EDIT: As of May 2015, the Air Miles points required to redeem Walt Disney World park tickets have gone up significantly (about 25%). Air Miles Canada has cited a lower Canadian dollar and higher shipping costs as the reasons for this. The blog post below should be used as a reference only.
For this blog post, I wanted to share our (Canadian) family’s strategy on how we got our Disney World theme park tickets for “free” for our upcoming family vacation in September 2014. I want to caution that this strategy is not for every family, and is based on a lot of assumptions about a family’s spending habits, income, and financial diligence. I realize that it may not work for most families, but it worked for us, and I hope this blog post will inspire other families to come up with their own creative strategies on how to save money on their dream Disney vacation.
Let’s start off on how much the Disney World tickets were going to cost us if we were to pay for it out of pocket. We have a family of 4 consisting of two adults, a 3 year old, and a 2 year old. Thankfully, kids under the age of 3 are free to get into Disney, so that leaves us with needing 3 park tickets for 5 days.
According to the Disney World website, 2014 Magic Your Way tickets would have cost us the following: 5 day adult ticket – $304 + $19.76 tax = $323 total USD (x 2 tickets = $646) 5 day child ticket – $284 + $18.46 tax = $302.46 total USD GRAND TOTAL FOR 2 ADULTS + 1 CHILD = $948.46 USD Ouch! We are not looking forward to when our youngest turns 3 and our bill for park tickets will be over $1250 for 4 people (but that’s another story)!
Note that you can save some money by buying off site at UnderCoverTourist.com but this is the only reliable and widely trusted non-Disney source to purchase Disney tickets from.
So let’s start off with how we were able to pay for our child’s ticket for our upcoming trip. Our bank offers a moneyback credit card where we earn 1% back on all of our card purchases, and a little bit more than that on certain purchases like, gas, utilities and groceries. We charged most of our day to day purchases on this card and, at the end of the year, we earned over $600 CND cashback on our credit card statement, which we used to easily purchase our child’s park ticket and have money left over. Most banks nowadays offer some form of cashback card where you can earn at least 1% cash back on your purchases.
Now, paying for our two adult tickets was a bit more complicated and took a bit more work and planning. I must start by saying that my husband and I are avid Air Miles collectors and have been for years. We have used points in the past to pay for flights but our strategy now is to save up our points for Disney park tickets as we plan to visit on an annual basis. A 5 day adult Magic Your Way Ticket currently requires 2500 air miles in 2014. So for two adults, we needed 5000 points. You can get a 3 day and 7 day pass from Air Miles Canada but, for some reason, the amount of extra points you need to upgrade from a 5 day to a 7 day is quite significant, and seemed to be a waste of points in our opinion considering that you could go to the park and upgrade your 5 day pass to a 7 pass for $20 per ticket and pay in cash. So, our advice is not to use your Air Miles towards a 7 day ticket, only towards a 3 day or a 5 day ticket. So if you already have an Air Miles points card, you’ll probably realize that it could take you years to collect enough points to redeem for these tickets. We found a more efficient way to collect more points sooner, so that we could redeem them for tickets for our upcoming trip, by signing up for two Air Miles credit cards.
We were able to sign up for the Air Miles American Express Platinum Card during a promotional period when they were offering a bonus 1000 Air Miles in addition to the regular 1000 Air Miles sign up bonus. All you had to do was make $500 in purchases on your card within the first 3 months. Now, note that there is a $99 annual fee for this card along with income stipulations to be eligible. We figured since we had money left over from our bank’s moneyback credit card (as discussed earlier), we were indirectly able to pay for this annual fee with those funds to offset this cost. This card does have other benefits that may make it worth it to keep, but for our purposes, we will probably be cancelling this card within the year since we have no use for it besides obtaining the double Air Miles points.
We also signed up for the BMO Air Miles World Mastercard to take advantage of another promotion that was happening that allowed us to obtain double the Air Miles points. We received 1000 Air Miles upon our first credit card purchase and then another 1000 Air Miles when we charged $1000 worth of purchases within a 3 month period. There is a $69 annual fee for this card along with income stipulations to be eligible. Like the last aforementioned credit card, we figured since we had money left over from our bank’s moneyback credit card (as discussed earlier), we were indirectly able to pay for this annual fee with those funds to offset this cost. Also, like the last credit card, we will probably be cancelling this card within the year since we have no use for it besides obtaining the double Air Miles points.
Combined, these two credit cards gave us 4000 Air Miles in a very short period of time. It would have taken us several years to be able to save up this amount of miles by just using our regular Air Miles points card. We already had about 1000 Air Miles collected from the regular Air Miles program using our points card so, altogether, we had the 5000 points we needed to purchase our two adult Disney World tickets!
If you’re not familiar with the Air Miles program, you may (like us) love it and are loyalists or you may not be too enchanted with it; in which case, you could explore another points or loyalty programs that you could get on board with to save you money on your trip with flight, accommodations, etc. The idea is to take advantage of the many programs available out there to consumers to save money for your trip.
Disclaimer: I mentioned at the very beginning of this post that this strategy is not for everyone. In particular, I would never recommend signing up for a credit card if you have issues with general debt, credit card debt or being able to make payments on time. If you are the type of person who is in control of your finances, use your credit cards to take advantage of the loyalty programs, and then pay off your balance before the grace period each month, then this is a strategy you may wish to consider. This strategy also assumes that you spend enough money to collect enough points. I believe that our family is an average middle class family with normal spending habits and this strategy helped us to accumulate enough cashback and Air Miles to make this happen for us. If you are a frugal family, then it may take you a really really long time to acumulate enough Miles, cashback, or other points from another loyalty program, and so the time and effort may not be worth it for you. As I said, I think it worked well for our family, and it may for yours, but it is definitely not for everyone. Please subscribe to my blog or join my Facebook page to be alerted of more new blog posts like this.