Did you know that not all Disney Vacation Club (DVC) contracts work the same? A few years ago, The Walt Disney Company introduced a new kind of ownership option, one that doesn’t operate the same way as standard contracts. This unique form of DVC ownership is called the Guaranteed Week. Here’s everything that you need to know about it.
What Is a Guaranteed Week?
When Disney first introduced the DVC program, they bristled at the concept of their standard timeshare. In a way, the entire system that you know functions as a direct reaction against the outdated timeshare premise. Initially, timeshares were exclusively fixed-week programs wherein a person would get to stay at a deluxe resort for a set week each year.
Disney went a different way with the concept. Understanding that many Disney vacationers prefer more freedom with their bookings, corporate executives designed the points-based system that you know and love. You get a set number of points each year as a member. You can purchase as many of these points as you want, and you can book as many rooms for as many nights as you like. All you need is hotel availability and enough points to “pay” for your reservation.
While the DVC system has worked almost perfectly over the years, a few guests complained along the way that they preferred the primary timeshare concept instead. DVC officials wanted to satisfy as many customers as possible, and so they introduced the Guaranteed Week program.
Explaining the Guaranteed Week
This system is akin to a conventional timeshare, albeit with one huge difference. When you purchase a Guaranteed Week, you have the option to stay at your home resort during a fixed week each year. Disney numbers these weeks from 1 to 52, and the “week” begins on Sunday. Ergo, the first Sunday of the year signals the beginning of Week #1. The last Sunday of the year marks the start of Week #52.
Your Guaranteed Week contract will display a number. That’s the week when you have a guaranteed reservation for your home resort. Disney goes so far as to book your reservation automatically each year. You don’t have to do anything. When your 11-month window opens, the system schedules the reservation starting on the Sunday of your ownership week. Disney presumes that you will stay during this week, but it’s not set in stone. You have another option.
The way that the Guaranteed Week differs from the fixed week timeshare is that you have your standard DVC flexibility. When you don’t want to travel during your guaranteed week, you just opt out of your regular reservation. Your DVC Guaranteed Week contract will show a point total, too. You have this many DVC points annually. You just don’t use them in the usual way when you book your Guaranteed Week.
A Guaranteed Week Example
I understand that this situation is a bit confusing. Let’s use a real-world example to demonstrate the mechanics of a Guaranteed Week.
A friend of mine owns a DVC contract at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. This individual says that their Guaranteed Week is #44. Their contract has a value of 168 points. Should you look at the points chart, you’ll notice that this week falls into Choice Season.
A week’s stay at the Polynesian during this season should cost 153 points. It’s not a typo. You pay more to buy a Guaranteed Week contract. The premium is generally around 10 percent. Disney does this because they believe that a Guaranteed Week contract has more value.
Let’s say that my friend cannot visit a DVC resort during Week #44. They are not in any way harmed by this situation. Instead, they just opt out of their scheduled week and receive the points instead.
Rather than a booked stay starting on the Sunday of Week #44, the person receives 168 points. They can now do with the points as they see fit. Renting the points, selling them, giving them away, or banking them for the following year are all possible.
Once they convert from the Guaranteed Week to DVC points, their membership works like any other. They’ve simply switched from a Guaranteed Week owner to the holder of 168 points for that year and that year alone and can book their Home Resort 7-11 months in advance or another DVC resort up to 7 months. When the next 11-month window opens, their Guaranteed Week contract will once again automatically book a room starting on the Sunday of Week #44.
What Are the Benefits of the Guaranteed Week?
You may read this information and wonder about the benefits of the Guaranteed Week. To Disney officials, they’re significant. You must determine whether you agree with them on the point. Here’s what you must understand to decide:
The Guaranteed Week gives you more flexibility than a standard contract. You save yourself the aggravation of logging into the DVC site to book each year. Your vacation this year is the same as your vacation next year, assuming that you’re okay with that. When you’re not, you just opt out and reserve a room on your own.
You may wonder about the utility of such automation. Think about the situation in these terms. When are the times that you’re most likely to visit a DVC resort? For many guests, the answers are things like birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays.
Let’s say that your birthday is on July 4th. How easy is that room to book with a standard DVC contract? Your answer depends on when your birthday or anniversary occurs.
Did you know that one of the most popular anniversaries is Valentine’s Day? That’s obviously not an easy day to book a room. Similarly, I have a couple of friends with July 4th birthdays. They wouldn’t have much luck getting the room that they want at the seven-month window.
Alternately, let’s remember that the busiest week on the Disney calendar is the time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Have you ever tried to get the perfect reservation during the holiday week? The odds are not ever in your favor.
In these examples, you can see how a Guaranteed Week would be favorable. You’re paying a slightly higher price to ensure that your family can visit Disney at the same time each year. It’s invaluable to anyone who has made a tradition out of Christmas at the parks.
For my family, a Guaranteed Week makes perfect sense. My wife’s birthday and our wedding anniversary are a few days apart. With a Guaranteed Week, we always have the option to spend that week at Disney, proudly wearing our Celebration Buttons!
A dear friend of ours likes the Guaranteed Week for a different reason. She is a marathon runner who has participated in RunDisney events. With a Guaranteed Week, she can always get a room even though Disney resorts are usually at full occupancy during RunDisney weekends.
The value in the contract is that you always have a Plan A as part of your contract. Your ownership week will never change until the membership expires decades from now. Plus, Plan B is naturally built into the system. Let’s say that you have different plans for Christmas week or don’t want to run a marathon this year. You just opt out and switch your contract to DVC points instead.
What are the Drawbacks of the Guaranteed Week?
The Guaranteed Week has two primary drawbacks. One of them is the price. As I mentioned, Disney rightfully perceives the Guaranteed Week as having more value. They’re selling inventory during their busiest times of the year. They should and do charge more.
You may wonder about whether the Guaranteed Week is worth the extra money. What I would suggest is that you list the weeks when you believe that you’re most likely to visit Disney. Next, think about previous experiences that you’ve had in trying to book your preferred hotel and room type during this period. Also, if any of these rooms are in the current 11- or seven-month window, please check for availability now.
What I suspect that you’ll discover is that you cannot get your first choice right now. Instead, you must schedule a Waitlist reservation instead. With a Guaranteed Week contract, you wouldn’t even need to look. Disney’s system will book the room that you want as a standard part of your membership package. Is that benefit worth roughly 10 percent more money? Only you can say for sure.
The other con is the inflexible start date. The Guaranteed Week gives you a room from Sunday to Sunday. You check in on the first Sunday and then check out on the following one. Not everyone vacations that way. When you buy this sort of DVC contract, you may find the inflexibility of the dates problematic.
Which Resorts Offer Guaranteed Week Contracts?
Now that you’re sold on the value of Guaranteed Weeks, I do have a bit of bad news. Not every DVC resort offers them. In fact, only five of them do right now. The places where you may buy a Guaranteed Week contract are:
Unfortunately, Disney would have difficulty adding Guaranteed Weeks to existing properties due to real estate laws. They would have to create a new property at a current site a la Copper Creek. The good news is that all of Disney’s recent DVC offerings have included a Guaranteed Week sales option. It’s reasonable to expect that pattern to hold in the future.
Now that you understand the mechanics of the Guaranteed Week, you’ll also know to target these contracts. That’s especially true if they’re similarly priced to regular contracts. You’re getting a lot more value via the Guaranteed Week.