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Easiest Path to Disney World for Miles and Points Newbies

The topic of Disney World comes up nearly every week in several online moms’ groups where I am a member. Many times, the discussion starts with a simple question: “How much will it cost me to save up for a trip to Disney World?”

Disney World Vacation Using Miles and Point

The answers to this question sometimes make me choke on my drink. “I’d plan on at least $6k-$10 for a family of four” or “You need to stay onsite at a Disney hotel in order to have the best experience.”

And then, the mom who asked the question either says “Great, hook me up with a travel agent for that”, OR, “Well, I’m never going to be able to afford to go to Disney World.”

None of my family trips to Disney World have ever cost that much. And no, you don’t have to stay onsite to have the best time at Disney World. I hate to see people give up on going on a family trip to Disney World because they think they can’t afford it, ever.

When I quit my job in the corporate world after our second adoption in order to become a stay-at-home mom, money was really tight. We had used up all our savings for two adoptions, and our budget was sliced in half. I honestly thought that my family would not be able to afford a vacation for many, many years. Thankfully, I got into this miles and points hobby and added in some part-time work, which has enabled us to go on many fun trips in the last few years.

If you want to go to Disney World but think you will never be able to afford it, this post is for you! There are many ways to use airline miles to fly to Orlando, and many nearby hotels you could stay at on hotel points. If you have been collecting miles and points for years, you have several options at your disposal.

However, if you don’t have any miles and points and don’t know where to start, this will be your easiest path to a Disney World trip on miles and points.

Disney World on Miles and Points

The easiest/quickest way to get to Disney World and stay there is by using Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward points and Hyatt points. Your flights would be covered with points, and your family could stay at the Hyatt Place Orlando/Lake Buena Vista for 4-5 nights on points.

Both you and your spouse would need to open up two new credit cards in the span of about a year (or sooner, if you have enough expenses you can pay off).  Neither card has an annual fee for the first year.

To make this work, this scenario assumes that:

  • You don’t think credit cards are evil, and you are open to using them to collect travel award points
  • You are new to the miles and points hobby and you are under 5/24 (you have opened less than 5 new credit cards in the past 24 months)
  • Your credit score is 730 or higher
  • You have at least $1334 in chargeable expenses each month (groceries, restaurants, activities, gas, etc.)
  • You have the organization and discipline to pay off your credit card purchases every month (see this Beginner’s Guide)
  • Southwest airlines services your city or one near you

First Step: Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred (X2)

The first step is for you to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The card comes with a bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4000 in the first three months. There is no annual fee the first year. Add your spouse/partner as an authorized user for an additional 5000 points after the first purchase within three months.

To make the minimum spending to trigger the bonus, you need to spend at least $1334 per month in the first three months. If you spend more than that each month, you can meet your minimum spending more quickly.

After you have met the minimum spending to trigger the 50k bonus plus the 5k authorized user bonus, you will have at least 59,000 points (but probably more, since both dining and travel earn 2X points). Now it’s time for your spouse or husband to apply for the card.

He/she will also need to add you as an authorized user and spend $4000 within the first three months of opening the card. Yes, you can each apply for the card separately and also be authorized users on each other’s cards. If you don’t have a spouse, consider partnering with a parent or adult sibling on this second card.

Second Step: Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest and Hyatt

After the first step above, you should have a total of at least 118,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can easily transfer these points to Southwest and Hyatt. If you don’t already have loyalty accounts at Southwest and Hyatt, set them up online for free.

Before transferring points, check Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar for flight prices during your desired month of travel. Fares usually decrease around three months before departure, unless you are traveling around a holiday. For example, fares from Dallas to Orlando run 4000-5000 points a few months in advance, but months further out run 8000 points or more. Try to be flexible on your departures dates, as mid-week and Saturday flights tend to be less expensive.

I recommend keeping your trip short and sweet to keep down the price while still experiencing the magic. Four to five nights at the Hyatt Place Orlando/Lake Buena Vista should be enough to allow you three to four days in the parks. This hotel costs 12,000 Hyatt points per night and, it sleeps up to six people in a room. It includes free breakfast and a free shuttle to the parks. It gets great reviews on Trip Advisor, but it’s nothing fancy. However, it’s perfect for a place to sleep and swim after a tiring day at the parks.

Five nights of hotel requires transferring 60k points to Hyatt, leaving you 58k points for flights. This may be enough to cover your flights, depending on number of people and the price from your departure city.

If you don’t have enough points, consider opening a Chase Southwest Rapid Reward card. The bonus varies throughout the year, but it’s currently 50k points. The $69 annual fee (Plus version) is not waived.

Hyatt Place in Orlando–room for 6!

Third Step: Apply for Barclaycard Arrival Plus (X2) to cover park tickets

Getting free airline tickets and free hotel nights is just half the challenge to a Disney World vacation. Park tickets are expensive!

Your best bet is to apply for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card. It currently has a bonus of 50k points after spending $3000 in the first 90 days. The annual fee is waived the first year, and the card earns 2X points on everything.

You can use the points from this card for statement credits for charges coded as travel. Buying tickets directly from Disney does not code as travel, but purchasing tickets from an online travel site like Orbitz or Undercover Tourist does code as travel.

After meeting the minimum spending, you would have $560 to use towards travel. After your spouse applies and does the same, you would have a total of $1120 to use for Disney World tickets. This would ALMOST cover three-day tickets for two adults and two children. You would have to divide your purchase into separate purchases in order to utilize points from both of your cards.

Note: We do receive a commission if you apply for these cards through our site. See this blog post for more info.

Costs not covered

This trip is still not quite free. There are some additional expense you will need to cover, including:

  • Award flight taxes of $5.60 per person per flight
  • Transportation from MCO (Orlando airport) to the Hyatt Place (I recommend Uber, or a discounted rental car)
  • Lunches, dinners and snacks (breakfast is free at the hotel)
  • Souvenirs
  • Additional ticket expenses not covered by Barclaycard Arrival Plus points
  • Optional expenses inside the park (photos packages, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, etc.)
  • Expenses at home while you’re gone (pet sitting, airport parking, etc.)

Still, even with these additional costs, this trip can be fun, magical and cheap! (See this post on discounted Disney gift cards to save money on park expenses).

Bottom Line

If you really want to get your family to Disney World, don’t believe the myth that you have to stay onsite and spend a lot of money. You can make this trip happen with rewards from a few new credit cards and some responsible planning.

If you are not wild about going to Disney World, don’t go! It’s not for everyone. Use your points to fly on Southwest anywhere, and check out other Hyatt hotels to visit with your points. Category 1 Hyatt hotel redemptions start at just 5000 points per night, and there are some great ones out there!

Who is ready to start planning a trip to Disney World?

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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13 thoughts on “Easiest Path to Disney World for Miles and Points Newbies

  1. Thank you Nancy. While I am not planning on a Disney vacation. I still enjoyed it. If you could do something similar for an Alaska Vacation, that is on my bucket list.

  2. Thanks for this post. Gives me some ideas if we ever decide to take the kids to Disney.

    I stayed a few Hyatt Places last summer and was happy with the room size, and it’s a great option for families with the sofa bed and free breakfast (although the breakfast can be hit or miss). At 12k Hyatt points per night though, I’m thinking it might be better just paying the US$150-$180 cash rate (I checked some random dates in July), or redeeming UR points through the Chase travel portal or using the 4th night free benefit with the Citi Prestige card.

    • @John–My family of 5 has had great luck with Hyatt Place hotels. Most of them have a reasonable cost on points. You’re right–sometimes it might be better to use cash depending on the rate for the time you’re going, if using cash is within your trip budget.

  3. Assuming you are staying at a hotel, I tend to think the “Best” Disney experience involves staying onsite. Getting the extra hours, super quick commute — especially from the hotels with monorail access — you probably do get the best experience that way. At least, I think so. That being said, it’s much less economical. If you want to save a buck or a thousand or so, you might not want to stay on site. That being said, if you can travel off peak when Disney is sometimes throwing big discount with meal plans included it’s not bad.

    Also, your kids won’t care if you are on site or not, they’ll love it either way.

    • @Joe–Staying onsite is convenient for sure! If it fits in your budget, it’s a treat and has many advantages. But, I hate to see people think they need to give up on going to Disney World if they can’t afford to stay onsite. I agree with you that kids will have a blast either way.

  4. My son and I went to Disney World in Jan of 2015. We paid $2000 for flight (from MN), hotel, transportation, meal plan (1 sit down mean per day) with 2 quick serve meals, (and 1 character meal), 4 nights of hotel and 4 days of park. I thought it was a good deal really.

    I want to go back and am intrigued by your post.

    How much do you think a family should budget for food if they go the miles/points route? Since I was on a meal plan I didn’t pay attention to prices when I was there.

    • @Amanda–that’s a great deal you got for your trip! It’s really hard to say what you should budget for food next time. So much of it depends on where you eat and time of year (food prices go up during summer and peak times). Assuming you stay somewhere like the Hyatt Place where breakfast is included, I would budget $80-$100 per day for the two of you to eat lunch and dinner. That should be enough for a table service lunch and quick service dinner. Lunch is always less expensive at table service restaurants, so I always make my reservations there for lunch instead of dinner. Of course you could also dine for much less, hopefully my number is on the high side.

      • Thanks Nancy! Will keep in mind for future. I was very happy with the deal and would recommend readers consider calling Disney. If you’re willing to go at random times of year and waiting for deals Disney has a lot to offer. I never thought I could afford it until a friend of mine went with her family. She calculated that the whole trip ended up being $75/day/person VB (with a Disney package). I figured that’s barely what it costs to eat out when traveling but if you can include air, hotel, park, and transport, then it’s worth paying $. Also if you book in advance and then find out about a deal (30% off room or free dining common if I remember right) then they’ll add the coupon to your reservation and give you a refund. Or! If you booked with one coupon bit a better one comes up they’ll let you swap! So it’s important to be on Disney’s email list and to call them regularly asking about deals. The reservation people have been super helpful for me.

  5. Thanks for the info on Disney. It’ll be nice for sharing with others or perhaps planning a trip with my mom in the future. I also enjoyed the Alaska information in the comments. Great info ladies!

  6. Pingback: What We Love/Hate about Disney World (Blogger vs. Blogger) - Miles For Family

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