 more people on two queens, a dedicated dining room with a table for 8 or more (indoor dining space for an additional two to 8 people is also available), a larger kitchen, and either a second or enlarged living room area, a game room, a media room, and/or an open two story space.
FINAL COMMENTS ON DVC RESORTS
Bay Lake Tower is the most convenient of the DVC resorts for first time visitors, and OKW and Saratoga Springs are by far the least convenient.
Saratoga Springs typically has the smallest rooms in all room types. Closet space in its One Bedroom Villas is remarkably thin–less than 4 feet of clothes rod length, less than what you get at a Value.
The One and Two Bedrooms at Old Key West are much larger by far, and more livable when filled to capacity, than any other DVC One or Two bedrooms. For example, they are about 30% larger than the same room types at Saratoga Springs.
Studios are almost always a waste of money unless you can rent points.