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In this post, we provide a roadmap for you to visit Walt Disney World for free or almost free by using a combination of credit card points and discounts to pay for your flights, hotel, and tickets. If you've read the principles behind doing Disney World for free before, click here to jump to the current hack. Otherwise, read on through the introduction and onto the hack!
The Principles Behind Doing Disney World For Free
Yes, You Actually Can Do This
If you've never used credit card points before, we've got a Start Here series of posts we've written for you. If you have a basic understanding (or you just want to get to the point) this post will identify the best current credit card signup offers for someone who wants to visit Walt Disney World. Those bonuses come in points that can be used to pay for hotel stays or flights, and we provide a list of "cash back" or similar bonuses that you can use to pay for tickets at the end.
A lot of people think there must be some "trick" to using credit card points this way, but there really isn't. We flew to Shanghai Disneyland on Korean Air's A380 business class, complete with a lounge and 14 hours of excellent service, using points we earned this way. I'm writing this from Hong Kong Disneyland, and I can tell you I've got enough points just sitting in my account to fly to Walt Disney World and spend a few nights at the Swan & Dolphin if we wanted to. There are a few reasons this might not be the best option for you (again, see the Start Here series for more), but for most of our readers, this is entirely obtainable.
Signup Bonuses Are the Best Route to Free Disney
A signup bonus is what a credit card company gives you for spending some amount of dollars in some timeframe when you get their card. If you need to know more about signup bonuses, check out our starter post here. Because they offer large chunks of points at minimal (or no) actual cost to you, these bonuses are the ideal route to free travel.
We Could Make It Totally Free, But That Might Not Make Sense For You
While having a plan for a totally free trip would have more of a "Wow!" factor, the truth is that once you get past flights, hotels, and some easy signup bonuses, the returns really start to diminish. For example, there are lots of cards that offer $100 or $150 as a signup bonus. We could just tell you to keep going out and getting these cards, but they're actually rarely worth the effort.
We also could use a really low-cost stay as our baseline. A single traveler staying one night at All-Star Music flying on Spirit Airlines visiting one park and bringing a ham sandwich for lunch isn't going to have an expensive stay, but no one wants to do that.
There Are Many Ways to Do Walt Disney World For Almost Free
Before we decided to keep this as one, ongoing post, we did monthly posts. Even if they have expired offers, it's good to see how flexible your options are. Here are the past four:
May (a variety of cards, focusing on hotels and flights)
March (similar to this month, but with more cash back / statement credits)
February (a simple strategy for resorts other than Swan and Dolphin)
January (with more flexible choice of airlines)
Your options expand with a partner
If you have a partner who can also earn signup bonuses on credit cards, you'll have even more options. You can generally only earn a signup bonus once (usually either in a lifetime or every two years). With a partner, though, you'll be able to earn major points. When the Chase Sapphire Reserve was offering 100,000 bonus points, we both got the card to build a stockpile of 200,000 points!
And now, this month's hack...
Big Changes Since Last Month
Unfortunately, the ongoing SPG and Marriott Rewards merger has thrown a wrench into our favorite way to do Walt Disney World for free. We're hoping that when all is said and done, things will be even better for Disney fans, but we'll have to wait and see.
1. Get $675 to $810 Toward Disney Hotels With The Chase
Rather than pick a specific hotel stay that meets our constraints, we're just going to discuss how to get up to $810 (or $1620 with two people) toward a Disney hotel. You can either find a stay that costs less than that amount (and is subject to a few other restrictions discussed below), or you can pay for the price over $810.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve currently offers 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4000 in 3 months. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers the same. For Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders, the 54,000 points you'd have after earning the bonus are worth $810 on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders will get $675 of value.
Since many Walt Disney World hotels can be booked through the Chase travel portal, this is a great way to use points to fund your Walt Disney World vacation!
Unfortunately, you no longer can get both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred. But remember, if you and another household member can each get approved for a card, you'll be able to double the number of points you earn through signup bonuses for these cards.
2. How to Get Four Roundtrip Flights to Orlando for $95
While American Airlines doesn't have great Saver award availability overall, I see a lot of availability flying into Orlando. Within the contiguous United States, a round-trip saver ticket will cost you 25,000 AAdvantage miles. A family of four needs 100,000 miles to cover their flights to Orlando. Getting 100,000 AAdvantage miles is easier than ever.
|Suggested Reading: Before you book your flight, read up on when to book domestic flights with points|
Signup for the Citi AAdvantage for 60,000 Miles [4/21/18]
The annual fee on the Citi is waived the first year ($95 thereafter) and on the Barclay is $95 (not waived). Between these two cards, you'll get 110,000 AAdvantage miles for $3001 spent and a $95 annual fee.
3. Minimum Out-of-Pocket Cost = $95
To earn your $635/$750 nights and four round-trip flights, you'll need to spend $7,000 over a maximum of 9 months (plus the $1 purchase on the Barclay). This isn't an outrageous amount, but we've got tips on hitting minimum spend if you need them. You'll pay two annual fees (on the Barclay and the Chase Marriott) totaling $180.
4. What About Tickets & Incidentals?
Tickets and incidentals are a little tough. It's not too difficult to earn enough signup bonuses to pay for your tickets and incidentals (and we list some available offers below), but that might not be the best use of your spending power.
|Suggested Reading: Check out our Guide to finding discount Disney World tickets|
Nonetheless, we want to provide you with some options. [Checked 4/21/18]
If you'd like more, we always suggest you head over to Doctor of Credit's top current offers.
If you don't need to use the signup for a Chase Sapphire card to book your hotel, or if you have a partner who can get a Chase Sapphire card as well, you have two more options:
Chase Sapphire Reserve - 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for spending $4000 in 3 Months ($450 annual fee, but you can use the $300 travel credit twice the first year) (worth $500 toward tickets and incidentals)
We really, really do not think you should sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve to use the signup bonus for $500 cash back / credit to cover Disney tickets and incidentals. You'll actually get more value using Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book Disney hotels.
|Suggested Reading: Interested in a Chase Sapphire card? Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve|
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
Don't forget to master your Disney World Fastpass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.