How Our Family of 4 is Traveling to Disneyland for $220

How Our Family of Four is Traveling to Disneyland for $220

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My 5-year old daughter Zoey is in love with Disney princesses. Ariel, Moana and Elsa have all been her “favorite” at one point or another. When she learned there was a magical place that she could meet all of these charming ladies, she immediately asked me “Daddy, when can we go to Disneyland?”

Given my frugal tendencies, I was not thrilled about the costs involved. According to Huffington Post, the average price for a family of 4 to Disneyland can hover close to $5,000. Sorry Zoey, Daddy loves you, but that’s freaking ridiculous.

After taking a deep breath, I endeavored to find a way to make this family trip possible. After all, a sunny vacation in California did sound pretty nice.

Hacking Disney With Credit Card Points

I came across a few resources that talked about how you can hack your Disney trips for nearly free by using credit card points. Given that I had recently spent 5 years of my life without using a credit card after reading The Total Money Makeover, I was immediately skeptical about the dangers of this process … skeptical, but intrigued. 

I invited Brad Barrett, a travel rewards expert, on my podcast to discuss how the process works. Our 30-minute conversation blew my mind! I did my best to poke holes in the travel rewards system that he spoke about, but after the conversation was over I became a believer. He essentially laid out the playbook for how families could go to Disney for nearly free.

My Wife’s Reaction to my Crazy Money Idea

I immediately chatted with my wife about how we could make this a reality for our young family. It would require a lot of diligence, spreadsheets and teamwork to make it happen. If we overspent on the credit cards or missed a payment, it wouldn’t be worth it. After my frugal family vacation sales pitch concluded, she said to me, “I’m in!”

God, I love this woman.

via GIPHY

5 Credit Cards We’re Using to Go to Disneyland for $220

After going through Brad’s free course, we devised our plan – one that worked well for our specific situation and fit our timeline.

The Hill Family Disneyland Vacation Playbook called for both my wife and I to each sign up for 5 credit cards starting in July and ending in May. One major piece of our criteria was to only pick cards that have the annual fee waived for the first year. That way, we’d keep our overall costs low. 

Some of the links below may provide me with referral points or commissions if you decide to sign up.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Sign Up Bonus:  50,000 + 50,000 = 100,000 bonus points
Covers:  (4) Roundtrip Tickets from Detroit to LAX

The first credit card we both signed up for was Chase Sapphire Preferred. This card allows you to book flights, hotels, rental cars and fun activities with the points you earn. You can even get cash back if you want. Points are essentially $1 per point ($1,000 cash anyone?)

In order to get the points, Nicole and I had to meet the minimum spending requirement (MSR) of $4,000 in the first 3 months on each card. We completed our MSR in early October and promptly received 50,000 points each.

Although $1,000 cash sounds nice, we’ll be using these points to book flights for our 4 family members. If you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you get 25% more value. So instead of $1,000 cash ($1 per point), we’ll get $1,250 to cover our travel from Detroit to LAX.

Flights for 4? Check!

Timeframe to Hit MSR:  Jul – Oct 2017

How much have we saved so far?

2. AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Card

Sign Up Bonus:  25,000 + 25,000 = $50,000 bonus points

Covers:  5 Nights Hotel Stay

After our flights were taken care of, we moved onto hotels. The Starwood Preferred Guest Card has a program with American Express where you can earn 25,000 points after you hit the MSR of $3,000 within 3 months.

With our combined couple effort, we’re set to earn 50,000 total points once we hit that MSR around December.

We already scored an additional 5,000 points because Nicole provided me her referral link before I signed up. Thanks honey!

We plan to stay at the Sheraton Anaheim which is a “Category 4” hotel. This level of Sheraton requires 10,000 points per night. With our 55,000+ points, we should be more than covered for 5 nights of fun in So Cal.

Cozy hotel with pool, jacuzzi and minutes from Disneyland … Check!

Timeframe to Hit MSR:  Oct – Dec 2017

How much have we saved so far?

3. Capital One Venture Card

Sign Up Bonus:  50,000 + 50,000 = 100,000 bonus miles
Covers:  (4) 3-Day Passes at Disneyland

Now that we have our flight and hotel covered, it is time to take care of the Disneyland tickets. For our family of 4, the cost will come in over $1,000 for 3 days at the park.

THAT’S CRAZY TALK! No, thank you.

After we hit our MSR on the Starwood AMEX cards, we’ll then sign up for two Capital One Venture Cards. Similar to the other offers, you have 3 months to spend $3,000 and once you do, you get 50,000 bonus miles. Together, Nicole and I will receive 100,000 bonus miles.

The “bonus miles” are a bit different from the previously mentioned “points”. For this card, you buy your travel related items and then receive a statement credit after your redeem your miles.

The Trick to Getting Your Disneyland Tickets Classified as “Travel”

For our Disneyland tickets, it is considered a “travel” related item if we book through travel booking sites like Getawaytoday.com or Arestravel.com. If we purchase directly through Disney, it will NOT count as a “travel” related item. I’m so glad I’m a part of Brad’s Facebook Group “Travel Miles 101” to ensure I don’t mess up this process!

The 100,000 bonus miles we’ll receive will equate to $1,000 in travel statement credits. Additionally, we’ll receive at least 6,000 more bonus miles after hitting our MSR. This will give us enough to cover the 3-day passes for our entire family.

Disneyland tickets … Check!

Timeframe to Hit MSR:  Dec 2017 – Jan 2018 (Christmas spending will help)

How much have we saved so far?

4. Capital One Spark Miles

Sign Up Bonus:  50,000 + 50,000 = 100,000 bonus miles

Covers:  1-Week Car Rental & 2 Add’l Hotel Nights in San Diego

We’re going to need a rental car for our week-long adventure in Southern California.

Once Nicole and I both hit the MSR of $4,500 in 3 months, we’ll have 100,000 bonus miles from Capital One Spark Miles. This is similar to the Capital One Venture Card where your bonus miles can be redeemed after purchasing travel related items like hotel stays and a rental car.

With these bonus miles, we’ll be able to cover 1-week of rental car (around $300) and 2 additional nights of hotel stay. We plan to stay in Anaheim for 5 nights and then visit our family in San Diego for 2 nights.

Rental Car and two more hotel nights … Check!

Timeframe to Hit MSR:  Jan – Mar 2018

How much have we saved so far?

5. Capital One Spark Cash

Sign Up Bonus:  $500 + $500 = $1,000 bonus cash
Covers:  Food, Gas and Misc

We’ll need to eat, drink, fill up our rental car and buy some random Disney goodies for the kids. The Capital One Spark Cash card will provide us with $1,000 bonus cash once both of us hit the MSR of $4,500 in 3 months. This “cash bonus” should cover us for the week – around $150/day.

We’ll score free breakfasts at our hotel each morning so that should help too. 

Timeframe to Hit MSR:  Mar – May 2018

How much will we save using travel rewards in total?

A $5,526.53 trip to Disneyland for 4 for $220. Evidently, the impossible can be done!

We’re excited to move this plan forward. I will update this post as we head toward our departure date in mid-May 2018. 

Words of Caution

Beware of Annual Fees

Most all of these cards have an annual fee after the first year. If you find value in any of these cards, keep them and pay the fee. If you don’t find value in them, be sure to cancel them before your first year is complete so you don’t incur the charge.  

Track Your Spending

My wife and I meet on the first of the month to plan out our monthly spending. This helps us to tell our money what to do instead of it just floating away. This process is crucial when it comes to hitting your minimum spending requirement (MSR).

Easy to use budgeting programs like Tiller allow you to track your monthly spending through Google Sheets. This can give you the ability to manage your money and ensure you don’t overspend or miss payments.

Don’t Increase Your Spending Just Because of These Programs

If you have to spend more than you’d normally spend just to get these perks, I wouldn’t recommend doing it. You could be making more of a financial burden for yourself than it’s worth.

The plan described above works for our family based on our typical spending patterns. If hitting $4,500 in 3 months seems crazy for you, there are a bunch of our credit offers to consider. Check out Brad’s credit card offers for some alternatives to what I’ve laid out.  Customize a plan that works best for you.

Discipline and Bit of Nerdiness May Be Required

If you have a history of missing credit card payments and hate the idea of monthly budgeting, don’t sign up for these credit card offers. Seriously. You’re asking for trouble.

This dream of a Disneyland vacation could turn into a nightmare for your family.

Offers Can Change Fairly Regularly

I’ll do my best to update this post, but these credit card offers do change. Make sure to read the fine print on the websites where you sign up and ensure you’re getting the points, miles and bonuses you need. Also, ensure there aren’t any hidden fees that may have you paying for more than you planned.

In short, make sure you understand what you’re committing to before signing up for anything.

Ready to Be Rewarded?!

This is going to be a lot of work, but I find the challenge fun and super rewarding. The fact that I’m going to be able to give my little girl some time with her Disney princesses AND we get a week-long vacation in sunny Cali for $220 blows my freaking mind.

This is a whole new world for me and I look forward to reaping the benefits. Man, I wonder where else we can go?


Do you already take advantage of Travel Rewards?

What experiences have you had with your family?


 

Author: Andy Hill

Andy Hill, a mid-30’s father of two living in the metro Detroit area, pens the MarriageKidsandMoney.com (MKM) blog taking you through the trials and tribulations of being a young parent and husband who is planning for his family’s future and winning with money.

4 thoughts on “How Our Family of 4 is Traveling to Disneyland for $220”

  1. I just love it when I’m finally rewarded for being good with money! My travel hacking plan is to get as many Chase Ultimate rewards points as possible until I have a set destination. My kids would love Disneyland, so maybe this should be it. Thanks for sharing all the in’s and out’s!

    1. I’m glad you like it Kathryn! You hit the nail on the head. Because you’ve been so smart with your money, you have the maturity and experience to handle this responsibility with credit cards. It is definitely not for everyone. For example, you and I love spreadsheets. Not everyone does.

      Please let me know if you decide to go. We can swap our best Disneyland savings strategies!

  2. This is seriously so impressive. I shared this with my readers and they are loving this article! I have yet to dive into credit card travel rewards yet.

    1. So glad to hear you like it! If you’re a Money geek, then I think it’s worth it. If you don’t track your spending as a hobby, then I think credit rewards travel can be dangerous. I try out budget apps for fun so you know which camp I’m in.

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