How to Plan a Free Trip to Disney World: Redeem Hotel Points

Posted by Madison on September 8, 2015

We’re taking the kids to Disney World! However, I’m planning to spend as little money out of pocket as possible. Some friends mentioned that they spent just under $10k for their Disney World trip

I don’t know about you, but that just isn’t something I’m willing to do! Instead, I’ve spent the last few months trying to find a way to get as much as possible on the trip for “free” (by redeeming points, credit card miles and other promotions). First up is finding the hotel.

Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels

After reading lots of reviews, there appears to be a sweet spot in the world of Disney. The Swan and Dolphin hotels are located on the Disney property, but are Starwood hotels, so we can redeem points! We’re staying at the Dolphin since it has room for 5 people. If you are a family of 4, you can stay at the newly renovated Swan.

I have a bunch of Starwood points after taking advantage of the latest Starwood Sign Up Bonus. Here’s a quick recap:

Updated offer: Limited Time 35,000 points through April 5, 2017: Starwood American Express 35,000 Point Sign Up Bonus.

Limited Time 35,000 Starwood Points Sign Up Bonus

  1. Apply for the Starwood American Express* personal card.
  2. Spend $3,000 within the first 3 months to earn 25,000 points.
  3. Spend $2,000 more in the first 6 months to earn 10,000 more points.
  4. Earn 35,000 points.

*Find and compare all current credit card offers in our credit card directory.

How to Get Your Free Disney Hotel Rooms

Free nights at the Swan or Dolphin are 10,000 points per night. Starwood gives you the fifth night is free. For 40,000 points we will have 5 free nights in a very convenient location in Disney World! You can also upgrade to a room with a balcony for an additional 1,000 points per night.

Now, of course the rooms aren’t free. If you use your points here, you can’t use them somewhere else. However, since my kids have been asking to go to Disney World for many years now, the value of the redemption here is much greater than any other place on earth right now for our family.

More on Disney Hotels

Swan/Dolphin and Disney. The Swan/Dolphin only has some of the on-site Disney features (60 day fast-pass, extra magic hours, free park transportation, etc). It does not have transportation from the airport, free magic bands, or the dining plan. We are staying at one of the Disney properties on our arrival night to take advantage of the hotel transportation and free magic bands. The resort confirmed they will transfer our bags to the Dolphin free of charge.

Skipping the Free Dining Plan Hotel Offer. We will actually be at the hotel during the free dining promotion. However, when I compared the prices, I would be paying a lot more to take advantage of the “free dining” than if we use a room only discount at the Disney hotel and redeem points at the Dolphin. It was almost $800 more to use the “free dining” offer! (And that was factoring in a monetary value for redeeming the points!)

Hotel Fees. Parking and resort fees. The Swan/Dolphin charges a resort fee of $23 per night. In addition they charge for parking. To avoid the parking fees, we are going to use the Disney transportation to the first hotel, then rent a car the last day (there’s a car rental on site at the Disney hotel).

Families of Five. If you are a family of five, you know that hotel rooms were not designed for our family size! The Dolphin charges $25/night for a rollaway. We’ll be using an air mattress instead!

More on Our Disney Trip

Stay tuned for more on our Disney trip including how we got free tickets, free flights, and saved on everything else! I have to admit, I wasn’t really excited about planning this trip. However, when I found out how many opportunities there are to not spend thousands of dollars for this trip, it seemed like an incredibly important personal finance topic for families!

How did you save money on Disney World hotels?

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