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We'll start with saving at Disney before switching to credit cards and points. Then we'll give you some suggested Disney experiences to try before closing with some tips on taking your travel to a new level!
Saving Money at Disney In 2018
Avoid the trap of booking the same vacation the same way you always have this year. By thinking just a little out of the box, you can save hundreds, even thousands, on your Disney vacation.
2. Book a Disney Hotel with Points
We've previously told you how to book Disney hotels with points. This might not be the best use of the signup bonus from the Chase cards we mentioned above, but we do think the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin could be good uses of Starpoints. This isn't a must do, but if you're looking for motivation to get into travel hacking, or if you're looking to visit Walt Disney World for almost free, this is a good place to start.
3. Book Your First Disney Airbnb
We just booked our first Disney Airbnb after living out of Airbnbs for months as part of our long-term travel. Not only can you find Airbnb cheaper than hotels, but the added bonus of a kitchen can make for big savings on Disney trips. To avoid paying for a rental car and parking, use Uber to get to and from the parks.
4. Stay at a Value Resort
We know many of our readers are value veterans, but if you've never tried it, we highly recommend it. As we wrote in our Walt Disney World hotels guide:
If the Grand Floridian is a wealthy older couple in a horse drawn carriage riding down Fifth Avenue, the value resorts are a family of five hanging off a motorbike zipping through the streets of Bangkok. This isn't Disney life at its most elegant, but it might be Disney life at its best.
We stick by the assessment, and the value resorts are strong contenders for our next trip to Disney World. One resort really high on our list is Art of Animation. Mandi at Walt Express has a great, recent review of Walt Disney World's Art of Animation Resort.
|Planning a Disney World Trip in 2018? Check out our Guide to Planning Your Budget Disney Trip|
5. Rent Disney Vacation Club Points
The most open of open secrets about how to save on deluxe stays at Disney is to rent Disney Vacation Club points or to purchase dedicated Disney Vacation Club reservations. By way of a quick explainer, a Disney Vacation Club member can let other people use their points, and there is a robust secondary market for using those points.
The economics of it works out to mean big savings if you sacrifice some flexibility. We recommend David's Vacation Club Rentals for renting Disney Vacation Club points.
We've got plenty more ways for you to save in 2018!
Credit Cards & Points In 2018
Let's start with Cards & Points. This is the bread and butter of travel hacking. If you decide this isn't the year for you to travel hack, don't fret! We have plenty of other tips on saving (read on). And anyways, if this isn't the year, you should still start preparing for next year!
6. Sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred
If you don't already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it is the most universally recommended card for people new to the world of points and miles. It earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be used to book Disney hotels through the Chase Travel Portal. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year. Consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve, if it makes more sense for you.
7. Earn Your First Signup Bonus
Here are our referral links to the current (12/28/17) signup bonuses for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred - 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for spending $4000 in 3 Months
- Chase Sapphire Reserve - 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for spending $4000 in 3 Months
Those points are incredibly valuable, worth $500 as a statement credit at the very minimum, $625 to $750 when used to book travel through the Chase Travel Portal, and up to thousands if you transfer them to airline partners for travel in business or first class.
Want something a little simpler? Consider the following no-fee options (but keep in mind Chase's 5/24 rule):
- Disney Visa Card - $200 Disney Gift Card for spending $500 in 3 months
- Chase Freedom - $150 bonus (in the form of 15,000 Ultimate Rewards Points) for spending $500 in 3 months
- Chase Freedom Unlimited - $150 bonus (in the form of 15,000 Ultimate Rewards Points) for spending $500 in 3 months
If you get one of the Chase Freedom cards, consider sitting on the points until you get a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred. Redeeming them for the cash bonus is a really bad use of the points!
8. Consider a Premium Credit Card
The big three premium travel credit cards are:
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great card, and you in our opinion any serious traveler should hold either it or the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Citi Prestige's 4th Night Free benefit is our favorite credit card perk for Disney travelers. The American Express Platinum card is most notable now for its 5x earning on flights. All three cards have other perks that make them worth considering, and all come with steep ($450 to $550) annual fees.
9. Sign Up for a Few Loyalty Programs
Many loyalty programs require you to have an account for 30 days before you can take advantage of promotions. Others will give you trouble if you sign up for an account and immediately transfer points and book a flight. It's good to have accounts open just to be prepared. Here are some we recommend:
- Legacy Carriers: American AAdvantage, United MileagePlus, and Delta Skymiles
- Regional Carriers: Southwest Rapid Rewards, Alaska Mileage Plan
- Low-Cost Carriers: JetBlue True Blue, Spirit Free Spirit, Frontier EarlyReturns
- International: Singapore Krisflyer, Etihad Guest, Korean Skypass, Lifemiles (Avianca)
Korean Skypass is especially important. We love international Korean Air redemptions, and they're great for flying first class to Hawaii. To book award tickets for family members, though, they need to have Korean Skypass accounts as well, and you need to have them linked as family members to your account.
Disney Experiences For 2018
There's so much more to Disney than the standard 4-day / 4-park trip to Walt Disney World! Make this year the year you try something new!
10. Plan An International Disney Trip
Disneyland Paris is the easiest one if you're new to international travel. It's a fantastic destination, with our favorite Disney castle. Tokyo Disney Resort, which we haven't made it to yet (February!) is widely regarded as the best of the international resorts, though.
11. Plan to Run a RunDisney Race
RunDisney is a unique way to combine fitness with Disney magic. These are races unlike any others, as they offer the opportunity to run through Disney parks and take photos with your favorite characters, including some you won't find any other time.
The calendar is more limited this year with Disneyland out of the rotation due to ongoing construction, but there are still a few of opportunities for your first (or second, or third, or tenth) RunDisney race. One upcoming race that still has some open slots (through charity programs) is the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Check out this review of the 2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon from Kimberly at Fit Disney Mom.
12. Take the Keys to the Kingdom Tour (Or Another Disney Park Tour)
Our review of the Magic Kingdom Keys to the Kingdom Tour was one of our most popular posts this year, and with good reason. Keys to the Kingdom is a great tour and an awesome way to experience a new side of Disney World while learning a bunch of great information along the way.
|Mouse Hacking Tip: Pay for your tour with a Chase Disney Visa card to save 15%!|
Done Keys already or just more interested in something else? There are plenty of cool tours. Lisa in Wonderland has a great review of the Caring For Giants Elephants Tour at Animal Kingdom.
13. Do Your First Resort Day
This could be filed under saving at Disney as well, but yes, some of us actually plan a day away from the parks just for the fun of it!
There is so much in Disney World outside the parks, from the Boardwalk, to Disney Springs, to Trader Sam's, to Fantasia Gardens. Take a Walt Disney World resort day to see something different!
14. Take your Fastpass+ Game to a New Level
Make this year the year your fingers get exhausted from doing the "tap and grab" on your My Disney Experience app all day long. Stop settling for three short lines and five other hour-long waits. Our Walt Disney World Fastpass+ strategy is a good place to start learning how to get the most rides in at Walt Disney World.
Flying Resolutions for 2018
If you're visiting a Disney park this year, chances are your trip will start with a flight. We can only make getting from point A to point B at 35,000 feet so bearable, but hopefully with these resolutions you'll either have a better time or at least save some money (so you can spend it on Sanaa's bread service instead).
15. Book Your First Award Flight
Don't go booking award flights just because they're on this list, but at least see if they make sense. With your signup bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, for example, you could book two round-trip economy trips on United within the United States. Alternatively, you could get an airline co-branded card that earns airline miles directly and use those to save on flights.
If you're going to an international Disney park, you'll definitely want to consider an award flight to fly business or first class at least one leg of your trip.
16. Cut Down Your Packing & Fly Low-Cost
When we made this a goal of ours, we took a nine-day trip to Europe out of one small JanSport backpack each. You don't have to go that far, but cutting down your packing can help you get big savings by flying low cost airlines (or basic economy).
We're fans of low-cost travel, and we've got tips to help you survive low cost airlines, too.
17. Spend Some Time In An Airport Lounge
Lounges are not just for frequent flyers!! There are plenty of ways to get airport lounge access, including just dropping the money for a day pass (not that we'd advise that). We have membership to the Priority Pass lounge group through several credit cards. You can also get lounge memberships through the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the United MileagePlus Club Card.
18. Sign up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
TSA PreCheck is a great way to get you (and kids under 13) through airport security in the U.S. faster and with less hassle. Global Entry is a program that comes with TSA PreCheck and additionally allows you to get through customs and immigration in an expedited fashion when entering the U.S. Last time we entered the U.S. at Newark, the lines look like they easily totaled an hour of waiting.
|Mouse Hacking Tip: Several premium credit cards reimburse the cost of a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and American Express Platinum.|
BONUS! 19. Subscribe to Mouse Hacking!
We know, we said this list was 18 because that's a nice number for 2018. But this is more of a bonus resolution (and one you can accomplish right now!). We had a great 2017, reaching our traffic goals right in the last few days of the year. But 2017 was also the first year. We're quite young, and that means we have so much more to do and to share with you.
In 2018, the top of our resolutions is to make this site the best it can be. That means getting you accessible, usable content so that you can travel hack and save on your way to the Disney experience of your choice. By subscribing, you not only support us (the subscription is free, but it means a ton to us when people sign up), but you'll be the first to get exclusive deals and tips. We don't spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time!