Travel Hacking Disney, Part 2: Key Resources and Lessons

My wife and I are planning to take our family to Disney world around 11 months from now. Here is my first post that lays out some of the inputs and general thoughts on the trip. During my research I’ve learned from some great resources as well as picked up some key tips.

With our children both being under 5 at the time of the trip we think it will be a magical time and we will create a lot of memories. However, I really don’t want to drop $5k on the trip. Fortunately, do to some hard work and a long road of small wins, I could afford it but am definitely not interested.

I also don’t plan on going nuts on travel hacking. I won’t sacrifice the quality of my trip more than 5% even if it would mean big savings. Right now I’d imagine this is just one of three trips my family will take to Disney so I do have a certain amount of the “lets do this right” mentality.

In this post I’ll lay out some of the important resources I’ve used and some key lessons I’ve picked up along the way. In future posts I’ll lay out my tactics and timing and give any pertinent updates!

Travel Hacking Research & Resources

There are a ton of resources out there to learn about travel hacking. At first it was a little overwhelming but ended up utilizing two main resources to do the bulk of my learning. The first resource is the Travel Miles 101 course offered my one of the hosts of the ChooseFI podcast. The course consists of a new email every day for several days that are packed with information.

I wouldn’t say thats a one stop shop for all the details you’ll ever need. I would emphasize the “101” portion of the course in that it lays out a lot of the basics, things to be aware of and some general thoughts. If you are just getting going or just wanting to learn about travel hacking I’d definitely start there.

The other resource I used extensively was The Points Guy. I used this site for more targeted research on the best current credit cards and, more importantly, how different points work.

Here are some other key resources I’ve used at some point along the way:

  1. Mouse Hacking-Intro to Travel Hacking Disney
  2. Wallet Hacks-Disney for Free
  3. Richmond Savers-Take your family to Disney for Free
  4. Mad Fientist-Travel Miles 101

Travel Hacking: Key Lessons Learned

From my research, which was certainly not exhaustive, I learned a few valuable nuggets of information

Lesson 1: Starting early is the biggest advantage

After some research its apparent that time is your biggest asset when travel hacking. Because I started my research about 13 months out that gave me ample time to figure out what I wanted to do and start implementing. Outside of the obvious time constraints that just a few months would give you the biggest advantage is the number of quarters you have before your trip.

You can only apply to so many credit cards without raising too many flags to the credit card companies. A common time frame I ran across frequently is the fact that you should plan on applying for a new credit card every quarter. This means if you were planning for a trip that was just a month or two out your opportunity to utilize credit cards to lower travel expenses is minimal at best.

Lesson 2: The difference between travel rewards and cash back.

This is something I had always wondered about even after seeing online advertisements. There is a key difference between a travel rewards credit card and a cash back credit card. For example here is a travel rewards card and here is a cash back credit card from the same company.

Essentially a cash back credit card is best used for every day expenses due to the fact that you will get $500 cash back. The travel credit cards are best utilized for travel expenses like flights, rental cars or hotels.

Lesson 3: Some credit card companies have limits on frequency of application.

For instance, chase won’t let you apply for more than 5 credit cards in a 24 month period. Capital One also has something similar but more specific to only Capital One cards.

The reason these rules are so important is because they may dictate when you choose to apply for certain cards.

Lesson 4: This probably won’t effect my credit score too much.

The first question I always get is regarding your credit score. First, does it even matter? If you don’t plan on buying a house/car soon, I dont think your credit score matters. I will say you probably need a score of 750 or greater to pull this off.

Regardless, I’m not expecting much of a drop in my credit score. At the time of this writing my credit score is around 810.

Future Posts

What am I missing? Is there any information you’d like to know about? I’ve done a good amount of reading and I’m sure I’m not passing along something.

Here in the near future I plan on laying out my planned expenses, what cards I plan to use and what timing I plan to use to apply for what card, when.

Its been quite a journey thus far. When I think about the time I have into it I just go back to my hopeful savings. With expected savings of somewhere in the 3k range its hard not to put more and more time into this. Plus, all the lessons I’m learning can be applied to future travels!

Leave a Reply