How To Save $2,500+ On A “Deluxe” Disney World Vacation

How to do “Disney on a Dime” is a pretty popular topic. Posts covering Walt Disney World vacations on a shoe-string budget are great if you don’t mind eating Ramen Noodles on vacation and sleeping with one eye open as you question just how safe your $35/night motel really is. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of hyperbole, but you get the idea. Traveling as cheaply as possible is great, but who says that you can’t do a Deluxe-level Walt Disney World vacation without breaking the bank? While we do things “on a dime” when it’s necessary, we also like to have nicer vacations, and when we do, we certainly still try to get the best deals possible. After all, the savings from one trip can help fund the next.

In this post we’ll cover how to do a Deluxe-level Walt Disney World trip in as frugal of a manner as possible, but without cutting the corners. With our tips, you should be able to save $2,825 (give or take, depending upon your personal circumstances and preferences).

Let’s start out with a few assumptions. First, this traveling party consists of 2 adults and 2 kids, ages 10 and 12. Even though we don’t have 2 kids (unless you count our cat and dog, which we do…but not for the purposes of this article), we have heard feedback that our other budget articles aren’t realistic for most Disney guests because they aren’t childless twenty-somethings like us. The average family has 2.5 kids; our first act of savings is to leave that half-child behind at home. He probably doesn’t need a vacation anyway. Our second assumption is that the family chef doesn’t want to cook on vacation. Our third assumption is that you’re not foolish enough to pay rack rate in the first place; this article isn’t merely a pointless exercise in taking advantage of discounts anyone is offered when they visit Our last assumption is that “Deluxe-level vacation” means Deluxe or Deluxe-Villa hotel accommodations and some nice dining here and there, not daily trips to the spa or an hourly VIP tour guide. (Sorry, Manhattan moms! ;))

As our control, here’s the package we would have booked with Disney: a 6-night, 7-day trip arriving September 22 and departing September 28. We’re staying on a 30% off room discount at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge with a Savanna View room (our fake kids LOVE animals!), 7-day Park Hopper tickets, and the standard Disney Dining Plan. The total cost of this package was quoted to me as $5,222.76 (before applicable taxes/fees). We’re flying out of Indianapolis, and since we want the most vacation time possible, we’re only taking morning flights on the way there and evening flights on the way out. Using ITA Software, we could do these flights at a low roundtrip cost of $288 per person on United. That’s the only transportation cost as we’ll be using Disney transportation the rest of the way. (Our idea of pampering ourselves is not pulling one another’s hair out as we get lost in traffic or backed up trying to park. YMMV.) Souvenir spending is the last thing and is the most difficult to calculate. I’m guessing an average family spends about $100 per person on souvenirs. All of these expenses make the total cost of this vacation $6,774.76.

With that in mind, let’s see how we can save.

Disneyland Spring 2012_004


Our first area of savings is going to be a big one. We spent $1,152 on airfare from Indianapolis to Orlando flying United at our ideal times. Instead, we’re going to fly Southwest at those same ideal morning and night times. Normally, if we were paying out of pocket, this would spike the airfare cost to $1,490.80. Of course, we’re not looking to spend more on the trip, so we’re not going to pay out of pocket.

Instead, we’re going to open two Southwest Chase credit cards, one personal card and one business card (something as pedestrian as selling on eBay qualifies you for a business card). I probably lost a decent number of you right there, as I know many people have this intense hatred for credit cards. I’m not going down the road of debating whether credit cards are an evil device created to line the pockets of wealthy financial institutions or are great tools that enable you to receive benefits for the money you spend everyday, anyway. All I will say is that since I’ve held my first credit card, I have received tens of thousands of dollars in rewards, and I have never paid a single cent in interest…all without making any Faustian Bargains!

If you refuse to open the cards, fine. I’ll calculate savings at the end with and without the card. If you do open the cards, we highly recommend you will be rewarded with a total of 100,000 miles as a sign-on bonus. Alone, that’s enough to book the airfare, which would cost 81,600 points, plus $30 in security fees.

That’s one option, but what we highly recommend is that you earn another 10,000 points before booking the travel. This is because 110,000 points makes you eligible for a Southwest Companion Pass, which means that whenever the primary traveler flies, their designated companion flies free. Sarah and I have a Southwest Companion Pass, and it makes traveling (especially for the two of us) much more economical. The only problem is that it makes weekend getaways way too tempting, so we fly a decent amount…but that’s not exactly a bad “problem” to have! If you’ve already flown Southwest this year, you may already have enough points. If not, at 1 point for every dollar spent, you’ll need to put $10,000 on the card to earn the pass.

One important thing to note is that the Companion Pass is good for the full calendar year after the year you earn it. That means a Companion Pass earned in December 2013 expires December 31, 2014, but a Companion Pass earned in January 2014 expires December 31, 2015. Plan accordingly.

Either way, you’re only spending $30 on airfare if you open those cards. It’s just a question of how many points you use (and thus have leftover for your next adventure).

So far, $1,122 saved.


At $2,413 for a Savanna View room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, we got a pretty good deal there. Thanks to the 30% off discount, that works out to just over $400/night for a Deluxe room with one of the most spectacular views any Walt Disney World room offers.

However, as we’ve mentioned before on the blog, renting Disney Vacation Club points is the cheapest way to stay in a Deluxe-level hotel room at Walt Disney World. Off-site, there are even cheaper options, but we want to stay on-site since this is a nice trip, and for the sake of convenience and the Disney on-site perks. We will thus book the room through one of the reputable Disney Vacation Club points rental sites, like DVC Rental Store or David’s Vacation Rentals. For our stay in a Savanna View room, we’ll need 86 points. At a cost of $14 per point, our total for this room will be $1,204. Another option here would be a private person-to-person rental for even more savings, but we’d be wary of this. Go this route if you’re a trusting person and want to save even more, though…

It’s worth noting that at this point, you could add on the Disney Dining Plan for its normal price if you really wanted (in which case you’d simply remove our “Dining Savings” from the total amount of savings to calculate your total savings).

Another $1,209 saved.


If booked through Disney, the tickets would cost $1,565.25 (remember to add tax to Disney’s tickets when pricing this out yourself). We cover a number of ways to save money on tickets in this article. Before we got Annual Passes*, our top choice was always Undercover Tourist, a Disney-authorized ticket seller. This trip doesn’t call for the 10-day “No Expiration” hack we always liked to use, so instead we’ll just go for their 7-day Park Hoppers.

Via Undercover Tourist, those same 7-day tickets would cost $1,427.00 shipped.

Another $138.25 saved.

*Another option here depending upon how much you anticipate spending on table service dining would be for one person to purchase an Annual Pass to make you eligible for the Tables in Wonderland card. This is unlikely to be economical for a trip of this duration, but it might be smart to do the math. If you plan on taking a return trip within the next 365 days, it is likely best for everyone to purchase Annual Passes.

Walt Disney WorldEPCOTVia NapoliWhile not the best restaurant for value on the 2013 Disney Dining Plan, Via Napoli is a great place to eat in Epcot!


For regular readers of the blog, it should come as no surprise that we’re going to skip the Disney Dining Plan, which would be an added cost since we opted for the room discount. We feel that the Disney Dining Plan “forces” most guests to eat more than they’d normally want, and also “forces” you to have an eye on which menu items are the most expensive if you intend to save money on it. (The popularity of our articles concerning maximizing savings on the Disney Dining Plan are proof of this!) Since savings is our principle concern here, arguments of convenience on or off the Disney Dining Plan are moot.

The cost of the standard Disney Dining Plan for the trip will be $1,334.16, or about $55 per person daily. This is for 6 nights worth of credits; we’ll be eating for parts of 7 days thanks to the early arrival and late departure, but the first and last day combined should only amount to a full day worth of meals, so the 6 nights will be fine.

In all scenarios, everyone is ordering off of the adult menu. Without doing crazy amounts of math here, let’s set the average price of a complete counter service meal at $14 per person. It will be slightly more or less than this depending upon what’s ordered (Expensive entree? Soda? Dessert? All three?), but I think it’s a safe assumption that over the course of a 7-day trip, $14 per person will be about average without trying to save money or trying to spend extra money.

Let’s also set the average price of a complete table service meal at $42 per person after tax but before gratuity (you’re paying that out of pocket on or off the Disney Dining Plan). Depending upon the restaurant and what’s ordered, this could be way low or way high, but we think it’s a good average. We’ll peg snacks at $4 each.

Since this is a “nice” trip, we want to do some table service meals. However, we don’t want to essentially be “restaurant hopping” or perpetually full, so we’re not going to go with the 6 table service meals Disney would have us doing. In our experience, that’s just too much dining and not enough park time. Instead, we’ll compromise and do 4, and fill in the other 2 slots with counter service meals. To keep the comparison simple (and again, since we don’t always want to be full), we’ll do snacks for breakfast.

This means we’ll be paying for 32 counter service meals, 16 table service meals, and 6 snacks out of pocket. The total hypothetical cost for all of this is $1,144. Again, this is very rough math due to extreme fluctuations in menu prices. You could conceivably pay as little as $800 or as much as $1,600. We think $1,144 is the sweet spot for most normal families of 4 who don’t split meals or fixate on menu prices and instead order what they want.

Based on this, another $190.16 saved.

Save $2,500+ on a "Deluxe" Disney World Vacation


Here’s another spot where you could see big, or not so big, savings. It all depends upon your normal souvenir habits, but we’ll peg the norm at $100 per person, making the normal total $400. Our advice is to not buy any souvenirs. Your memories are the best souvenirs of all, and preserving those is where you should allocate all of your souvenir budget. This doesn’t make this any less of a “Deluxe” vacation–it makes it a sensible one.

For this reason, we are going to allocate $175 towards souvenirs. That’s roughly the cost of PhotoPass+ and a photobook from Shutterfly after one of their almost-perpetual sales. Now, we don’t actually recommend that everyone buy PhotoPass+, but that’s the rationale for the allocation. We far prefer handing off our cameras to the PhotoPass photographers and having them take photos of us for free. We do recommend PhotoPass+ to some people, though.

If you don’t purchase PhotoPass+ or you just can’t fathom not buying your kids anything on vacation, we recommend reallocating that budget to buying Disney pins for trading in advance on Amazon for significant savings or buying clearance merchandise from and giving those things to them while you’re there. Whatever you do, try to avoid paying the asinine merchandise prices Disney charges in its on property stores. It took us a while to learn this lesson, and now we only buy souvenirs for special events and anniversaries, or when traveling to a new place.

In an ideal world, you’re spending only the cost of a photobook from Shutterfly (about $25) on souvenirs. Your mileage may vary on this one based on actual preferences, but if you’re spending an upwards of $500 of souvenirs during a 7-day trip to Walt Disney World, you’re doing something wrong.

Here we saved at least $225.

Cinderella Castle photographed with the Nikon 16mm f/2.8 fisheye.Lens:

As you’ll recall, the total cost of our normal, “take the discount Disney hands you” vacation was $6,774.76. That number is a bit rough and probably is a little low because it doesn’t include all taxes and fees, but it’s close enough, so we’ll go with it.

Now, it’s time to add up the cost of the same Deluxe trip, with our money-saving hacks applied:

Airfare: $0 (or $1,152 without the free airfare via credit cards)
Hotel: $1,204
Tickets: $1,427.00
Dining: $1,144
Souvenirs: $175             
Grand Total: $3,950 (or $5,102 without the free airfare)

This is a savings of at least $1,500 on the conservative end and as much as $2,825! In fact, you could save even more if you follow some of our more “extreme” advice, but the more of that you follow, the more you get away from this being a “Deluxe” Walt Disney World vacation. While this is still an expensive trip (more than twice what we normally spend!), you’re saving more this way than you ever would by taking advantage of one of Disney’s offers (even the popular “Free Dining”). In the end, the point is that you can be frugal and still take a great Walt Disney World vacation…and those savings will just help make that next vacation happen a little sooner!

For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.

For updates on Walt Disney World, the latest news, discount information, and tips, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

Your Thoughts…

What do you think of our plan? Would your family save more money with this, or would it be impossible for you to follow? Do you have other “hacks” for saving money while still taking a “Deluxe” Walt Disney World vacation? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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80 Responses to “How To Save $2,500+ On A “Deluxe” Disney World Vacation”

  1. Leslie says:

    We are saving big on our Disney vacation this year. Even though I would rather stay on property we aren’t this year. My husband has racked up enough hotel points from his work stays to get our family 10 nights free in a nice hotel. We will also be driving from NC and using his remaining points for gas cards. We can’t be free rooms & free gas! All we are paying for is food and park tickets!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Hotel points are another great trip. Although we don’t have it (we prefer Hyatt when not going to Disney), the Starwood credit card sign-on bonus is a great way to stay on-site at the Swan/Dolphin without spending anything out of pocket!

      • Steph says:

        Hey Tom and Sara! I’m wondering if you’ve been able to use the SW companion pass on any of your international travel?

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Southwest doesn’t fly to international destinations (except the Bahamas and Mexico), so no.

      • Jessica says:

        Question, we are going to Disney in september. I tried signing up for the cards, but neither chase nor soutwest was able to tell me if it’s still possible to combine and redeem the points off of both cards? How did you do this and is it still possible?

  2. Kayla says:

    “but a Companion Pass earned in January 2014 expires December 31, 2014.” I think you meant December 31, 2015 instead of 2014.

  3. Bernadette says:

    Unlike your ‘fake family’, we rounded up and had three kids, which puts us in a bit of a bind in terms of finding reasonably priced accommodations on site. Last year, when we went on our first, once in a lifetime trip to WDW, we stayed in the garden wing of the Contemporary, which is definitely the least expensive deluxe option for a party of five. As you might have guessed, we are all hooked on WDW now, and returning in September – so much for once in a lifetime! In order to pull off another WDW trip so soon, we have dropped down to the moderate category, and will be staying at Port Orleans Riverside, which is by far the least expensive option on site (including the budget suites) for a family of five.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Have you considered leaving your least favorite child at home? Perhaps you could make them compete for the 2 vacation slots? (It might encourage good behavior for the rest of the year!) 😉

      Failing that, you might look into the Deluxe Villa Studios, as some of those sleep 5. Rent DVC points and book one of those, and you’d have Deluxe accommodations at or below the cost of a Moderate Resort. Win win!

      Not at all surprised that you got hooked, either!

      • Bernadette says:

        Well, one will be an adult in three short years – then he’ll magically have the money to pay for his own vacations, right…? That’s a great tip re: the Deluxe Villa Studios – thanks!

      • Cory L. says:

        Tom, Which Studios sleep 5? I remember reading some Animal Kingdom Villas studios slept 5, but the main link just says the Studios sleep 4:

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I think most of the newer AKV sleep 5, but I’m not entirely sure on that. It’s never been an issue for us. I also thought BLT slept 5, but I could be entirely wrong on that. When I last talked to a DVC rep, I was under the impression that all of the newer properties from some point of Kidani on were sleeping 5 because there was a lot of member demand for it. But that could have been totally wrong.

    • Amy says:

      You might want to look into renting points for a DVC one-bedroom. They comfortably sleep five, and TONS of room.

      • Cory L. says:

        Good tip Amy. Just be sure to check if the DVC resort you want allows 5 in a one-bedroom suite. For instance, the Beach Club and Boardwalk Villas only allow 4. Same with the Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West.

      • Heather McDermott says:

        The DVC Studio has one Queen sized bed and one pull out couch. I’m not sure it would comfortable sleep 5! But I’m sure it can be done! The 1 bedroom has 1 king sized bed, one queen pull out bed and at least 1 pull out chair, possibly 2…. so that’s a total of 5-6 very comfortably! The points comparison is not too much different during certain times of year…. so look for that if you need that little bit extra room! Plus… the 1 bedrooms have full kitchens and washer dryers, so you can eat breakfast and late night snacks in the room cheaply! :) Good luck!

  4. Kelly says:

    Thanks for another great post! It is because of the post you did on renting DVC points that really helped me decide to rent points for our trip in December. I still can’t believe that we are staying in a 1 BR Savanna view room at AKV for essentially the same price as the Nemo suite at AoA.

  5. Kristen says:

    Wow. I am blown away by this article! As one half of a 20-something couple, I have to say, if I could do a 6-night/7day trip staying at AKL savannah view for that price, I’d do it! And we don’t have the two kids to account for! We usually stay off-property for $40/night for 2 weeks at a nice hotel with a kitchen and bring our own food in to the parks. The length of time and price is what usually gets us, but it would be SO nice to experience the “Disney Bubble” for once. Maybe our dream honeymoon is more do-able than we thought… Thanks Tom!

  6. Jacky says:

    We live in Miami and go every other month to Disney. No way we would be able to stay inside Disney every time we go. We are DVC members and we try to maximize our points as best as possible to stay a week in the summer and a week in December. When we don’t use our vacation points we stay off property. I am a teacher and there a lot of hotels that offer discounts for teachers and military. I have booked rooms for $54 a night at Hilton’s on International Drive. If you have a car and dont mind driving (it’s really not so far) that is a good deal!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You’re absolutely right! We actually have a few articles about doing Disney as cheaply as possible (there are links in the body of the article).

      This post goes in a different direction and covers saving money while still doing Walt Disney World in a “Deluxe” way.

      • Jacky says:

        Of course! I’m even thinking about renting DVC points after your article and I already have the DVC. I also agree with you on the Dining plan. It is so much food. My husband and I don’t eat so much! We would be wasting money on that. I have done the math time and time again!

  7. NancyB says:

    Renting DVC points would save me a bundle….if only I travelled as the family group Disney (logically enough) targets. However, I travel with an adult friend, and our preferred setup is to each have our own *real* bed, not a sleeper sofa. Only way to do that at DVC as far as I’ve been able to tell is to stay at Old Key West’s studios, or move all the way up to a 2 BR villa at all other resorts. I do bitch about this any time I get in a conversation with a DVC sales rep in the hopes word will filter up and they will configure additional studios with 2 queens.

    Our upcoming Beach Club stay in September will thus be on a 30%-off-rack offer at $1742, not the 2 BR villa renting points for $3276. (A studio point rental would be $1288….but there’s that sleeper sofa.) Still waiting to see if an AP discount appears to get a little more off that total.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That stinks, and is something I never really considered. I’ll have to remember this for future articles.

      Don’t blame you for choosing Beach Club over OKW, either!

    • Crystal says:

      I travel with my mom (I am 31 she is in her 50s) and we both also want our own real bed…we got Wyndham time share points on the 2nd hand market really cheap (You can also rent) and stay at Wyndham Bonnet Creek in a 2 BR. We each get our own room and our own bathroom plus a full kitchen/living area between the two rooms. They offer shuttles every 30 min or so to and from the parks. It is on same road as Hilton/Waldorf Astoria.

  8. Kevin says:

    I’ve never really looked into DVC rentals, but probably will at some point. Thanks for the tips!

    I had also forgotten about the SW companion pass. My wife has had both cards in the past year so she would be close to the 110k points needed. (I had already cycled one of the SW cards for $500 of gift cards so didn’t qualify to have it again, sadly.)

    • Kevin says:

      I should also mention, unless you have a link that I don’t, I think the best SW offer right now is 25k miles per card rather than 50k.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        For me, that link at the top showed 50,000 miles per card. Odd.

      • Kevin says:

        Huh. Tried the link on a different browser and it came up as 50k points. Perhaps clearing cookies will do the same thing.

  9. Rosalie says:

    I’m just gonna say it, that is a ridiculous amount of Figment paraphernalia for any childless man to hoard… 😉

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Unfortunately (or fortunately?), my collection no longer is that “impressive.” We have sold off most of our Disney stuff in the last couple of years as we’ve tried to cut down on clutter and other things. That photo is from 2008 or 2009.

      The only time we buy souvenirs now is when we visit the foreign parks or when new books (or really cool t-shirts/hats) are released.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Well we went even further then the 2.5 kids and have 4. So its nearly impossible now that the twins are going to be 3 to stay on property.

  11. Cory L. says:

    Great article. My wife and I think your blog is the best Disney blog on the internet. Not too much Debbie Downer; not too much Sunshine Pumper. We always rent DVC points on our Disney vacations. Several of my friends and I have a list of trusted DVC owners we have used who rent at $10/point (or less). It took some vetting to build the list, but now the risk of private renting is extremely low.

    And in your analysis of airfare, were you including bag fees for United? Choosing Southwest would mean even more savings.

    Thanks for all you do. Would love to meet you some day.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You lost me at “your blog is the best Disney blog on the internet.” 😉

      Checked bag fees were not factored in, so if you check bags, you could get even more savings out of this. Really, there are a number of places you could cut back to save even more. You could probably save $3,000 with relative ease, but I wanted to write an article that’s workable for most people, rather than something with a bunch of “hardcore” tips that most people will find unrealistic.

      I’m always tempted when I go onto the forums and see low per point prices on DVC rentals, but I can never bring myself to pull the trigger. Don’t know why, as I’m generally pretty trusting…

  12. Michael says:

    One other small thing – you say that you need to spend $10k a year on the southwest card at 1pt/$1 to get the companion pass, it is actually $100k on the card (well, $110, but you did the math different). Most airline premier things are almost impossible to get anywhere with “regular” spending, this one included!

    Great article otherwise. We really need to look into renting DVC points for our future trips

    • Tom Bricker says:

      If you open the cards and get the 100,000 sign-on bonus, all you have to spent is $10,000 to get the companion pass for the first year+. After that, you’re correct, you’d have to spend $110,000 to earn it in subsequent years.

  13. Jennifer says:

    We kept it on the low side and ditched the .5 kid, so we’re good with even squeezing into the Value’s to save money. the amount of time we spend it the hotel doesn’t make sense to pay more. Last time we went, we left the kids at home and rented DVC points for BWV. husband was finally hooked!! now we are taking kids in April, again renting points. my oldest will be 10 so the DDP is definately out of the question, add in the kitchen in the studio, and we’ll be saving a lot of money that way.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      One of the reason our fake kids were 10 and 12 (ahh, they grow up so quickly!) is to save me trouble on math with the whole “Disney Adult” v. “Disney Child” distinction. This way, they’re all adults.

      Unfortunately, in a real world scenario, you obviously want to make the most of those trips BEFORE they turn 10!

      • Sara Swain Roberts says:

        My advice for the .5 kid is take them before they are 2. My oldest is 8 years older than her sister. Our first trip was so cheap because the baby did not count for anything. She ate off our plates, I held her on the plane and she was free in the parks. Given the fact she didn’t ask for anything, souvenirs were a cinch!

  14. Annie says:

    Reading this gave me a great idea for a contest you could have! Give away a Disney trip right here on your blog! You could send someone on a Deluxe trip for only $3950! You could give it to the person who, oh, I don’t know. The first person to ask. And hey, I guess that’s me! Sweet!

  15. Jennifer S. says:

    This is a fantastic article! I would never have thought of this! Thank you! This year will be our first time going as a family of 3. My daughter has been under the age of two and now that she will be 3 we are paying for her as well. We have always booked the full package through Disney but this year is a but different as we have booked our room through a family member that works at WDW and will be vacationing with us for this week. They will also be getting us a discount on the dining plan. My best advice for money saving is to send one person in your family to work at WDW! We have saved over 2,000 this trip!

  16. Patrick says:

    Another option for cheap tickets is looking at Disney Youth offerings. For instance, home school days. You don’t actually need to have a homeschooled child. You pay for a learning activity or workshop, but get hoppers at 60% off. Or in our case my wife owns a Dance studio. They perform at Disney every year, and again Disney offers hoppers for 60% off, and there isn’t even a workshop to sign up for.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I thought I read somewhere that Disney tightened up the YES program to make it less appealing for this–tickets were only available at the discounted rate for the participating child. Could be wrong, as I haven’t had reason to test it, but I swear I saw this on one of the forums.

      • Katlyn Bramblett says:

        I organized a YES program for a college group in May and as long as the amount of ticket holders not participating in the program didn’t exceed the amount of participating ticket holders, anyone could buy a discounted ticket. Keep in mind that we had to have at least 10 students participating in order to qualify for a youth program though!

  17. Bryan says: is another place to buy discounted tickets. My wife’s work is part of it. Check with your employer!

    Agree with the DVC rentals, if I wasn’t buying points from a friend I would use them. I might have to do that on my next Disney Trip! :)

    • Kim says:

      Is there a way to see what employers participate? My husband is looking for a new job and this would be a nice perk.

  18. Julie Ann says:

    Thanks for a great article!
    On the Southwest cards, if each spouse opens a card for the 50,000, can my points all be transferred to my spouse’s account so we can hit the 110,000 in a short time to qualify for the companion pass?

    • Mitch says:

      You can transfer points for $10 per 1,000 points. I doubt they count toward a companion pass though.

    • Brad C says:

      I tried to get a card for my wife, but they denied her since we already had one. Maybe they denied because her name is on my account? Could I get one for her if I remove her from mine?

  19. Mitch says:

    I am a southwest sign up bonus champion also. We have saved thousands of dollars on flights. Those credit cards have a $69 annual fee which you didn’t mention, however.

    If you stay at the lovely bonnet creek resort for as little as $85 a night you can really go on the cheap but have incredibly nice accommodations at the same time. There is so much competition and so many great deals in the travel industry- I enjoy maximizing my savings!

  20. Sara Swain Roberts says:

    Really excited about the tip for Southwest. My thoughts are try it and possibly double the Disney love for my family next year :). Another tip for you, buy Disney gift cards from your local grocery store to earn point for gas (most areas of the country has a least one store that does it now). We paid for our entire trip with gift cards last year when we booked through Disney and got almost $300 in free gas! In your calculation, the only thing that you are going to be spending is dining and souvenirs, but those points add up fast. If you have two cars, fill them both up at the same time, from the same pump and transaction to maximize the potential savings.

  21. Katie says:

    I just checked out the DVC Rentals…I have not heard of that until now. Looking at the prices it seems too good to be true. Are there any catches or stipulations that anyone has experienced??

  22. Brad C says:

    I have used our Southwest Rewards for quite some time, but when I tried to order a card for my wife, it was denied saying we already had a card. I never thought about getting a business one so I am looking into that, thanks. I did notice however, that they are currently only offering 25,000 bonus points for a new account (when you charge $1000) instead of the 50,000 that’s been mentioned. Am I missing something or is there no more 50,000 offer

    • Tom Bricker says:

      There is a 50,000 point offer. Clear your cookies and you should see it. It’s at that link in the article.

  23. Anne says:

    If you are lucky enough to belong to an organization that has a conference at Disney the room discounts are amazing. I have a room reservation at the beach club for 55% off rack rates. My organization does a yearly conference at the Contemporary. This year there is a second convention with discounted rooms at the beach club. The room discount usually extends pre and post conference so I can enjoy time at the parks with my family.

  24. Keith C (TheFugitiveGuy) says:

    Great article Tom! Along with considering myself a Disney nerd, I’m also sort of a credit card nerd, and I’m pretty sure this is the first article I’ve read to combine those two aspects :) As I was reading your initial airfare section, I immediately thought Southwest would be a better option, which you got to. Then when I saw you mention applying for credit cards, I wondered if you’d get to Companion Pass status, which of course you did. So you nailed it!

    Just one tip I thought I’d pass along is that it *is* possible for a family of four to end up with two sets of Companion Passes, if each adult applies for a personal and a business card (like my wife and I did). With those four cards, you end up with 200,000 SWA points to use (which is a ton!), and soon afterwards, you can have the two kids flying for free every time, for close to two years (assuming you apply near the beginning of the year).

    I have to “warn” anyone considering this… The combination of Disney Annual Passes for each family member, in conjunction with a ton of SWA points and kids flying free every time, will most definitely lead to numerous trips to Disney parks. Not having to pay for tickets or for airfare greatly reduces the resistance to last minute long weekend trips! :)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Kudos for getting two Companion Passes. That’s hardcore.

      It’s funny (to me)–this article was being discussed on reddit, and no one had any understanding of credit card churning or signing up for benefits. They tried to shoot down the logic because you’d have to pay interest, etc. on the cards… Interest, ha!

  25. Matt S says:

    Another tip to save money on souvenirs is to go to the Disney Outlet Store near Universal. They carry a lot of the previous year designs of shirts, pins, vynalmation, books, etc. at vastly discounted prices. I remember getting the Art of Walt Disney World book for $30. Its about a 20 minute drive, but I’ve found it to be the best place to get souvenirs.

  26. Jason Brewer says:

    I work for Chase and you can also open a Sapphire card and receive 40,000 points. Those points can then be transferred, point for point, to Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Awesome tip–thanks for this! (Sapphire is a good card, too!)

      • Nate says:

        I’ll preface this by saying that this is only something I’ve read and not put into practice, but the Chase Sapphire card points CAN be transferred, but those points DO NOT go towards the companion pass.

        Also, I was wondering if it is possible to get the 100,000 sign-on points by opening up one Premier card and one Plus card. As can be seen below, I tried applying for the business card and got shot down. I then took your advice and called the reconsideration line, but they said that without an established business, they could not approve me. The guy even went so far as to praise my credit rating, which only infuriated me, but that’s neither here nor there.

        I guess my major mistake was “undervaluing” my eBay “business.”

  27. George Groff says:

    You have done a great job with the tips and have been really helpful. I am planning a trip next May 2nd to 8th for my little girl who will be turning 6. Thanks to your advice I will be booking my stay at the Bay Lake Tower through DVC Rental. The price will be a little more than a stay at the Caribbean Beach, but the amenities are well worth it. We will have a 1 1/2 year old baby boy with us and the easy access to the monorail will be a godsend. I have not purchased anything yet and was wondering if you had any insight on when the best time it is to purchase things like airfare and park tickets? Should I go ahead and purchase everything now, or would I be better off waiting for a while? I am planning on making this a full Disney Experience and the more I save on airfare and tickets, the more I have to spend to spoil my kids :).

  28. Nate says:

    I just went to open the two cards and the business card application is asking for a tax identification number. Is it possible that Chase is clamping down on people opening the business account? Or…did you do something different in order to open the business card with your (hypothetical?) EBay business?

    • Nate says:

      Although it doesn’t seem like anybody’s checking this page, I was hoping somebody might be able to answer a question for me…

      The Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card deal is back on for this month and I applied for both cards. I was approved for the personal one with no problem. However, I was told by the magical credit card approval fairy in my computer that they were reviewing my business card application and that I’d have a decision within 7 days (although it can sometimes take up to 30 days).

      Not owning a business, I put in my personal information in a way that most closely represents owning a business (i.e. – I have “owned” my EBay business for 13 years and I make roughly $300/year on said business).

      I guess what I’m asking is: Is being told that my application will be reviewed the norm? I hope I didn’t apply for the personal credit card needlessly as it’ll be of no use to me if I only get 50,000 sign up bonus points for the personal card and not the 50,000 for the business card.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        That is fairly normal. Your best bet is to call the “reconsideration line” to give them additional information–you should be approved over the phone if you do this.

        Planning on starting a new business or taking a current one to the “next level” is a good option for one of these cards. Not suggesting you embellish or anything, but that might be a better route than your $300/year eBay business… 😉

  29. Matt says:

    So when you sign up for both the Personal Credit card and the Business Credit Card, do you have to link the accounts so the point totals will be combined to achieve the 110,000 companion pass point level?

  30. Sandra says:

    Love the DVC points rental tips!

    Keeping this in mind for our next trip!

    Ps: I love the tips/budgets/savings for childless couples! Keep em coming!

  31. Ashley says:

    My fiancé and I leave for our Dsneymoon on June 8th and return June 19th. Here are the comparisons for our “Disney” quote and our DVC rental.

    Disney: 12 day, 11 night stay at the Boardwalk, including our dining plan and tickets $8,500 (roughly, I may have almost dropped the phone…)
    DVC: same time frame, hotel, dining plan and tickets through undercover tourist $4,845

    The savings are incredible. It’s the only way we will do Disney until we have our own little slice of DVC. Our flights are covered because of my Southwest card. Normally I would opt out of the dining plan but since it is our honeymoon, the last thing we want to be doing is worrying about food.

    I am, however, going to crunch the numbers and see if a season pass for one of us and a Tables in Wonderland card may be cheaper (and just preload a visa gift card with what would be our dining plan tab). Anyone already know off hand if this is a better alternative? Without even crunching the numbers I think it may be a no brainer but I always love having guidance from those who have done this before.

    • Lacey says:

      My mom and I love to selectively dine, and we have opted for the Tables in Wonderland card for a few years now, and have saved so much. When we are making dining reservations we try to pre-budget to make sure our savings cover at least the cost of the card initially. And the biggest issue, don’t forget to use it! We have occasionally become so drawn into the magic, that we completely leave the card in our wallets.

  32. Lacey says:

    Great article! I did have a question though. Occasionally when we travel with my 5 nieces and nephews we really need to utilize the frequently room cleaning service provided when staying at a resort, but not DVC. I have heard that DVC does not have as frequent as visits, any light to shed on this?

  33. Supraman215 says:

    you should note for the Southwest deal the cards are $99/year/card so that’s $200. Albeit cheap for the airfare but none the less still another $200.

  34. Jessica says:

    If I choose to rent the DVC points to pay for a Deluxe room, will that have any impact on getting the free DDP? Wasn’t sure if that would count as a “discount” like the 30% off room rate, so that I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the free ddp?

  35. Patti says:

    Great article. Made me seriously think about changing my norm of planning for my Disney vacation. Thanks!

  36. Fantastic and well thought out article.
    I would love to see a version with just two adults and no kids.

  37. Jennifer says:

    As we travel from Canada we sadly can’t take advantage of those cheap airline deals. (otherwise I would!) But Canadians who collect Air Miles can cash them in for Disney Park hoppers. (both Disneyland and Disneyworld) When I found that out I was able to cash in for 2 5 day hoppers for our kids on our last trip… My goal is to get all 4 for free for our trip next year. I currently have enough for 3 and I am halfway to 4! THAT is real savings…the temptation is now to pay the difference to upgrade to annual passes and just go again….

  38. Bernie says:

    Loved the article. I’d like you to do an article where there are 4 kids (no. Leaving 2 at home is not an option as social services in this state frowns on that sort of thing.) We have yet to get to Disney because of the cost but hope to someday. You have given some nice things to consider. My question is…..Is renting points safe?? Am I going to get there and find out I have no where to stay??

  39. Jennifer says:


    I’m in the process of planning my Dinsey Vacation and was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for DVC Rentals. I tried with Davids at one point but wasn’t lucky. I’m not sure if I bailed too soon.

    Also, do you think there will be any discounts/free dining announced for January 2015? We will be heading there on January 20th from Canada! :)

    I appreciate any help.

    I’m so excited, I can barely work and it’s still 6 months away. ha ha ha

  40. Charlotte says:

    This website has been a huge help. My husband and I have 7 children combined and 5 still in our home together. This website—rental of points makes it possible for us to visit Disney and still be in a comfortable budget. *Don’t forget military discounts! :)

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