Back from Hawaii and Thinking About Disney

You may have noticed a lack of posts for the last week or so.  The reason I wasn’t posting is we were in Hawaii!  Yes, the long awaited trip was fantastic.  I’ll post a trip report over several days in the coming week(s).  I’m finally getting back on East Coast time so I’ll be awake enough to put one together. 

And after taking such a lovely vacation, I want more.  I’ve turned my attention to our trip to Disney that we have planned for this April.  Originally, I was planning on using Starwood Hotel points to book a room at the Disney Swan resort.  However, I have reconsidered that.  Disney is running a promotion (that ends today) where you can book some of their hotels for 30% off. 

Here’s why I reconsidered my hotel strategy.  When redeeming points, I want to get at least a 2 cent return for each point redeemed.  We are planning on staying in Disney for 5 nights.  The only option to redeem points at the Disney Swan was the free night option (cash and points was not available).  Since we were staying for 5 nights, I could do the redeem 4 nights and get the 5th night free option.  Each free night would cost me 10,000 points.  So I would have to spend a total of 40,000 points for the stay.  Now you could say that that means I’d have to get at least $800 worth of value out of the stay.  But you can redeem 40,000 Starwood Hotel points for 50,000 airline points (Starwood gives you a bonus 5,000 points for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline).  So I want to get at least $1,000 worth of value out of the stay.  Plus I’d really like to do better than $1,000 in value because I value Starwood points more than other points.

Technically, I would have done better that that with booking at the Swan.  A night at the Disney Swan resort was running about $240 (not including taxes/fees).  Since we were staying 5 nights, that would be nearly $1,250 in value.  But I needed to look at the alternatives.  With Disney’s promotion, I could book a night at one of the moderate hotels for about $140-$150/night.  And since it was a hotel run by Disney (unlike the Swan, which is on Disney property but run by Westin), I could also take the Disney Express to the hotel from the airport (so I won’t have to pay for transportation from the airport to/from the hotel).  Plus I still had a credit with from this promotion last year where you got a free night if you booked one night through them.  With all that taken into consideration, the hotel stay would only cost us $660 in total.  We’ll be staying at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort, which both a friend and recommended.

Every time I plan a trip, I look at the alternatives.  That’s why it’s not possible to give people a one size fits all strategy for booking a trip.  In general, I try to minimize out of pocket expenses.  However, in this case, it made more sense to pay money for the hotel stay than to use points.


3 Responses to Back from Hawaii and Thinking About Disney

  1. Susie Map says:

    Thanks. This is timely since I need to start working on the necessary points (or cash bonuses) for a family trip in August. Did you consider Disney Downtown hotels such as Hilton?

    • I did consider Downtown Disney hotels. That’s actually what started me back down the path of considering Disney hotels again. The Doubletree was running a promotion of $99/night and then I noticed the Hilton was also having a special. There were a few reasons I went with a Disney hotel instead Downtown Disney.

      • We were only planning to go to Disney parks.
      • I didn’t want to have to rent a car. If we were staying in Downtown Disney, I would have because I’ve read that many of the hotels don’t have good bus schedules to Disney. And most of them have a parking fee if you have a car. And if you drive your car to Disney, you’ll have to pay for parking there too. I’ve heard that some people park their car at Downtown Disney (it’s free there) and take the bus in. I’m not sure that that’s technically legal, but it’s a way to save on parking.
      • I didn’t want to pay to get to/from the airport. If we didn’t get a car, we’d have to pay to get to/from the airport.

      I know a lot of people like to stay at a Disney hotel because of the extra hours. That wasn’t a huge consideration for me. Most Disney planning sites (like Tour Guide Mike or Touring Plans) recommend that you avoid the parks when they have extra hours because everyone in a Disney hotel hits those parks those days. We may still go to the parks for the extra hours, but we will leave when the regular hours start. I haven’t decided yet if we’ll do that or not. That will necessitate us getting a park hopper pass.

      Another reason people stay at Disney hotels is so they can get one of the Disney dining plans. I’ve read that most of them aren’t great deals, so I’m still on the fence about getting one. Being off property will definitely save you on food costs. The last time we went to Disney, we stayed at my parents’ timeshare. We ate breakfast and dinner at the timeshare. If you’re thinking of staying off property, you might want to look into renting a timeshare as well.

      • InACents says:

        Welcome back! While we have never stayed at a Disney Resort, from what I can tell, you should be happy with your selection.

        I just wanted to make a quick point that we have always stayed at the Downtown Disney hotels (Royal Plaza and the Holiday Inn), and loved them. We enjoyed the transportation that was exclusive to the Downtown Disney hotels and never had any issues other than the buses were packed at the end of the nights, but so were the Disney Resort buses. Actually, the lines for Disney buses were always way longer than those for the Downtown Disney ones. Depending on the season, I think the shuttles run every 15-30 minutes, which is more than enough and was never an issue. We have never had to rent a vehicle for the purposes of getting around Disney. Like you said, you do need to pay a taxi to get to/from the airport, which adds to the overall cost and convenience.

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