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I have never paid cash for a hotel at Disney World. I have always used points to stay for free.
There are too many things to spend your money on when it comes to the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’. Hotels are not one of them.
Would you like to be able to take your kids to Disney and not break the bank doing it? This is why I love hotel points!
I will let you know exactly how I do it so you can too!!
American Express SPG credit card and the Chase Marriott credit card
Both American Express and Chase have credit cards that earn SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) points. SPG owns both Westin and Sheraton Brands. Through American Express, you can apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card. Right now, it is giving away 25,000 points as a bonus when you meet the $3,000 in minimum credit card spend within 3 months. You will have 28,000 SPG points once you complete this.
Chase has the Marriott credit cards. In 2016, Marriott announced they were acquiring SPG. Right now, you can convert Marriott points to SPG (and vice versa) at a ratio of 3:1. The Marriott Rewards Visa card is offering 80,000 points as a sign-up bonus with $3,000 minimum spend in 3 months.
Plus, you can get an additional 7,500 points by adding an authorized user to the Marriott card. Once you complete the above steps, you will end up with 90,000+ Marriott points which convert to 30,000 SPG points. You do need to do an extra step to link your SPG and Marriott accounts before you can do the conversion.
Depending on how many SPG points you have, here are 4 awesome uses at Disney World. Remember, your partner/spouse can also sign up for these cards. SPG allows you to transfer points if you have the same address. You then have more points to spend.
Sheraton Lake Buena Vista
One credit card bonus can get you 10 nights at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista resort. As an SPG member, you get the 5th night free. Therefore, 5 nights will only cost 12,000 points and 10 nights will cost 24,000 points. With one card signup, you could have 2 separate 5-day trips!
The per night point cost of this Sheraton is 3,000 points per night. With the 5th day free, you could stay a week for 18,000 points.
The Sheraton Lake Buena Vista does offer a free shuttle to the Disney parks. This is included in the $23 per night resort fee. It is also a 15-20 minute walk to Disney Springs if you are up to that!
This hotel is not a luxury hotel by any means. However, it gets you close to Disney while only using a small number of points.
If you are only doing Disney attractions, my tip would be to not rent a car here and use the scheduled shuttle service. There is an additional parking fee of $15-20 per night if you park your car. You can take UberFamily from the airport to the hotel and back and not have to worry about parking.
Four Points Universal
Another SPG hotel for only 3,000 points per night, this Four Points is extremely close to Universal Studios. There is shuttle service available to Universal as well as The Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
This hotel does not have a resort fee or a parking fee! So, if you are driving, you may want to stay here in order to avoid those fees.
We have stayed here before. To be honest, it is very plain. There is a reason it’s a lower category SPG hotel. You get what you pay for. However, the shuttle to Universal was on time and with no parking or resort fee, it’s hard to complain about the price. I understand it is currently undergoing renovation.
Sheraton Vistana Villages/Sheraton Vistana Resort
These two separate properties are both timeshare resorts with Starwood. However, you can book them using your SPG points. They are 10,000 points per night, plus the 5th night free. A 5-night stay would cost you 40,000 points. You can get this many points by both you and a partner/spouse signing up for a card or you can personally sign up for both the AMEX and Chase cards yourself.
We have stayed at both of these resorts. Personally, I like the space they provide. It is a separate bedroom with a door. This is great for nap time as well as bedtime, allowing the kids to be in a separate room while you are still awake.
In addition, there are kitchen facilities. You can make a breakfast to eat right at your own dining table instead of having to go out to eat or grab something at the parks. Definitely a money saver as far as food goes! There is a Publix grocery store very close to both of these resorts.
We have even made sandwiches and stored them in a large insulated lunch bag with ice packs and taken them into the park. Along with some snacks and water, this provided a cheap alternative than continually eating at the park.
The timeshares also have common outdoor grills for guest usage. We have bought chicken and hamburgers and used these grills to cook out for dinner.
I haven’t even mentioned the pool areas yet! If you plan on having some downtime while in Orlando and are looking for a resort that has a beautiful pool complex, these resorts will provide that along with a family activity schedule. Again, it’s one of the reasons why I love my Starwood timeshares. They are beautiful resorts that I love to stay at!
Parking is free at these timeshare resorts. There is scheduled shuttle service to the Disney Transportation Center where you can then get to any of the Disney Parks. The website says it is a ‘nominal fee’ for this service. When we stayed here, we have always had a car, so I have never used the shuttle service.
There is a $20 per day parking fee when you drive into Disney World yourself. Keep that in mind when you are deciding between driving and taking the shuttle. Driving does allow you to come and go as you please (just keep your parking receipt!) whereas, with the shuttle, you are at the mercy of their schedule.
These timeshares provide both more space for your family as well as kitchen facilities allowing you to save money on food costs. These are big wins in my book as we look to save money at Disney World.
I have our first stay booked at the Dolphin and I am soooo excited! The Dolphin is a Sheraton property and currently 10,000 points per night. The Swan is a Westin property and 12,000 points per night. Remember that the 5th night free also applies.
These hotels are on Disney property by Epcot but are not managed by Disney. They do participate in some of the Disney onsite advantages such as allowing guests to get their Fastpasses 60 days ahead of time. I may finally be able to get a FastPass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride!
Here is the list provided by their website showing the onsite advantages they participate in:
- Ability to reserve Fastpasses up to 60 days ahead
- Package delivery to your hotel from Disney Parks
- Morning or evening Extra Magic hours
- Complimentary scheduled transportation
- Complimentary parking at Disney theme parks
- Advance tee times at Walt Disney World golf
- On-site Disney cast members to help you plan your vacation
I am most interested in the advance FastPass reservations and the transportation options. From the Boardwalk area where the Dolphin and Swan are, you can walk or take the Friendship Launch boat to Epcot. The Friendship Launch boat also provides you with transportation to Hollywood Studios. In order to get to the Animal Kingdom or The Magic Kingdom, a shuttle bus will take you.
I can’t comment on these hotels as of now, but I am so excited to stay onsite on my December trip. I have always stayed at one of the other above hotels on this list.
Food cost is a concern while staying on-site, but I am currently researching how to keep these costs down for our trip. There is a small refrigerator in each room, so we will definitely take advantage of that.
The pool area looks gorgeous! I can’t wait to see for myself. Of course, we are going in December, so who knows if we will be able to use it. The first time we went in December, it was in the 90’s. They were having a heat wave! But, other times I have had to run to Walgreens and buy us cheap hats and gloves.
There is also a character meal at The Garden Grove restaurant at the Swan. We plan on going there for breakfast on Saturday we are there. Interestingly, this meal does not take advance dining reservations for its character breakfast. I have also heard the price is slightly lower than others. Supposedly, Chip-n-Dale are the main characters and they just happen to be my favorite.
I am super stoked about our upcoming visit to the Dolphin!
I hope this article gave you some good ideas about how to stay for free at Disney World. There are many things you can’t cut costs on at Disney, but hotels aren’t one of them. The SPG hotels provide a mix of budget, moderate and luxurious accommodations.
You can do it too! Both the Starwood American Express card and the Marriott Rewards visa from Chase allow you to use your points for these great hotels.
Prevent Disney melt-downs and enjoy a stress-free Disney trip by adhering to these strategies.
What is your go-to place for staying at Disney World? Have you ever used points and stayed for free?