How to Stay at Disney Hotels for Cheap (or Free)

With some exceptions, booking a hotel nearby but not on property will likely be the best way to save.

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Disney makes you feel like you’ve entered a fantasy world. Why leave that when the park closes? Staying at a Disney-owned hotel is one way to keep the magic going throughout your entire trip, and it may come with some cool perks like transportation to the parks and Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.

But all that sleeping and eating at a Disney hotel comes at a cost. And that’s not even counting the money you’ll spend on park tickets and souvenirs that your kid (or let’s be real, you) must have.

Still, there are several ways to save money on a Disney vacation, and finding cheap Disney hotels is one of them. You might even want to consider staying at a nearby hotel that’s not Disney-owned to expand your options.

Let’s take a look at the different ways to stay at Disney hotels for cheap — or even free.

Strategies to stay at Disney hotels for less

Turn to the Disney website, its annual passes and vacation package options, or your credit card travel portal to improve your chances of finding cheap Disney hotels.

Check Disney’s site for deals

If you’re set on staying at Disney property, then you should go straight to the source. Disney lists its current deals here:

You can expect to see some recurring deals, like special offers for military members and annual passholders.

To take advantage of the more seasonal deals for the general public, it pays to be flexible. Some deals only apply to certain days of the week, like Sundays through Thursdays, and it’s not uncommon to see blackout dates for school holidays. If you can work around the restrictions, you’ve found yourself a deal.

Book a vacation package

Since you’ll likely need to buy theme park tickets (and deals on those are hard to come by as well), you might find some savings if you bundle the two expenses. Do the math before you buy to make sure you’re actually getting some savings.

Costco Travel offers some Disney vacation packages for members. For example, Costco Travel’s vacation package for a three-night stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort with three day, one park tickets for two people comes in at less than $2,000.

Meanwhile, Disney is charging $300 more for the same package.

Consider getting an annual pass

People who live in Florida or Southern California might actually save money on their hotel/park tickets by getting an annual pass if available. For Disneyland, annual passes are called Magic Key passes.

Passholders often get discounts of 25% to 30% on hotels. Depending on how many days you will realistically visit the park, the annual pass might be worth it.

Use credit card points

Most Disney properties are not bookable with hotel points, but if you earn travel rewards through your credit card, you might still be able to stay on-site.

For example, if you earn Capital One miles through a card like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, you can redeem your points for travel at a rate of one cent per point through the Capital One Travel portal.

The portal lists a variety of hotels at Disney. It includes a variety of Disney’s hotels, from the budget-friendly All-Star resorts (the cheapest Disney resorts) to the more premium Animal Kingdom Lodge.

If you can’t find Disney properties through your credit card’s travel redemption portal, you could also pay for the hotel booking and offset it with a travel credit or statement credit. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card allow you to use your miles to get reimbursed for a travel purchase.

Both the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offer a similar redemption option to redeem points as a statement credit against travel and other types of purchases.

Expand your options to Disney-area hotels

If you can’t make your budget work with the smart money strategies outlined above, consider widening your scope to include non-Disney properties in the surrounding areas. This can improve your odds of finding a good deal.

Redeem hotel points

You can cover the cost of your lodging with hotel points if you stay at a chain participating in one of the major hotel loyalty programs.

Nearby Disney World, in particular, there are many hotels you can book with points. Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, Wyndham and Choice Hotels all have properties in the area. Two of the best options around belong to Marriott, whose Swan and Dolphin hotels have the distinction of being the only chain hotels on Disney property. They even come with access to extended park hours, which some of the lower-tier Disney properties don’t offer anyway.

Marriott no longer has an award chart, but you can expect to spend between 40,000 and 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night at the Swan or Dolphin hotels.

One of the easiest ways to earn hotel reward points is by holding one of the hotel’s credit cards. Marriott has a handful, including a business card option. You can also transfer points over from American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards® to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio.

Or you could use your credit card travel portal to find deals as well. While you won’t find any outsized redemption values when redeeming your points (usually they’re worth just one cent a piece in a travel portal), you may end up spending less points that way. We found rooms near Disney World for under $30 (or 3,000 points) per night.

Use free night certificates

Another option for travelers includes the use of multiple credit cards to stack stays together. Many different credit cards come with an annual free night certificate each year that you hold the card.

Although these certificates are generally limited in redemption options and how many you’ll receive each year, it is possible to stack quite a few of these together in order to create an almost-free stay.

Check out some of the credit cards with annual free night certificates, and find out whether you can earn additional certificates after meeting a spend threshold. Combine these with points for a longer vacation in a single hotel, or try hotel-hopping at different properties.

If you want to stay at a Disney hotel for cheap

It might seem difficult to find cheap Disney hotels. You might get lucky and find a deal that works for you. Otherwise, you should look at options at off-property hotels where it may be easier to find lower rates and redeem your points. Maybe after an entire day or several days at the parks, you won’t need Disney-manufactured magic to sleep, too.

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.


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