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Posted by on Aug 24, 2017 in Entertainment, Guest Posts, Savings Advice, Travel | 0 comments

How to Get a Free Five-Day Vacation at Walt Disney World

vacation at walt disney world

Family vacations can be an incredible experience – incredibly memorable and incredibly expensive.

In fact, travel insurance company Allianz estimated that Americans spend nearly $1,800 on their vacations each year. For many of us, that’s $1,800 that we don’t have.

So, let me ask you this question: How would you like to get a six-night trip to Disney, airfare included, for free? If your family can put around $2,000 a month on your credit card (think groceries, gas, school stuff, insurance), then I can show you the simplest way to earn yourself a free trip to Walt Disney World.

Before I start, though, I just want to mention that many rewards experts will tout these trips as free. There are fees you’ll have to pay, though, and I’ll list those in a few minutes.

The Credit Cards That Will Earn You a Free Trip to Walt Disney World

To get your free vacation, you’re going to use two credit cards: the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card from American Express and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card from Chase.

Both of these cards require good to excellent credit; keep that in mind as we formulate this plan.

So, the magic question here is how you go about getting a free vacation with these cards. The answer lies in what are known as introductory bonuses. These bonuses are usually chunks of loyalty points/miles or free nights.

The SPG card offers 25,000 “Starpoints”, which is the name they give to their loyalty points. To get these points you’ll need to make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of owning the card.

The Rapid Rewards Plus card gives you 40,000 Rapid Rewards points if you can spend $1,000 in the first three months.

The Plan That Will Earn You All the Points You Need

Timing is everything when it comes to building your strategy to earn the free Disney trip.

Take a moment to think about how much you could spend on your credit card each month as you make your normal purchases: Is it $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000?

I’m guessing that your family probably spends at least $2,000 a month. So, here’s the plan.

First, have one partner sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus. You should hit the $1,000 spending mark two to three weeks after you get the card.

When you’re about a week away from hitting $1,000, have your other partner sign up for the card. Hopefully, their card will show up the day you surpass the $1,000 requirement. If not, it’s okay; you just want to be able to maximize your spending and make it work for you.

Once the second cardholder is about a week away from the spending limit, the other partner/spouse should sign up for the AmEx card. The same strategy applies here – you don’t want to miss a beat in making your spending work for you.

If you’re spending about $2,000 a month on your card, then you can anticipate hitting the SPG card’s spending limit after six weeks. So, in week five, have the second person apply for the SPG card.

Once they hit the spending bonus, then you’ll have all the points you need to make your vacation happen: at least 80,000 Rapid Rewards points and 50,000 Starpoints.

Booking Your Travel: Flights and Nights With Southwest and Starwood

Both Southwest and Starwood will sign you up for their loyalty programs when you apply and are accepted for their cards.

It will take about 6-8 weeks for your points to show up in your loyalty accounts; sometimes it takes less time than that. Just know that they won’t magically appear the day you meet the spending requirements.

Booking with both sites is very easy. Log in to your rewards accounts and then do a search for flights from your city as well as a room at the Walt Disney World Swan, a cool resort that’s on the Disney property and accessible by monorail.

Southwest rewards flights are cheapest farther out from the departure date, so it’s key that you start your search as soon as possible. This is why you need to sign up for the Southwest cards first.

If you’re prompt in your search, then you should find one-way flights at or below 10,000 points, which means you can get four round-trip tickets for the 80,000 points you’ve earned.

When I wrote this article, I did a search for a Saturday-to-Friday flight from Houston to Orlando and found a ticket for 14,131 points.

At the same time, you’ll want to check to make sure there are rooms available at the Swan.

Starwood divides their hotels up in categories. Nicer hotels are in higher categories and cost more Starpoints. The Swan is a Category 5 and costs 10,000 points a night.

Here’s the amazing twist, though. Starwood will give you a fifth night free when you book at least four rewards nights. So, you’ll pay 50,000 points for six nights.

The Fees You’ll Pay for Your “Free” Vacation

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll pay some fees to get your free vacation.

So, here’s a quick list of those fees:

  • Annual fee for the four credit cards: $138
  • Swan resort fees: $175
  • Swan parking fees: $140
  • Flight taxes/fees: $44.80 for four people

In all, you’ll pay around $507.80 out of pocket for your flight and room if you park at the Swan. The good news is that you can split these payments into different months.

The annual fees are waived on the AmEx cards the first year and the Southwest cards will cost you $69 a piece and are usually charged to your account within 30 days of being approved.

The Southwest flight fees are charged when you book, and the Swan parking and resort fees are charged to your card every night ($45).

The total cost of the trip if you didn’t use this method? $3,005.

Wrapping It Up: A Few Reminders and Tips for Your Disney Vacation.

If there is any advice I’d give you about this method for getting a free Disney vacation, it would be this: Once the trip is over, take a few minutes to talk over how it went and what you liked and didn’t like about your flight and hotel experience.

The conclusions you come to should influence how you handles the cards post-trip. If you decide to cancel the AmEx cards, it won’t cost you anything because you won’t be charged an annual fee the first year.

If you cancel the Southwest cards, you lose out on the $69 annual fee you paid early on.

All things considered, I think what I’ve presented here is an excellent way to create a memorable vacation experience for your family at a fraction of what it would normally cost you.

J.R. Duren is a personal finance reporter for HighYa.com. He’s a seasoned veteran of credit cards rewards programs and loves helping others take advantage of free travel.