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By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





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. See this for how.

The Disney Vacation Club Resorts at Walt Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netFor 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, 10 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.

See this for more on where to stay, this for more on Walt Disney World resorts ranked by kid appeal, and this for Walt Disney World resorts ranked by convenience.

THE DISNEY VACATION CLUB RESORTS

There are currently ten DVC resorts at Walt Disney World.

DVC Resorts include eight 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 Jambo House and Kidani Village Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Beach Club Villas, the Boardwalk VillasThe 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.

The two stand-alone resorts are Disney’s Old Key West Resort, and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. The “Treehouses” are a separate section of Saratoga Springs.

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:

  1. Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  2. Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  3. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Jambo House
  4. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Kidani Village
  5. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  6. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
  7. Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  8. Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  9. Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  10. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, main resort
  11. 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 opened at the Wilderness Lodge in July 2017.

Disney's Beach Club Villas Studio Floor Plan from yourfirstvisit.netStudio 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 Villas, 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

Disney's BoardWalk Villas One-Bedroom Floor Plan from yourfirstvisit.netOne Bedroom Villas also mostly sleep 4.

However, most One Bedrooms at the Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge,  Old Key WestThe 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.

Disney's Kidani Village Two-Bedroom Villa floor plan from yourfirstvisit.netTwo Bedroom Villas either combine the floor plan and features of both of a Studio and a One Bedroom Villa, or have a dedicated second bedroom with two queens, 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.

Disney's Treehouse Villas floor plan from yourfirstvisit.netTwo 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.

The extreme distance of the treehouse Villas 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.

Disney's Jambo House Grand Villa floor plan from yourfirstvisit.netA Grand Villa sleeps 12.

It has three distinct bedrooms—two sleeping 4 in (typically) 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

In general, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs are the cheapest DVC resorts when reserving through the Disney web site, and also the cheapest when using rented points.

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.

The two sets of villas at each of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Wilderness Lodge are both stunningly appealing to kids. Both are inconvenient, but less inconvenient than Old Key West and Saratoga Springs.

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 or just need the studio to access its parent resort.

Once you have stayed in one, I imagine you will talk about your Grand Villa for the rest of your life.

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41 comments

1 Favorite Disney Resorts - The Blogorail { 05.16.17 at 9:26 am }

[…] and balcony spaces at Old Key West are so much larger and more home-like than the other Disney Vacation Club Resorts that it’s almost like Old Key West villas should be a separate resort class.” – […]

2 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 05.17.17 at 9:53 am }

Hi Dana,

DVC resorts are released for booking to DVC Members for booking 11 months ahead of time. Then at about 7 months prior to your departure date, they are released to the general public and able to be booked. Saratoga Springs or Old Key West would be your best options if you do not want to be in two rooms.

I’m Kelly, the designated Destinations In Florida Travel Agent for YourFirstVisit.net. I would be more than happy to help you plan your upcoming vacation. All of my planning services are free when you book a Disney vacation package with me and Destinations in Florida. Please feel free to contact me at KellyB@DestinationsinFlorida.com or 980-429-4499.

3 Holly { 07.07.17 at 12:33 pm }

Question. We have 10 people traveling. We were able to book 2 1 bedroom units at Saratoga. They told us there are only beds for 4 but the 5th can use a sleeping bag. THEN when we asked about putting 10 in one of the 2 bedroom units at say Animal Kingdom we were told we could not because they only sleep 9. Why can’t the 10th person use a sleeping bag then?

4 Dave { 07.08.17 at 11:32 am }

Holly, I assume you did this over the phone, both from your language and from the fact that Disney’s systems won’t let you book more than the “official” capacity. I believe the person you spoke to about SS erred. However, I think–but am not sure–that in some DVC resorts you can book an extra person if you are using DVC points. You can rent DVC points–which will also save you a ton, though it adds complexity. See this.

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