5 Reasons to Buy a DVC at Grand Californian and 2 Reasons to Look Elsewhere
The Disney Vacation Club (DVC) program provides an embarrassment of riches to its members. Owners have so many different options for resort stays that the choices may seem overwhelming.
This DVC series attempts to alleviate some of that stress by evaluating the merits of each participating property. This time, we’re heading west. Here are five reasons to buy at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa plus a couple of reasons why you may want to pick somewhere else.
The Negatives of Owning at the Grand Californian
1. Hefty Purchase Price
This blog posts articles about DVC pricing trends. I highly recommend that you read them, as you’ll feel better informed about how the program works. The DVC resales industry includes ebbs and flows, just like any other form of real estate or any business, really.
One trend that never changes is that Grand Californian contracts are in heavy demand. You’ll learn the explanation in the positives section, but the short version is that DVC inventory at this resort is limited. With no other options for Disneyland hotel stays, DVC members battle for every contract that comes on the market.
The problem with the seller’s market at Grand Californian is that purchase prices are high. Currently, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is the only DVC property that sells at a comparable price to its West Coast counterpart. To wit, during September of 2019, all other DVC resorts averaged per-point costs of $156 or less. The honest evaluation is that you pay a premium for the best of DVC. The two properties with “Grand” in the title embody the top of the line in the Disney catalog.
2. The Resort Isn’t at Walt Disney World
Okay, this one’s a bit nitpicky. And I’m only mentioning it because Grand Californian is such an exceptional resort that the negatives are virtually non-existent. Presuming that you want to visit Disneyland a lot and you can afford the price, you’ll want to buy here. It’s that simple.
Still, the Grand Californian does come with one inescapable negative. It’s one of only four DVC properties that aren’t at Walt Disney World. Should you want to visit Disney’s Florida theme parks regularly, you’ll not have an opportunity to make a reservation until the seven-month window opens.
For a lot of DVC members, that’s a scary proposition. As an example, I currently have reservations for next May, and I booked them two months ago. I’d have stressed about ruining my 15th wedding anniversary vacation if I hadn’t taken advantage of the eleven-month window for my home resort.
The reality is that many Grand Californian owners eventually/immediately purchase a second DVC contract at a Walt Disney World property. It’s a way to assure your family of having the eleven-month booking window at Disneyland AND Walt Disney World.
The Positives of Owning a DVC at the Grand Californian
1. Supply Doesn’t Even Approach Demand
I’m not one for scare tactics, but I do want to level with you. Anyone who plans to stay at the Grand Californian a lot over the next 40 years needs to buy here. The inventory here is so modest that rooms generally book eight or nine months in advance. A person hoping for availability at the seven-month window is gambling against loaded dice.
I speak from experience on this. My wife’s sister teaches at one of the local universities. For years now, my better half has wanted to surprise her baby sister with a visit. At least once a quarter, we check for availability at the Grand Californian, which is 20 minutes away from her campus. The next time we notice an available room will be the first.
Trying to book a room here at the seven-month window is akin to winning the DVC lottery. The explanation for this frustration is that the Grand Californian includes the smallest inventory in the DVC lineup. Combine that knowledge with the fact that it’s the only option for frequent Disneyland guests, and the supply simply cannot match the demand.
Disney’s actually aware of this problem. They’d planned construction on a new Downtown Disney-based resort with some DVC inventory. Unfortunately, a disagreement with Anaheim’s local city council torpedoed those plans, at least in the short term. Until something changes, the Grand Californian remains the only game in town at Disneyland for DVC members.
2. Anaheim/Los Angeles Tourist Options
While the Central Florida area features several points of interest and a couple of other major theme parks, most DVC members stay in the Disney Bubble during their vacations. When you visit Anaheim, you may take a different approach. Even before Disneyland existed, Hollywood had already become a popular tourist destination. Today, it maintains that status.
Roughly 50 million people visit the greater Los Angeles area each year. Many of them aren’t there for Disneyland, either. When you vacation in Southern California, you’ll enjoy a wealth of potential tourist options that you won’t find at the Walt Disney World properties.
Los Angeles is so large that it features two professional teams in baseball, football, and basketball. Its competing theme parks, especially Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm, operate some of the best thrill rides in America. And Universal Studios Hollywood provides a lovely alternative/complement to Universal Orlando Resort.
A stay at the Grand Californian affords you vacation opportunities that you simply won’t find in Orlando. You’ll love everything about it…except for the traffic.
3. Exclusive Entrance to Disney California Adventure
My personal favorite advantage of a stay at this resort is its theme park access. Until you’ve spent some time at the Grand Californian, you cannot appreciate how convenient its location is.
Part of the hotel lobby of the Grand Californian shares a wall with an exclusive entrance to Disney California Adventure. When you exit the hotel through the right door, you’re two left turns and roughly 50 total steps away from the special admission booths.
You can legitimately walk out of your hotel room and be standing in Grizzly Peak in five minutes, depending on your floor and the lines at the entrance/security area.
4. Upscale Resort Amenities
The moment that you enter the lobby of the Grand Californian, you’ll realize the majesty of the building. Imagineers used the Grand Floridian as a jumping-off point for the construction of an equally impressive West Coast version. They didn’t stop there, though. Disney also transferred the lodge lobby concept from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, creating a unique combination of patrician elegance and rustic charm.
While the California mountain theme is everywhere, the amenities at this resort are at the highest end for Disney resorts. The restaurants will satisfy the needs of families traveling with small children or couples seeking a romantic getaway.
Storytellers Café caters to the kids with its character breakfast, Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast. Conversely, Napa Rose is the place to go when you’re celebrating something special. It’s an upscale, award-winning restaurant with a wine list that would impress even the most jaded of sommeliers.
Anyone who wants to marry a character breakfast with a Napa Rose meal is in business. Disney recently introduced Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures, the most expensive character meal ever. For $125 per person (yes, including children), guests receive a three-course meal and more Princess interactions than are possible anywhere else in the Disney empire.
I haven’t even mentioned the pools yet. The hotel features three of them: the Fountain, the Mariposa, and the Redwood. All of them reflect the unique combination of a woodsy California setting and craftsman building design. You’ll spend as much time staring at the background scenery as you will swimming/sunbathing.
In terms of amenities, the Grand Californian sits at the top of the DVC hierarchy.
5. Reasonable Maintenance Fees
Quick! Name the DVC property with the lowest maintenance fees for 2019! Since I’m mentioning it here, you’ve surely guessed the answer. Yes, the Grand Californian’s current upkeep cost is $6.2664 per point. Currently, only four DVC resorts have maintenance fees under $6.50 per point, which underscores what a value this is.
How does the lower maintenance fee help you as a current/potential owner? These long-term savings on the price of future charges mitigate the previously mentioned negative of the purchase cost. You’ll spend more money upfront to own a contract at the Grand Californian. Thankfully, you won’t have to pay as much on maintenance, though. This aspect might enhance the overall affordability of a Grand Californian contract for you.