My family and I just returned from a pretty successful vacation to San Diego, California with a day at Disneyland thrown in there. I say “pretty” successful because flying cross country and staying at two hotels with a four year old and an almost 18 month old was not a walk in the park… lesson learned. But it was very fun and we would do it again in a heartbeat!
Rewind to fall of 2017, I found myself at our local library reading the latest Money Magazine. I happened upon an article “What it really cost to go to Disney World.” I was horrified that the average cost was $6,360. The cheapest you could effectively go would be around $3,564 and the cats meow vacation would be $9,781! Later that night I explained to my wife that I doubt we take our girls because those prices are ridiculous… I quickly realized I would not win this argument! I resigned myself to the realization that I needed to explore every opportunity to lesson the impact vacation on the budget. In no way shape or form would I ever hold back on contributions to our Roth IRAs and Education Savings Accounts just to go to Disney World. I happened upon the travel rewards and travel hacking. Read the linked articles to understand how the process worked. Remember I am a Dave Ramsey fan and this was very hard for me. I went from a zero credit score to six credit cards… crazy… felt like a I sold my soul to the devil. We ended up going to Disneyland rather than Disney World because I read that Disneyland was better for the age of my girls. Disclaimer: Only try this is if you have no credit card debt. Meet Dave Ramsey and have a solid budget in place. DO NOT GO INTO CREDIT CARD DEBT TO ATTEMPT THIS!
Down to the numbers:
|Southwest Flight =||$1,100||Actual cost to us=||$31|
|Alamo Car Rental=||$450||Actual cost to us=||$0|
|Marriott Hotels=||$2,056||Actual cost to us=||$3.00|
|Disney Land Tickets=||$344||Actual cost to us=||$193|
|Parking Cost=||$351||Actual cost to us=||$351.00|
|Misc. Food/Fun/ Fuel||$1,058||Actual cost to us=||$865|
|Total Cost=||$5,359||Actual cost to us=||$1,443|
|Credit card fees=||$544|
|Total Cost to us=||$1,987|
|Minus Actual Cost To Us||($1,987)|
Now remember the points/ miles earned could be viewed as fake money. The only way you actually save money is when you were already going to spend the money on a vacation. I had resigned myself to the realization that I would be taking my family to Disney World or Disneyland. Therefore, the money saved is essentially a tax free advantage!
Credit Cards Used:
Make no mistake this was not that easy. It took some work to keep track of our finances, change which account our bills were coming out of, and tracking the points received. Richmondsavers.com has a very good guide that comes with a spread sheet to make tracking a little easier. You need to track annual fees and the date the card was opened and closed. Below is a list of the cards that I used along with a hyperlink to sign up if interested. Once again start by reading travel rewards and travel hacking to understand why this is effective and how to do it!
- Chase Sapphire Preferred 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points (used for car rental and one hotel night)
- Southwest Airlines Card and Southwest Airlines Business Cards (105,000 miles and acquired the companion pass for our flights)
3. Marriott Rewards Card and Marriott Business Card (150,000 reward points used for five nights in a very nice downtown San Diego hotel!
4. Disney Card ($200 statement credit to make Disneyland tickets cheaper!)
Moving on… with more travel rewards!
We only ended up using a small amount of our Ultimate Reward Points through the Chase Sapphire Preferred. My wife and I will be planning a vacation from this vacation with kids, very soon! Moving forward it was extremely easy to cancel all the cards that I have exhausted to make this trip happen. I am going to keep the Chase Sapphire Preferred card due to the fact that it’s Ultimate Reward Points program was significantly more valuable than any other card.
At the very least if you have no interest in Disney… you’re lucky, but you can maximize your choices for redeeming points. No matter the reason many of us take vacations and want to enjoy the most of them. Travel rewards are legit and you get more monetary value out of redeeming points for travel versus any other offerings. If you do not have the time or do not want to put the effort in to open several credit cards to travel hack… in my opinion, if you’re going to have a credit card go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
DO NOT GET INTO CREDIT CARD DEBT! Please only try this if you do not carry a balance and have your budget/ finances in order. Have the discipline to not overspend, or you are not saving money in the long run!