How to Save Money on a Disneyland Trip with Points

how to save money on disneyland with points featured image

Vacations, in general, are a luxury for those lucky enough to afford them. Disney vacations push that even further, making it out of reach for some as a result of the various and costly expenses involved. 

I was able to visit Disneyland with my significant other in late 2022 and learned a few things from my vacation. Miles and points can help reduce trip costs significantly, but there are some costs unique to Disney that we’ll also be covering in this article. If you are unfamiliar with the world of miles and points, read our miles and points beginner guide first.

With that in mind, let’s look into the best ways to save money on a Disneyland trip with points.

Planning your Disneyland Vacation

Before we get into flights, hotels, and Disneyland tickets, an important part of any vacation with Miles and Points is to be as flexible as possible. This especially rings true for Disneyland. Going on a traditionally busy day at the park can hamper your ability to see the attractions you want as you wait in long lines. 

A few resources, such as the Is It Packed – Disneyland Calendar, are beneficial in this initial planning phase, long before you book flights or hotels. For example, let’s look at the calendar for April 2023:

disneyland crowd calendar for april 2023

As you can see, planning in the second half of April 2023 will most likely make a big difference to the overall Disney experience due to the assumed lower crowds. Sites like “Is It Packed” are ultimately forecasting predicted crowds using previous data, and they do tend to be pretty accurate, as far as accurately forecasting crowds can go.

With Disneyland being smaller and less complicated than big brother Disney World in Florida, three days inside the parks is more than enough time. I also don’t think the Park Hopper tickets are necessary for Disneyland as Disney California Adventure can easily be done in one day, leaving the other two days focused solely on Disneyland.

To keep flexible when searching for flights and hotels, I recommend having a couple of sets of dates picked out to ensure you can find the best deal.

Using Points for Flights to Disneyland

Canadians are limited in airline options, with only two main carriers available, followed by a recent influx of low-cost options. For the smallest cash outlay, Air Canada Aeroplan will be your best bet, as their partnership with United allows access to John Wayne Airport (SNA) with a connection in a US hub from most Canadian cities.

star alliance routing options to Santa Ana SNA

Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is also a destination option, but it’s significantly farther from Anaheim than SNA and has a complicated system for ground transportation involving a shuttle bus to the Uber area.

Aeroplan points are quite easy to earn in Canada, and I would recommend even picking up a co-branded Aeroplan credit card, such as the American Express Aeroplan card, that can reduce your flight costs through a points redemption in addition to free checked baggage for yourself and other guests in your itinerary.

American Express Aeroplan Card

The American Express Aeroplan card earns Aeroplan points and offers cardholders a free first checked bag on Air Canada flights.

50,000 Aeroplan

When my wife and I visited Disneyland for three days in October 2022, we flew into LAX as we took advantage of a Hilton Free Night Certificate at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. While that was a great hotel, the convenience factor of flying into SNA would have been nice, even if we had to make a connecting flight in our itinerary.

Learn More: The Best Practices When Booking Award Flights

I compared the points price of flights arriving in LAX vs SNA, the pricing for an SNA arrival was lower in five of six cases. Only Montreal had a higher price when choosing SNA as your destination, and depending on how many more points are required on your selected dates, it might be worth the premium. In fact, when searching for flights to LAX, Air Canada will even suggest SNA when displaying your results.

winnipeg to los angeles lax on aeroplan redemption

Points prices vary depending on which city you’re departing from, but the floor will be 16,000 to 30,000 points plus about $150 in taxes and fees per person round trip.

winnipeg to santa ana sna on aeroplan redemption

If all your Aeroplan points are spoken for, or you’re based in Western Canada, utilizing the WestJet Rewards program may be your best option. WestJet operates direct flights to SNA from Vancouver and Calgary a few days each week, and the deal gets sweeter if you have the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard which offers a companion fare and free checked baggage. This is Josh’s favorite way of getting to Disneyland!

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard

The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard earns WestJet dollars and offers cardholders benefits on WestJet flights including an annual companion fare and a first free checked bag.

Check out our WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard review for more details.

450 WestJet dollars
Jul 31, 2024

The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard grants a companion pass every year, including the first year, so you can take advantage of the discounted fare right after signing up with some planning. The companion ticket still has a base fare of $119, so you’ll want to make sure the savings are worth it. If you’re traveling during peak seasons, it most likely always will be.

Learn more: WestJet Companion Voucher: Everything You Need to Know

Finally, an honorable mention goes out to the Air Canada Worldwide Companion Pass offered on the Premium Aeroplan Co-Branded Cards, but those are better used for overseas flight redemptions. And if you’ve spent $25,000 in a calendar year to earn one, you probably have the points to fly in coach!

Using Points for Hotels Near Disneyland

One of the easier parts when planning your Disneyland vacation is the accommodation. I kid you not, every major hotel brand has a presence within walking distance of the main entry gates.

map of hotels near disneyland park

When figuring out how to make the most of your time at Disney, you may hear the term “rope drop” which is short for being inside the park when it opens. Contrary to what’s listed on the website, the main entrance to Disneyland opens at 7:00 am, and the rides start operating at 8:00 am. If you arrive at the main gates at 8:00 am, you won’t be inside the park until 8:45 am, and the most popular rides will already have long lines.

Picking a hotel in this area and walking to the entrance is a major convenience and cost savings compared to taking an Uber or paying for parking and a rental car. It’s already tough to wake up that early on vacation, doing it without real food is even more challenging. This is where having top-tier elite status with breakfast benefits can pay huge dividends. If you don’t have elite status, a few hotels include breakfast in the room rate, regardless of status.

Best Marriott Hotel with Included Free Breakfast

If you are a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist, there are two Springhill Suites locations near Disneyland. The one labeled “At Anaheim Resort/Convention Center” is my pick as it provides the most consistent value for points. It’s also the shortest walk to the main entrance, even though the other location is named “Maingate.” 

At a minimum, cash rates are $350 CAD per night but are often above $400 CAD.

SpringHill Suites Marriott Anaheim Resort Convention Center cash rates

The Bonvoy point redemption price is consistent and matches the cash rates well, for a redemption of about one cent per point.

SpringHill Suites Marriott Anaheim Resort Convention Center august redemption rates

Remember, with Marriott Bonvoy you will receive the fifth night free when booking four nights in a row as a points redemption.

Best Hilton Hotel with Included Free Breakfast

The Hilton Honors loyalty program can be sometimes hard to find value in, and it’s true at properties near Disneyland as well. If you don’t have a stash of Hilton points from staying at their properties or haven’t ventured into US Amex cards yet, I don’t think staying at a Hilton hotel with points makes sense. 

Learn More: Getting Started With US Credit Cards with Nova Credit & The Best Strategy for US Hilton Credit Cards

I say this because the only way for a Canadian to acquire Hilton points through credit cards is by transferring at a 1:1 ratio from American Express Membership Rewards. In most examples, Hilton points are worth 0.5 cents to 1 cent per point, far less than what Membership Rewards points can be redeemed for. 

Remember, at minimum, you can always redeem Membership Rewards points as a statement credit at 1 cent per point, and can get even more value out of them by transferring to an airline loyalty program partner.

With that foreword, Hilton does have a good option nearby if free breakfast is important to you and you meet the above criteria. The Hampton Inn and Suites Anaheim Convention Center is regularly available for 50,000 points per night and has cash rates of about $300 to $400 CAD per night. The Hilton Garden Inn Anaheim Resort is another strong option in the general area.

Hampton Inn and Suites Anaheim Convention Center pool area

Similar to Marriott, if you book four nights at a Hilton Honors hotel with their standard redemption award, you will receive the fifth night free.

Best Hyatt Hotel with Included Free Breakfast

If you’re not a Hyatt loyalist or well into the game of US credit cards with an individual tax identification number (ITIN), unfortunately, a World of Hyatt hotel redemption won’t be an option. 

Two Hyatt properties nearby offer complimentary breakfast, Hyatt House and Hyatt Place. They are both priced the same, charging:

  • 12,000 World of Hyatt points at off-peak pricing
  • 15,000 World of Hyatt points at standard pricing
  • 18,000 World of Hyatt points at peak pricing

The Hyatt House is a bit closer to Disney, so it gets my vote as the best Hyatt. Considering the points price, it may even get my pick as the best points hotel near Disneyland.

Hyatt House At Anaheim Resort Convention Center redemption chart may 2023

Finding a string of off-peak prices isn’t hard, and with a four-night stay coming to a total of 48,000 points, it topples the Hilton and Marriott options. It is important to note that Hyatt does not offer the fifth night free on award bookings, another big difference from the Marriott and Hilton options in this article.

Best Hotel Options If You Hold Hotel Loyalty Program Elite Status

If you find yourself with a significant elite status level with either Hilton Honors or Marriott Bonvoy, there are a few options worth considering nearby Disneyland.

Hilton Honors

Hilton’s newly introduced “benefit” of a dining credit rather than a complimentary breakfast greatly hinders the attractiveness of its properties near Disneyland. The options for brands near the park entrance are limited to Garden Inn’s and Tapestry Collection, which have a maximum dining credit of $30 per room per day.

hilton breakfast dining credit in united states

The silver lining is that the SunCoast Park Hotel Anaheim, Tapestry Collection property is surprisingly less expensive on points, with rooms available for as low as 42,000 Hilton points per night.

SunCoast Park Hotel Anaheim Tapestry Collection may 2023 redemption calendar

While the elite benefits at this hotel may not wow you, if you’ve got some Hilton points to burn and a trip to Disney in the books, this redemption could make sense for your next Disneyland vacation.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott cleans up for hotel choices nearby the park entrance. They have no less than nine hotels within walking distance of the main entrance with various levels of luxury.

map of marriott hotel options with pricing near disneyland

When we stayed, I chose the Sheraton Park Hotel strategically because I knew it had a great Club Lounge for Platinum Elite members.

sheraton park hotel anaheim club lounge
Club Lounge – Sheraton Park Hotel

This allowed us to grab a hot breakfast in the morning but, most importantly, fill our water bottles and grab some snacks before we headed out to the park. Disneyland is hot pretty much all year, and it was 30C every day we visited. Having the water before we entered the park saved on the $5 charge per bottle inside.

Not to mention, in the evening, from 5 pm to 7 pm, this lounge offered a Happy Hour of sorts with complimentary alcoholic beverages and some small plates of food. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you preferred to stay in the park all day!

This hotel ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 points per night, making it a great candidate to use a 35,000 point Marriott Free Night Certificate. Make sure the math checks out compared to the cash rates before redeeming. The cash price was reasonable on our dates, so we saved our points for a higher future value.

Using Points for Disneyland Tickets

Tickets are the highest cost when preparing for a Disney vacation, and there aren’t many discounts. There are a few tricks, such as loading up on Disney gift cards at supermarkets with cards that qualify for 5x or 6x multipliers (I’m looking at you, American Express Cobalt card and Scotiabank Gold American Express card).

Buying gift cards is a great way to “earn” extra multipliers on your spending inside the parks, as they can be used for just about every purchase. But for my tickets, I strategically signed up for the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite card and then product switched to the TD Platinum Travel Visa card.

At the time, this netted me 150,000 TD Rewards points worth $750 when redeemed against purchases made through Expedia for TD. What would have cost me $1,000 for two people was a meager $250.

Learn more: TD Rewards Guide: Earn & Redeem Effectively

Alternatively, it is pretty easy to rack up points with the Scotiabank Gold American Express card, however, to redeem your points, the charge needs to code as travel. If you buy your tickets direct through Disney, it will code as entertainment, so showing some love to your local travel agent will unlock far more value.

Apply Now Learn More Earn $75 in FlyerFunds upon approval.
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

The Scotiabank Gold American Express card earns Scene+ Rewards points and gives cardholders the opportunity to earn 5x Scene+ points on grocery, restaurant, and entertainment purchases. This card charges no foreign exchange fees.

Check out our Scotiabank Gold American Express card review for more details.

40,000 Scene+
Jul 1, 2024

Alternatively, you could look at cashing out points with the refundable hotel trick and then buying the tickets normally. The trick can be done with CIBC Aventura and BMO Rewards.

Air Miles is the least flexible currency available to redeem against ticket costs as they have no partial redemptions. They also happen to be the hardest currency to rack up, with only a handful of co-branded cards offering small sign-up bonuses. But with uncertainty surrounding their future value, if you’ve got more than 10,000 of them, it’s a great way to burn.

General Tips for a Great Disneyland Vacation

Now that we have the miles and points pieces out of the way, I think it is important to cover a little bit about some general tips to make your Disneyland vacation perfect.

If you last visited Disney a while ago, or not at all, I highly recommend researching how the Disneyland app works. It’s basically going to run your day as you’re inside the park with information on ride waiting times, a live map with directions, and getting dining reservations.

disneyland app attraction wait times map

The optional Genie+ service is also worth it, in my opinion. This service starts at $25 per person, per day, and allows you to use “Lightning Lanes” at various attractions which is effectively a way to skip the standby line. This means you can pack more attractions into your day, which is the goal of many when visiting Disneyland with their family. Genie+ also provides free Photopass pictures, which are taken around the resort by Disney staff.

The park felt busy on the days we attended, but Genie+ allowed us to plan our day 2 hours at a time and skip some of the longer lines. I could write a whole post on how Genie+ works, I recommend everyone to do at least 1 hour of research on it before arriving at the park. I found YouTube videos to be the most helpful vs blog posts.

Finally, don’t be like me and forget to make park reservations. Two days before our first planned day at Disney, I realized I had no reservations for the parks. Contrary to previous years, Disney will turn you away if you haven’t reserved a park day along with purchasing a ticket. 

We were able to make it work as space opened up at the last minute (literally the night before), but it added extra stress. Park reservations can be made 120 days before your tickets are valid.


Disneyland is an expensive destination, and there’s no way around it. Flying into the correct airport and staying at the right hotels will make a significant impact on your experience. Not to mention, using fixed-value currencies issued from major banks is the best way to save money on tickets.

Having the right points currencies, paired with some careful planning, and understanding the ins and outs of Disneyland will give you the opportunity to have not only a much better trip but a much better trip that can save you money.

Daniel Burkett

Daniel Burkett

Contributor at Frugal Flyer
Daniel entered the Miles and Points game in 2021 and has taken the “make up for lost time” mentality. After spending five years travelling for work and paying no attention to loyalty programs, some say Daniel is out for Points Revenge. With his desire to maximize every point available, he hopes to share the knowledge gained with more travellers to prevent the same mistakes he made.


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