If you've made the decision to buy some Disney Vacation Club [DVC] points, your next decision is to decide where you want to buy. Points are available for all DVC resorts, either directly from Disney or on an active resale market (there are some differences in what you can do with points depending on where you buy them, but they're all good at all DVC resorts).
Remember, the resort where you own your points is the one where you get an 11-month booking window; other resorts restrict you to a
nine seven-month window, so that "local" owners get an advantage.
There are four DVC resorts not located at the Walt Disney World Resort:
The others are all located on Walt Disney World property:
Everyone has their favorite, and it's worth exploring people's opinions in various online forums. For example, I'm a big fan of BoardWalk for its easy walking distance to Epcot's World Showcase, and Old Key West for its relative quiet and seclusion. Room sizes, even of the same type of unit, vary widely between resorts. For example, Old Key West has some of the largest one-bedroom suites, while BoardWalk's are more average-sized.
Each resort typically has a large "feature" pool that is heavily themed, offers a waterslide, and has a bar and grill. Most also have a smaller "quiet pool" that's off to the side somewhere, and which does not have adjacent amenities. Feature pools usually include daytime kids activities, which can become loud (they use a lot of music and microphones), but give kids something focused and organized to do.
Most resorts also have a small gift shop, and then a larger shop that includes a selection of basic grocery items, wine, liquor, soft drinks, and other food and beverage items. Rooms - even Studio rooms - are equipped with plates, glassware, and utensils, although only one-bedroom and larger rooms feature full cooking capabilities.
Most resorts also have at least one full-service restaurant and a grab-and-go window, and usually have at least a small bar by the pool, if not a dedicated indoor lounge.
Some resorts rely more on their attached resort's amenities. For example, BoardWalk doesn't have a restaurant per se, but relies on the numerous offerings along the BoardWalk itself - and at the nearby Yacht and Beach Club resorts. Old Key West has one restaurant, but it's a sprawling resort so if you're on the outskirts, you may never see it.
Bottom line: It's important to think about how you might use your room, and choose a resort that matches those needs. Will you take a "resort day" to stay away from the parks? Will you mainly use the room only for sleeping at night? Will you prepare meals, or have a simple breakfast of cereal, or always eat out? Are you okay taking busses to theme parks, or do you want the convenience of walking - or even access to the monorail system?
There's also the "magic factor." Nothing is quite like the savannah views at Animal Kingdom Lodge, BoardWalk has its own "seaside" charm, and the Polynesian is absolutely unique.
There are four room types at most DVC properties.
A Studio Room is more or less a standard hotel room. It usually features one bed, and a sofa (which in older units will be a jackknife sleeper sofa). There's a full bathroom including bathtub, and a micro-kitchen that includes a mini-fridge and microwave.
A One Bedroom Suite includes a larger master bedroom, usually featuring a jetted tub and separate shower. There's a single bed in the bedroom portion, and a small laundry closet with stacked washer and drier. There's a separate main room that includes a living area, dining area, and kitchen. The dining area arrangement differs from resort to resort, and often changes with remodels; some newer units have a table against the wall, while others have a more traditional standalone table. The master bedroom is separated from the living area by a door; the master bathroom often opens both into the master bedroom and into a small hallway leading to the living area.
A Two Bedroom Suite is nothing more than a Studio Room with a connector door into a One Bedroom Suite. So you're basically just renting two rooms, and using (or not) the connector door. The living/dining/kitchen area sits between the two, providing some privacy.
A Three Bedroom Grand Villa is a single unit featuring a master bedroom and two other bedrooms, typically with one or two standalone baths and a master bath connected to the master bedroom. A full kitchen, dining, and living area are included. Some - Animal Kingdom, for example - include extras like a pool table. At Old Key West, these are two-story affairs that feel very much like a townhouse or condo.
A special "fifth room type" was introduced in the Polynesian — Over-Water Bungalows. These are a thing all to themselves, when over-the-top decor, a second-to-none location, multiple bedrooms, and a stratospheric price to match!
Each room can also be further divided into views. For example, BoardWalk offers "Standard," "Pool," and "BoardWalk" views across many room types. Views are not unimportant: a BoardWalk "standard" view may simply be a view of the driveway leading up to the resort, seen through some trees. It may suffer from some traffic noise (rarely, in my experience). The BoardWalk view can be more "magical," but can also be quite loud as crowds party the night away. A "pool" view overlooking the feature pool may become quite loud during the day.
A room's "cost" in DVC points depends on (a) the room type, (b) the resort it's at, (c) the view you choose, and (d) the time of year you stay, from one of five predefined seasons.
One-, two-, and three-bedroom rooms are perhaps the most popular room types, and certainly the ones you think of when you think "DVC." The amenities of a full kitchen — including microwave, stovetop, oven, full refrigerator/freezer, dishwasher, and sink — gives you a lot of flexibility. Have breakfast in your room, keep your favorite snacks on-hand, and "stay in" one night for a full meal.
Most room types sport outdoor balconies, although they vary considerably from resort to resort. BoardWalk's rooms tend to feature smaller balconies suitable only for sitting, where Old Key West's one bedroom balconies can hold a grand dinner for six people.
While buying at a particular resort is a one-time decision, room type isn't. You can book whatever kind of room you like, provided you have enough points for it, and can change every time you visit. Obviously, you can also switch between resorts, although you have a smaller booking window and run more of a risk of not getting the room you want, when you want it.
Theme Park Insider's Disney Vacation Club FAQ:
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