Ignore this entry - read next one please (if interested)
So one of my big (self imposed) challenges for this trip was to make it as nice as possible while also making it as inexpensive as possible.
With careful planning and taking advantage of CC perks I was able to take the cost of the trip from $7,683 down to $2,877a 62% savings!!
Airline – Southwest
Retail Cost $744.00 My Cost $241 Saved $503
Signed up for their CC and got 25,000 points. Constantly rebooked to bring the points cost down so I can use them elsewhere. CC First year fee $100, Booking fees $81, Early Bird boarding $60
Disney Hotel – Swan
Retail Cost $1,875 My Cost $0 Saved $1875
Signed up for Starwoods card and got 35,000. Got enough points for a balcony room (44,000). Also, unfortunately the housekeeping was horrible – so I complained (nicely) – they took off the resort fees. Now I realize the Swan isn’t a DISNEY hotel – and in my opinion isn’t a great hotel. However the location is awesome, the staff friendly and you are still in the middle of everything. The kids loved the pool and grounds are very nice.
Retail cost $1,340 Cost via Undercover Tourist $1271. Saved $1,340
I HIGHLY recommend using Undercover Tourist. There is no difference in the ticket and you can get a great deal. We got a 5 day for the price of a 4 day. Additionally was able to use my CapitalOne card to “travel erase” the whole thing. So my Disney tickets cost $0
Retail cost $909 Cost via Undercover Tourist $776. Saved $133
Once again recommend using Undercover Tourist. They had a discounted 3 day park to park that had an expiration date – but was after we were traveling. As an aside – I used to be a DISNEY purist and thought anyone going to Universal also kicked puppies and said bad things about their mothers. However I fully change my opinion on them. They have their act together. The parks and resorts are wonderful, the staff is great and Harry Potter is unparalleled in any park anywhere.
We used MCO Destination – very nice!! Had a car from MCO to Portafino, Portafino to SWAN and SWAN to MCO. Renting a car with parking would have been almost $500. It was great having a driver. Didn’t have to worry about getting lost, paying tolls, paying for parking etc. I would even recommend this if you can take magical express. It was MUCH more relaxed – you’re in a big SUV, nice music, water and you go right to your hotel.
Retail $1136 My Cost $185
First off I can’t recommend the Portafino enough. It was an AMAZING hotel. Beautiful grounds, wonderful room and staff was exceptional. My only disappointment was that we stayed here first and then went to the swan. I would have much rather made this my last destination. Staying at a deluxe onsite is VERY MUCH WORTH IT. The convenience of taking the boat back and forth was just a nice way to start and end the day (we NEVER had to wait as they were constantly running). The Express pass privilege was PRICELESS. MUCH better than Fastpass in the fact that we didn’t have to plan a thing. Only thing we had to do was get to HARRY POTTER first thing in the morning. Universal (although we rode MORE rides) was much more relaxed and just enjoyable IMHO.
So we are a family of 4 – 2 adults a 12 yr old and 9 yr old. My wife eats off the kids menu and my son off the adult menu so it evens out. So our average was $150 a day. We do pack breakfast and eat in the room. I usually have oatmeal, kids have cereal and my wife has a shake. It just makes the morning routine a bit more relaxed and it cuts down on costs. None of us are big eaters as well. We did have some nice meals. Mythos in Universal is GREAT. Nothing super special – but very nice sit down and the food was great. Not any more expensive that getting bad pizza somewhere else. Mama Della at the Portafino was also wonderful. Other noteworthy meals were at Chef’s de France and eating poolside at Portafino. My son did love Nine Dragons – however I thought it was ok at best. We did do Be Our Guest as well. Food was nice, however they need to get their act together. We had 11:15 reservations – but didn’t even get to the kiosk until 11:45 due to “issues” they were having. Balance were counterservice and twice we ordered pizza from Splashes at the swan which was $20 so that brought down our meal cost average a lot. We aren’t drinkers – but did order at a few meals. BIG way to save is to order water instead of soda. I would, however budget $200 a day of the average family and if you end up saving – cool
Hope this helps people in planning and thinking of creative ways to save money thought creative CC use. A few things thought. You MUST pay off the balance every month or it will kill you. NO I don’t have a business or anthing – we just put EVERYTHING on the CC so we get a lot of points.
I love Disney but love universal too and I don't usually go around kicking puppies
Ha @nevahuddleston . Well now I am part of "the dark" side. I never had a huge desire to go back to Universal until Harry Potter. I was completely impressed from the quality of the rides, to the cleanliness of the parks, the helpfulness of the staff and the cost. I loved universal and we found it to be more relaxing and enjoyable than Disney this time around.
How did you get this cost down? Hotel points?
Yes Capital One. Their "travel eraser" is awesome!!! so I needed ~100,000 points. Not that difficult to get
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is hands down the best ride and queue I have ever been in or on and I love Disney, but Harry Potter makes Universal a must add on one day to our Disney trip every time.
I'm not familiar with that. I gather that you can "erase" $1 in travel purchases with 100 points, right. Are there certain restrictions to this, and what qualifies as a travel purchase?
Yes. So they have breakdown
15,000 - redeem up to $150
30,000 - redeem up to $300
60,000 + redeem dollar for point. So if you have $650 bill - it is 65,000 points.
They are VERY generous. Almost anything with a hotel, air, car rental, park tickets. So I was able to erase my WDW park tickets cost. I can do airline tickets and hotel charges. So at Portafino - we put meals and park purchases "on the room" - so all that is covered as it is charged to my CC under LOWES HOTELS.
The most beneficial is to get the charge to be over $600 then you get the best return rate. If you have a charge for $120 you still have to pay 15,000. We love the card.
I also got two other cards to use their benefits. Check out "THE POINTS GUY" on the web - lots of good options.
I see - thanks for the explanation. I see what you mean about it being most beneficial to be over $600 - for example, you could have "erased" the limo charges, but that would not have been a good value for points as they were smaller charges and each one would have fallen into the first flat 15,000 point tier.
Glad to hear you had good luck with the Southwest card. We just changed from the Disney Visa with terrible rewards to the Southwest card. They sent a promo for 50,000 points and $100 bill credit to cover the first years fee. It'll be enough to cover all of our flights this year.
Great thing with southwest - just keep calling when prices go down. Only problem is EACH person is a separate reservation and you have to checkin each person separately - but that is minimal issue.
We just book early bird so we don't have to check in at all.
Yeah - I did earlybird for my son and I. So this is a bit of a sneaky move. But I have it all on my iPhone - so I am the only person with the tickets - so I have two early bird - but we are all able to board at the same time as all tickets are on my account. if you have an iPhone - this is when you use WALLET. it keeps them all together and you just swipe
Wow, awesome job there!
I just wanted to say hello and thanks for writing -- great info. I'm going to try to look into this. Congrats on saving so much on your trip!! Cheers!
Thanks. Above all - I am a cheap bastard!!! I think it is hard that this is SUCH an expensive trip. I feel very fortunate that we can actually do it. I LOVE the hunt for a good deal!!
I am usually really cheap too, but something about Disney makes me blow thousands of dollars without blinking an eye!!