Having just been back from a week-long vacation at Walt Disney World near Orlando, and returned with more than we expected. My wife and I did all the WDW things and had a Saturday left over to leisurely relax. That is until we visited a kiosk on one of the properties that talked about the DVC or Disney Vacation Clubs. We arranged for a one hour tour of Saratoga Springs, a timeshare on the lake across from Downtown Disney. We had no intension of buying anything, but we did have some time to kill.
Now, first a brief word about our situation. We are semi-retired and run a web-based business out of the home. I have stock investments and three grown children, one still in college. We have seen other timeshares and agreed they are usually not good investments. Typically, they have many restrictions, are over-priced and more often than not offer properties in places you might never visit. For example, they are miles away from the beaches or main towns. Anyway, we did the tour out of morbid curiosity and the fact that it was a Disney resort.
They sent a van to our resort and drove us over to the sprawling 1000 room resort. Once we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised. The massive project composed of three-story buildings was very well designed. There were several pools, restaurants, fitness center and spa and buses and a ferry to the rest of Walt Disney World. Once we finished the tour, the representative went over the details.
The timeshare system is simple. You buy a bunch of points beginning at 150 for around $15,000, give or take a bit. Then you get a brochure of properties that are grouped by collections. The best value and most flexible choices are those in Florida and one in Hilton Head, SC. Based on the time of year and size of room, you could get anywhere from a few days to a few weeks on the property. Disney also partners with a company called Interval International to add foreign destinations to the plan. There are restrictions like a minimum of a full week and other rules for those pieces of real estate. But Disney also provides complete travel packages like escorted tours and of course, their cruise line.
So what did we decide? Well, the most endearing feature is that it is a Disney timeshare, which means they do have high standards. Even the partners must adhere to the Disney tradition of excellence. But the downsides would be familiar to most timeshare buyers. There is an annual maintenance fee that begins around $850 after your have paid the $15,000, plus closing costs. That fee can go up every year and does, even if it is as little as 5%. Then there is a booking fee from $75 to $95 for every arrangement. If you book 5 separate, 2-day stays, you would pay 5 separate booking fees.
The good news is that there are no blackout dates but you need to book far enough in advance to secure the room at the property of your choice. Another plus is that you use one agent and one phone number for all arrangements, even for restaurant and transportation reservations. The locations for most of the timeshares are good; some are four and five star resorts, but those use the most points, of course. Also, the more popular times of year require more points as well. Okay, so what's the bottom line?
You could do worse than buy a Disney timeshare. If you plan to go to Disney World on a regular basis, then this is for you. There are numerous member discounts from park fees to souvenirs and restaurants. The Saratoga Springs timeshare lasts 47 years. You can pass that onto your children, without any penalties. Or have them use the points while your still around. It's all up to you. There are also DVC timeshare re-sales available at a lower cost, but I can't endorse them because they are not connected to Disney. Do your own research online. But the discussion forums I've visited have nothing but praise for DVC and all the various properties. If you have ever considered a timeshare but were as skeptical as us, look into DVC. We are thinking of buying three, one for each child and their future children. They could still be using it 47 years from now and they would have already been paid for. And who doesn't love a Disney vacation?