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Monday Morning Miles Talk is a regular series that has some smaller, more quirky ideas to kick off the work week. These are essentially random ideas that I wanted to share with you. Here are the previous entries.
- How To Maximize Your Flexible Spending Account
- Increase Spend For American Express Sign Up Bonuses
- Mining For Lost Rewards
- How I did Selling Those Kohl’s Personal Appliances
- Reselling Apple Airpods at the End of Their Life Cycle
- Unexpected Ways I Have Earned Points
How To Go To Disney For Free
Shawn said in our Facebook Group live Q&A session that he thinks the biggest myth in travel hacking is probably that everything is “free”. While I agree with what Shawn says I do think it is possible to take specific trips for “free”. I decided to give it a try for this week’s installment. Since Disney (either Disneyland or Walt Disney World) is on pretty much every family’s list I decided to use that as my test subject. This is actually more difficult than a regular vacation because park tickets are EXPENSIVE!!! This is simply a guideline on what is possible. You can easily make adjustments where it is needed depending on your budget or needs.
I decided to base this simulation on a family of four flying from Detroit (since it is my home airport) to Walt Disney World for a 3 night trip. I assumed two parents and two smaller children. The plan was for one full day at The Magic Kingdom, which is bookended by two days relaxing a the resort. This would give the family time to relax after the flight down and the day after visiting The Magic Kingdom.
I planned this trip for this May but it would probably take someone 6 months or so to get all of this set up. It would be best to start this probably a year before your trip unless you are able to generate large amounts of spend.
I will give the best option available for each portion of the trip. I will also give a secondary option for each portion as well. By the end of this faux booking the family will have it’s flights, hotel, and park tickets completely free and some walking around money to boot.
Detroit’s airport is a Delta hub so I started there. They have the most direct flights to Orlando and offer decent reward prices most of the year. I was able to find 4 flights May 23-26th for 17,000 Delta miles a person.
Now that we know we need 68,000 Delta Skymiles for our family to get from Detroit to Orlando how do we go about accruing the miles. The American Express Platinum Delta Skymiles card currently has an increased offer of 70,000 Skymiles as the welcome offer. You need to spend $3,000 within the first 3 months. It also comes with a $195 annual fee. The current offer comes with a $100 credit when you spend any money on Delta Airlines. This brings the fee down to $95.
The cash price on these tickets was = $1013.60
Total out of pocket cost for the flights – $44.80 in taxes and the $95 Annual Fee = $139.80
The best secondary option for the flights would be the Southwest Business card which offers 60,000 Rapid Rewards points after $3,000 in spend. The card comes with a $95 annual fee. You can find 4 flights from Detroit to Orlando for under 60,000 points. You must be under 5/24 to get this card though and that is why it is the secondary option.
I decided to book this imaginary family in the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. I have personally stayed there and it is a great resort. It has a ton of pools, a free golf course, free bike rentals, a rock climb wall, a fire pit, nightly s’mores by the fire etc. You get the point it has a lot to offer. The resort also provides a free bus to the Disney and Universal parks. You just reserve your seat on the bus the day before at the concierge desk.
The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night. The World of Hyatt card from Chase comes with a two tiered offer. You get 25,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months and an additional 25,000 points if you spend $6,000 within the first 6 months. That would give you enough points for 4 nights (close to 5 when including the $6,000 in spend).
Cash price for 3 nights at the hotel = $869.23
Total out of pocket cost for the hotel = $75 annual fee
Pro Tip – if you only stayed two nights book the Regency Club Double for 21,000 points per night. This will allow you to get breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres for free in the lounge. It will help control your food costs.
If you are under 5/24 then you could get the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) card and get 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points after $4,000 in spend within the first three months. The annual fee is waived the first year which would save you the $75 you pay for the Hyatt card. UR points transfer to Hyatt so you could transfer 45,000 and book the same hotel for 3 nights. Another way to use the CSP sign up bonus is by going through the Chase travel portal to book a less expensive area hotel. You could book a $100 hotel in the area for 8,000 Chase UR points since they are worth 1.25 cents a piece when going through the portal.
A third option would be to get a card like the Barclay Arrival+ that comes with a 40,000 point sign up bonus after $3,000 in spend within the first 3 months. The annual fee is waived for the first year. These points are worth 1 cent a piece when used towards travel. You could use the Arrival+ points to book a cheaper hotel for the three nights, an Airbnb, or a timeshare etc. You would be able to book up to a $150 a night room going this route for the three nights.
The Magic Kingdom Tickets
Park tickets make this trip’s planning a little more difficult. This adds an extra step to the process. If you wanted to use this theory to go somewhere else you can just skip this step and move onto the 4th step.
Tickets to The Magic Kingdom are pricey. There are ways to get them free using credit card points but it takes a little bit of effort. You need to buy the tickets through Undercover Tourist. Undercover Tourist is a ticket broker that offers the best prices on multi day tickets for all of the Orlando theme parks. Their daily tickets are actually a little bit higher than buying them direct but we need to bite that bullet in order to get them free. This is because buying them direct from Disney does not code as travel for the credit card companies, where as Undercover Tourist does. This is very important.
The current offer for the Venture Card from Capital One is 50,000 points after $3,000 in spend within 3 months. The 50,000 points are worth $500 towards TRAVEL (important word there). Undercover Tourist counts as travel in their system!
The price of two children and two adult tickets for May 24th, a regular price ticket date, would be $494.50. You could use the 50,000 points to cover that cost. You would still have $65.60 left in points that you could use at the hotel ($500 for the sign up plus $60 for the $3,000 in spend). We will discuss how to use the left over points at the hotel a little bit later.
Cash price for 4 park tickets = $494.50
Total out of pocket cost for the tickets = $0
For more info on this card and other travel rewards cards CLICK HERE
The Barclay Arrival Plus just reduced their sign up bonus from 50,000 points to 40,000 points. When the offer is increased again that would be another great option. You could also use this option to purchase a second day’s worth of park tickets if you wanted to hit more than one attraction. Undercover Tourist is the only place to purchase the tickets to make this work though.
Bridging The Gap
We are currently at $2377.33 in value for an out of pocket cost of $214.80. That is an amazing deal but I promised you free plus some walking around $$$ so let’s get it done!
Bank Of America just released their new Premium Rewards Card. It comes with a sign up bonus of 50,000 points after you make $3,000 in purchases within 3 months. It has an annual fee of $95. You also get $100 towards domestic airline incidentals like bags, drinks, seat upgrades etc. The points are worth 1 cent a piece so it is a $500 cash bonus minus the $95 annual fee. You would also have at least $45 in rewards from the $3000 in spend done on the card (earns a minimum of 1.5 points per dollar).
Total money gained = $545 – $95 annual fee = $450
The Capital One Spark Cash card comes with a $500 cash bonus after you spend $4500 within 3 months. It earns 2% cash back for every purchase. I put this as the secondary option because it is a business card and the spend is higher. This route would bring you a better return though.
So let’s look at the numbers. You have $2377.33 in free travel. Your costs totaled $214.80 before getting the BOA card. The $450 you gained from that would leave you with a positive cash balance of $235.20.
You would also still have $65.60 left in travel credits on your Capital One Venture card. If you bought food at the hotel and billed it to the room it would count as a travel cost on the card so you could wipe it off your monthly statement. This brings you up to $300.80 you can spend on food, drinks, gifts, transportation etc.
Don’t forget you would also have $100 in airline incidentals on your BOA Premium Rewards card which would cover food and drinks on the plane or checked baggage etc. This gives you to a total of $400.80 to spend on your vacation. A grand total of $2778.13 saved on your vacation!!!
I realize this is over the top and most people would stop after step two or three and get a severely discounted vacation. The goal was to prove that it can be done for free with some effort and proper planning. Also remember that Walt Disney World tickets add an extra step. If you wanted a family beach trip to Fort Lauderdale etc. you could skip one of the steps. Or, you could still complete all four steps and have $500 in room charges available for your trip.
For this hypothetical situation I would suggest each person apply for two cards. I would suggest one person get the Delta card and the Bank Of America Card. The other person, whichever one has better credit, should apply for the Capital One Venture card first, since Cap One is the toughest approval. Then that person should apply for the Hyatt card. You could stagger the apps to spread out the inquiries and the minimum spend as well.
Remember that this was a hypothetical situation to show you what is possible. You can use these tips and ideas to travel somewhere else. You could also use these ideas to extend your Disney trip and to visit more of the parks Orlando has to offer.
Do you think it is possible to get 100% free travel? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.