DVC – Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian

RM-Grand-Floridian-EntranceWe couldn’t be happier with our home a way from home at Bay Lake Tower.  For us, being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom makes BLT the perfect location for our family’s Disney Vacation Club membership.  There are so many (and more on the way) Disney Vacation Club locations to choose from, there’s a perfect place for just about any Walt Disney World fan’s style and location preference.  So, whether you want to be close to the action (like us) or relaxing in what seems like a slice of paradise completely removed from the parks’ hustle and bustle – there’s a place for everyone!  You don’t have to be a DVC member to stay in a DVC resort, you can pay cash for available rooms or rent points for your stay through a reputable company that specializes in matching members’ unused points with people who need them.

On our last visit to Walt Disney World, we couldn’t resist taking a tour of the new Villas at the Grand Floridian.  A resort near and dear to my heart, the Grand Floridian was the first place I ever stayed on Disney property nearly 25 years ago.  RM-VGF-LobbyI love the entire resort’s décor, the architecture, the restaurants, the shops and location on the monorail loop.  We’d heard the new DVC accommodations were spectacular and wanted to check them out for ourselves.  The Grand Floridian’s DVC building is packed with details that are both welcoming and fancy.  It’s bright, cheerful and inviting.RM-VGF-Lobby-Decorative-Details

RM-VGF-Lobby-SeatingWe had enough time one afternoon to whoosh on over via monorail (that’s always how it feels to me- love the whoosh!) and satisfy our curiosity.  The lovely woman (I feel bad for forgetting her name!) at the Grand Floridian’s DVC kiosk was more than happy to show us around.  The lobby is both elegant and whimsical – a theme that extended to every room we toured.RM-VGF-Lobby-ElevatorBeautiful décor, high-end finishes, and those magical Disney details were abundant – some people might find it all a bit fussy, but to Raymond and I, it was full of charm, romance, and surprises!

RM-VGF-BedroomThere are 147 villas which consist of studios (sleep up to 5), one and two bedroom villas (sleep 5-10), and Grand Villas (sleep up to 12), all located in one building.  Yes, with only 147 “rooms”, there’s a sense of urgency created for buying points before they sell out.  We just wanted to see what the rooms looked like so we could maybe use our existing points to stay there someday.  With such limited availability though, we know our best chance of staying there will definitely be in the off season!RM-VGF-Living-Room-Sofa

What made the biggest impression on us is the family-friendliness of the accomodations.  The perfect combination of luxury and comfort.

RM-VGF-Kitchenette RM-VGF-Kitchen RM-VGF-Kitchen-SinkNot that I would want to spend much time cooking on vacation, but the kitchenette in the studio and the full-sized kitchen in the two-bedroom are fantastic.

RM-VGF-Vanity RM-VGF-Vanity-SinkRM-VGF-TubThe bathrooms are amazing.  No, really.  They are.  All nine of the people who could stay in a two bedroom villa could all fit into the shower with room to spare!

RM-VGF-Hidden-Bed RM-VGF-Hidden-BedMy absolute favorite part is the fold-down bed hidden in the dresser (under the TV stand).  How fun for a little one to fall asleep with Dumbo!  The artwork is wonderful.  We were completely in love with this DVC area by the time our tour ended.  We have moved this place to the top of our must-stay list for future vacations!

Have you stayed in a DVC resort?  Are you a DVC member?  Which is your favorite place to stay?

DVC – Bay Lake Tower Studio Tour and Review

RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Contemporary-ViewWe have always loved Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  More than the design and theme, which we like well enough (especially the Mary Blair mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse).  We are crazy in love with the location – to us, the ability to walk to the Magic Kingdom just can’t be beat.  And the restaurants – we love those too.  And the monorail whooshing right on into the building.  Well, you get the idea.  We always knew if a DVC resort became available by the Contemporary, we’d be all in.  That’s why Bay Lake Tower is our home away from home.

One of the most important aspects of the Disney Vacation Club for our family, is the ability to use your points how, when and where you like (based on availability).  When we needed a place to sleep six, Bay Lake Tower’s two bedroom lock-off option was perfect for us – master bedroom (king bed) and bath, full kitchen with living room (pull-out queen sofa and chair-and-a-half) and a connecting studio (two double beds).  When Raymond and I travel alone, we just need a studio.  Able to book at our home resort 11 months in advance, we were, for our most recent visit, able to book a lake view studio (339 square feet) which was perfect in every way!RM-BLT-Studio-Sleeping-Area

Arriving from the airport via Disney’s Magical Express, check-in is in the Contemporary lobby (we opted not to check-in online to see how the in-person version works).  Greeted immediately upon stepping down from the bus by a very friendly and efficient Cast Member, we were promptly escorted into the lobby and handed off to the helpful young man at the check-in counter.  The process was quick and easy and we were told our room was ready. We got our room number and informational materials and headed off for the short walk to Bay Lake Tower.  There is now a new check-in counter in the Bay Lake Tower lobby, but it is not for guests arriving via Magical Express.RM-BLT-Studio-Main-Room

We were a tiny bit disappointed to find out our room was on the 3rd floor.  The 5th floor is super convenient to the walkway between Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary.  The higher floors seem to have the best views.  We were surprisingly happy exactly where we were!  Our balcony overlooked Bay Lake and the grounds of the Contemporary and – as a bonus – was a perfect viewing area for the Electrical Walter Pageant on the evenings we found ourselves back in our room in time to enjoy it.RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Sunrise

Our room had a queen bed, sofa, table and chairs, television, dresser, kitchenette, and bathroom.  The tiny kitchenette makes amazing use of a small space!  In the far left corner of the kitchen area is a little extra vanity with shelves, mirror and outlets.RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-Vanity  I was able to shower first then move into the kitchenette to apply makeup, style my hair, etc.  The kitchen also boasts an incredible amount of storage – including a very cool pull-out shelving unit.  We utilized the coffee maker for brewing the delicious Joffrey’s Coffee we picked up in the Animal Kingdom Lodge gift shop on our first day of vacation.RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Balcony

Location, view, comfort, amenities – our Bay Lake Tower studio did not disappoint.

Are you a DVC member?  What’s your home resort and what do you love most about it?  If you have questions about our experiences with the Disney Vacation Club, ask away!RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-RightRM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-FridgeRM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-StorageRM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Balcony-View-Sunrise



A DVC Membership Story

DVC Owners at Walt Disney WorldHello everyone my name is Sean Duffy and Lisa was nice enough to allow me to guest blog for you. A little bit about me, I am a father of 2 and husband to a wonderful wife. I am lifelong Disney fan and Co-host of Enchanted Tiki Talk Podcast (enchantedtikitalk.com). I am also a DVC Member and that’s what I wanted to write about here.

In June of 2008 we started the process of purchasing DVC via resale. That was the only way we knew we could afford to join DVC. So we initially purchased a 50 point contract at the Wilderness Lodge Villas, which at the time we would get about 4 nights in September (We have since purchased 75 more). On about August 13rd our closing had finished and we were added to the DVC system which meant we had the ability to book our first trip. We immediately booked our first trip for Sept 10th and were planning on only spending 4 nights. But Pixie Dust had been sprinkled and we had a bonus of 50 points that had been banked from the previous year. We decided to do 6 nights and spend time there over the weekend which ate up most of our points.

There wasn’t much of a difference for us going from cash paying to DVC rooms. Granted you Walt Disney World DVChad to make your own bed and you didn’t get fresh towels everyday but who cares we literally owned a piece of the magic. But the real difference in having DVC was the extra space in our room. We loved having a couch to now relax on after coming back to the room after a long day in the parks. Disney was literally starting to feel more like a vacation home than a hotel room.

That trip Disney started to feel different for us. We were now part of a cult. We had a secret handshake with other DVC Members, oh ok well at least I think there should be one. The things we noticed about being DVC Members was that other guests that were members seemed to be more outgoing and would go out of their way to say hi if you were wearing anything that said DVC. It was starting to feel more like a community than just a place to go on vacation. You immediately have something to relate to with other members. They are more likely to talk about why they became members or where they lived. DVC Walkway / Walt Disney WorldEveryone had stories to share and they all understood the family memories that had been created in Walt Disney World.

See that’s it, that why I wanted to become a DVC Member. It’s not just about racing to Soarin or getting that highly sought after reservation at Ohana’s. It really is all about the memories that you get to create with your family. I know that my son’s first ride was Peter Pan and my daughter’s was the Little Mermaid or that the first banana that my son ever ate was in Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World is just the start of our family memories that have yet to happen. But it is DVC that has brought us that ability to have someplace to look forward to year after year and create new magical family memories.

Sean can be found on Twitter @1MinDisneyDream, Facebook here and on YouTube here.


Thoughts on the Disney Vacation Club

Disney's Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower Resorts

Disney’s Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower Resorts

I get asked from time to time about the Disney Vacation Club.  Seems like a lot of people think about DVC – the pros and cons, the benefits, how it works.  I’m always happy to answer questions – except the one where I’m supposed to explain how it makes good financial sense.  That one, I can’t really answer except like this – if you’re looking for a solid financial reason to make a DVC purchase, you might not find one.  If you’re looking for a good reason to visit Walt Disney World every (or every other) year, you’re a big Disney geek, and you know your children and present or future grandchildren will love many years of future Disney vacations as well – that might be reason enough.

Note:  Interior DVC studio pictures are all from our most recent visit to Walt Disney World – Old Key West Resort.

Distance Between Bay Lake Tower and Contemporary Resorts

Elevated walkway between Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary Resort

It costs a lot to buy DVC points and then it costs some more every year to pay the annual dues.  Raymond and I joined in 2011 by purchasing points while on a Disney cruise to Alaska.  This was not an impulse purchase by any means – we thought long and hard about it for several years, in fact.  We took a DVC tour back around 2007 or 2008 and were very interested but ONLY if and when we could buy points at a DVC property located on the monorail loop.  Our favorite resort is the Contemporary and when we heard about Bay Lake Tower, we decided it was time to see if this dream could become a reality.  After visiting Walt Disney World more than a dozen times over the past 25 years, we’re pretty sure our love of Disney vacations will never go away.

Studio at Disney's Old Key West

Old Key West Studio

So, we’re on that Alaskan Cruise (which I highly recommend, by the way) and decide to take time on an at-sea day to listen to the DVC presentation and see if there were any specials available for Bay Lake Tower.  The fact that we won a drawing at the presentation for $500 in on-board credit certainly seemed like a good sign!  I’ll spare you the details, but we ended up with 220 points for, I think, the next 48 years.  Turns out, 220 points is not quite enough (we’d like to add on about 100 more) – more on that in a minute.

First, a cautionary tale…

Sitting Area, Studio at Disney's Old Key West

Old Key West Studio – sitting area

We met a super friendly, Disney-loving family from Ireland on our Disney Mediterranean cruise last summer.  No doubt the entire family loved Disney – you could tell.  Mom, Day, son, daughter – all Disney fans.  During an excursion in Italy, while waiting to leave Pompeii, Mrs. Irish-Disney-Mom confessed to me that they had purchased 320 DVC points and were considering selling them on the resale market.  Seems it was an impulse purchase made a couple of years prior and while they still intended to take Disney vacations as often as possible, airfare to the U.S. was too expensive to go every (or even every other) year and using points for anything other than WDW isn’t the most economical use of the points (in spite of what those DVC sales presenters lead you to believe).  Moral of the story – don’t buy DVC points while swept up in the magic of a Disney vacation – consider this purchase carefully…many point purchases are as expensive as a new car.

My tips & things to consider before purchasing DVC points:

Studio Balcony at Disney's Old Key West

Old Key West Studio Balcony

Do purchase points at the home resort you really love (if at all possible).  The 11-month booking window at your home resort (versus 7 months at other resorts) can make a big difference over the years.  You may not want to go at peak times now, but in the future it may become really important.  Christmas at Walt Disney World – including opening gifts there on Christmas morning – is a big dream of ours.  We’ll appreciate that 11-month window when the time comes to plan that trip.

Kitchen area of Disney's Old Key West

Old Key West Studio Kitchenette

Don’t buy DVC points if you really want to vacation elsewhere (using the exchange capabilities with non-Disney resorts world-wide through RCI) – While we’ve never done this, I’ve heard it is definitely not the best, most economical use of DVC points.  Reports vary on ease of booking, value, and if certain RCI resort options are on par with Disney quality.  There’s also no guarantee (if you love RCI) that Disney’s relationship with RCI will continue way into the future.

Even though it’s more expensive than buying resale, buying directly from Disney will give you the most flexibility with your points.  If you wanted to use them towards Disney Cruise Line or Adventures by Disney vacations, the points cannot have been purchased on the resale market.  Resale-purchased points can only be used at DVC resorts – which works out really well for a lot of people.  We were concerned that someday – out in some unfathomable future time – we’d want to have more flexibility.

Studio TV, Disney's Old Key West

Studio TV at Old Key West

Here’s how we’re using this year’s points:  6 nights (last week of May) at Old Key West, 7 nights at Bay Lake Tower (home resort) in mid-October, 35 points leftover going towards a 4-night stay at Bay Lake Tower for the Princess Half-Marathon weekend in February, 2015 (extra points needed coming from 2015’s points).  If we’d had more points, we would have stayed at Bay Lake Tower in May instead of Old Key West.  We love our home resort and it would be our first choice – thus the reason we want to buy more points.  However, more points means higher annual dues, so once again, we’re thinking it over before jumping in again.

Unused points from one year may be banked for use the next year.  Need extra points?  Borrow from the next year’s points.  Banking and borrowing are common and important to get the most out of a DVC investment.

You get to choose the accommodations that work best for your particular travel party.  Need a room for two?  Get a studio or a 1-bedroom unit.  Need room for 8?  Get a 2-bedroom unit that has a full sized kitchen and living room (with fold-out couch and chair).  Get what you need, whenever you need it.  You’re not locked into one size or one particular time of year.  Having a kitchen, washer/dryer and more room do give you a home-away-from-home vacation experience.  Mousekeeping comes only every 4th day to collect trash and replenish toiletries, towels, and kitchen supplies.

A really wonderful perk is access to dedicated DVC travel planning specialists to help you book your trips and they are super knowledgeable Cast Members!  You also get a dedicated web site to help you figure out what resorts are available when you want to travel.  DVC members also receive a variety of discounts all over Walt Disney World are allowed to purchase the Tables in Wonderland card which saves 20% at bunches of Walt Disney World restaurants (and bars).

For official information on Disney Vacation Club, go here.

Are you a DVC member?  What’s your home resort?  If not, have you considered a DVC purchase?  Where would you love your home resort to be?