That time we tried to book a room at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel with Disney Vacation Club points

As mentioned in this post, we are proud owners of Disney Vacation Club (DVC), which is Disney’s version of a timeshare. My family bought our membership back in 1992, when there was only one resort, called Old Key West (OKW). Since this is where we purchased our membership, it is considered our “home resort.” DVC has expanded exponentially in the past 25 years, and now includes 13 resorts in Florida, South Carolina, California and Hawaii.

Because Old Key West is my home resort, I can book reservations there up to 11 months in advance. If I want to book at any other DVC resort, I have to wait until 7 months before my trip before booking. This system gives priority to members of the resort to book where they bought their membership. This was less of a problem when DVC was still developing and had inventory that was not being used, but that is no longer the case.

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View from our balcony of Old Key West (c. 1994)

If you’re interested in booking at a popular time, you better take advantage of your home resort booking window of 11-8 months. If not, you may not find your preferred room type or even any room at your resort. So if you wanted a room at Boardwalk or Beach Club Villas during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, for example, you might be out of luck.

We don’t need to book a room at Walt Disney World that much anymore, since we live about 15 minutes away. There are the occasional times we book for a night or two but nowhere long enough to use up our annual point allotment. That’s when we started hosting an annual “Point Burning” party, where we would rent a high-point grand villa or treehouse and invite a bunch of friends over for the evening.

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The view from the two story picture window of a Bay Lake Tower grand villa

Since we bought our membership directly from Disney, we can also use our points at other Disney resort hotels, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney or at several other resort options.  We’ve gone on several Adventures by Disney trips with our points but the value in trading over points has gradually decreased over the years. Recently, I’ve started selling my excess points through the DVC Rental Store.  I first read about the process in 2015 from this Pizza in Motion article about the Treehouse Villas. I’ve used them several times with no complaints. The procedure is straightforward and payment is always prompt.

So, I told you that story so I can tell you this one. We finally have a need for our DVC points because as part of our Southwestern U.S. vacation this fall, we are ending the trip at Disneyland. We were planning on staying for 4 nights and that would be a perfect use of points to stay at the The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. The four nights in a studio room would cost us 80 points, which is less than what we get for the year. We’ve stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel using DVC points in the past, but that was before the Vacation Club addition was completed.

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View from our room at the Grand Californian Hotel (c. 2006)

Here is the problem. I had to wait until exactly 7 months before our trip would be starting to book the room. I marked the day on the calendar and even planned to have Sharon be ready to book the room at exactly 8 AM, the opening time for reservations, since I would be at work. I checked the day before and the room was still available. On the night before we could book the room, I was showing Sharon how to make a reservation and…the rooms were gone. Nothing available for the first night of our stay, only the last 3 nights. I still had Sharon put the reservation on waitlist, which will book the room if someone cancels. I looked that night and the remaining 3 nights were still available. So we figured we could still book those the next morning and stay somewhere else for 1 night, if necessary.  Guess what happened the next morning? No rooms. Not only the first two nights, but the third night was booked out as well. This wasn’t for just for our size room, but all rooms (1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and grand villas). Eventually the whole week of our stay was totally booked before anyone from any other resort could make a reservation, while it was fully available just 7 days before.

Was there a big rush of people making reservations before the booking window closed? Possibly. As long as you cancel far enough in advance, there are no penalties to cancel your reservation with DVC points.

I do have another idea. I’ve read about where people can “walk” their reservations. Since DVC lets you book for up to a week from the beginning of your window, you can essentially lock in your date before your booking window opens. If you make a reservation for the 7 days before you want to stay and ending on your arrival day, you have locked in your first day of your stay. Then every day, you need to cancel the first day and add on the newly available last day until you have booked all the days of your trip. While some people think this is being “crafty,” I am personally against doing something like this. It keeps people from being able to make reservations for a stay because the room is being held by someone who has no intention to use it. The loophole being used is necessary to allow people to book longer stays and so they can cancel if necessary without penalty. It just smells funny to me, so I didn’t do it.

I did wait list the room we wanted so if the people did make the reservations for our nights didn’t have an intention to use them, I’ll be first on the list to get a room. When things like happen, my brain goes into overdrive, looking for options. I’ve already got a Plan B, Plan C and Plan D. That’s the luxury of knowing miles and points and having multiple alternatives when the best laid plans fall through. But which one to choose?

BTTF-8

 

 

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7 thoughts on “That time we tried to book a room at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel with Disney Vacation Club points”

    1. We usually don’t have a problem when we need a room. The only issue has been with booking in California. We still like the perks enough to keep our membership

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  1. What time of year were you trying for? My husband and I were able to get a few days in September but it was waiting until the very exact moment we could book it. And we couldn’t get Sunday. It’s much harder when California only has one option.

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  2. That sucks that you couldn’t get a room booked. We are staying in late July for 4 nights and were able to easily secure a 2-bedroom at the 7-month mark. However, that was the only size room available. For us it was great because we need the space this trip (packing it full with 9 people!). However, I know booking a studio/1-bedroom/2-bedroom lock off is next to impossible at VGC at 7-months. We have stayed there 3 times previously and have only gotten a 1-bedroom one of those times – never been able to book a studio.
    On another note…I had no idea about this “walking” concept. I agree – sounds totally wrong! And sort of sounds like a pain to even do.
    (Just found your site…as we are always traveling as a family (with a husband who travels for work weekly and accumulates tons of points) and constantly comparing points to cash (airline/hotel/rental car) it is now bookmarked for future use! Thanks!)

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    1. Thanks for visiting and we hope that you’ll keep coming back.

      As far as our DL trip goes, while it was a disappointment not getting a room at DVC, we had many options between our points and leveraging benefits from credit cards so we were able to come up with a good Plan B.

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