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I love family trips to Disneyland and I love saving money, but when I can combine the two and take a “free” trip to Disneyland, that’s completely magical! We recently took a quick 2 night/3 day trip to Disneyland and paid for the entire thing with credit card and reward miles. This “free” trip wasn’t an instant gratification thing, it took us several years of saving our rewards. I also didn’t set out to book this trip with our rewards, it just kind of happened that way.
I am sharing this information with you to let you know that a free or inexpensive trip to Disneyland is completely possible. You may not be able to book an entire Disney trip with rewards, but you certainly can use some of these techniques to make sure you pay less out of pocket for your trip. Here’s a peek at how we took advantage of our rewards to take a trip to Disneyland that didn’t cost us anything out of pocket.
Please note, booking a trip with rewards is only a good deal if you pay your credit card off in full every month. I do not recommend putting anything on a credit card and making payments. When it comes to credit cards, we pay for all of our expenses with credit cards and the total amount due is automatically subtracted from our checking account when it’s due, this way we never pay interest. We use our credit cards for pretty much everything, medical bills, auto repairs, utilities, groceries, travel and the list goes on.
First up, we had to get to Disneyland! We booked our flights using our Alaska Airlines miles. Fortunately, my husband has quite a few airline miles accrued because of his job. I don’t recommend just using miles when you want to go somewhere, I suggest you still watch for low fares. Usually when fares are low the amount of miles you need is lower too. Flying from Seattle to California isn’t that expensive and it’s easy for us to find deals. This is one of the reasons why it’s easy for us to take quick trips to Disneyland. If you have an airline that you frequent, look into the credit card for that airline, they will often have bonuses when you sign up. Alaska is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles. As an example, our flights to California were only 7500 miles each. You could easily send 2 people round-trip somewhere with 40,000 miles.
Next up we booked our hotel using our Marriott Rewards. One of the main reasons we opened the Marriott credit card is because we had a trip planned for Tokyo that was a couple of years out and we wanted to save up some points so we could get a few free hotel stays on that trip. We have enough points for 3 nights in Tokyo so we used some of the extra points for this stay. We scored two free nights at the Four Points Sheraton, one night stay was free with our anniversary reward and the second night we booked using 25,000 reward points.
One of the perks of signing up for the hotel rewards credit cards is they give you bonus points for signing up, the current offer for the Marriott card is 3 free hotel nights (at a hotel that is 35,000 points or less per night). One of our favorite hotels is the Fairfield Inn which is a 35,000 point Marriott hotel. If you apply for the Marriott card and meet the minimum spend requirement you can easily score a 3-night hotel stay for free at the Marriott! This would be a fairly quick and easy way to save on a Disney trip, it will take only a few months to earn this bonus reward.
Both my husband and I have Hyatt Rewards cards too, the offer when we signed up were 2 free nights at ANY hotel. We used both our free nights when we went to Paris. If you are looking to maximize your rewards, sign up fo the rewards cards separately instead of adding your spouse onto you credit card. You will get double the bonus sign-up rewards! Decide on your favorite hotel chain and sign up for that card.
Once we had our flight and hotel booked, we needed to take care of the Park tickets. Both my husband and I have an annual pass so we only needed to buy a ticket for our youngest (the older kids are off at college). I have a Disney Visa and I used the rewards from that card to pay for his 2-day Park Hopper ticket. I know what some of you are going to say…if you have annual passes than the trip wasn’t actually free. Guess what??? I actually paid for the passes last year with credit card rewards!! See how fun this is? I have seriously been saving my rewards for nearly 10 years and we are now reaping the rewards.
We also bought tickets for all three of us to attend the Oogie Boogie Bash and those tickets were bought with the rewards from my Disney Visa too.
Since this was a short trip there wasn’t a huge food expense, the items were paid for with my Disney Visa Rewards. Another general money saving tip is to share meals and just drink water from the restaurants. You can ask for a cup of ice water from any restaurant, you don’t have to buy bottled water or soda, it’s a great way to save. Because of our annual pass, we also save 20% on our meals. We ate breakfast at Panera one morning and I paid for that with a Panera gift card I earned from ibotta.
This trip happened during our son’s birthday and we knew that he would love making his own lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop. We gifted him with a new wallet (he lost his old one) and we put a note inside telling him he had an appointment to make a lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop. My husband built one on our last trip and the whole experience is completely magical, especially if you are a die hard Star Wars fan. My son absolutely loved the entire experience, he went on and on, all day long about how it was one of the coolest things he’s ever done. This experience was paid for with my Disney Visa Rewards (I’m starting to sound like a broken record, aren’t I?)
The last expense we had on this trip was our rental car. We always book a rental car through Costco, it is often times cheaper than it is to pay for a shuttle. The trick is to book your car and keep checking back every week to see if the price drops. If the price is lower you can book the new car at the lower rate and cancel your old one. I find that I can usually get the best deal about 3 weeks prior to our departure date. Sometimes, I find 2-3 days before I pick up the car there is a major drop in the price too. I paid for the rental car with the rewards from my Costco Visa (you thought I was going to say Disney Rewards, didn’t you?). The Costco Visa is probably the rewards card I used most now, because the perks are the best. With the Costco rewards, you will get a rebate check once a year, the check can be redeemed at Costco or you can get cash back. I opted for cash and used some of the money on our rental car and the cost of parking at the hotel. Booyah!
Whenever we take our trips to Disneyland we usually always incorporate one or two credit card rewards in some way. This was the first trip we took where I actually used rewards to pay for the entire trip and it was kind of exciting. Unfortunately, this trip used up a lot of our rewards so I am going to have to start saving again.
I hope this encourages you to come up with some creative ways to save on your next Disney trip, whether it’s with airline miles, credit card rewards or just basic money saving tactics like sharing meals or ordering free water.
Another great way to save on a Disneyland vacation is by booking your trip through Get Away Today. I have found Get Away Today has some of the best deals! When we aren’t using rewards for our hotels or tickets I usually always book my Disneyland trips through Get Away Today. If you book a package for 2 nights or longer, you can use the code THRIVING10 to save an additional $10 off the package price. You can also purchase discounted Disneyland tickets through Get Away Today too.
Once again, here is the rundown of how we used our rewards to get this trip for free:
- Flight – Alaska Airline miles
- Hotel – Marriott Rewards
- Park Tickets – Disney Visa Rewards
- Lightsaber Building Experience – Disney Visa Rewards
- Food – Disney Rewards Visa & gift card from ibotta
- Rental Car – Costco Visa Rewards
It’s worth mentioning that we planned our stay with the minimum hotel nights as possible. We flew in Thursday morning, went to Oogie Boogie Bash that evening, spent Friday in the parks all day, we then spent 1/2 the day on the park on Saturday and flew home late Saturday night. Since we made our arrival and departure days park days, less hotel stays were required. This may not work for everyone, but we live fairly close to California and we visit on a regular basis so we don’t feel the need to fit everything in all in one trip. Just another trip your might try when booking your trip.
We visit Disneyland on a regular basis and we have a bunch of posts to help you with your trip planning, check them out below:
- Complete Guide to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
- Make a custom lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop
- Ultimate Guide to Disneyland Snacks
- Honest reviews of the hotels we’ve used around Disneyland
- Our visit to Club 33 at Disneyland
- Complete Guide to Pixar Pier
- Visiting Disneyland in the Fall
- Tips for One Day at Disneyland
- 10 of the Best Places to eat Lunch at Disneyland
- 10 of the Best Places to eat Breakfast at Disneyland
- Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
- 7 Reasons I Prefer Disneyland over Disney World
I don’t recommend signing up for all the credit cards at once, just pick one and start with that, maybe a couple years later add another one. If you have experience with traveling with rewards I’d love to hear what your favorite cards are, let me know!