Welcome back to another trip report post! In this post, I will recap my recent trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Posting my trip reports are one of my favorite parts of having my blog as I get to recap how anyone can travel for cheap if they want to, even if they are in debt. I see all too often that people make excuses why they can’t travel. I hear: “I wish I could but I have no free time” or “I can’t afford it right now, but maybe in the future.”
For me, I want to prioritize travel now because I am not guaranteed anything, so I want to explore the world as much as possible now.
To travel cheaply, I utilize Travel Hacking to get flights, hotels, and rental cars for free or reduced costs. I put my everyday spending on travel credit cards and strategically open up new travel cards when I know I have high future expenses that will meet the minimum spend requirements. I always pay off my credit cards in full every month and never accrue any debt.
If you’re interested in getting a customized Travel hacking plan check out my Travel Hacking Consult page for more details
Check out some of my previous trip reports below:
As some of you may know, Disney World is typically one of the most expensive places to travel in the US. For some people going to Disney is a once or twice in a lifetime trip where they spend thousands of dollars.
When I was at the Disney parks I saw a lot of customized T-shirts that said “Best Day Ever,” and I saw a lot of the “Most Expensive Day Ever” shirts.
In my opinion, going to Disney world doesn’t have to be the “most expensive day ever.” If you give yourself some time to plan and understand how to implement some travel hacking techniques you should be able to make your Disney experience memorable and do it without breaking the bank.
Below is how I accomplished my first ever Disney trip (Keep in mind my trip consisted of 2 people). If you have a large family, I believe you should still be able to utilize my strategies to reduce your Disney expenses significantly, but might need to add additional plans to account for more people.
We have the Southwest Companion Pass so I can get my fiancée to fly free with me when I book with points through Southwest. The Companion Pass has been a crucial part of us being able to accomplish so many trips this year.
We obtained Companion Pass by signing up for 2 Southwest Credit cards while they were offering their 60k bonus on each card. I had signed up in October 2017 and met minimum spend requirements for both cards on Jan 1st, 2018.
Note: Southwest changed the rules where you can’t get two personal SW cards at one time. However, you can still get one business and one personal card to obtain Companion Pass easily.
Our Companion Pass is good until the end of 2019. At that point, we are planning for my fiancée to sign up for 2 cards (1 business and 1 personal), so we can get Companion Pass for years 2020 and 2021 (pending no significant rule changes in the Companion Pass terms of service).
If you are in the position to get companion pass I recommend it. It’s the best value for domestic flying in the travel rewards market. If I didn’t have Companion Pass, I would be transferring my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest or United to book single flights with points.
Total Costs: 24k points + $22.40 (mandatory taxes)
Whenever I am picking a place to stay, I always compare Hyatt (my favorite hotel reward program), Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and Airbnb to see what the best value is for my trip.
My criteria for lodging on this trip was to find somewhere close to the Disney parks, under 10k points per night, free parking, and have free breakfast. When I began searching, I immediately eliminated Airbnb as an option on this trip because I didn’t want to pay out of pocket for lodging. I had points to use to help reduce my overall trip costs.
My first option was to find a Hyatt in Orlando near Disney. It turned out that there was only 1 Hyatt in Orlando that was accepting Hyatt points during my stay. The only location that was offering award booking was actually at the Orlando Airport for 8k points per night. I decided this wasn’t the best option because it was a further distance from Disney than I wanted.
Next, I moved to see what the options were on Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. There were a ton of options, with the majority of hotels with high prices near Disney. Since the majority of the hotels were either out of my price range or didn’t have free breakfast, I decided to look a little bit further out. I had a rental car so being on Disney property or within a mile wasn’t required.
I ended up finding a Comfort Suites in Kissimmee, which was a 10min drive. It was one of the only hotels that offered free breakfast, had free parking, and was only 6.8k points per night. Granted this wasn’t a resort on Disney property, it provided a great value, and I was happy our stay.
Total Costs: 27k points – $0 out of pocket for four nights
Disney Tickets / Entertainment
If you haven’t been to Disney before you might be shocked at the costs for tickets at first. Typically a basic ticket for a single park will be north of $100 per ticket. If you are going to the Disney parks for more than 3-4 days that adds up quick(especially with a family). Just for us, we are looking at the cost of over $600 for the 2 of us for three days at the Disney parks, just for the cheapest tickets. A lot of people get burned here and drop thousands on their trip.
After reading up on a “take your family to Disney for nearly free” post by Brad from ChooseFI/RichmondSavers, we got turned on to a strategy to reduce the costs of Disney tickets significantly. To reduce our Disney ticket costs, my fiancee opened up a Captial One Venture card. We chose the Venture card because it essentially reimburses you for anything that the credit card tags as “travel”. After meeting the minimum spend requirements of $3k in 3 months, we earned $560 to go to travel expenses.
We strategically opened this card specifically for our Disney trip. The card is free for the first year, and we plan to cancel it before the $95 annual fee hits next year.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus card is similar to the Capital One Venture and can be used to accomplish the same goal.
Buying Disney Tickets
Now, this is important – if you buy your tickets directly on the Disney website, it won’t tag as a “travel” expense, and you won’t get reimbursed the $560 after meeting the minimum spend requirement.
We ended up booking our Disney tickets on undercovertourist.com (a reputable site to buy Disney tickets). On UnderCoverTourist the transaction will code as “travel,” and you will be able to book your tickets and get reimbursed from Capital One Venture or Barclaycard Arrival Plus.
We ended up buying the three days “Hopper” tickets which gave us access to all 4 Disney parks for three days. The hopper ticket was a little more $$ than a single day ticket, but it offered flexibility, which was essential to us.
Total Retail Cost for Disney Hopper Tickets (3 days) – $756
Minus $560 travel credit from Capital One Venture
Total Entertainment Costs:= $196 for both (2 people) 3-day hopper tickets
Rental Car, Food, Souvenirs & Miscellaneous Costs
We ended up booking the rental car with points from Chase Ultimate Rewards. The cost was 16k Ultimate Rewards Points for the full week (I went to a conference after Disney). Zero costs out of pocket.
We used Enterprise to rent our car. When I rent cars, I always try to go with Enterprise or Hertz because generally, I get better customer service and sometimes get upgrades. I won’t overpay if another reputable company is much cheaper but if its close I always prefer Enterprise or Hertz.
I didn’t need to fill up much at all for the whole trip. I filled up the car at the end which costs $34.45.
We took the toll highway outside the airport and paid with cash – I believe it was around $5 total.
Total Gas/Toll Cost: $39.45
We kept things pretty simple on food this trip. We loaded up on free breakfast in the mornings at the hotel.
For lunches, we stopped by Target on our first day and picked up chicken sandwiches. We kept in our hotel fridge and microwaved them to eat at the park. We also packed our bags with snacks and water so we wouldn’t have to buy anything at the parks.
Bringing our lunch worked out well, and we only ended up buying ice cream a few days at Disney. Total cost at target was $24 and $15.45 for ice cream.
Dinner we dined out but always chose places that were reasonably priced outside of Disney. Most places we ate at were between $15-$40 for two people. Total costs for dinner for four nights – $139.37
Total Food Costs: $178.82
Total Costs for the Trip: $436.67
I am very proud of all of our savings for this trip. We reduced our most substantial expenses (Flights, Lodging, Disney Tickets) by over 90% and had a great time when we were at Disney. Our same trip would have cost between $2500 to $3000 without doing any travel hacking. That’s at least a $2,000 savings, which is pretty awesome.
I didn’t feel like we deprived ourselves at all on this trip either. We could have saved more by eating out less, but we love trying new foods when we travel so that cost was intentional.
Also, if I wanted to save more I could have opened up a Capital One Venture card myself. That would have earned us $1120 ($560 x 2) to spend on tickets, but we felt that having one card got us 80% there and opening a new card wasn’t necessary. Plus, right now I’m avoiding opening up any new cards until I close on my house :).
My Favorites at Disney
This trip was my first time to Disney. I was impressed with the attention to details throughout all the parks, and as a 28-year old, I had a great time. Their fast pass system worked great, and we got to ride all the rides that we wanted on the trip.
I liked Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom the most. I enjoyed Epcot too because they had a food and wine festival going on when we went. Hollywood studios was my least favorite, but we still had fun there also.
My favorite rides/activities:
- Avatar Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom)
- Everest (Animal Kingdom)
- Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
- Kilimanjaro Safaris (Animal Kingdom)
- Rock N Rollercoaster (Hollywood Studios)
- Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)
My Automatic Travel Savings Plan
To pay for my trips throughout the year, I put money away automatically 2x a month in my Capital One 360 savings account*. I have separate savings account just for Travel, so it makes the $200-$500 trips very doable because I already have the money in my account. So I never really have to adjust my monthly cash flow for travel. I withdraw from my travel account to pay for the trip.
Question for You!
What’s holding you back from traveling more?
How do you get the most value when you travel?
What are your Disney Favorites?
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