Travel Hacking a Disney Cruise and Disney World Vacation (Fall 2018)

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Hi! We just returned from our fall family vacation. We went to Hollywood Studios for 1 day and then we went on a 4-night cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream. As always on a Disney trip, we had a fantastic time!

Castaway Cay was amazing!

This post isn’t really a review of the trip, but instead, I’m sharing how we used travel hacking to save over $2,500 on the total cost of the vacation.

What is “Travel Hacking?”

In this post, I use “travel hacking” to mean using credit card points to get discounts on travel. Typically this is most effective when using cards that provide a large initial sign up bonus. You can open the card, meet the minimum requirements to earn the sign-up bonus, and redeem the points for travel-related expenses like flights or hotels.

In order to do this, you must be able to use credit cards responsibly. Do not attempt to do this if you are not able to pay your credit card balances in full each month.

These guys would have you carry a balance on your credit card.
That’s the way of the dark side. It leads to suffering and all that.

The idea here is not to spend extra money in order to earn the bonuses. Instead, the intent is to use the credit cards for things you were going to buy anyway (monthly bills work great and are easy!) and use the points you earn to save on vacation.

Specifically, for this trip, we used points from the following cards:

This post is not a general guide to travel hacking. For that, I recommend Travel Miles 101.

Travel Hacking a Cruise

We didn’t actually try to save any money on the cost of the cruise itself. Our fall family vacation is the big trip we take each year. We were as frugal as possible on our spring break and summer trips, but the fall trip is always our big one, and we don’t skimp much on this trip.

We went to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream and paid regular price for the cruise. (You can view available Disney Cruise itineraries here). However, we were able to save money on quite a few other cruise-related travel expenses for a family of four, specifically:

  • Flights to and from Orlando
  • TSA Pre✓
  • Hotel stays before and after the cruise
  • Park tickets to Hollywood Studios
  • Cruise souvenirs and miscellaneous spending on board

I’ll explain each of these below.

Flights

We flew to and from Orlando on Southwest Airlines using points from the two Chase Southwest credit cards:

We were actually able to earn bonuses from both cards (and the companion pass) earlier this year before new restrictions went into effect. Using both the points and the companion pass, we were able to get round-trip flights for 2 adults and 2 children for a total of $44.80. Regular price for these flights would have been $1,366.84 for a total savings of $1,322.04.

TSA Pre✓

TSA Pre✓ is not something we ever would have spent money on before getting into travel hacking, but the Capital One Venture® card actually covered it for us for free. This was a great benefit because it saves a lot of time and hassle going through airport security, particularly when traveling with kids. The cost of TSA Pre✓ is $85 for 5 years, and we got it completely free, for a total savings of $85.

Pre-Cruise Hotel Stay

We arrived in Orlando on a Saturday and the cruise did not leave until Monday. We spent Saturday night and Sunday night in the Hyatt Regency in the Orlando Airport. Again, we didn’t go for the cheapest option here, we were going for convenience. The price for 2 nights at this hotel would have been $380.68, but we paid for it using Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card. We paid completely using points, for a total savings of $380.68.

Hollywood Studios

Since we had a free day on Sunday, we decided to spend a day at Hollywood Studios before leaving for the cruise. We love all the movie related attractions (especially Star Wars!) and the new Toy Story Land just opened recently. Paying for park admission using points was a little tricky but we were able to pull it off using the Capital One Venture® card.

First, we booked our park tickets using a site called Undercover Tourist. The total cost of 1 day at Hollywood Studios for 2 adults and 2 children through Undercover Tourist was $491.52. We paid for this using the Capital One Venture card.

Yikes, Vader’s after my bank account.

Second, we took advantage of a feature of the Capital One Venture card called the Purchase Eraser. This feature allows you to “erase” any travel related expense by using points to redeem a statement credit for the amount of the travel expense. Since tickets purchased through Undercover Tourist count as travel expenses, and we paid with the Capital One Venture card, we were able to use our points to erase the purchase, for a total savings of $491.52.

Post-Cruise Hotel Stay

After the cruise, we spent one night at the Homewood Suites in Orlando before returning home. The cost of 1 night at this hotel was $178.88. We used the Capital One Venture card and the Purchase Eraser to completely erase the purchase, for a total savings of $178.88.

Cruise Souvenirs and Miscellaneous Spending

Throughout the cruise, we managed to rack up $358.27 of extra spending while on board. This was for all kinds of things: drinks with dinner, tips for room service, dole whips with rum, souvenirs in the gift shop, snorkel gear on Castaway Cay, ear drops, etc. At the end of the trip, we had enough Capital One Venture points left to use the Purchase Eraser for almost half of it, for a total savings of $172.31

Putting it all Together

Adding it all up, we saved:

  • Flights – $1322.04
  • TSA Pre✓ – $85.00
  • Pre-Cruise Hotel – $380.68
  • Park Tickets – $491.52
  • Post-Cruise Hotel – $178.88
  • On-board Spending – $172.31

Total savings: $2630.43

Even though we didn’t try to save on the cruise itself and paid full price for our 4 nights on the Disney Dream, we still managed to accumulate a significant amount of savings on expenses before and after the cruise!

Victory over the dark side of vacation!

3 thoughts on “Travel Hacking a Disney Cruise and Disney World Vacation (Fall 2018)

  1. Awesome job with travel hacking!

    I use the capital one venture card to get travel discounts but I’m not patient enough to play the multiple cards game

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