How a family of four can do four nights in Walt Disney World for under $100 (March 2017)

This post has been archived. The current hack for visiting Walt Disney World for Almost Free is here.

Disclaimer: Some of the offers in this post may no longer be available. They were last confirmed to be available at the start of the month in the post title.

This is the third in our monthly series on hacking your way to Walt Disney World. Last month we covered a stay at the All-Star Music. This month, we're back to the Starwood properties, specifically the Dolphin. We'll also introduce some cards we haven't talked about before. Our previous related posts are listed to the right. If you haven't read them, they are worth checking out, as the techniques they use will differ slightly from this month's post.

In this post, we'll give an example of how by getting four cards over the course of a year and putting a total of $15,000 on them, you can get a four-night trip to Walt Disney World, including flights, hotel, and park tickets for a family of four for just under $400. We then give you a quick plan for recouping $300 to make the net cost of the trip under $100.

Step 0 - Four Cards, $15,000 spend, and 185,000 Points

We're back to the SPG Amex this month because of the awesome 35,000 Starpoint signup bonus!

We're back to the SPG Amex this month because of the awesome 35,000 Starpoint signup bonus!

This month, we've eliminated duplicate cards, so you don't need a partner to execute this hack. If you can get approved for the following four cards and earn the signup bonuses, you can use the accumulated points to fund four nights in Disney World with flights and tickets for $400. We'll close this post by explaining how we'd recoup that cash to make the trip cost less than $100. Let’s start with the four cards and the type of points you’ll have after you’ve gotten the signup bonuses.

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for spending $4,000 in 3 months + 5,000 points for adding an authorized user (we recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred for new travel hackers here)
  2. Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard - 50,000 miles for spending $3,000 spending in 90 days (2x miles earned on each purchase)
  3. SPG American Express - 35,000 Starpoints (25,000 for $3,000 spend in 3 months, 10,000 for an extra $2,000 spend in the first 6 months)
  4. MERRILL + Visa Signature Credit Card - 50,000 points for spending $3,000 in 90 days

Step 1 - The Hotel

Starpoints are great for Disney World fans, as they allow you to book rooms at the Dolphin. I've seen rates as low as 8,000 Starpoints per night, but 10,000 is the standard minimum. You'll use the 40,000 Starpoints you've earned (35,000 signup bonus + 5,000 from spending) to book four nights at the Dolphin. Easy peasy.

Dolphin stays tend to come in at 10,000 Starpoints per night

Dolphin stays tend to come in at 10,000 Starpoints per night

Hotel Cost: 40,000 Starpoints

Step 2 - The Flights

Flights are a little trickier, but not much. We're going to depart from past months, when we paid cash for the flights, and instead book using British Airways Avios. But you don't have Avios! You mean you haven't flown 60,000 miles on British Airways recently?? That's okay! You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways at a 1:1 transfer rate. From your signup bonus, you'll have 54,000 Ultimate Rewards points (50,000 bonus + 4,000 spend). You can get an easy additional 5,000 by adding an authorized user and having them make a purchase in the first three months. That gets us to 59,000. We need at least 60,000. You can get to 60,000 either by putting an additional $1,000 of spend on your card or by having some of your $4000 spend be in dining or travel, which earn 2x points per dollar spent. The tickets will require payment of $44.80 in taxes and fees.

Sample booking using July dates. Availability will vary, as will mileage (based on your home airport).

Sample booking using July dates. Availability will vary, as will mileage (based on your home airport).

If your trip requires more Avios, you have a few options, the simplest of which is probably to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve in-branch before March 12 to get 100,000 points as a signup bonus. An alternative would be to use the points from your Merrill+ card for up to $1000 in airfare, and just purchase the tickets outright. If you did that, you'd use the 59,000 Ultimate Reward points for a $590 statement credit toward the cost of tickets.

Flight Cost: 60,000 Ultimate Reward Points + $44.80

Step 3 - The Park Tickets

With the recent price increase, four-day Magic Your Way tickets for 2 adults and 2 children comes out to $1,437.80 on Undercover Tourist. By splitting the cost of the tickets across the Barclay Arrival Plus and Merrill+ cards, and then using the earned miles for statement credits in the amounts of $560 and $530, respectively, you'll have a net ticket cost of $347.80. 

Ticket Cost: 56,000 Barclay miles, 53,000 Merrill+ points, $347.80

Step 4 – Adding it Up

You've now spent all of your points: 40,000 Starpoints, 60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, 56,000 Barclay miles, and 53,000 Merrill+ points. You've also spent $392.60 out of pocket.

Optional Step 5 - $300 Easy Dollars

If you want to wind up spending less than $100 on this whole endeavor, you can sign up for each of the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited. Those cards both have a $150 signup bonus after you spend $500 in three months.