Disney World in Orlando, Florida may just be the holy grail of vacations for most Americans, but that doesn’t mean it’s affordable. According to a recent study from Time Magazine, families can spend anywhere from $3,500 to nearly $10,000 on a week-long Disney trip including flights, hotels, food, park tickets, and all the extras. That’s a ton of money for nearly anyone, but it can be an absolute budget-killer for families with kids.
Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways to save money on your trip. You can book a condo with a kitchen and cook all your own meals, for example. You can even book discount park tickets on UndercoverTourist.com, and drive to the park to avoid paying for airfare.
If you want to take savings up a notch, you can even earn rewards in programs that let you book airfare, hotel stays, and other components of a Disney trip for free. If you’re angling to visit Disney this year while spending as little out of pocket as you possibly can, keep reading to learn more.
Booking Flights to Orlando
Unless you’re within driving distance of the state of Florida, you’ll probably have to pay for airfare into Orlando. Fortunately, dozens of airlines fly into ORD every single week, including ones with exceptional loyalty programs.
One of the best programs to use to get into Orlando is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® program. You can earn points in this program with co-branded credit cards like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.
Because the Southwest Rapid Rewards® program is fare-based, you can regularly find round-trip flights into Orlando from many U.S. cities for less than 10,000 points one-way. Also note that Southwest lets each person check two bags for free, leading to even more savings.
You can use pretty much any other major airline loyalty program (and its connected travel credit card) to pay for flights into Orlando as well, including American AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, Delta SkyMiles and more. The best option for you really depends on your home airport, so make sure to check your local flight schedules to see what works best. Once you know which airline to focus on, you can figure out which airline or travel credit card to sign up for.
If you’ve checked your home airport and you’re still not 100% sure, you can also sign up for a flexible travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. This card lets you earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can use your points to book flights to Orlando directly with the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, or you can transfer points 1:1 to popular airline programs like United, British Airways, Southwest, and JetBlue.
Hotels and Rental Condos Near the Park
Once you have your flights squared away, you’ll need to figure out where to stay. There are two main strategies to consider here — and two main schools of thought. While some families prefer to stay in big resorts with lots of amenities, others prefer booking a rental condo so they have room to spread out and a kitchen to cook in.
If you want to book a rental apartment, your best bet is signing up for a travel credit card that offers flexible travel credit. Our favorite option is probably the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® since it offers 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 in purchases within 90 days. You also rack up 2x points for every dollar you spend, and the $89 annual fee is waived the first year. When it comes to redeeming your points, you can cash in each point you earn for one cent in travel — including rental condos at Disney. This makes the 70,000-point bonus worth $700 on its own.
In terms of hotels and resorts, Orlando offers a broad range of options that belong to major loyalty programs. For example, you could cash in 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin Hotels. If you wanted to spend fewer points, however, you could choose from options such as: Four Points by Sheraton International Drive (25,000 points per night), TownePlace Suites Orlando at SeaWorld (25,000 points per night), Marriott’s Harbour Lake (35,000 points per night), and Sheraton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Resort (25,000 points per night).
Marriott Bonvoy hotels are bookable with a co-branded Marriott or Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, or with a premier Chase travel credit card that lets you transfer points 1:1 to the Marriott Bonvoy program.
Hilton Honors is another popular loyalty program for families traveling to Disney, and particularly those with the Hilton Aspire card and automatic Hilton Diamond status. There are many Hilton properties you can book in the Orlando area with points, including:
- Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Orlando Downtown: 30,000 points per night
- Hilton Garden Inn Orlando International Drive: 30,000 points per night
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando North: 30,000 points per night
- Hilton Orlando: 50,000 points per night
Paying for Park Tickets
When it comes to paying for tickets into Disney World, there are several strategies to consider. First, you can use rewards from a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® or Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card to pay for park tickets through a website that codes the purchase as travel. The best option out there for discount tickets is UndercoverTourist.com.
Cash-back credit cards are also ideal for picking up Disney tickets since you can normally redeem your points for statement credits to cover any purchase. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card is just one option that could work well. This no-fee cash-back credit card gives you 30,000 points worth $300 after you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. You also earn 3x points on dining, gas, rideshares, transit, and travel, and 1x points on all other purchases.
Consider Picking Up the Disney Credit Card
Finally, don’t rule out getting a co-branded Disney credit card. While there are plenty of alternatives to consider, Disney credit cards do offer some notable benefits.
With the Disney® Premier Visa® Card, for example, you get a $250 statement credit after you spend $500 within three months of account opening. While this card does have a $49 annual, fee, you also earn 2% back in Disney Rewards Dollars on gas station, grocery stores, restaurant, and most Disney spending, along with 1% back on all other purchases. You can redeem your Disney Rewards for park tickets, Disney cruises, and more.
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