How I Did A $4,000 Disney Trip for Just $1,600

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You could suppose you want a Fairy Godmother to afford a visit to Walt Disney World. Nevertheless, with the assistance of factors and miles, I spent lower than $1,600 money for 2 individuals (together with cross-country airfare) on a latest journey with my boyfriend, who shares my penchant for each Disney and frugality.

Had we paid for every thing in money, our journey would have price over $4,000. As an alternative, we did 5 days at Disney World for simply 40% of that in money thanks in main half to redeeming our factors and miles. We valued the factors we redeemed at $700, bringing the overall we “spent” to round $2,300. Right here’s how:

The lodge

Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista. Picture courtesy of HIlton

Disney-owned resorts have acclaimed customer support, enchanting theming and shut proximity to theme parks. However Disney resorts are costly, they usually gained’t take factors. The subsequent greatest transfer is staying at a Disney Springs Resort space lodge, lots of which settle for factors.

I selected the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, which is adjoining to Disney’s purchasing heart, that means tons of eating and leisure inside strolling distance.

5 nights price 140,760 factors, which I paid with factors I earned by means of the cardboard’s welcome provide and minimal spend requirement. BaghdadTime values 140,760 Hilton factors at $703.80, however get this: The room’s money value, together with taxes and charges, would have price over $1,700.

So how did I fork over solely $700 price of factors for a $1,700 room?

  • Paying with factors allowed me to skip resort charges: Resort charges inflate your precise invoice, which resorts say covers bills like web and phone entry (do individuals nonetheless use the lodge telephone?). This lodge’s $35 nightly resort price additionally lined the theme park shuttle, two every day coffees and water bottles (a pleasant perk however undoubtedly not price $35). With Hilton, paying on factors enables you to skip resort charges.

  • My fifth evening was free: If in case you have elite standing and guide a five-night keep, Hilton solely fees you for 4.

  • Level values range: Whereas BaghdadTime values a Hilton level at 0.5 cent, it doesn’t at all times imply you’ll get that precise worth. Level and money charges may not align due to components you can’t at all times predict, together with sudden curiosity in that lodge resulting in a spike in money charges. Fortunately for me, the worth I acquired right here was favorable due to the excessive money value I might have needed to pay, if I had not used factors.

Price: $0 money plus $703.80 price of Hilton Honors factors


I paid my airfare with two units of separate $98.98 Southwest journey funds from flights canceled in 2020. Southwest has at all times had one of many greatest cancellation insurance policies. For this accounting, I’ll rely my flights as $197.96 roundtrip, since that was money I paid out of pocket, albeit pre-pandemic.

I charged the remaining $60 per leg to my Hilton Honors American Categorical Aspire Card because it affords a $250 airline incidental assertion credit score, which was triggered by the remaining $60 stability in addition to my boyfriend’s $5.60 in taxes and charges. Bonus: I nonetheless have $130 left on my airline price credit score for a future journey. Phrases apply.

Different transportation

Attending to/from the airport: To get from my dwelling in downtown San Francisco to the airport, I’d sometimes take public transit. However since COVID-19, prepare hours have been slashed, forcing me to experience Uber to and from the airport. And since there’s no prepare from the Orlando airport to Disney, we took Lyft to and from our lodge. This totaled $117.46 for all 4 rides.

Getting round: As soon as on Disney property, it’s straightforward to get round. Disney has virtually any type of transit conceivable, together with buses, boats and a monorail. Transit on the property takes you between theme parks and resorts. In addition to being a handy option to freely get round, it usually serves as free leisure (for sightseeing and other people watching).

Picture by Sally French

And despite the fact that our lodge’s $35 every day resort price could be annoying (we averted it by paying on factors), the power to shuttle to the theme parks is way cheaper than the price of theme park parking ($25) plus lodge parking ($22). That will be $47 in every day parking alone, to not point out different prices related to proudly owning or renting a automotive.

Meals and drinks

Listed below are my greatest eating finds and money-saving ideas:

Go to Epcot throughout a competition

Since we visited through the Epcot Worldwide Flower & Backyard Pageant, we ordered from momentary outside kitchens serving inventive meals together with a citrus-braised pork stomach and a sugarcane shrimp skewer. This was a primary option to pattern a number of distinctive dishes on a finances.

My favourite dish was the frushi ($6). Picture by Sally French

We tried seven gadgets ($43.75), that are served tapas-style and are nonetheless giant sufficient to get a strong style.

Search for meals much like high-end eating places, served elsewhere

We discovered the very best deal at Animal Kingdom’s Nomad Lounge bar. Although it’s positioned adjoining to the expensive Tiffins Restaurant, we had been stunned by Nomad’s affordable costs. We every acquired a mocktail (about half the value of boozy cocktails) and break up the true MVP right here — a plate of ribs — for simply $8. Predominant dishes at Tiffins, like quick ribs or rooster, can simply run over $40 per merchandise. Possibly I’m jaded by San Francisco’s price of dwelling, however this appeared like a deal ($29 for the meal).

Don’t skip free lodge breakfast

Don’t overlook whether or not a lodge affords free breakfast when deciding the place to guide. In my case, since we stayed at a Hilton and my Hilton Honors American Categorical Aspire Card comes with automated elite standing, I used to be entitled to a $30 every day meals and beverage credit score.

We used it on the admittedly common breakfast buffet as soon as. On future days, we used the credit score to load up on fruit, yogurt and packaged sandwiches from the grab-and-go market. That additionally enabled extra alternatives to maximise rides since we weren’t ready in line for meals on the theme parks.

Pack prepackaged snacks

Convey snacks from dwelling. Load up on jerky, nuts and protein bars that match simply in your suitcase and fill you up so that you keep away from shopping for an overpriced popcorn bucket you didn’t need anyway.

Sharing is caring — and budget-friendly

A key money-saving issue was splitting meals with my journey companion. We at all times consumed our personal entrees, however so far as these tasty but less-than-nourishing snacks — like donuts and churros — we lower prices by sharing.

It’s straightforward to get intoxicated by the odor of waffle cones and purchase a person serving of Dole Whip nachos for everybody in your loved ones. But each my pockets and waistline are joyful that I didn’t strive consuming a complete one myself.

Plus, your Dole Whip will most likely soften earlier than you’ll be able to end it anyway.

The Kakamora Float model of the Dole Whip ($7.45) comes with a cake pop and is giant sufficient to share. Picture by Sally French

Use bank card offers

For instance, Grubhub had a $5 coupon at Disney Springs’ Earl of Sandwich, which I stacked with my $10 month-to-month eating credit score on my American Categorical® Gold Card free of charge lunch. Phrases apply.

Get free airport meals

My Hilton Honors American Categorical Aspire Card will get us into a number of airport lounges by means of Precedence Move, together with a pair at Orlando Worldwide Airport. There, we loaded up on rooster tortilla soup, veggies and hummus. They tasted simply OK, however I gained’t complain about free meals.

Different spending

On the airplane: I bought Southwest’s inflight Wi-Fi, which prices $8 per machine. My Southwest Fast Rewards® Efficiency Enterprise Credit score Card got here in clutch as a result of it affords free Wi-Fi, doled out as 365 $8 credit per 12 months (slightly than one per day per account), so my boyfriend acquired free Wi-Fi, too. That’s $32 in worth for each legs between us.

The flight there was longer than I remembered (I haven’t carried out a cross nation flight in a 12 months!), so we opted to buy upgraded boarding for the flight dwelling. Whereas I’m 4’10” and don’t really thoughts the center, the choice to improve was straightforward as a result of my Southwest Fast Rewards® Efficiency Enterprise Credit score Card affords 4 complimentary seat upgrades per 12 months (in any other case $30 per individual).

Theme park tickets: We bought four-day tickets on-line from a journey agent, which was barely cheaper than shopping for straight from Disney ($477.29 per individual).

Souvenirs: I purchased one memento for myself: an Orange Fowl salt and pepper shaker ($10.64). It’s utilitarian!

We did get souvenirs for pals, which Hilton paid for. Do not forget that $30 every day meals and beverage credit score? The lodge’s grab-and-go market offered Disney-themed jelly beans. Most days we nonetheless had about $10 remaining of our credit score, which allowed us to buy just a few luggage per day. The plant-sitter, our neighbor and my niece all acquired presents.

Bank cards used

  • American Categorical® Gold Card: $250 annual price.

  • Hilton Honors American Categorical Aspire Card: $450 annual price.

  • Southwest Fast Rewards® Efficiency Enterprise Credit score Card: $199 annual price.

How a lot we spent: A breakdown

In complete, we spent just below $1,600 in money plus factors, based mostly on BaghdadTime journey valuations, price round $700. Right here’s how that broke down by expense class, in complete for 2 individuals:

Through the use of factors, I not solely saved money prices round $800 per individual but additionally saved over 40% off the precise journey worth. That’s due largely to advantages like Hilton’s fifth evening free, not paying resort charges and the Southwest Companion Move, which shaved an enormous chunk off my journey prices in a single fell swoop.

To not point out, these playing cards earn excessive spending rewards. I earned a further $73.64 in rewards from the spending I did on this journey.

Issue within the worth of bank card factors

We do wish to additionally issue within the “price” of utilizing factors and miles. Why? The quick reply: alternative price. We solely spent $1,600 money, however we felt it was vital to acknowledge that we really spent nearer to $2,300 given the worth of rewards factors.

Each level spent here’s a level that might be spent some place else. Certain, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen gained’t acknowledge factors as an actual forex, however journey corporations do.

Two advantages we didn’t issue into the associated fee: There have been two bank card advantages I used which have strong worth, however that I didn’t consider: TSA PreCheck and Precedence Move. PreCheck requires an $85 utility price, which my bank card lined. However because it sometimes lasts 5 years, I didn’t really feel it truthful to consider right here.

I additionally didn’t issue within the worth of Precedence Move, because it didn’t price me something to start with (beside my bank card utility price), and its worth fluctuates relying on the lounge.

The underside line

I’ve lengthy thought that it’s simpler and extra stress-free to make use of a cash-back bank card and pool these cash-back rewards into my trip fund. However I’ve realized — and this journey is proof — that it pays off to make use of a journey bank card.

Should you play your playing cards proper, you’ll fork over even fewer factors than their precise worth. Had I paid for my journey fully in money, it will have price over $4,000. As an alternative, it “price” me simply over $2,300 in mixed money and factors worth ($1,600 was chilly, arduous money and $700 was the approximate factors worth).

My mother nonetheless balks that I pay for annual charges on bank cards. However the financial savings right here already far exceeded the playing cards’ annual charges, and there are many different useful perks I get from these playing cards exterior of this single journey.

Even and not using a royal-sized finances, you’ll be able to nonetheless have your dream Disney trip, so long as you’re inventive and versatile. Stretch your finances by not simply maximizing bank card factors, however being open-minded about what you eat, the place you keep and the way you get there.

In any case, if the Fairy Godmother turned a pumpkin right into a glass carriage, you’ll be able to flip $1,600 and a few bank card factors right into a $4,000 trip.

Easy methods to Maximize Your Rewards

You desire a journey bank card that prioritizes what’s vital to you. Listed below are our picks for the greatest journey bank cards of 2021, together with these greatest for:

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