One hazard of raising kids as a travel hacker is that you raise the bar of surprise. While we try to keep the Deal Kids grounded for Deal Girl’s birthday this year we went all out.
As you may know our family is well versed in Disney World: enough so that I’ve written a book on the subject. However, Deal Girl has never been to Disneyland and I haven’t been since I was her age. I thought it would be a fun exercise to see if we could visit Disneyland on points. Let’s see how I did, shall we?
Disneyland on Points: Getting There
Since we’re coming from the East Coast flying is the only option. One great thing about Disney World is that I can utilize one way car rentals to save. In fact I just rented a Cadillac XTS for $5/day from DC to Florida through Hertz. We drove down (spending 15K Club Carlson points on a hotel enroute) and kept the car for the entire trip.
To get to California I utilized Southwest Airlines’ companion pass. I achieved the pass last year via three credit card signup bonuses (Southwest personal and two Marriott) and still have a bunch of Rapids Rewards points left over. NOTE: The Marriott 7 night package loophole has since closed but two Southwest card bonuses- a personal and a business- will achieve the companion pass.
Three southern California airports serve Disneyland but the best by far is Santa Ana (SNA). Fortunately I found a flight from Washington Dulles to Santa Ana routing through Denver for 7,600 points each way.
TIP: be sure to search all of your gateways both coming and going. In my example DCA is the far more common Southwest gateway but connections made getting to Santa Ana difficult. IAD had both the best routing and the lowest price.
Disneyland on Points: Hotel
Here’s one area where the Disneyland experience varies from Disney World: staying offside at Disneyland is no big sacrifice. Disneyland is much more compact and urban so options within walking or easy shuttle distance abound. The extra magic hours benefit exists at Disneyland Hotels but you get a similar benefit on one morning with a 3+ day ticket so I don’t value it as highly. In fact I’d pick the opposite park of the EMM to visit.
After some research I chose the Hotel Indigo. A number of readers recommended it both due to the hotel’s proximity to the parks and the cleanliness/service. Two IHG card signup bonuses covered the 150,000 points needed for five nights. Fortunately, I had a bunch of points left over from last year’s priceless surprises promotion so only needed one new IHG card.
Since it’s a points reservation, I have the option to change it if either prices drop or another more attractive option appears. Please let me know if you have any thoughts.
TIP: Be sure to check your exact dates before assuming you can use points. Many hotels blacked out days or had minimum stay requirements in order to use points. For instance, the Indigo requires four nights minimum on a points booking.
Cash prices on off-peak times might also make using points less appealing. However, we’re visiting during Disneyland’s Chinese New Year celebrations so prices on even basic rooms top $300/night, making points a bargain.
Disneyland on Points: Tickets
As with Disney World, tickets are the most expensive part of the trip. I decided on five day park hopper tickets as days four and five are only about $15 once you buy the first three. I know five days is a bit much for most people but Deal Girl and I are both sufficiently Disney-obsessed to enjoy the luxury of a slower pace.
The best deals for Disneyland Tickets are through Get Away Today. Utilizing a Black Friday special I bought two five day park hopper tickets for $670 total. I offset that cost using Barclay Arrival + points: 50K from a signup (since reduced to 40K) and the remainder from Barclay Travel Community points.
Disneyland on Points: Summary
I’m not going to tell you that we’re getting to Disneyland for “free”. Travel is not free, even with signup bonuses, as there’s always an opportunity cost involved. I also don’t sell credit cards so don’t have an incentive to push one program over another.
However with points I am able to make the impossible possible and make an 11 year old girl’s birthday magical.
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
I’d love to hear your Disneyland tips as we’re headed there in less than a month!
The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network.
extra magic hours benefit DOES exist for Disneyland Resort Hotel guests.
Extra Magic Hour is one of the many benefits of staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel and is only available for Guests who book and stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel .
Thanks for the info: I’ll update. The 3+ day ticket has a similar benefit on one day of your choice: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/magic-morning-early-admission/.
FYI, If you travel at peak summer season and the parks are close to capacity they will limit entry to only Disney resort guest.
Good to know! Another reason to go in winter.
Yup, I avoid Disneyland in the summer as much as possible.
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nice post. Feel spoiled w my SoCal annual pass which was $450 or so. Which is still ridiculous for an annual pass to any park.
If u step back and think about it , all disneyland tickets are Insane prices to go to a park which is amazing and fun but incredibly crowded year round …. and Star Wars land ain’t even here yet
Unfortunately I hear those passes will be restricted going forward. I’m glad you already have one as they’ll still let you renew it. https://www.travelingmom.com/top-destinations-disney/disneyland-stopped-selling-popular-annual-pass/
Our family of 5 went late August for the first time to Disneyland. I’m a huge fan of WDW. I had never been to Disneyland. We flew into SNA and it’s such a nice, small airport. We used two SW Companion Passes. We stayed at the Hyatt House. We did get upgraded to a room with bunk beds which was a big hit with my kids. The breakfast was decent. We used UR points for the three tickets and for four nights, used the Hyatt Cat.4 cert from the cc to pay for the fifth night. We used uber to and from the airport. I didn’t want to deal with CA traffic and I hate paying a parking fee for a car. We loved Radiator Springs. But, I have to admit. I do love staying onsite at WDW and I splurge to stay onsite. WDW for me, is by far better than Disneyland. Also, I didn’t like not having magic bands and I don’t like their fast pass system. I did use Max Pass and felt it was worth the extra money.
Thanks for the insight. I’m really curious to check out California Adventure and to revisit the original Disneyland but think I’ll probably remain a WDW girl at heart.
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