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How To Stay at Disney for Free!

A picture in the article How to stay in Disney for free. Two girls standing side by side in front of the Disney Castle.

My little sister was going to graduate high school in 2023, so I told her the summer before that we should do a trip- just us! No parents (I’m 25). So, she picked Disney World! Considering I had JUST graduated college and didn’t have very much money to my name, I knew it was going to be a ~bit~ of a struggle. Needless to say my I found myself going down a rabbit hole on travel hacking Disney- which helped me fly and stay at Disney for Free!!!!!

Okay, ya’ll know I don’t gatekeep, so this is how I did it

Flying for Free is #1 for going to Disney for Free

Before Disney I had only flown twice, both times being Southwest Airlines. Now after flying over 20 times in the last year I can honestly say Southwest is my absolute favorite! (I have STILL only flown Southwest and I now also have the Companion Pass.) So, when looking for our flights to Orlando, I didn’t look anywhere but Southwest.

Our home airport is Nashville which is one of the places Southwest flies in and out of. To afford the flights I opened a Southwest Credit Card to get a 50,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 in 3 months. I was able to hit the bonus after I put all of my spending on the card. Flights to Orlando from Nashville only cost about 10,000 points round trip, per person. So, after hitting the bonus I was able to book me and my sister for only 20,000 points!

Where to stay

After the flights were done, here came the hard part- the hotel….

I knew I wanted a hotel that was close and cheap. After seeing how I was able to get the flights completely free with credit card points I set out to see what I could do with credit cards for a hotel brand.

I also wanted to see if I could get any hotels that were a Disney Neighbor Hotel– which is a hotel that Disney ‘partners’ with. These hotels come with perks like a bus that takes you to and from the parks, early admission, and other Disney perks that I don’t know if I actually used. I really just wanted the buses so I wouldn’t have to pay for an Uber back and forth to the hotel. So, my list of hotels came from the Disney neighbor hotels and THEN I started looking for reward nights.

Just a reminder, I was looking at these in February 2022, so the bonus’s are very different than what they are now.

Of course I looked up the Swan and Dolphin, a Marriott hotel that is ON Disney property. At the time I was looking, the Marriott credit card would only be able to pay for one night! I wanted to spend 4 days at the parks so we could enjoy all of the different parks. So, I looked at other Marriott properties and none of them would seem to work. I looked at Hilton as well. At the time I wasn’t familiar with other hotel brands so IHG hotels were my only other option. We ended up staying at the Holiday Inn Orlando Disney Springs Area, which is a Disney Official hotel.

Hotel stay at Disney For Free

I opened the Chase IHG hotel personal card which got me 130,000 points! ALSO, with the IHG card you automatically have platinum status. AND when you use points to pay for the hotel, your fourth night is COMPLETELY free! When I mean completely I mean completely, no points, no money, no monopoly money- its completely free! So, me and my sister was able to stay 4 nights!

Here is the link for the IHG Credit Card

The platinum status came in handy too- we booked our flight on a Monday and planned to go on to Disney. We got to the hotel around 11 and we weren’t able to check-in until 4. My plan was to just leave the luggage with the front desk and hop on a bus to Hollywood Studios. BUT since we were Platinum status- we got a room upgrade and were able to go ahead and check-in!

Say what you want about how ‘credit cards are the devil’ (okay dave ramsey) but they do come with sooooo many perks if you know how to use them and DONT GO IN DEBT!!!!

So, in all the only thing we had to pay for was food and tickets. Did you know you can also travel hack these too? I’ll make an article about that one later 😉

Happy Travels!!

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