You've made a decision, you're taking the family to Disney World! The kids are excited, your husband is guarding his wallet, and you want to get the most bang for your buck. (read more)
Before you go any further, I need to make sure you understand that I'm not affiliated with Disney at all. I don't get any kickbacks for telling you about renting DVC points, nor do I get any kickbacks for suggesting a Disney TA I have used. If you choose to utilize her services, or if you choose to utilize the DVC points rental site I use, it's totally between you and them.
That said, I wouldn't write about anything I didn't trust, so know that whichever route you go, I've used both with great success and would use both again, no hesitation.
Without further ado, let's get started!
WHAT'S YOUR DISNEY COMFORT LEVEL?
The first thing you want to ask yourself before deciding which route to take is, "How much time do I have to spend on this?"
Disney World is a massive bubble of family fun, amazing atmosphere and "show up and have a great time". But, if you don't plan for it on the front end (180 days/60 days in advance), you could get there and not do nearly the amount of things you'd like to do. You could spend what ought to be a relaxing, fun week running around with exhausted, complaining children while you try to follow huge crowds from one ride to another.
Do you know how to get from the airport to Disney World? Do you know how to make Fast Pass reservations? Do you even want to get up at five in the morning, 180 days before your trip so you CAN make those reservations? Do your kids really want to eat at Cinderella's Royal Table? Do you want to get up at the crack of dawn 60 days before your trip so you can make sure they get to meet those sought after princesses? Do you know how to plan a day in the park, or are you just going to walk in and hope for the best? Will you track Disney's promotions to make sure you're always getting the best price? Do you know how to get your Magic Bands? Do you know about the Disney app?
If you're reading those questions and feeling completely overwhelmed (like I was the first time I took my family), then I'm going to say that regardless of whether or not you book your room reservation with a Disney TA, you definitely need to book your EVERYTHING ELSE with a Disney TA.
It costs you absolutely nothing (I mean not one extra cent) and a good TA will save you not only time, frustration, and a few grey hairs, but will go above and beyond to make your vacation magical.
Look at that picture! Don't my husband and son look like they're having the most magical time ever? :)
A GOOD DISNEY TA WILL DO THE FOLLOWING:
* Book dining at 6 a.m. Eastern time at 180 days, and Fast Pass reservations at 7 a.m. Eastern time at 60 days. She'll get up early so you can sleep in.
* Set up your MDE (My Disney Experience) app
* Order and customize Magic Bands
* Make payments on your schedule, as often as you need
* Arrange transportation to and from the airport, whether you're taking Magical Express or want a fancy ride in a limousine
* Arrange VIP tours
* Arrange for party tickets (if you want to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party)
* Arrange extras to your room. Want a special surprise for your kids when they walk in? A good TA can set that up for you.
* Arrange touring plans so you have a plan for each day you're visiting "The World"
* Monitor Disney promotions and apply the newly reduced prices and "freebies" to your reservation so you don't miss out
Basically, your TA will ask how specific you want your plans, and she'll go from there. Whether you want touring plans for each day, or a looser plan that gives you free time to check out the sights, she'll handle it. She will customize a plan based on YOUR needs. And, extra little perk, she'll also send park maps so you can familiarize yourself a bit before you go.
Nothing ads to the fun like opening up a crisp, glossy, colorful map of the Magic Kingdom!
So that's all well and good, but let's talk money. After all, that's going to be most people's number one concern.
COMPARING COSTS - RENTING DVC POINTS
Let me give you a quick explanation about how DVC rental points work. Basically, a person joins DVC (Disney's version of a time share) and acquires so many points per year. If they can't use the points, they'll make them available on a rental site, and the site will rent them to non DVC owners (like me).
Someone who wants to visit Disney World could visit one of these rental sites (I use David's Vacation Club Rentals), get a cost estimate for their preferred dates, and make a reservation.
David's has an easy to use Cost Calculator that will allow you to input your dates, your room choices, and your resort choices (you will want to choose more than one, if possible).
You can make this request up to 11 months in advance. Upon making a reservation request, you will pay a $119 partial payment. This is not a fee, it is a payment toward your potential reservation. If David's cannot fill your reservation, they will refund the payment entirely.
If David's is able to fill your reservation, you must make payment in full immediately. There is no financing, meaning no partial payments, no booking early and then paying it off over a series of months. When they book it, you pay the entire balance.
Now, let's talk money! My mom and I travel in the off season, so remember that these rates can and will change depending on your particular dates of travel.
I'll give you two specific instances for when I used David's. The first was a trip I actually just got back from. My mom and I went to Disney World and stayed at Beach Club, which is a Boardwalk area resort. We could walk to Epcot or Hollywood studios, and we did walk to Epcot often. It was just so nice to be able to pop over, hit up France, eat good food, then walk back and pass out at our hotel. If you love Epcot, the Boardwalk resorts cannot be beat.
For my 2018 stay at Beach Club in a Studio, if I had booked through my Disney World TA, it would have cost me $2800 (for six nights) before taxes and fees.
Going through David's, a studio room in the same hotel would have cost me $1134. Now, you'd be getting just one bed and a pullout instead of two actual beds, but the pullout was crazy comfortable, so I'm calling it even.
That's a whopping difference of more than $1600!
But wait, let me finish.
I couldn't get the room I wanted with David's. I wanted Boardwalk, but I knew that renting with DVC points might mean I couldn't get it, so I picked other hotels in the same area as backup, meaning I told them I'd take Beach Club if I could get it.
Beach Club cost me $1600.
Still, a savings of $1200.
This is a VERY important thing to note if you're thinking of renting DVC points. You might not be able to get that room! I put my request in a year out, which is the furthest out they will accept reservation requests, (so November of 2017) and emailed them the DAY my reservation could feasibly get booked at the 11 month point.
Boardwalk was already unavailable.
If you're going to book DVC points that far in advance, David's has to have an owner who's home resort is the resort you want. If they have that, they still have to compete with every other DVC owner who also wants that resort on your same dates.
My mom and I are going to Disneyland next year, and I wanted to rent DVC points at the Grand Californian. I put my request in a year out and dutifully sent an email a month later, the day it could be booked, just to check in.
They got back with me quickly, letting me know that while the GC did have some dates available, they didn't have an owner who had it as their home resort, and therefore could not book it until the date got closer, seven months out, to be exact.
DVC owners who have a specific resort listed as their home resort are able to book that resort 11 months out. If they want to book another resort, they have to wait until their date is seven months out, thus giving the home resort owners first dibs on the rooms.
It makes sense. If I join DVC at a specific resort, I want to make sure I have dibs on that resort before other DVC owners who paid less for points at a different home resort.
David's asked me if I wanted to wait and see, so I said yes. The next day I got an email letting me know that the first day I had planned for the trip was booked up at GC already, but I could move my dates and potentially get a room.
I declined, they refunded my deposit, easy peasy. I booked an offsite hotel instead, but only because it was Disneyland. I would NOT do this at Disney World. I mean, it's all up to you, but for me, the fun of Disney World is the Disney bubble. I don't want to leave it the entire time I'm there.
So, this is the IMPORTANT thing to take away from renting DVC. If you do it, be prepared to have to take something other than what you asked for. If you're absolutely set on a certain resort, be sure to book 11 months out, and even then, you may have to compromise.
Other important things to note. Your booking with David's is final. If your plans change, you can't cancel or reschedule. You can add or remove people from your booking, but only as long as you do it with at least 30 days to spare.
Also, you will not get daily "Mousekeeping" when renting Disney points. You will get trash and towels on the fourth day of your stay, and a full cleaning on anything past eight days, but if you want daily housekeeping you will have to request it at the front desk and pay extra for it. I believe the rate while I was there was $20 per day, times as many days as you wanted housekeeping.
*You can still add a dining plan if you rent DVC.
*You can still book Fast Passes at the 60 day mark if you rent DVC.
*You can still ride Disney's Magical Express to and from the airport if you rent DVC.
Now, let's talk booking through a Disney TA, and let's see how my $1600 hotel bill could have been a $700 hotel bill.