We’re gearing up for our trip at the end of the month and the time is flying by!
As is typical of most people, we have a lot of house expenses we would like to deal with (appliances, updates), so we weren’t really thinking about going back to Disney yet. When we go down to Florida we visit family in Miami, and this year is my Mom’s 90 birthday, so we really want to be down there for her.
As one can imagine, the temptation of driving past Orlando is strong, and we started thinking about tacking another Disney trip onto the end of the birthday visit. Since the expense of these dual trips really adds up, (even though we drive from NY), I started looking into ways to minimize the costs and see how many perks I could rack up to defray them even more.
Well, with credit card perks and keeping your eye on discounts, it turns out you can do fairly well!
So, I thought I’d share a few steps of the savings journey here in case it helps anyone.
This first post will be background on trip info and overall credit topics - the 2nd post will be a TL;DR, containing the meat and potatoes on how we used the credit card rewards to really bring our Disney costs down. If your eyes begin to glaze over here, I apologize, but you can just skip on to the next post when I get it written.
Credit Where Credit is Due
First, variations on these techniques have all come up in forum threads and chat over the last year. The one things that often also comes up (rightly) is how opening and closing credit cards can affect your credit score.
Well - it does, but if you work it the effect can be minimal or even positive, depending on your initial score and history.
I am not going to go into the details of how to manage the credit score part of the process. I am also going to point out that I am not a financial advisor, nor have I played on one TV. I’ve done my share of homework, but I am by no means an expert on credit cards. Although I do have a good set of spreadsheet skills.
Also, I have a water jug full of 1909-S V.D.B. pennies to tide me over in an emergency. (ATTENTION CAT BURGLARS: I DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE A JUG OF PENNIES.)
If you are new to this topic and any of this seems interesting, you might want to use The Google to search for “Credit Card Perks Tips” and “Credit Card Churning” to get yourself started on learning more.
Now - On with the topic at hand.
At least a couple of sites online have outlined various steps to go to The World for free, and it is probably a good idea to read those posts for things I don’t go over here. You can try this one, and then maybe this one.
For example, since we do the double Miami - Orlando trip, we drive. So airfare rewards has not been part of our equation yet. (Although I’ve looked into it just to be aware of possibilities.) Our steps are fairly simple, but I did learn a few interesting tidbits over the last year that upped our game a good deal.
Trip Theory - Hotel
On our first trip with our kids in the summer of 2013 we stayed at Port Orleans and loved it. In the Fall of 2014 we opted for Caribbean Beach to get the Free Dining. This time we priced out the various Moderates and a few Values, and were leaning toward CBR again - we all really liked the ambiance and thought it would be nice to take more resort time this trip and hit the hammocks and pool more.
Just as we were feeling the Disney Mind Meld and actually beginning to think about giving the Disney leg of the trip the thumbs up (ears up?), I began to see the discussions of CBR construction - and the $75 rebates. “Well, well,” I thought, “Couldn’t hurt to book something could it?” (Yes folks, the point of no return has been breached.)
So, I books us 5 nights, Sunday - Friday at a room rate of $202. The $375 in rebate gift cards certainly sweetened that rate: 5 nights Hotel Net Total = $761.
My wife and I started going over variations of getting 3 day park tickets, possibly adding a water park. Then - the room fairy released the room only discounts. I called up within an hour or two of their going live and… nothing. available. sad trombone.
For the next month or so I kept a Disney.com browser tab open and looked up the dates a few times each day to see if anything opened up. For a long time - still nothing. Then I found that if I took a day off of my trip I could get the room discount applied. As any red-blooded Disneyphile would do, I then started looking into booking a value resort for the last day. Then I thought, why not add another day! I just saved a bundle on the room rate! (Cue GEICO commercial gecko.)
Long story short (Yeah, right - you’re already eleventy 6 paragraphs into this post.), just as I was about to pull the trigger on the split stay - BOOM, all of my days PLUS ONE opened up for the discount. So, of course now we have 6 days, Sunday - Saturday at CBR at an average room rate of $155 PLUS we get $450 in gift cards. 6 night Net Hotel total = $613.
(If you didn’t catch the math: I added a night and my cost went DOWN $148.)
Once the hotel was out of the way, I returned to the park tickets work. After all sorts of mental mathematical gymnastics related to possibly upgrading to 3 day Park Hopper Plus tickets and spending a couple of days at water parks, we just decided on going for 4 Day Base tickets going to MK, EP, and AK (first time for that one!), then letting the kids choose which park to do on the 4th. (They surprised me and chose EPCOT.)
I then realized that the difference between Undercover Tourist’s 4 day tickets and their 4 day with 1 day free was a mere $34 total, so I made an executive decision and got those at a cost of $1,460.
(Note: I bought them with an Amex deal where they gave me a $30 statement credit, so actual cost was $1,430.)
We’re going out of pocket this trip, but did Free Dining the past trips. We did fine with FD in past, but always knowing that with 2 of us not being big eaters we were really paying for convenience and not value. This time they are not offering FD on our dates, and for this trip value is taking precedence over convenience in any case.
Without going into my mind-blowing dining estimation spreadsheet (soon to be released on BlueRay), I estimate our food costs to be around $1,152.
Below is a section of my spreadsheet showing the cost of the various options.
The green line is the one we decided on - with an estimated Total Trip Cost of $3,675.
Well, that’s too rich for us this year.
Read on soon, dear reader.