A look at DVC and The Villas of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

While vacationing this past May at Walt Disney World, I kept hearing about “Disney’s best kept secret,” the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Essentially it is a timeshare.

While it’s marketed as a cost-effective way to vacation (save as much as 70 per cent on your Disney vacations!), I’m not entirely convinced. However, I can see how DVC can save you a some money over time if you prefer to stay in deluxe resort accommodations on property.

The Grand Floridian at dusk

The Grand Floridian at dusk

Speaking of deluxe properties, my love of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is no secret. Some say they are turned off by the “stuffiness” of the well-manicured resort and grounds, but our experience has been one of feeling at home.

This is why I am especially excited for the opening of this resort’s brand new DVC villas, opening in October.

The new building (under construction during our recent stay) will house 147 villas–a mix of deluxe studios, one- and two-bedroom villas and grand villas featuring three bedrooms and a media room.

A Mary Poppins theme will pull together the classic Disney touches that make this resort so enjoyable.

Check out the video below, courtesy of DVCNews.com for a look at the model rooms. There is so much to love–the tub! The chartreuse accents! The gorgeous window with muntins!

From the research I’ve done, DVC stacks up better than a lot of the competition out there.

For starters, DVC uses a points system that will allow you to vacation at any time of year (not just a pre-determined week each year). Points can be banked (from the immediate past year) or borrowed (from the immediate year ahead). Each resort has point values assigned for room types, according to the time of year.

If you’re thinking of taking the DVC plunge, you may want to ask yourself a few questions.

Are you planning to vacation in Florida (or at other DVC resort locations in California or Hawaii) at least every two-to-three years? The answer should be yes, as you won’t want to lose your points.

It’s important to note that there are many resorts at Walt Disney World that you may not have even known were Disney Vacation Club resorts–take Old Key West Resort for example. You can get great “value” for point use at this resort.

Olivia's Cafe at Disney's Old Key West Resort

Olivia’s Cafe at Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Buying direct from Disney will cost a minimum of $15,000 for 100 points. Will you be able to pay cash? Otherwise, potential vacation cost savings may be wiped out by interest payments. You must also account for annual dues on the timeshare for resort maintenance.

Purchasing a DVC membership on the resale market is also an option. Check out The Timeshare Store for more information about DVC resales.

One last thing–unlike most other timeshares, DVC contracts have an expiry date. The property with the lengthiest contract is the Villas at the Grand Floridian, which has an expiry date of 2064. While it might seem that you may not be vacationing to Disney well into your 80s, it’s comforting to know that there is an end date, and you won’t be on the hook forever.

I have to admit, the Villas at the Grand Floridian are making me think about becoming a DVC member. A number of other DVC resorts are on my bucket list (The Beach Club Resort, Grand Californian and Aulani), and this could potentially make getting there easier.

What do you think? Have you ever considered buying a timeshare? Are there any good news stories out there?

Review: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is Walt Disney World’s flagship resort and crown jewel. And yes, it is grand, in all senses.

From the moment you walk into the five-storey lobby of the Victorian era-themed Grand Floridian, you are overcome with turn-of-the-century (the one before last) elegance, and an aroma that I can’t quite put my finger on. It slightly reminds me of Rainkissed Leaves by Bath and Body Works (which, sadly, I heard is now in the process of being discontinued).

Our experience, from beginning to end was unbelievable in terms of customer service. Staff–from bell services to lobby concierge and store clerks–all personified an era long gone (in personality, and uniform).

We booked a standard room, which sleeps up to five people, plus one child under three in a crib. I’ve heard that if you’re lucky, you can be upgraded for free to rooms with theme park views, or even the luxurious club level. Our room, situated in the Boca Chica building, was a ground floor room with views of the pool and grounds. At this resort, that ain’t a bad thing.

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Our room felt oversized, even with the five of us (mom, dad, two small kids and grandma) piling in. The room décor is very traditional, and some may say outdated, but I felt that it provided a cozy feeling that made me feel at home. It also stayed true to the overall Victorian nature of the grounds. If not for anything else, the beds at the resort are amazing, and I would stay here just to be able to put my head down to sleep at night!

With two pools and an Alice in Wonderland-themed splash pad, the resort is a great place to cool off on afternoons when you are taking a break from touring the parks. With a variety of eateries–including Gasparilla Island Grill, the Grand Floridian Café (a hidden gem, in my opinion), 1900 Park Fare, Narcoosees, Citricos and the prestigious Victoria and Albert’s–plus pool side quick service options, there is much variety to offer your palate. Tennis courts, boat rentals, a white sand beach, convention centre and a spa round out other amenities. Oh, and I forgot, shopping. Several stores in the main building can also help you pass the time as you navigate through the unique merchandise offered at this resort.

We often found ourselves sitting outside Gasparilla Island Grill morning and night. In the morning, we would start our day enjoying the early sun on a patio overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle. By night, it became the place to watch the nightly Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom (second to being in the park itself).

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The monorail, Disney’s most exciting form of transportation, was accessible through the second floor of the main building. The length of the entire ride to Magic Kingdom was two minutes! A quick sneeze and we were at the front gates of Magic Kingdom, ready to start our day at rope drop and beat the lines.

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I could go on forever about the Grand Floridian. Overall, the resort provided a level of courtesy, elegance and recreation opportunities that made for an amazing vacation.

Looking forward to provide more in-depth reviews of the Grand Floridian’s restaurants in upcoming posts!

Picking the perfect place to stay

Being a first time visitor to Walt Disney World this past May, I knew I had to pick the perfect place to stay. Not just perfect for me, but perfect for my kids, my husband and my mom, who also came along.

Originally, we had planned to stay at the newly opened Art of Animation Resort (AOA). This value resort has Disney written all over it, has great reviews, and for a relatively good price point too.

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With three pools, and Little Mermaid, Lion King, Finding Nemo and Cars-themed accommodations, I knew my girls would be in love with it. But, I also knew that it would likely be a zoo–because it was new, and because it was so specifically oriented towards the under-10 demographic. I started to think…after long, hot, days at the park, would I be looking forward to a break from the crowds at this new, and busy, resort?

As I started to get more indepth in planning and researching my options, I started to think more about convenience. AOA, from my research, would be about a 20-minute bus ride to Magic Kingdom (but a much quicker bus ride to Epcot and Hollywood Studios).

I started to wonder…would it be worth the price in upgrading to a deluxe resort on the monorail line, and be able to arrive at Magic Kingdom (our main attraction) within minutes? The answer was yes. Carting a two- and four-year-old to bus stops and on half-hour bus trips midday for naps would seem to eat up quite a bit of time. Maybe older kids would fare better?

The Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort or Grand Floridian Resort and Spa were my options if I wanted to go the monorail route. After some careful consideration, we chose to stay at the Grand Floridian. So glad we did!

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The resort has recently been the subject of intense renovations, and still has some evidence of construction as the Disney Vacation Club units are being built adjacent to the main resort. However, it proved to be a great choice for a number of reasons, including convenience, upgraded amenities and a good variety restaurants onsite (compared to just one quick-service eatery at AOA). Many reviews document the perks of this resort on TripAdvisor.

Personally, I wanted to ensure that we were close enough to the parks to be able to stay late but get back to the resort within minutes, avoiding the mass exodus at peak periods like closing time. Keeping the kids sane (and rested) was priority number one for this trip, so we chose to go this route. But I won’t lie, the extras at this resort did make you feel like a million bucks.

If you want the ultimate Disney vacation, and are staying onsite, I would recommend a deluxe resort within close distance of the park that you will be heading to the most. If you are on a budget, the value or moderate resorts provide a great place to rest your head at the end of the day, with some amenities too. In an upcoming post, I’ll list the various resorts, themes and categories to give a clearer picture on the options Disney offers regarding accommodations.

But first…I plan on sharing my full review on the Grand Floridian. Stay tuned!