Update 2019: The strategy for Disney has changed and some of the hotel methods outlined in this post are no longer possible.
Update 2/11/18: Last week SPG released its list of properties that will be changing categories after 3/6/18. Unfortunately, the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort will be moving up from a category 4 property to a category 5 property. This isn’t a huge deal as far as the amount of points required when the rooms are at the lower end of the category 5 cost, but you will no longer be able to book a Nights & Flights package.
How can you get a Disney World trip on points?
- In the SPG program, properties category 5 and above have ranges (12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night. 5th night is still free!). Each property sets its dates for high and low season. Obviously, high season will likely cost 16,000 rather than 12,000. But their definition of peak dates may be different from yours, so you still could score a good deal!
- The other point to mention is that by moving from a category 4 to a category 5 property, the Disney Dolphin is no longer eligible for SPG’s Nights & Flights program. Again, not a deal breaker, but N & F is a great way to save on category 3 and 4 properties if you’re planning to use Starpoints to book both hotel and plane tickets.
One of the most common questions I get is “how can I get a Disney World trip for free?”
Unless you’re using a cash back card of some sort, you can’t really get Disney World tickets on reward points/miles. I generally do not recommend cash back cards, but if your only travel goal is Disney, it could work for you.
Disney World tickets alone are expensive, so adding hotel and airfare makes it even more of a hit on your wallet. Miles and points can help offset the expense of a Disney World vacation by covering hotels and plane tickets. I will go into more detail about Disney World and give some advice in future posts!
Fortunately, there are many airlines that serve Orlando. Southwest happens to be one of these airlines, so if you have the companion pass you will definitely want to check the fares/points cost on Southwest first. The best airline(s) for you will depend on your departure city and which points and/or miles you have available. Check the airline and bank transfer partners page.
If you’re willing to stay in a hotel that is off Disney property, there are many options managed by several different loyalty programs in the Orlando area including Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott. These are definitely options to look into if you do not have SPG points (Starwood Preferred Guest).
In this post, I will discuss the SPG resorts that are on Disney property. Although not owned by Disney, the Swan and Dolphin resorts are considered Disney properties and give you most of the same benefits as other Disney resorts. These benefits include:
- Ability to book fastpass 60 days in advance (this is 30 days if not staying at a Disney hotel)
- Extra Magic Hours Benefit
- See more below:
The Swan and Dolphin hotels are located in Epcot. You can walk to Epcot and/or Hollywood studios or you can take the boat. These properties also offer bus service to and from all Disney parks.
Redeem starpoints for the Swan or Dolphin
Using SPG points to book either of these hotels can be a very good value, especially during peak times when rooms tend to be more expensive. We went last year for our son’s 4th birthday, and since it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, hotels were relatively expensive. I decided to check SPG to see if there was availability for our dates at the Swan or Dolphin. Both happened to be available for our 5 night stay.
The Disney Dolphin is an SPG category 4 hotel which costs 10,000 points per night. The Disney Swan is an SPG category 5 hotel which costs 12,000 points. SPG gives a free 5th night on category 3-7 properties, so 5 nights at the Dolphin is 40,000 starpoints and at the Swan 5 nights would be 48,000 points. If you have lots of starpoints and you’re needing plane tickets and a hotel, SPG has a great option called “Nights & Flights”. This deal is only available on category 3 and 4 properties, but basically you can save points by doing this package if you’re already planning on using starpoints for both flights and hotels. Since the Dolphin is a category 4 hotel, this is something to consider.
For the weekend after Thanksgiving this year, the Swan costs at least 310$ per night
Since the 5th night is free, this averages to 9,600 points per night.
The Dolphin costs at least 351$ per night
Since the 5th night is free, this averages to 8,000 points per night.
Now let’s make sure we’re getting a good value:
- 0.032 X 100= 3.2
- 3.2 cents per point is a good value
- 0.044 X 100=4.4
- 4.4 cents per dollar is an even better value!
The Disney Swan and Dolphin hotels are both good options if you have starpoints and want to save money on a Disney World vacation, especially during peak dates. Stay tuned for more information about their Nights & Flights program.
Let me know what questions you have!