How to Plan a Trip to Disney World on Points for Canadians

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A trip to Disney World is a bucket list experience for many families. However, since the cost to go is so expensive, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many people. Based on my cost to go to Disney World guide, you should budget about CA$9,000 for a family of four.

Admittedly that price may seem crazy (because it is), but I actually travel to Disney World almost every year and don’t spend nearly that much. In fact, I spend next to nothing when I head down to Orlando since I tend to cash in all my loyalty points. Here’s how to play a trip to Disney World on points for Canadians

Flights to Disney World on points

Disney World on points for Canadians is surprisingly easy for flights since multiple carriers fly to Orlando directly. That said, some carriers only fly seasonally, so you should establish your route as early as possible to know what points to collect.

Air Canada – Aeroplan

Air Canada offers direct service to Orlando International Airport (MCO) year-round from Toronto and Montreal. They also have seasonal direct flights from Ottawa, Quebec City and Halifax. Even if you live in other parts of the country, it’s easy to get to Orlando with Air Canada since they fly to so many Canadian cities.

Air Canada’s loyalty program is called Aeroplan. Generally speaking, it’ll cost you roughly 30,000 – 50,000 Aeroplan points for a return flight to Orlando during the summer if you’re flying from eastern Canada. If you’re flying to Western Canada, it could easily cost double that. That said, if you fly non-peak, the cost could be half what I estimated.

Here’s a quick look at what flights cost in July of 2023 (note that I searched in May, so that’s only two months out). Booking early usually results in lower fares.

Toronto to Orlando

Calgary to Orlando

Vancouver to Orlando

As you can see, it gets more expensive the further west you’re flying from. That’s because Aeroplan uses a rewards chart based on distance flown. If you live in Alberta or British Columbia, I think you’re probably better off going to Disneyland. It’s not the same experience, but it’s a better value.

Earning Aeroplan points

The good thing about Aeroplan is that it’s easy to earn points. For example, if you look at my list of the best Aeroplan credit cards, it’s not hard for families to earn 200,000 – 300,000 Aeroplan points a year. The trick is to have both parents apply for cards and to mix co-branded Aeroplan credit cards with American Express credit cards that earn you Membership Rewards points. Those points can be transferred to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, so you can see how easy it is to earn Aeroplan points. Best of all, Aeroplan has a family sharing plan where you can pool your points, which makes trip planning a lot easier.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card

  • $599 annual fee
  • Earn 60,000 points when spending $7,500 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 25,000 points per month when spending $2,500 in month 13
  • Earn 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada, 2 points on dining and food delivery, and 1.25 points on all other purchases
  • Unlimited free access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America for you and a guest
  • Free first checked bag, priority check-in and boarding on Air Canada
  • MESSAGE ME FOR A REFERRAL LINK

WestJet – WestJet Rewards

If you live in Vancouver (once a week), Calgary or Toronto, you can get year-round direct service to MCO. In addition, WestJet does seasonal direct flights from Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Halifax. For many people, flying direct is preferred, so going with WestJet might be an obvious choice.

With WestJet Rewards, you earn WestJet dollars. While this program is simple to understand, it leaves you with limited options. That’s because you can only apply your WestJet dollars to the base fare. In other words, there’s no real opportunity to get a cheap reward flight since your rewards are cash-based.

That said, there is one trick with WestJet Rewards that can be appealing to families trying to figure out how to plan a trip to Disney World on points. Both WestJet credit cards come with an annual companion voucher. This voucher allows a travelling companion to travel with the primary cardholder at a lower base fare. If both parents were to get a WestJet credit card, they’d have two vouchers. That’s ideal for families of four.

The value of the voucher depends on the card you get:

Here’s how the savings would work if you have a WestJet companion voucher and you’re flying from Orlando.

Note that during this search, there was a promo where the base fare for the companion voucher would be $0. That’s why you don’t see the $119 or $199 base fare charge for the companion. That said, let’s assume I should have paid $119 for the second passenger. Since the base fare is $532, I’d save $413. For a family that has two vouchers, that’s $826 saved. 

Earning WestJet Rewards

It’s also worth noting that if you sign up for the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, the welcome bonus is usually worth at least $250. For a family that has two cards, that’s $500. The card does have an annual fee of $119, so you’re actually ahead by $262. In other words, you could easily save $1,000+ on a trip to Orlando as a family. Just make sure you sign up for the card a few months before you plan on purchasing your airfare so you have time to meet the minimum spend requirement and to get your companion voucher deposited.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

  • $119 annual fee
  • 450 WestJet dollars when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 2% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages
  • Earn 1.5% back on all other purchases
  • Receive a round-trip companion voucher – every year – for any WestJet destination starting from $119 (plus taxes, fees, charges and other ATC)
  • Get free first checked bags for the primary cardholder and up to 8 guests on the same reservation

Other airlines – Flexible points

Discount carriers are worth looking at when you’re looking into how to plan a trip to Disney World on points. These airlines tend to be a bit no frills, but they typically offer lower prices compared to the major airlines:

  • Air Transat (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Moncton, and Halifax)
  • Lynx Air (Toronto only and seasonal)
  • Swoop (Toronto to Orlando Sanford Airport seasonally)
  • Flair (Toronto to Orlando Sanford Airport seasonally)
  • Sunwing (Toronto only and seasonal)

It’s also worth mentioning that if you live near the U.S. border, it may be worth it to cross and fly with a discount carrier. You can fly directly from Buffalo with Frontier, JetBlue and Southwest to MCO. Alaska and Delta fly directly to MCO from Seattle. Alternatively, you can get to Orlando with a single stopover from Bellingham International Airport, which is only 30 minutes from the border.

If you find these airlines or routes more convenient, you could use your points earned from a bank travel rewards program such as Scene+, BMO Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. These programs offer the most flexibility. If you collect RBC Rewards, TD Rewards and CIBC Rewards, you’ll have to redeem your points via their respective travel portals. 

Disney World hotels on points

What’s great about Orlando is that there are many properties you can book on points. Generally, Canadians will want to focus on Marriott Bonvoy properties since those are the easiest points to earn. You’ll also want to think about what type of stay you want. For example, do you want luxury, family-friendly, or the lowest cost?

On-site properties

Three Marriott properties are located in the same complex on the Walt Disney World property. This is relevant since staying on-site gets you early access to the theme parks. Even though you’ll get in just 30 minutes early, it essentially guarantees you’ll get on one or two of the top rides. This alone makes it worthwhile.

Note that with Marriott Bonvoy, you get the fifth night free when booking on points. This is a natural sweet spot that you should aim for. Below, you’ll see the cost of a five-night stay in July. 

As you can see, Walt Disney World Swan is typically the cheapest Marriott Bonvoy property, but Walt Disney World Swan Reserve also offers good value since you’re getting a cost per point (CPP) of 1.22 cents. Note that this CPP is only higher due to the fifth-night free bonus.

It’s worth noting that these properties have no lounge and come with a US$40 per day resort fee and another $25 state fee. Resort fees are standard in Orlando, but they’re a little less if you stay off-site.

Family-friendly properties

If you go off-site, you can find many properties that require fewer points for a redemption. I’m not even talking about going that far out. If you search “Lake Buena Vista,” you’ll find many properties that are a 10-minute drive away from Disney World. 

Here’s a sample of some of the cheaper hotels

Although the CPP may not be as high as on-site properties, you’ll spend less than half the points. Of course, resort, state and parking fees still apply. Some of these hotels even offer a free shuttle to Disney World. I typically prefer to stay in this area as the number of points required is quite reasonable. It’s part of the reason why I’m able to travel hack Disney World every year.

Luxury hotels

Now, if you’re the type of person that has a lot of Marriott Bonvoy points and you prefer to stay in style, then you’ll want to consider one of the following three properties.

The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Grand Lakes are located in the same complex. The property was recently upgraded and has an on-site water park. That said, Grand Lakes is pretty isolated. If you want to be closer to the action, the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek is right by Disney Springs and a short drive to Walt Disney World.

Earning Marriott Bonvoy points

Earning Marriott Bovnoy points is easy for Canadians. The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card typically comes with a welcome bonus of 55,000 – 75,000 points. If both parents signed up for the card, they’d have up to 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That’s enough for a five-night stay at quite a few properties. In addition, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1 ratio.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards give you a free annual night worth up to 35,000 points. This benefit alone could make keeping the card worth it. You could then use those free nights to offset your hotel stays, but each partner would have to book that night separately, and you can’t combine it with the fifth-night free promo.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • 55,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 in the first 3 (must use a referral link)
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per $1 spent at participating Marriott properties
  • Earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points for per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points
  • MESSAGE ME FOR A REFERRAL LINK

Other hotels on points

Although I’ve focused on Marriott properties, several Hilton and Hyatt hotels are also in the area. I actually like the Hilton Hotels in Orlando, but using your points is not the best value. The easiest way for Canadians to earn Hilton Honors points is to transfer them from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. The problem is that one Hilton Honor point is typically worth about .5 cents each.

That’s not exactly the best value. You’d be better off charging your Hilton stay to your American Express credit card and then redeeming your points as a statement credit. This would give you a value of one cent per point.

How to plan a trip to Disney World on points

Walt Disney World Tickets on points

When researching how to plan a trip to Disney World on points for Canadians, you’ll quickly realize that theme park tickets have limited redemption options. You’ll need to use a roundabout trick or some of your flexible travel rewards points.

Air Miles – sort of

Air Miles has been devalued over the years, but if you’re sitting on a bunch of Dream Miles, you can redeem them for Walt Disney World tickets via redtag.ca. Redtag is one of the few Air Miles partners left, so this is an excellent way to use your points.

If you don’t collect Air Miles already, don’t start just for Disney’s sake. You’re better off focusing your points accumulation on flights and hotels. If you’re paying just for attraction tickets, it’s a little easier to stomach.

American Express Cobalt Card

The American Express Cobalt Card gives you 5 points per dollar spent at grocery stores. Well, many grocery stores sell Disney gift cards. Those gift cards can be applied to your Disney app. Within the app, you can purchase theme park tickets. You can see where I’m going with this.

While this strategy won’t give you your tickets for free, you’re essentially earning a 5% return by going this route. Alternatively, you can use it as another way to earn Aeroplan points (remember, you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan). 

Disney World tickets start at US$109 a day. In the summer, it’s closer to US$150 a day. For a family of four that intends to see all four parks, that’s US$2,400 (CA$,3200). As you can see, that’s a lot of points you could earn. Alternatively, you could buy Disney gift cards with any new credit card you signed up for. This would help you naturally meet the minimum spend requirement.

American Express Cobalt Card

  • $12.99 Monthly fee ($155.88 yearly)
  • 1,250 monthly points when charging $750 each month for a year (15,000 points total)
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • MESSAGE ME FOR A REFERRAL LINK

Paying cash

Even if you don’t use points to purchase your Disney World tickets, it’s worth pointing out that admission tickets cost less when you buy more days. When you purchase at least three days online, you’ll save US$20 compared to the ticket window. If you were to purchase six days of tickets, prices would drop down to US$85 per day. Disney is obviously trying to get you to stay in the parks for as long as possible.

In addition, Disney World often has sales that target Canadians. The offers vary, but one recent promotion allowed you to save up to US$400 on park tickets and hotel packages. This isn’t points related, but it’s worth pointing out if you want to save. For reference, Disney World has four theme parks, so spending multiple days there is not uncommon.

Car rentals on points

When booking a car rental in Orlando, choose a company with a rental car location at the airport. This will allow you to pick up your car quickly. Off-site rentals are a bit cheaper, but it’s not worth the inconvenience. Generally speaking, rental cars will cost you about CA$75 per day. I personally find Alamo to be the cheapest option.

Every bank travel rewards program has car rentals as an option when booking travel. In addition, Aeroplan lets you use your points for car rentals, but you’re better off using them on flights since the points would be worth more.

Generally speaking, you’d only want to use your travel rewards points on car rentals if you happen to have some of the following points:

That’s because all of the above rewards programs have a fixed value, so using your points on car rentals is a good strategy.

Of the above, I’d focus on Scene+. That’s because Scene+ is separate from Scotiabank. Even if you cancel your Scotiabank credit card, you will retain any Scene+ points earned. This is relevant since some Scotiabank credit cards often have a promo where the annual fee is waived for the first year, and the welcome bonus is worth $250 – $300. Signing up for the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card and/or the Scotiabank Gold American Express would give you a flexible pool of cash that can be applied to any travel purchase.

How to plan a trip to Disney World on points strategy

While the above may seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re new to travel hacking, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s really no different from your regular vacation planning. It just requires a bit more time.

Figure out your dates 

The first thing you’ll need to establish is your travel dates. Let’s say you have two kids aged seven and 10. You’ve decided to wait until your youngest turns nine before travelling to Disney World. That gives you two years to save up enough points.

Now let’s say you’ve determined Air Canada is the best carrier to get you to Orlando since you live in Orlando. You’ve also decided to spend roughly ten days in Orlando. That means you’ll need roughly 200,000 Aeroplan points and 200,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to offset the costs of your flights and accommodations. While that may seem like a lot, it’s not that difficult to accumulate that many points.

I should mention that if you can travel during non-peak periods, the number of points required for flights and hotels tends to drop. In addition, Disney World tickets may be on the lower end of the price scale.

Apply for credit cards with your partner

With your goals and dates in mind, you can start applying for cards to help you reach your goals. Generally, you’ll want to apply for credit cards with your partner. This will allow families to accumulate points quickly and take advantage of any referral bonuses.

At any given time, there’s likely an Aeroplan credit card with a welcome bonus of around 50,000 points and a low minimum spend requirement. In addition, these cards often have the first year free. In addition, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card consistently offers a welcome bonus of 50,000 – 75,000 points. 

While the welcome bonuses will frequently change, a household credit card strategy could look like this:

  • Player one applies for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card with a referral link (55,000 points)
  • Player two applies for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card with a referral link from player one (Player two gets 55,000 points, player one gets 10,000 points)
  • Player one applies for the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card with a referral link from player two (Player one gets 70,000 points, player two gets 10,000 points)
  • Player two applies for the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card with a referral link from player one (Player two gets 70,000 points, player one gets 10,000 points)

So by signing up for two credit cards each, the family would have 280,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. You would also have four free night certificates worth up to 35,000 points each. 

For reference, someone with an American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card to the Business version by clicking “Explore Other Cards” on the referral screen.

You could use a similar strategy for American Express credit cards since you can transfer your points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. Which cards you should apply for depends on how quickly you want to earn points and if you can meet the minimum spend requirement. 

For example, one of the quickest ways to earn points for a couple would be to do the following:

  • Player one applies for the American Express Platinum Card with a referral link (90,000 points) 
  • Player two applies for the American Express Platinum Card with a referral link from Player one (Player two gets 90,000 points, player one gets 10,000 points).

When factoring in the minimum spend requirement, you would already have more than 200,000 Membership Rewards points from those two cards alone. That’s enough points for the family above to fly to Orlando. The other advantage of the Platinum Card is that you’ll have airport lounge access for both cardholders, and they each get a +1. That means a family of four would be able to access airport lounges without having to pay anything extra. 

American Express Platinum Card

  • $799 annual fee
  • Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $10,000 in the first 3 months
  • 30,000 additional points when making any purchase in months 14 – 17
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel, and 1 point on all other purchases
  • $200 annual travel credit
  • $200 annual dining credit (per calendar year)
  • Unlimited airport lounge access
  • MESSAGE ME FOR A REFERRAL LINK

Admittedly, the American Express Platinum Card has a huge minimum spend requirement, so some other cards to consider include:

For more details, refer to my list of the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada. The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t keep these cards permanently. You’d cancel them before the annual fee is due. That said, it’s worth keeping any credit cards that give you annual benefits worth more than the annual fee.

Set up family plans

Generally, you want all of your loyalty points in a single account. This will allow you to make bigger redemptions and manage your accounts easier.

With Aeroplan, up to 8 members can join a family sharing plan. This includes kids, so make sure you sign them up for their own Aeroplan numbers. By pooling your points, you can redeem your points quicker since you’ll have access to more points. Each account remains separate; you’ll just be able to use everyone’s point when making a redemption.

Unfortunately, Marriott does not have any kind of family sharing plan. That said, you can transfer up to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a year to another account. This is essential if you want to take advantage of the fifth night free on points promo since you need to have enough points in your account for the entire stay. The deadline to make the transfer is December 31 each year.

You can call customer service or use the online transfer points tool to transfer your points.

Book your trip

Both Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy allow you to make reservations about a year out. I’ll casually monitor flights for Aeroplan, but I typically book four to six months out. There’s no real reason for this, it’s just what I typically do. If you’re doing Disney World on points as a family, you’re probably best to book your flights as soon as you lock in your dates. Changing your itinerary later will result in a fee of $100 per segment, per person for standard reward redemptions.

For Marriott Bonvoy, booking as early as possible is always in your best interest. That’s because you can get a full points refund at most properties as long as you cancel before 24 to 72 hours of your arrival. This works to your advantage since Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic pricing. That means the price of your room could decrease before your arrival day.

Make a habit of checking your reservation once a week to see if prices have dropped. To do this, you would log into your Marriott Bonvoy account and click your upcoming trip. You’d then select the following:

  • View/modify
  • Edit room

If any new room shows up with fewer points, you could rebook it right away under the same reservation number. This strategy could save you thousands of points.

Final thoughts

Knowing how to plan a trip to Disney World on points is incredibly easy, regardless of your family size. That’s because it’s not difficult to earn enough points to completely cover the cost of your flights and hotels. Plus, there are many ways to save money at Disney World. The key thing is to know what your goals are and how many points you need. With that goal in mind, you can apply for some of the best travel credit cards in Canada.

Although getting your park tickets on points will be more difficult, if that’s your only major expense, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Now that you’ve got a Disney World strategy, you may end up returning every year like me. I’m also working on points hacking stories for Universal Orlando Resort and Orlando in general, so stay tuned for those.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

3 Comments

  1. Hotelier Syl on May 24, 2023 at 1:29 AM

    Wow, what a fantastic resource! This article on planning a trip to Disney World on points is an absolute gem. As someone who loves to travel and save money, I found the tips and strategies shared here to be incredibly helpful. Thank you for sharing this valuable resource!

  2. Tammy on November 13, 2023 at 4:04 PM

    How are you able to do this every year? The welcome bonus is amazing and I can see how that works out. And then you cancel the card (especially the Amex high annual fee cards). Are you able to reapply for the same exact same card and get the welcome bonuses again? I wouldn’t think so. In which case, I would think you would run out of credit cards to apply for.

    • Barry Choi on November 13, 2023 at 6:48 PM

      Hi Tammy,

      Generally speaking, I apply for 2 -3 cards a year, my wife does about 2. That makes it pretty easy to accumulate 200,000 points.

      So you need to know the general rules for each card. With American Express, you’ll usually get the bonus again if you apply 2 years after you cancelled a previous card. However, since they have so many credit cards, I typically rotate through them. With TD, they typically give you the bonus again if you’re applying 12 months after you last cancelled.

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