This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream
I recently returned from an almost-free trip to Disneyland in California with my 5-year-old daughter, made possible with miles and points. We normally vacation as a family of five (including my two boys and my husband), but this was a girls-only trip. I took my two boys to Disney World a few years ago for a conference and left my daughter (then age 2) at home with my husband for budgetary reasons.
I promised her that I would take her on her own solo trip when she was older. Since I currently have a Southwest Companion Pass that expires at the end of this year and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get another due to Chase’s tighter restrictions on credit card approvals, I figured now was the right time to take this trip.
Here is the miles/points breakdown:
Flights: 11,250 Southwest points for 1 round-trip ticket from DAL to SNA (my daughter traveled free on my companion pass) + $22.40 in taxes for two tickets
Hotel: 3 nights at the Hyatt Regency Orange County: 36,000 points total (12,000 for each night)
Total for Flights for 2 people + Hotel for 3 nights: 47,250 points + $22.40
Cash price would have been ~$400 for two flights and ~$600 for the hotel, for a total of ~$1000.
Usually, my family spends a hefty amount of money for pet-sitting and airport parking while we’re out-of-town. However, those expenses were zero this time since my husband drove us to and from the airport and our dog could stay at home.
Disneyland has many off-site hotel options that are within a mile of the parks. Many of these hotels are walkable or close to the local Anaheim ART bus stops. Several of the off-site hotels are closer to the front gate of the parks than the Disneyland Hotel is! Just about every hotel chain is represented in the immediate vicinity of Disneyland, so there are many options to use your hotel points for a free stay.
In my opinion, there is much less walking at Disneyland. The walk from the hotel shuttle lot to the front gate is much shorter than at Disney World, and the front gates to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are right across from each other. Park hopping is quick and easy.
Disneyland has rides that I haven’t experienced in many years, including Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Casey Jr.’s Circus Train, Indiana Jones (my favorite!) and more.
Our food expenses were minimal because we received free breakfast at our hotel each day and a complimentary dinner one night (I will elaborate more on that in a forthcoming review of the Hyatt Regency Orange County). We also brought some food from home to have as snacks in the parks.
The big question I’ve been asked by friends and family: Why did we go to Disneyland (in California) instead of Walt Disney World (in Florida)? Disney World is closer to our home, and it’s where most people in Texas go for a Disney fix. Two reasons: It’s easier to use Hyatt hotel points at Disneyland, and I haven’t been to Disneyland in 12 years (my daughter has been to Disney World but never to Disneyland).
I accumulated Hyatt points through transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards program via Chase Sapphire Preferred card (my husband got it last year before new rules from Chase kicked in) and my Chase Ink Plus card. Chase Sapphire Preferred currently offers a sign-up bonus of 55,000 points (read about it here). You may be able to get a 70,000 points bonus on Chase Ink Plus by applying in-branch.
Disneyland has two Hyatt hotels located close to the front gate—a Hyatt Place about a mile away and the Hyatt Regency that is 1.4 miles away with bus transportation to the parks. Both properties cost 12,000 points a night. A Hyatt House is currently under construction that is about a block away from the entrance.
The closest Hyatt to Disney World, on the other hand, is about 10 miles from the Magic Kingdom and costs 15,000 points a night. It doesn’t have transportation to the theme parks, and renting a car or using an airport shuttle would cost significantly more than what I had to pay for airport transportation in California. Since we are saving for a big vacation next year, I needed to make this trip as free as possible, so Disneyland made more sense.
Staying at an on-site hotel at Disneyland has fewer benefits than staying at an on-site hotel at Disney World. Disneyland on-site hotels (there are only three) do not include airport transportation or earlier Fast Pass selection like the hotels at Disney World offer. While Disneyland hotels offer the Extra Magic Hour perk, off-site guests can get early park admission with the Magic Morning benefit from a 3-day or longer pass.
Disneyland has Matterhorn, Roger Rabbit, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and more. Also, many of the rides at Disney California Adventure Park are not found anywhere at Disney World. Cars Land blew me away! The attention to detail was incredible, and the signature Radiator Springs Racers ride was thrilling.
Enjoying Cars Land at Disney California Adventure
My daughter enjoyed lunch with the princesses at Ariel’s Grotto inside Disney California Adventure Park as well as an Elsa makeover at the Anna and Elsa Boutique in Downtown Disney.
One other factor in picking Disneyland over Disney World…it rains a lot less in California! Great for theme park visitors, not so great for residents though.
I’m grateful for miles and points hobby that provided me the means to fund this short but memorable trip to Disneyland. I’d like to bring my whole family to Disneyland sometime in the next few years to see the parks decorated for Christmas. The holiday transformation to the “It’s a Small World” ride is amazing! And I’m sure my boys would love the Indiana Jones ride and Cars Land.
Are you considering a miles and points trip to Disneyland or Disney World? Have I convinced anybody to ditch Florida to try the California parks instead?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.