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018 Member Interview Russ Clark from DVCinfo.com Owner at SSR AUL and PVB
My DVC Points Podcast

 
 
00:00 / 00:52:31
 
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If you've ever googled anything about DVC, there's a high chance that you ended up reading a page, article or news post from DVCInfo.com. We've all read the articles and news stories. But how much do you know about the DVC members behind this site? Having spent many hours on the site and in their forums, I can tell you there's a dedicated team of people whose combined efforts make that site a pillar of the DVC community.

In episode 018 we get a chance to meet the team leader and prominent member of the DVC Community, Russ Clark. Russ not only owns Disney Vacation Club contracts at Saratoga Springs Resort, Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, and Aulani and is also a member of the Hilton Grand Vacation Club.

Russ began his timeshare journey with Hilton Grand Vacation Club. His Disney story starts with RCI exchanges into the Disney Vacation Club. He received numerous bonus points when joining HGVC. They deposited the extra points into RCI. At the time, you could book any of the DVC resorts using RCI exchanges. Currently, DVC restricts people to Saratoga Springs when exchanging into DVC from RCI. (This benefits DVC members, as reserves inventory for members at resorts DVC members deem most desirable.) Russ and his family tried out most DVC resorts before joining DVC with the RCI exchange program. After DVC made the transition to SSR only, Russ and his family decided to become DVC members to ensure they could continue coming to DVC resorts.

Russ explains that having done numerous resort exchanges in the HGVC program and within the RCI program, he decided the best resort to buy is the most economical resort to own, so they bought into DVC at SSR. In the DVC community, SSR is well known for being a network resort as a significant amount of owners prefer to stay elsewhere.

Russ has a clearly defined booking strategy at the 7-month mark:

  1. Beach Club – 1 Bedroom
  2. Bay Lake Tower – 1 Bedroom Lake View
  3. Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge – 1 Bedroom
  4. Animal Kingdom – 1 Bedroom Savanah View

Generally speaking, they try to book at the Beach Club or a Magic Kingdom resort. If neither are available, they know they will enjoy a Savannah view room at Kidani.

A typical trip home for the Clark family lasts nine nights and goes from Friday to Sunday. They like coming in the spring and fall that align with their children's school schedule. Getting nine contiguous nights in the 7-month mark at Beach Club is somewhat tricky. They usually can stay at Bay Lake Tower, and if that's not available, they're always happy with Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village. The family avoids split-stays whenever possible.

Russ discusses the sticker shock of comparing DVC annual maintenance fees to the rest of the timeshare industry and the value of the Disney experience. DVC dues are sky high compared to any other timeshare program. However, when you compare the yearly dues to the cost of staying in a cash room, they look a lot more reasonable. For him, this was the hardest factor to get around when buying into DVC. However, he points out that his first Disney trip was off property at an HGVC resort. He values coming to Disney and staying inside “the Disney Bubble.” When you leave the Magic Kingdom and start driving past all the same stores and restaurants you have back home, it breaks the immersive theming experience of Disney. 60-day fast pass windows, Disney transportation to and from the resorts are crucial elements of staying on property. At Disney, all cast members are on stage. Every worker in a restaurant is wearing a costume at a themed restaurant. Russ points out that once you're committed to staying on property, DVC is a becomes a cost-effective approach to staying in the best resorts Disney has to offer.

Back when the Clark family started exchanging into DVC, they were able to get two weeks back-to-back in DVC resorts. The RCI exchange was not as well known as today. The two week stays in DVC helped the family adopt a very relaxed touring plan that involved a few hours of park time in the late morning, pool time in the afternoon and back to whatever park had extra magic hours in the evening. Russ explains that this is contrary to everything that he had heard about Disney with families going commando in the parks from rope drop to park closure.

The Clark family added on to Poly when it was pre-sales. Already owning timeshares in Hawaii, they loved the theming of the Polynesian resort. They added on with the intent of staying there before and after a cruise or holiday weekends. Since staying at the Poly, the family feels a little squeezed into the studio given the fact they are accustomed to 1-bedroom villas at DVC and 2-bedroom villas in HGVC.

Russ and I discuss using the room inventory chart at DVCinfo.com when using the waitlist. The general principle is that you want to waitlist the room with the highest number of potential cancellations. If there are 23 rooms in a booking category, you have 23 chances somebody cancels, and your desired room opens up. However, if you waitlist a villa that has 178 rooms available, you have 178 opportunities for somebody to withdraw and open up your villa.

Next, our conversation moves on to booking RCI as a DVC member. Russ asserts that using the RCI Select resorts can be a good value for your DVC points. He points out that HGVC has ocean view rooms for 150 points a week. You have to strategically set up a search for these resorts for a specific week. He recommends setting up your search for two years in advance. When an RCI member deposits weeks into RCI and your room becomes available, it goes to the person who has been on the search (think of it as a wait list) the longest. A typical comment by DVC members is that every time they look for availability in RCI, there isn't any. That's because RCI works on a search basis that is roughly equivalent to our waitlist. You have to place an ongoing search request for certain resorts at certain times. (Very similar to going on a DVC waitlist). Russ indicated that you have 24 hours to decline when an RCI search matches your request. After accepting, then you deposit your DVC points into the RCI program. Russ highly recommends researching RCI resorts before making an exchange. He believes Hilton Grand Vacation Club resorts will meet our expectations as DVC members; however, there are a lot of questionable timeshare resorts in the RCI network.

Russ commented that once he joined DVC, they started coming to Walt Disney World a lot more often. Before joining the Disney Vacation Club, they had to wait for an RCI match to come up. After becoming DVC members, they were able to buy discounted annual passes and have started coming to DVC 2-4 times a year.

If Tinkerbell were to deposit 2000 one-time use points into his account, the Clark's would be checking into the Villas at the Grand Californian for at least a week. Russ commented again that they are not fans of split-stays.

In terms of advice for one time members, Russ discusses home resort advantage vs. value. He suggests that people buy value resorts and enjoy 7- month switches unless they have to stay at a Beach Club. Russ commented that it also depends on what type of room you want as well. The 11-month window is more critical for studio people. 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom bookings are a little be more forgiving at the 7-month switch.

You can contact Russ at DVCinfo.com. On his community forums, he is @Russ. You can also find me @Chad in his discussions.

On Facebook, feel free to like his page. https://www.facebook.com/DVCInfoCenter/

Russ is also an active participant in the My DVC Points community group. https://facebook.com/groups/mydvcpoints. He's also a frequent contributor on our Facebook Live conversations every Monday night at 9 pm Eastern. https://facebook.com/mydvcpoints