Disney World is one of those vacations you and your children will remember for the rest of your lives. However, the cost can be astronomical. What if I told you it could all be done for free!
After taking a trip to Disney Land in August of 2016, our bank account was hit hard. The total came out to just north of $6,000 for a 4 night stay, tickets for 5 people, and food and entertainment for the stay. As you can see, it’s not cheap.
We wanted to experience Disney World, but there was no way we could cough up the coin for it. So I began to look into alternative ways to pay for it.
1st Piece Of The Puzzle: Hotels
One of the best things about Disney World is that 2 of the hotels on the property are owned by Starwood hotels: The Dolphin (category 4), and The Swan (Category 5). These hotels can be paid for with points. Unlike Disneyland, where you cannot pay for a Disney property with points, these two hotels are only 10,000 and 12,000 points a night respectively. If you stay 5 nights consecutively, the 5th night is free if you are a Starwood Preferred Guest. After the free night, the points would drop to 8,000 and 10,000 points respectively.
Hotels fill up fast, and if you are looking to go to Disney World during a popular time of the year, you are going to want to book a hotel as soon as possible. We booked our hotel at the Swan a year in advance, only because the Dolphin was already booked.
The Starwood Card from American Express
This card has a 25,000 point sign up bonus after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months (no fee the first year!). If you and your spouse both open these, that’s 50,000 points. Also, have the first person who opened the card refer the other, you gain an additional 5,000 points for doing so. With your minimum spend on both cards, that puts you at a total of 61,000 points. That’s enough for a 6 night stay at the Swan.
2nd Piece Of The Puzzle: Flights
Now that you have the hotel situation under control and booked, you can focus on flights. This can be done a multiple number of ways on a number of different airlines. If you have an airline you prefer, open 2 cards from them and book using those miles. You can easily find flights for 25k miles round trip from a number of airports.
A family of four could open 2 CITI American Airline Platinum Select Cards and pay for all of the flights with 100,000 points.
We are a family of 3, so it makes it a little easier with the flights. However, there are many different ways to put this together. As I said in a previous post, we will be using points from both a Platinum American Express card and a Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express for flights on Delta.
Since we are coming from the west coast, I wanted to pay for a little more room. In the end, our tickets will cost somewhere around 150,000 for that extra comfort (but it’s so worth it when you travel with a 4-year old!).
Even 2 Southwest cards could do the trick:
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to get to Florida.
The next part is the trickier part.
3rd Piece Of The Puzzle: Disney World Tickets
If there is one thing we can all agree on, Disney World tickets are super expensive! Not to worry though, I got this covered. There is a special card that can pay for these guys: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
This card has a very flexible spend program for its travel points, which can be used for a number of different ways. Other than flights and hotels, this card can pay for your Disney World tickets. Credit card companies use something called a Merchant Category Code to identify transactions. This card can also pay for discount travel sites, like Undercovertourist.com, which sells Disney World tickets.
There, you will find a number of different tickets to choose from, and can easily be tailored to your trip. They even have specials on tickets, which can’t even be purchased at the gate. We realized that with a 4-yr old in tow, we didn’t need a park hopper ticket.
2 of these Arrival Plus cards total $1000 towards tickets, which is enough for my family of 3. If you were looking to add another ticket, the travel fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve also works for UnderCoverTourist.com. I know because I bought a Disney Ticket using this fee, so it works!
Another card that has the same flexible travel category type rewards is the Venture Card from Capital One. 2 of those cards would also do the trick to buy tickets.
If you are ever wondering what the merchant code is for a company, just look it up using this trusty tool here.
Now that you have the hotel, the flights, and the tickets in hand, what about spending money?
4th Piece of the Puzzle: Spending Money!
Food and entertainment was a major cost for us when we went to Disneyland, so I wanted to completely pay for this trip without having to take a penny out of my bank account.
To maximize this, I looked for a card that would give me 5x rewards redeemable for cash. The only option that I was able to find that had unlimited 5x rewards was the Wells Fargo Rewards Card. The only catch is that it’s only for 6 months.
The signup bonus is equal to $150 if redeemed for cash. As you can see you can rack up a lot of points in the first 6 months in some really generous spending categories. We spend between $800-$1000 a month on groceries alone. If we put all of our regular spending on this card (gas, groceries, dining, bills, etc), we could easily rack up some serious points each month. At the end of 6 months we cash out and use the points as spending money at Disney World.
In the end, you and your spouse would need to open up just 4 cards each in a year to make this happen. First, book the hotels, we used 2 SPG cards to do this. Then, open a couple of airline cards for flights to Orlando. Next, open 2 Barclaycard Arrival plus cards for the tickets and use Undercovertourist.com to buy them. Optional, if you want spending money, open a Wells Fargo Rewards Card and rack up some points for 6 months in categories that pay 5x points. Redeem the points for cash at .01 cent per mile for extra spending money while you are at Disney World. There you have it! You just found out a way to travel to one of the most expensive places on earth for FREE! Good luck.