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How to visit Disney World for free (or close to it)

How to visit Disney World for free (or close to it)

Sean Bryant March 14, 2017
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Image Credit: Dreamstime

Editors note: At the time of publication, these prices were accurate, but they’ve since increased

Anyone with kids understands that Disney World is a vacation they need to take at least once. After all, it’s the happiest place on earth. The only problem is, the place is expensive, and it’s only getting more so. In February, Disney announced they were raising ticket prices.

Last year, Disney parks started implementing tiered admission prices based on the season. This was to help fight overcrowding at some of the busiest times of the year.

With the price increase, most Disney theme parks will see mid-tier tickets increase to $107, up from $102. Peak season tickets (think spring break, summer and Christmas break) will increase to $119 from $114. And one-day tickets for the low season will go up to $99 from $97.

Tickets for the Magic Kingdom will cost a bit more for mid-tier tickets, up from $110 to $115, but peak prices will remain unchanged at $124.

Obviously, it gets expensive for a family. Just visiting the Magic Kingdom would end up costing a family of four between $396 and $496 depending on the season. And that’s for just one day at the park. Disney does offer special discount ticket packages, however, so be sure to check out what’s on offer before booking. You might be able to get a really good deal, especially during the off-season.

Of course, there are other ways to reduce your costs for visiting the happiest place on earth. You can start by using the rewards you receive from credit cards, for starters. There are three different cards you will need to make your trip nearly free (excluding food costs).

Read more: How to save money on Disney

Could you really go to Disney World for free?!

The Flights

Southwest Airlines is a favorite for many people. They’re inexpensive, they’re friendly and the overall flying experience is considered quite pleasant. Frequently the airline runs sales with prices starting at $59 one-way, or approximately 4,130 Southwest Rapid Reward points. That means for a family of four, it’s possible to get round-trip flights for as little as 33,040 points.

To cover this expense, you can sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card. You will receive 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 within the first three months. In addition to this signup bonus, you will also receive 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines flights and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. For all other purchases you will receive 1 points per dollar. There is a $69 annual fee, but you will receive 3,000 bonus points on every card member anniversary.

The hotel

A couple of years ago, Wyndham Resorts changed how many points were needed for a free night at any property. Instead of using a tiered system like other hotel brands, they moved to a flat rate. It now costs 15,000 points per night at every hotel.

Located right outside the Disney Park is the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek. This hotel is extremely kid-friendly with multiple pools, water slides and themed rooms. There is also a free shuttle that will take you to the Disney World gates.

To cover the expense, you could sign up for the Wyndham Rewards Visa card from Barclaycard. You will receive 30,000 points after your first purchase and another 15,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days. These 45,000 points would be good enough for three free nights. If you and your spouse both sign up for this card, you could earn up to six free nights.

In addition to the points you earn after signing up, you will also receive 5 points per dollar spent at any Wyndham property. Purchases made at gas stations, grocery stores and on any utility bill will receive 2 points per dollar. All other purchases will receive 1 points per dollar. There is a $75 annual fee, but you will receive 6,000 bonus points on each anniversary.

The theme park

We have already talked about how expensive it can be to purchase Disney World tickets. Luckily the cost can be mostly offset by the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. With this card you will receive 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. You will also receive 2 miles per dollar on every purchase that you make.

The points you earn are worth statement credits on any travel expense. Each mile is worth one cent each. That means the 50,000 mile signup bonus is worth $500, enough to cover the costs of four Disney theme park tickets at peak season prices. However, it’s important to understand that purchases at Disney won’t be coded as a travel expense and you won’t be able to use your miles. Instead, you would need to purchase your Disney tickets through either or

Another perk of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit card is that you will receive 5% of your rewards back in your account upon redemption. That means if you redeem the 50,000 miles for Disney tickets, 2,500 miles will be put back into your account. There is an $89 annual fee with this card, but it’s waived the first year.

Being smart about multiple credit cards

One of the big things to consider before applying for multiple credit cards, is that it’s wise to space out your applications. Too many new credit requests all at once can ding your credit scores, meaning your application for your second, third or even fourth card could be declined. Plus, multiple credit cards aren’t for everyone. They mean you’ll have to keep track of multiple initial-spend requirements, plus multiple due dates for your monthly payments.

Also keep in mind that, while the rewards may be attractive, especially if you’re trying to take a free vacation, you may not want (or be able) to spend the necessary amounts to reap those rewards. It’s important to understand whether or not that kind of spending will fit within your household’s budget. The last thing you want to do is end up coming home from Disney World with debt you’ll struggle to pay off.

Whatever you decide, checking your credit scores before applying is an important step. It can help you understand whether you’ll actually qualify for the particular rewards card you have your eye on (rewards credit cards tend to require higher credit scores). You can get your two credit scores absolutely free and updated every 14 days, on

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Read more: 5 credit cards with great signup bonuses right now

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