I’m saving $5,000. Want to join me?

For years, my husband Josh and I have had a “difference of opinion” about visiting Disney World. Put simply, he doesn’t want to go, unless we can go “for free” by using points and miles. While it’s possible to use Starwood points to stay at certain Disney properties (the Swan and the Dolphin) or to use a myriad of other points options to stay off-property, if I’m going to travel 3,000 miles across the country, I want to stay at the Grand Floridian. Nothing else will do.

The problem is that this hotel is incredibly expensive – rooms start at $500/night and skyrocket up from there – and there’s no way to pay for all of this with points. Especially because I want to stay in a club-level suite ($1,000/night). Am I crazy? No. No, I’m not. I just want to have an all-out Disney experience. And I’m going to get it for free.

Disney World, I’m coming for you.

I’ve come up with a plan for how to save up for this extravagant vacation – without taking a dime from our family budget. This post is the first in a series of many (how many? who knows?), in which I will detail my process and progress. Follow along if you like! Choose your own goal – it doesn’t have to be Disney World, it can be anything – and track your progress along with me.

My goal is to save $5,000.

Normally, when I take advantage of a deal, I just cycle the cash I earn back into our family bank accounts. I figure it’s all going to the same place anyway. However, starting now, I’m going to start funneling my profits into a separate account. That way, I can keep track of how much I’ve earned with all of the various Amex promos and free gift cards and anything else that comes up. My goal is $5,000.

Here’s what I’ve done so far (I’ve already made $1,070!)

In the past couple of weeks, a few very solid deals have surfaced. Here are the ones I’ve snapped up:

1. Amex Smart and Final

This amazing deal was worth a whopping $825 to me. Amex is offering a $25 statement credit when you make a single purchase of $50 or more at a Smart and Final store with your synced Amex card. You can get up to 3 statement credits per enrolled card, and since Josh and I have 11 Amex cards between the two of us (3 cards for me, 4 for him, and 4 authorized users between us), this pencils out very nicely for us. We used our cards to purchase $50 Amazon gift cards, which we will definitely use up quickly, as we order from Amazon multiple times a week (yes – really. We’ve got two kids and we work full-time – Amazon is our savior).

You can click here to sync your Amex card with your Twitter account, and click here to unsync. If you’ve got more than one Amex card, you can sync and unsync each card in succession to load the deal onto each of your cards. To load the deal, simply tweet #AmexSmartFinal.

Another way to accomplish this is to use the “multiple browser” trick to sync up all of your cards.

This link contains the details for this promo.

Tip: If you are using Twitter, just make sure you get confirmation from Amex that your card is connected and the offer is loaded before you unsync!

2. Amex Sam’s Club

Another fantastic deal – $20 off an online $20 Sam’s Club purchase. Read the details here, but the idea is the same as the deal above. To activate this offer on all of your Amex cards, you’ll either need to load this offer using the multiple browser trick, or sync/unsync all of your cards with Twitter.

I loaded this deal onto 9 out of my 11 cards (Twitter issues, another story), so this was worth $180 to me. What did I buy? Disney gift cards, of course 😉

Tip: you can split tender on your transaction and use two Amex cards for each purchase – just make sure you allocate at least $20 per card.

3. Amex Inspirato 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a random email I got inviting me to join Amex Inspirato and offering a $25 gift card for “learning more” about the program. As promised, I got a $25 gift card in the mail! Since it arrived a few days ago, I’m adding it to this account.

4. Target College Registry

Currently, there is a deal at Target that will give you a $20 Target gift card for creating a college registry.

As my kids have gotten older, we’ve found that making birthday/Holiday wish lists online is a wonderful thing. For my kids, being able to add items to their lists is fun. For us (and for friends and family), it’s easy to shop for gifts. Since my kids didn’t have a Target registry yet, I used this opportunity to create one for each of them. Yes, technically it’s for college, but honestly they will likely still have the same, ongoing list until that time rolls around.

So, $20×2 = $40. Woo hoo!

Maximizing free.

I’m actually really excited to start keeping track of how much free money I earn. At this rate, I’ll reach my $5,000 goal in no time! However, I’ve also got some ideas for how to maximize the return on what I earn by using shopping portals and a few other tips and tricks.

Do you track your cashback savings? What’s your savings goal? I’d love to know!

 

Comments

  1. If you are going to actually pay cash for a Grand Floridian suite you might want to look into renting DVC points and and staying in the time share side of the GF. You would need to plan further out to find availability, but the villas are brand new and insanely nice. A 1BR villa comes w/ a full kitchen and sleeps 5. Here’s a youtube tour if interested.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Shaun – Wow, that does look a LOT nicer than the hotel rooms. Thanks for the tip! I’ll definitely look into this option.

  2. What Disney gc denominations did you see on samsclub.com? I only saw the $150 multipack for $142.98. Do you know how often Sams Club restocks their gift card?

    I’m also planning a big trip to WDW + Disney Cruise for later this year! I agree. You should look into renting DVC points!

    • Points Pixie says:

      Ang – I bought the $150 multipack. I split tender on it so got the $20 statement credit on two cards, then “paid” for the rest of it with savings I got from the Smart and Final deal.

  3. I really don’t think the Grand Floridian is for you. I have stayed at almost every one of the WDW properties, and this was my LEAST favorite and I felt it was the least Disney like. Save your money! If you really want to stay at a deluxe, go with the Poly or the Contemporary, but truly the experience is really just as nice at the Port Orleans or another moderate. Heck, we even love the value resorts. We are trying out the Art of Animation for Memorial Day weekend. The GF is very stuffy and formal feeling.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Lynn – I love that you wrote this comment! Thanks so much for the info. I have never been to WDW so instead I’ve spent hours poring over the DisBoards trying to figure out which hotel would be best. Since we clearly have some time, I will continue to do research. Maybe the Poly??

      • When are you planning to go?

        Because I think they’re renovating the Poly right now. I’m not sure if it is even open.

        The Beach and Yacht resorts looked nice when we toured them a few weeks ago. At the end of our vacation, my Mom and I decided to do a “let’s tour WDW” for free day. So, we parked at Downtown disney and rode the buses around to a few resorts. Attended a marshmellow roast at the Animal Kingdom lodges and saw giraffes (and other animals too) for free! It was pretty cool.

        I think instead of focusing too much on the resorts, you should focus on WHEN you want to go-and since this is the first post I’m reading about your plans, maybe you have already done that 🙂

        Just finished (I think) Star Wars Weekends at WDW. There’s the 24 hour day at MK. There’s the food and wine festival at Epcot. There’s Christmas events (and the parade taping).

        Are you renting a car? If so, is there an event in Orlando that you want to see, such as the Magic playing, a concert, at side trip to Kennedy Space Center (it would be cool to see a liftoff, but those sometimes get pushed back so it’s always a gamble to go).

        On our very short tour of some resorts (5 in total, I think), we did see the Swan and Dolphin. My mom liked them. I did not. There’s also a Hilton by downtown that has Magic hours but no direct shuttle or bus to WDW. I think Dia (Deal Mommy) recently went to WDW; she might have some recent firsthand info for you too.

        That’s another thing: do you want to stay at a place that has the extra magic hours attached? And how Disney decorated do you want it to be?

        Oh, I almost forgot. Another criteria concerning when you are going is which park will be your main theme? Because seriously, like 1000ish feet from the Beach hotel is an entrance to Epcot. At the end of a long day, say for example you’re doing the 24 hours at MK, then you’d really want to stay at the nearest hotel (which is NOT the Beach hotel.LOL).

        You’ve got to add in the time it takes to get to the parks from each hotel if you are not renting a car.

        If you are renting a car, things change: there’s a Waldorf Astoria, Four Seasons, Bonnett Creek, etc. nearby. I have never stayed “on campus”; I stay about 30 minutes away. I tend to go to concerts in Orlando when I’m there, so it makes more sense for me to do that. There are a lot of less-expensive hotels everywhere that are actually really good.

        The Art of Animation is the newest hotel. I want to see that next- it looks really awesome.

        Looking forward to your journey blogging to WDW!

  4. Cynthia says:

    I echo Lynn’s thoughts. I have been to most of the resorts and own DVC points. Grand Floridian is overrated. Our next trip I rented points from another member to get the early booking advantage and have a Concierge level studio room at Animal Kingdom Lodge, that I paid about $250 a night for. Their tasty treats come from the restaurants there.

  5. Cynthia says:

    Check out mouseowners.com too. Easy going group, with happy people and a great Rent/trade board.

  6. I think you should also consider either the Boardwalk or Beach/Yacht Club. If this is an adults only trip these resorts are a 5 minute walk to the back of EPCOT. This is great because you can do the other parks in the day then come home and end the evening drinking around EPCOT. I think the Magic Kindgdom resorts are a better area to stay if you have young kids. I’ve stayed at all the resorts myself and like the EPCOT area resorts better.

    One thing to remember is that even though Disney calls them deluxe resorts, the higher end resorts are not on par w/ brands like Four Seasons or Ritz etc even though the prices are. They are nice for sure, but in my opinion the higher prices at high end Disney hotels are based 95% due to location.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Shaun – Yeah, as they say, “location, location, location!” You’re definitely right about the higher-end resorts not being on par with Four Seasons. While I don’t have experience at WDW, it’s definitely the case at Disneyland.

  7. I will second the recommendation to look into renting DVC points and getting a multi-bedroom unit for probably less than you’d pay for a typical hotel room. You can many private listings on various Disney boards and there are also a few commercial services you can easily find (they usually charge a few bucks more per point but if you don’t want to deal with someone privately, it’s a good option. I don’t know your dates but if you look for example at a 1-bedroom during a moderate season for about $750 per night (that includes tax). There are also many other 1-3 bedrooms at other great resorts for less than Grand Floridian. Take a look.

  8. Disboards has a whole section devoted to rental of DVC points by the way! That where I’ve rented from.

  9. One more thing – look at the Disney vacation account. If you use that to save your funds, you’ll also get an extra $20 for every $1000 you spend out of the account. If you rent DVC points you probably won’t want to use that but if you get something direct from Disney, might be worth it.

  10. I own DVC Points and have been there over 30 times. I totally agree with Shaun about saving money by “renting” DVC points. The DVC Rental Store is a great place to book through. I have dealt with them several times, renting out my points, and they are very professional and great to deal with.

    I have stayed at many of the resorts – if I had young kids, I would go for the Beach Club Villas, as their pool is great, with a lazy river and slide. The rooms at Old Key West are the largest, I love it there, that is where we usually stay. The Polynesian just opened villas, some are out over the water, I think that would be cool.

    Even though the Grand Floridian is very beautiful, I wouldn’t choose that first either. With anything you choose, you WILL save money, probably close to half, by renting the DVC points.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Ann – Ok! Sold! Now my next “job” (in quotes because it’s fun and not really a job at all) is to look into DVC points.

  11. Christina says:

    Glad to see there are other points collectors whose goals are Disney or bust! We were able to take advantage of the smart and final offer, which codes as groceries on my amex as well (did you include those saving?) to save on Disneyland tickets.

    I also thought GF would be my dream resort, but after staying at Beach club, I’ve been swayed! Can’t beat walking into Epcot for dinner and fireworks just because you can! I still would like the chance to stay at Poly, but maybe will just have to make do with a substitute trip to Hawaii instead.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Christina – Disney or bust! The Smart and Final offer has been great. I didn’t include those savings because it just got to be too much tracking.

  12. I clicked your link to the Target college registry but did not see the offer? Is it still live?

  13. Shannon says:

    The GF rooms are beautiful. We toured them on a DVC tour. If you plan on spending a lot of time at MK, then it may be worth it. The Beach Club is cool with their sand bottom pool. Plus, the location to Epcot is fantastic! I love a beautiful room, but how much time do you plan on being in your room? I’d choose a hotel closest to whatever park you think you’ll spend the most time at. The Poly is almost great because of it’s location and great restaurants.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Shannon – Thank you for your comment! You’re right – how much time will we spend in our room??

  14. Just curious what everyone’s thoughts are about spending flexible currencies on Disney trips. Last year I took my son to WDW during “off season” (i.e. while school was in session), and I found that I was able to book a room at Pop Century for 9k Thank You points/night. Considering I get points every month just for my relationship with Citi (mortgage, checking accounts, etc), and I have more than enough UR, MR, SPG, and other points currencies to otherwise fly or stay where I want, I thought this was actually a very good use of points to make a Disney trip much cheaper. Of course, you wouldn’t get anywhere near the same value booking the deluxe resorts on TY points, since they were asking something like 75k/night, but I actually rather enjoy the value resorts at Disney when I go with my kids, mainly due to the theming. I know that for some people, spending flexible points on anything other than transferring to airline/hotel programs is blasphemy. 🙂

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