Monday, November 4, 2013

I Don't Think I Can Walk the Walk

There is a practice among Disney guests – in particular, DVC members – with which I was completely unacquainted. It's referred to as “walking your reservation”.

Are you familiar with this? If not, let me break it down for you.

First, it helps to know how the DVC program works. As a DVC member, you buy points at your “home resort”, which can also be used at other DVC properties. Where you buy is usually determined by where you like to stay, the going cost per point, annual dues (which differ from resort to resort), and contract ending date. I, for example, bought at Saratoga Springs Resort. While perhaps not my favorite DVC resort, it had one of the lowest costs per point, low annual maintenance fees, and a contract good through 2054.

Why does your home resort matter? In one word: availability. You can book your home resort eleven months in advance of your trip, but all other resorts only seven months. For example, if I were to log into Disney's DVC website, here is how they would describe my options:

You can start requesting up-to-7-night reservations for arrival as far out as:
Home Resort - Arrival Date : October 04 2014
Non-Home Resorts - Arrival Date : June 04 2014

This ensures that owners at, say, The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa -- who paid $150 per point to own at that resort -- have a much better shot of getting a room there than I do... which is only fair, since I'm skating in on a purchase price of just $67 per point.

That being said, I've had pretty good luck at getting the resorts I wanted so far. On our first trip as DVC owners, we stayed in our home resort. It's a perfectly lovely resort, but its biggest draw is its proximity to Downtown Disney – which, during this area's construction phase as it transitions to Disney Springs, isn't so much of a draw right now.

On our next vacation, we stayed at Bay Lake Towers. It was our last trip with our daughter Kira before she left for college, and she'd never stayed in a monorail resort. I wanted a theme park-view room, but was only able to secure a lake-view. That being said, it was still my first choice of a resort, and our “lake-view” ended up having a wonderful view of the Magic Kingdom!

Our last trip was to the Villas at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. This is the only DVC resort at Disneyland, so it was imperative that we be able to get a room there for our West Coast trip – and we did. So as I said, thus far we've totally lucked out. But...

My husband and I would just love to get a concierge level studio at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. AKL is the only DVC resort that offers a concierge option to members, and we'd really like to give it a shot. However, there are only five concierge studios. That's right, five. So the odds of us as non-Animal Kingdom Lodge owners getting one of those for a week are close to nil – unless...

Here's where the “walking” comes in. This is a method DVC members have devised to help secure some harder-to-get reservations. How does it work? You make the first day of your reservation start earlier (perhaps seven days or so) than when you really intend your vacation to start. You then call into Member Services every day moving the start date of your reservation back one day and extending it on the end by one day. Eventually, you'll end up getting the dates you originally wanted. This gives you a head start on all of the people who followed the rules and waited until seven months from their actual vacation dates.

Sigh... I can see why people do it, but I just can't seem to bring myself to do so. While I don't think this hurts Disney at all, I do think it's being unfair to the other guests – both those who waited until the official date to book their trip, and those who may have been trying to book for the dates you were “walking over” -- the dates you booked and canceled (thus making them unavailable at the seven-month mark), that you were never even intending to use in the first place.

I contacted Disney Vacation Club to see how they felt about this practice via the chat feature on their website. Here's the exact conversation (although I changed the Cast Member's name to protect his anonymity):

Teri: Hi Gaston!
Gaston: Welcome Home!  How may I assist you today?
Teri: I'm wondering if Disney has an official policy regarding members "walking" their DVC reservations...
Gaston: No, we do not. They are basically modifying the dates of their existing reservation.
Teri: So there's nothing to be done to discourage this policy? Does Disney have any feelings on it one way or the other?
Gaston: There is no way to discourage this policy because they are modifying their dates and Members are allowed to do this.
Teri: Okeydoke. Thanks!

So there you have it. Disney doesn't seem to have a problem with it (at least not a big enough one to do anything about it), even if I do. What do you think? Am I just being a prudish stick-in-the-mud, or is this as unfair to other guests as I think it is? Or is the real problem just that I'm too lazy to go in every day and modify my reservation? Speak your mind here or on Facebook!