Steps to a Free Disney World Vacation
Disney World vacations normally cost thousands of dollars. But would you believe me if I told you there’s a way to get a free Disney World vacation?
Of course your first thought might be that you’d need to enter a contest and win a free trip (and yes, that is one way to get a free Disney vacation). But, as unlikely as it may seem, free Disney World vacations are also possible if you just follow a few easy credit card tricks. You will essentially ditch your current credit cards and replace them with a few new ones in order to take advantage of their generous signup bonuses and reward points. You just need to continue to buy things as you normally would and pay your balance on time. Between the signup bonuses, rewards points, and a few other clever tricks, you will accumulate enough rewards to pay for your entire Disney vacation. So let’s begin with these steps to a free Disney World vacation.
1. Use Points to Book your Disney Resort Hotel
Most reward credit cards these days will earn you about 1% cashback. Good, but not great. Let’s go over how you can improve on this rate by opening new cards with amazing signup bonuses and perks. Just follow these steps and you can potentially save $4000 or more for your trip (enough to cover the entire cost to give you a free Disney World vacation).
There are a few different options you can take advantage of in order to get at least 5 nights of Disney lodging for free. One method is for Disney’s Swan or Dolphin resorts while the second method is for the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort.
Note that the Swan and Dolphin resorts are luxury hotels (Disney Deluxe resorts) located right inside the park. The Sheraton Lake Buena Vista is just a short (free) shuttle away from the park but is a less expensive hotel. If you follow these steps, you can get 5 free nights at Swan or Dolphin, or 13 free nights at Lake Buena Vista for the same amount of points.
Here’s how it works:
Many guests are unaware that you can redeem Starwood points at these resorts because they are former Starwood hotels. Marriott now owns Starwood but they still honor Starwood points.
The Swan and Dolphin are considered “Starwood Category 5” hotels, meaning that they will cost you 16,000 Starwood points per night during the peak season and 12,000 points per night in the off-season. If you were to open two Marriott credit cards (one for you and one for your spouse/adult travel companion) and use them for your normal everyday spending, then you would be able to get up to five nights of free lodging during the off-season at the Dolphin and Swan resorts. These rooms normally cost over $300 per night, so this would be huge savings!
As far as the Lake Buena Vista Resort goes, this hotel will cost you 4000 points for each weekday night and only 3000 per weekend night. Therefore, you would receive 13 or more free nights if you adhere to our plan as laid out below. If you would like some nights at Swan or Dolphin and some nights at Lake Buena Vista, you could certainly divide your nights between resorts and experience free lodging both inside and outside the park for a week’s worth of points.
Free 5th Night: One of the perks to using Starwood points at hotels in Category 3 or higher is that the 5th night is free. As Category 5 resorts, Swan and Dolphin both qualify for this perk but Lake Buena Vista Resort does not. It will cost you 48,000 points to get 5 nights at the Swan or Dolphin during the off-season (12000 points x 4 nights + 1 free night = 5 nights for 48,000). You can definitely stretch your rewards points if you go during the off-season. Click here to see the off-season periods.
Fees: Also be aware that you will be responsible for paying a small “resort fee” for each day of your stay. Besides this, your room will be free.
How to Earn your Points
Below we describe how you will earn at least 52,000 points – enough points for either five nights at Swan or Dolphin during the off-season, or an impressive 13 nights at the Lake Buena Vista Resort.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card
Both you and your adult traveling companion will first open a Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card. The current offer allows you to earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.
So after you each make $5k in normal purchase within the first three months, you will each receive 100,000 points and an additional 5000 points for your spending (1%). That means 105,000 points per person and a total of 210,000 points combined! Then you will convert the Marriott points to Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points. This will instantly transfer the 210K Marriott points into 70K Starwood points to be used at Swan or Dolphin. And since Dolphin and Swan are either 12000 or 16000 points per night depending on the time you visit, you will get 4 nights’ worth. But since anyone who books 4 nights receives the 5th night for free, you will be automatically awarded an extra night at no additional cost. Make sense?
Book your resort with Starpoints
Go online and view your Starwood account with your accumulated points. Book the Swan or Dolphin via “SPG Free Nights!” When you book at least 5 nights, your account will automatically give you the 5th night free. There shouldn’t be any blackout dates.
Total Savings with this trick: roughly $1500 (based in $300 per night x 5 nights).
2. Using Points to Book your Flight
The best way to save on your flight to Orlando is to open a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You will be able to use your points as you book your trip through their online website, or transfer them to Sapphire Preferred rewards partners like British Airways, Southwest, or United where they become frequent flyer miles.
As a signup bonus, you will receive 50,000 points after reaching at least $4,000 in regular spending during the first 3 months. Since the card gives you 2x points on travel and dining, then you have the ability to turn that 4000 points on purchases into 8000 if you spend in these categories. So at the minimum, you will receive 54000 points per new card opened. But if you and your travel companion both open cards and meet these requirements, then you will receive at least 108,000 points! There is a $95 annual fee but this is waived for the first year.
In order to redeem your points for a flight to Orlando, you will need to:
1. Purchase your tickets via your online account. You get 1.25 cents for each point, equaling $1,350 worth of free airfare for your 108,000 points. Flying to Orlando is often cheaper, to begin with, so $1,350 should pretty much cover your entire family and you may have extra points left over.
2. Another option is to transfer your 108,000 points to one of the airlines that partner with this card. Both cardholders should send their 54,000+ points to one frequent flyer account in order to consolidate them. Your best choice is probably Southwest Airlines because it’s easy to use those miles, you have no blackout dates, and will probably get more than $1,350 of value by booking in this manner. JetBlue and American may also have some great deals. Check out all options to make the most of your accumulated points.
Total Saving on Flight to Disney World: At least $1,350 (2 people/2 cards)
3. Theme Park Tickets for Free
The best way to purchase your Disney World park tickets is likely with an official authorized seller and using your Capital One Venture rewards card to make the purchase. You can buy them via Undercover Tourist as a “travel” expense in order to redeem your Venture miles (they are coded there as a “travel agency!”).
If you and your traveling partner both open a Venture account and meet the 3-month, $3000 spending requirement, then you will receive 50,000 points for flexible travel expenses. Every 50,000 points are equal to $560 in travel expenses. With two cards, you will receive $1,120+ worth in travel credits (2 x $560 = $1120) when you each spend $3,000 during the 3-month period. Divide the theme park tickets between the two cards as you redeem your bonus points and you should have at least $1,120 for theme park tickets. Additionally, Undercover Tourist does not charge for shipping costs.
Another card you can use for even more savings on park tickets is the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business. You can earn an unlimited 2X miles on every purchase for your business with no blackout dates and no minimum to redeem your rewards. It’s not easy to qualify – but if you do – it’s worth it!
Total Savings on Theme Park Tickets: $1,120 or more if you use the Capital One® business cards.
Additional Steps to a Free Disney World Vacation
1. It may be tempting, but do not spend beyond your budget with these new cards. The last thing you want to do is to go into debt as a result of trying to get a free Disney World vacation. Be sure to pay the entire balance each month!
2. After you and your travel partner open new accounts, plan your spending wisely so that you can reach your goal within the allotted 3-month time frame of each card to meet your spending target. Instead of opening all the cards at the same time, stagger each account so that you are working off of one new card for three months at a time. That way you won’t go crazy and spend a lot at once in order to meet your goals. It will take time to do it this way but it won’t stress you out as much!
3. Expect this process to take approximately 12 months until you reach the bonuses on each of the cards.
In other words, these steps take time and won’t happen overnight.
With this in mind, you will want to begin signing up for new cards at least 12-15 months before you plan on heading to Disney World. If you plan on spending a significant amount on credit card purchases, then this time frame can be pushed up.
4. Rooms at the Dolphin have a tendency to sell out, especially during holidays. Therefore, you may need to have a little flexibility when you use your Starwood rewards points.
5. As far as theme park tickets go, you will have a lot more flexibility here. You must allow enough time to have your tickets shipped to you, but otherwise, there isn’t much to worry about.
6. There is a government fee on frequent flyer miles and a per-day resort fee which you are required to pay. However, these out-of-pocket expenses should amount to $100-$200 in total. I know, I know….we should probably have called this method an “almost free Disney World vacation.”
That’s a Wrap
We hope our Steps to a Free Disney World Vacation has helped you save money on your trip. Even if you use just one of these tricks, you will still save a fair amount of money. Have a magical trip!
For more Disney World information, please view other MagicGuides pages, including our Disney World Discounts, Disney Dining Plan Calculator, Disney Transportation Map, and the Best Disney Travel Agencies articles.
If you need assistance as you plan and book your Walt Disney World vacation, please contact our friends at The Vacationeer. Their services are free of charge and extremely helpful. Click HERE for a free, no-obligation price quote.