How to Use Credit Card Rewards for a Disney Vacation

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If you have kids, you’ve probably priced out a Disney vacation at least once. And when you did, you were probably struck by just how expensive it can be. Basic park tickets for Disney World in Florida are, in most cases, upwards of $100 per person, per day.

That means that, all other expenses aside, a family of four can expect to spend at least $800 on park tickets for a two-day stay. If they travel during peak season, it can be a lot more. And even after you pony up that expense, you still need to pay for transportation to and from the resort, a hotel or motel, food, drinks, and everything else. Heaven forbid you want any souvenirs!

Fortunately, there is one way to dramatically reduce the expense of a Disney vacation for your growing family: Sign up for a few strategic rewards credit cards and reap the benefits. A family of four living in the United States can easily get their Disney World vacation for a fraction of what they would normally pay using this method. There are plenty of credit card strategies to accomplish this goal, but in this post we’ll focus on one of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to make it happen.

3 Steps to Scoring an Expensive Disney Trip

  • Fly your family to a Disney destination with rewards.
  • Use hotel points or flexible rewards to book a cheap or free stay.
  • Use points to cover the costs of park tickets and other fun attractions.

Fly Your Family to Disney World

In most cases, one of the easiest ways to fly your family to Disney World is to sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. Doing so and meeting the minimum spending requirement of $1,000 in the first 3 months will net you at least 40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. However, it is important to remember that the $69 annual fee for this card is not waived the first year.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Southwest hub, you might even be able to find nonstop flights under the threshold of 25,000 points per round-trip flight. Even better, if you live close enough to a Disney park to drive, you can skip this step altogether. Either way, you will save a ton on transportation — money that you can free up for another component of your frugal Disney adventure.

Stay at Disney for Free

Several major hotel chains offer properties in and around the Walt Disney World property that can be booked with points. However, one of the best options out there is the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. And earning points in the program becomes infinitely easier if you and your spouse sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (currently unavailable).

Signing up for two cards will net you a minimum of 50,000 points. Once you bank those points, you can use them to stay at either one of these Disney World properties for free:

  • Walt Disney World Dolphin – Category 4, 10,000 points per night
  • Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort – Category 2, 4,000 points per night

Thanks to Starwood’s fifth-night-free promotion, you could stay five nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for 40,000 points, or even fewer nights if you weren’t worried about getting your fifth night free. Whatever you decide, your SPG points would make your hotel stay essentially free. But what about your park tickets?

Paying for Disney World With Credit Card Rewards

Now that your hotel and airfare are squared away, you’re probably wondering how you’ll pay for park tickets with credit card rewards. Rest assured it’s possible, even easy.

All it takes is for two spouses to sign up for a Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® (currently unavailable).

Signing up for the card and meeting the minimum spending requirement will net you 46,000 miles per card (40,000 bonus miles plus 2 miles/$1 spent). Those 46,000 miles are worth $460 in travel credit, which can be used to purchase your park tickets through sites like UndercoverTourist.com or Expedia.com.

Your out-of-pocket costs will vary depending on how many days you visit the park, but as of this writing, a five-day Magic Your Way ticket costs approximately $400.28 per adult and $381.37 per child on Undercover Tourist. This means a family of four would pay $1,563.30 for park tickets alone. Splitting your costs across each Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® after you earned your signup bonus means you would save $920 on park tickets.

The key is to order your Disney tickets from a website that will code them as a “travel purchase.” That way, you can safely redeem your miles for the purchase and enjoy some seriously discounted Disney tickets in the process.

Can You Afford a Disney Vacation Now?

With airfare taken care of, free hotel stays, and dramatically discounted park tickets, letting your children experience the magic of Disney becomes a lot more affordable. However, it’s important to budget for other expenses that will inevitably result. Things like ground transportation, meals and snacks, and souvenirs will have to be paid for out of pocket. And while you can easily cut down on many of these expenses, any family considering this strategy should keep them in mind before pulling the trigger.

That being said, credit card rewards can put a Disney vacation within reach if you’re willing to sign up for a few rewards cards and meet certain requirements. And none of the requirements is difficult; the process just takes time.

But chances are, seeing the look on your children’s faces will make the hassle worth it.

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Have you ever priced out a Disney vacation? If you went, how much did your entire trip cost?

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