From having tea with a princess to graduating from Jedi training, a trip to Disney is a memory your family won’t soon forget. Every summer both kids and kids-at-heart flock to Orlando, Florida, or Los Angeles to shake hands with Mickey, hug Minnie and experience the magic of Disney.

With such high demand, the cost of a Disney trip continues to climb faster than a ship on Space Mountain.

Luckily, points and miles are like pixie dust that can turn a bank-account-crushing vacation into a weightless journey your family won’t soon forget. Think of a magical thing and let’s set off on a gravity-defying trip to Disney for almost nothing out of pocket.

How to Fly to Disney World

Of the two U.S.-based Disney parks, Disney World in Orlando, is the most popular. It offers several parks including:

  • Animal Kingdom
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Magic Kingdom

If you’re fresh out of pixie dust and your X-Wing is in the shop, you’re going to have to hop on a plane to fly to Orlando (MCO). No matter where your Disney trip begins, one of these three airlines can be your magic carpet ride for nothing more than taxes and fees.

Southwest Airlines with Companion Pass

The go-to airline while traveling domestically with a family is Southwest Airlines. With family boarding and a generous free baggage allowance, Southwest makes traveling with kids a breeze.

Southwest also offers its coveted Companion Pass. This perk allows the holder to bring a plus-one on any flight for free, with the exception of $5.60 for taxes and fees per person per direction.

You can book Southwest flights to Orlando for as few as 8,500 points each way. For instance, check out this nonstop flight originating in Chicago-O’Hare (ORD).

How to Fly to Disney World with Southwest Airlines Companion Pass

Redeeming Points for Southwest Flights

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio or earn Rapid Rewards Points from one of many Southwest cards offered by Chase.

Book American Airlines Flights with British Airways Avios

If Southwest doesn’t have routes to Orlando from your preferred airport, check out British Airways. No, the London-based carrier doesn’t have domestic routes to Mickey. However, British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance, allowing you to use Avios points to book American Airlines flights.

British Airways Executive Club uses a distance-based award chart for partner bookings, allowing you to secure airline tickets for as few as 9,000 points per segment. If you can find a direct route to Orlando, your total redemption could be as low as 18,000 Avios for a round-trip flight.

Book American Airlines Flights with British Airways Avios

Here’s a list of destinations with direct flights to Orlando on American Airlines:

  • Austin, Texas (AUS)
  • Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT)
  • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Washington-Reagan National (DCA)

Redeeming British Airways Avios

You can earn British Airways Avios by applying for and meeting the minimum spend on the British Airways Visa Signature® card from Chase.

You can also transfer the following points at a 1:1 ratio to your Executive Club account to complete your booking.

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Capital One Venture Miles

Although you can’t transfer Citi ThankYou Points to British Airways Avios, you can transfer ThankYou Points to your Qatar Airways Privilege Club account. Privilege Club Avios transfer to Executive Club Avios at an even swap.

Although that involves a bit of work, British Airways Avios are one of the easiest points to earn since points from multiple programs can convert into Avios.

If you’re lucky enough to originate your flight from one of these airports, using British Airways Avios to book American Airlines flights is likely your best bet.

Book United Airlines Flights with Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

Another surprising option for booking a flight to Disney is using Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles to book United flights.

Turkish Airlines’ partnership with United allows you to book domestic award flights for 7,500 Miles&Smiles miles each way within the United States, regardless of the distance. This is a great option for those traveling long distances or with multiple connections. Because of its fixed-rate pricing, you’ll pay the same rate whether originating from Seattle or Miami.

Redeeming Miles&Smiles

The catch to using Miles&Smiles points to book United flights is you must find Saver award availability on United. However, keep in mind that even if there is Saver award availability on United, it doesn’t always show up on the Miles&Smiles website. If you can see availability on United’s site, but the Miles&Smiles website tells you there’s no availability, you may have to call Turkish Airlines to complete your booking.

You can transfer Capital One Venture Miles or Citi ThankYou Points to Miles&Smiles at a 1:1 ratio.

How to Fly to Disneyland

If your destination is the West Coast version of the magical world of Disney, all the above strategies still work. Instead of flying to Orlando, you’ll want to set your sights on Los Angeles (LAX).

Southwest has a plethora of flights in and out of Los Angeles. As long as Southwest operates out of your local airport you’ll have no trouble getting to Mickey.

You’ll also have a few more direct flight options if you’re using Executive Club Avios to book American Airlines flights.

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Austin (AUS)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Chicago-O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina (RDU)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Nashville, Tennessee (BNA)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Washington-Reagan National (DCA)

Since distance is irrelevant when booking domestic United flights with Miles&Smiles, you shouldn’t notice a difference in redemption rates between flights to Orlando or Los Angeles. However, availability will likely differ.

Where to Stay Near Disney World

There are more than 25 hotels on Disney World property. However, staying on site with Disney using points is difficult.

Because most hotels on Disney property are owned by Disney itself, you can’t redeem hotel points to book your stay. However, there are a few Disney resorts that are within the Marriott portfolio. Namely the Walt Disney World Dolphin, the Walt Disney World Swan and the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.

You can use Marriott Bonvoy points or transferrable points to book these hotels and still sleep close enough to the park to hear Goofy’s snores.

Keep in mind that Marriott recently eliminated their award chart, but for now, prices are decently consistent with the old award chart. Point requirements below are rough amounts and may vary depending on time of year and availability.

Walt Disney World Dolphin

You can see the Disney EPCOT Center from most rooms at the Dolphin, which is a Marriott property. Disney World Resort guests may access the theme park 30 minutes before the official opening time. A free shuttle runs from the Marriott Dolphin to each of the four Disney parks.

When you’re not rattling across Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or getting dizzy in a teacup, the adults can relax beside the grotto pools while the kids take to the water slides or playground.

The hotel features 22 restaurants, allowing for any kind of meal, from a quick snack to a formal dinner prepared by celebrity chef Todd English.

Nights at the Marriott Dolphin start at $273 or range from 42,000 to 70,000 Bonvoy points per night. No matter how you pay, you’ll also be on the hook for a $40 daily resort fee. Recently, Marriott started including this fee in the nightly price.

In exchange for the mandatory resort fee, you’ll gain some benefits including:

  • Day pass to the Mandara Spa (for Silver Elite status members and above)
  • High-speed internet
  • Live instructor-led fitness classes
  • Paddle boat rentals

If you’re about to book a night for fewer than 50,000 Bonvoy points, consider using a free night certificate you may have earned with your Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (see rates & fees). Because these free night certificates are good for stays worth up to 85,000 Bonvoy points, staying at the Dolphin Swan on an off-peak night could maximize your benefit out of it.

If your chosen night is just a smidge above 85,000 Bonvoy points, you can top off your certificate with up to 15,000 additional Bonvoy points, meaning your free night certificate might be helpful for any night under 100,000 points.

Where to Stay Near Disney World

Walt Disney World Swan Reserve

The Walt Disney World’s Swan Reserve is another Marriott-branded hotel on Disney property.

You’ll get more bang for your buck using Marriott Bonvoy points for your stay. Cash rates start at $489 per night, but you can book this hotel with Marriott points for 54,000 to 70,000 points per night, depending on dates.

Like with the Marriott Dolphin, you’ll pay a $40 resort fee regardless of how you pay for your reservation, which is included in the nightly price.

Along with using Bonvoy points for your stay, the Swan Reserve is an American Express Hotel Collection property. This means it’s eligible for the $100 hotel credit on The Platinum Card® from American Express when reserved through American Express Travel.

Staying at Disney World’s Swan Reserve allows you access to not just its amenities but the amenities of the other Disney Marriott properties: the Swan and Dolphin.

Every suite in the Disney World Swan Reserve has views of Disney property, so your kids can witness the nightly firework magic in the comfort of their pajamas with their pillows close at hand.

The hotel features 14 bars and restaurants, a heated pool and luxurious finishes throughout.

Walt Disney World Swan Reserve

Hyatt Buena Vista

The Hyatt Buena Vista isn’t on Disney property. However, it’s accessible to Disney property by a free shuttle that makes its rounds to several area hotels. Alternatively, you can charter a private shuttle for a nominal fee.

If you have access to a car, it’s about a 10-minute drive to the theme park entrance. You’ll pay $12 per day to park. Unlike the Dolphin or the Swan hotels, the Hyatt Place has free breakfast, which scores it big points if you’re traveling with a troupe of growing kids.

Normally, this hotel charges $179 per night, but you can secure a night for 8,000 World of Hyatt points.

While you won’t enjoy a view of Disney property nor can you waltz onto Mickey’s lawn 30 minutes before the general public, the Hyatt Buena Vista is a great low-cost option if you don’t have adequate Marriott points to stay at an on-property resort or you simply don’t need the luxury and proximity that come with staying at a resort.

Hyatt Buena Vista

Where to Stay Near Disneyland

Disneyland’s footprint is smaller than Disney World’s, so you’ll find fewer hotels within striking distance.

Disneyland has three on-site hotels: the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. Unfortunately, the only way to book these properties with points is to utilize a card that issues statement credits for travel-related purchases like those available through Capital One and Barclay’s. You might also check the travel portal with your card of choice.

The Disneyland Hotel

Each of the Disney property hotels allows guests park access 30 minutes before opening. While the Grand Californian and the Paradise Pier Hotel have their own private entrances, the Disneyland Hotel accesses the park via monorail.

While staying on site can be pricey, it comes with its perks. Charging park purchases to your room will allow you to maximize the travel category on your credit card of choice. You can also utilize the next-day package delivery service, which allows you to have souvenir purchases in the park delivered to your room the next day. This can save you hours of giving a life-sized stuffed Pooh Bear a piggyback ride throughout the park.

The Disneyland Hotel comes equipped with two pools featuring water slides and poolside cabanas. You’ll find three restaurants from a fast-casual Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar to an all-you-can-eat buffet at Goofy’s Kitchen.

What about the price tag? Starting at $631 per night, the Disneyland Hotel is no bargain.

Although there are no hotel points eligible for redemptions at the Disney Hotel, you could book your stay with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and get a rebate for the charge at a rate of 1 cent per point after it codes as travel.

Where to Stay Near Disneyland-The Disney Hotel

Hyatt House Anaheim Resort Convention Center

The Hyatt House Anaheim Resort Convention Center is a 15-minute walk to Disneyland.

While the property amenities are fairly basic, it does offer an outdoor pool with a hot tub, a fitness center and free breakfast. Rates start at $256 per night or 12,000 World of Hyatt points. With Hyatt’s introduction of off-peak, standard and peak pricing, you can expect to pay up to 18,000 points per night.

Hyatt House Anaheim Resort Convention Center

The Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance

The Courtyard Anaheim sits just across the street from Disneyland and offers its guests access to its private waterpark. You can redeem Bonvoy points for this stay since Courtyard is a Marriott brand.

Although the hotel doesn’t have free breakfast, you will find an on-site restaurant. Rates start at $450 or 52,000 Bonvoy points per night and go all the way up to 85,000 points per night. More typically, you can expect this hotel to range in between 72,000 and 85,000 points per night. Although parking costs $35 per day, you can easily avoid needing a car with access to the park across the street.

The Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance

This is a great property for a family. An on-site waterpark provides hours of fun on your “off” days or after a hot day at the park. Double queen rooms consist of two queen beds and a set of twin bunk beds, sleeping up to six guests in a single hotel room.

With plenty of space for the family to spread out, walking distance access to the park and waterpark passes included in your stay, there are lots of reasons to use the Courtyard Anaheim as your home base for your Disney trip.

What About Park Passes?

Although points and miles can certainly help you pay for your flights and stay at Disney, purchasing Disney park passes with points is a bit more difficult.

You’ll want to look to utilize cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. If you can purchase your park passes in a way that codes as travel, these cards will allow you to redeem points at a rate of 1 point to 1 cent to cover the charge. Consider purchasing your passes from Expedia, Orbitz or Undercover Tourist, which all code as travel, then reimbursing your charge once it posts.

Alternatively, you can complete your purchase on your American Express, Chase or Citi card and redeem your points for a statement credit. Redeeming points this way will net you a redemption value ranging from 0.6 to 1 cent per point. You can generally do much better with your points, but the low rate might be worth it if you’re looking to stretch your bucks to reach Disney.

Final Thoughts

A trip to Disney doesn’t have to be once in a lifetime. By redeeming your hard-earned points and miles, you can enjoy the magic of Disney on or off park property without having the Scrooge McDuck kind of money.

Will you use your points to complete a dream trip at a Disney park resort? Or will you become a Disney frequent flyer knowing the trip is so affordable?