Travel Hack Disneyworld with the U.S. Airways Premier Card
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[This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson.]

Most families dream of taking their children to Disney World, either because they went there as a child or always wanted to.  And it’s easy to see why.

After all, Disney World boasts dream-like castles, roller coasters that thrill, magical scenery and attractions, and all of their favorite Disney characters.

I haven’t taken my two daughters to Disney World yet, but I’m always checking pricing to see if and when we could make it work.  And-wow- it never ceases to amaze me just how expensive Disney World really is.

The good news is, I’ve formulated several strategies to get there almost entirely on credit card rewards.  This particular strategy involves two point-earners and would work for a family of four.  Shall we begin?

Seeing Disney World with Credit Card Rewards

Point-Earners 1 & 2:

Sign up for the U.S. Airways Premier World MasterCard.  The deal is this: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after your first spend, plus 2 points for every $1 spent with U.S. Airways and 1 point for every $1 spent on everything else.  Your first checked bag is free.  However, the $89 fee for this card is not waived.

Sign up for the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard.  The deal is this: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within 3 months of card ownership.  Also earn 2 points for every $1 spent on all purchases.  The $89 annual fee is waived for the first year.

Point-Earner 1:

Sign up for the Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX card.  The limited time offer is this: Earn 10,000 starpoints upon first spend and another 20,000 starpoints after spending $5,000 within 6 months of card ownership.  Also earn 1 point/$1 spent on all purchases.  The $65 annual fee is waived the first year.

How to Earn More Dividend Miles

In addition to meeting the spending requirements on each card, both point-earners will need to spend an additional $10,000 on their US Airways cards to earn the additional points required for this trip.  That may sound like a lot, but it’s not that hard to do with all the different strategies available for meeting minimum spending requirements.

Another option: If you have any SPG points earned through the Starwood Preferred guest program, you can transfer them to US Airways at a 1:1 ratio.  Even better, SPG offers a 5,000 point bonus every time you transfer 20,000 starpoints.  This means that 20,000 starpoints become 25,000 U.S. Airways miles.

Booking Flights

Once a family of four has acquired 100,000 U.S. Airways Dividend Miles in total (50K each), it’s time book flights on U.S. Airway’s friendly online interface.  Here’s how domestic flights work:

Roundtrip award Mileage needed
Within and between the continental U.S. and Canada Main Cabin
Low: 25,000
Medium: 40,000
High – Level 1: 60,000
High – Level 2: *First/Business Class
Low: 50,000
Medium: 90,000
High – Level 1: 110,000
High – Level 2: *

As you can see, your 100,000 Dividend miles will only be enough for four seats in economy.  However, that’s really all you need to get to Orlando, Florida and back, am I right?  A few tips for booking reward flights with U.S. Airways:

  • Be flexible- U.S. Airways reward dates are spotty to say the least, and there often seems to be no rhyme or reason why certain flights cost twice as many points to book as others.  Being flexible with your travel dates is-and always has been- the only way to win the travel game.
  • Be aware of taxes and fees- U.S. Airways charges certain taxes and fees on all flights- including reward flights- in addition to a $25 reward booking fee.
  • Consider booking flights individually- If you’re trying to book four reward flights at once, U.S. Airways will sometimes price all four seats at the highest point rate available, although not always.  If you’re having trouble finding four flights at the lowest rate, try booking the separately.

It does seem rather complicated and difficult to book an award flight with U.S. Airways, but sometimes you have to jump through a few hoops to get free stuff.  For my sample flight, I found four reward seats on a round-trip flight from Chicago to Orlando this fall for 25,000 Dividend miles per person plus taxes and fees:

Chicago to Orlando:

Date: August 23, 2014
Flight: 1692 (direct)

Orlando to Chicago:

Date: August 26, 2014
Flight: 1221 (direct)

Total Cost: 25,000 Dividend Miles plus $30 per person.  A $25 award booking fee also applies.

Booking Your Hotel

Booking reward flights on U.S. Airways might be difficult, but booking your hotel should be easy as pie.  You signed up for the Starwood Preferred Amex card and earned the 30,000 point signup bonus by now, right?  That’s all you need.  Starwood has several amazing properties in and around Disney World, but the two best options are:

  • Walt Disney World Swan
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin

Both hotels are fall into Starwood’s Category 4 and therefore cost 10,000 points per night.  This means you can easily book three free nights at either one, which happens to be the perfect amount of time to spend at Disney.

Booking Your Tickets

DisneyWorld on PointsThere are all kinds of ways to book Disney World tickets at a discount.  However, it’s nearly impossible to find them for less than $85 each.  And, when you’re talking about a family of four, that’s a whole lot of money.

Per Walt Disney World’s website, however, you can buy adult two-day passes for $188 and Ages 3-9 two-day passes for $175.  The discounted rate means a family of four could visit Disney world for $726 plus tax.  However, they could only visit one park per day.

A Park Hopper option (for an additional $49 each) gives you the option to visit all four parks on the property at their convenience- Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.  However, that bumps that total cost up to $922…..for two days!

The good news is, the Barclay Arrival World MasterCard was practically created for situations like these.  Remember those 40,000 bonus Dividend Miles you each earned in addition to the 2 points for every $1 spent?  That means both point-earners should have enough points for a $460 travel credit.  That is enough to pay for all but $2 of your family’s 2-day Park Hopper passes to Disney World, plus applicable taxes.

This specific travel scenario isn’t free due to credit card annual fees, taxes, and airline charges.  However, it is certainly an excellent value for families who want to see Disney without all of the excessive costs.  The total cost of this trip:

  • Annual Fees: $178 ($89 X 2)
  • Airline Charges: $145 ($30 pp plus award booking fee)
  • Disney Tickets: approximately $62 ($2 for tickets plus tax)

Total: $385

Have you ever thought of ways to visit Disney World on points?  Have you ever paid full price?

About The Author: Holly is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly and Frugal Travel Guy. Check out more of her super awesome skills at clubthrifty.comIf you’re interested in writing for Vosa contact us here.

Photo Credit: Beverly Goodwin

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