The best points hotels near Disney World

Nov 26, 2020

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So you’re planning a trip to Disney World? Congrats — and, prepare to go down a rabbit hole as deep as the one in Alice in Wonderland. Planning a trip to Disney World is a big endeavor even in normal times, and that makes it an extra complex project in unusual times.

While many airlines serve Orlando, deciding how to get to the city is generally the easier part. Picking a hotel for a trip to Disney World, or another area theme park, is where things can get a bit more complicated. There’s no doubt you’ll find a lodging option for just about every sort of travel preference since Orlando alone has more than 400 hotels and 100,000 hotel rooms — not to mention the Airbnb, timeshares and other less-conventional lodging options.

But how do you choose which hotel is the best one if you decide to save cash and redeem points, especially if you have flexible award currencies such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards at your disposal? We’ve put together some of the best choices for you, broken down by different categories.

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Best points hotels near Disney World

  • Best for staying on Disney World property: Disney Swan and Dolphin
  • Best for luxury near Disney World: JW Marriott Bonnet Creek
  • Best for elite status perks: Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
  • Best for staying in Disney Springs: Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista and the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
  • Best for using a Marriott Category 5 certificate: Gaylord Palms Convention Center & Resort
  • Best for waterparks and fun: Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites – Waterpark

In This Post

Best hotels with some Disney World benefits

A trip to Disney World can amaze and confuse people at the same time. There are so many steps to planning the perfect Disney World trip, that first-timers may make a critical error before they even purchase park tickets. That’s in part because at least during normal operations, Disney World saves some of the best benefits for folks who stay at their resort hotels, such as Disney’s Art of Animation, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Fort Wilderness, etc. And, pretty much all of the hotels on Disney World property are Disney-owned and aren’t part of any of the traditional hotel loyalty programs.


Only true Disney World resorts, such as those mentioned above, will convey access to the included Disney’s Magical Express Bus, which can take you to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) and included Magic Bands (until that program of free bands is retired on Jan. 1, 2021). (Most functionality of the Magic Bands is now within the My Disney Experience app.)

And, in these unusual times, Disney gave guests with Disney resort reservations (and a few other select partner hotels) first dibs at making reservations to enter the theme parks under that brand-new system.

Related: Save on Disney Resorts by renting Disney Vacation Club points

(Melissa Ann Photography / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melissa Ann Photography/The Points Guy)

However, there are a select number of points-friendly hotels that offer some of the Disney benefits. Normally, this includes Extra Magic Hours and 60-day access to FastPass+ (though notably both benefits are currently paused for now during WDW’s phased reopening process).

Related: What to expect with Disney hotels reopen

Here are a few of our favorite non-Disney owned hotels that still offer some Disney perks:

Swan and Dolphin Resorts at Walt Disney World

The Swan and Dolphin Resorts (and their cousin The Cove tower, the forthcoming addition that’s currently under construction) strike a really good balance between Disney perks and the ability to earn and use hotel points. Roughly in the geographic center of Disney World, the Swan and Dolphin hotels are a relatively short walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, while the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom are a bus ride away.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Both the Swan and Dolphin are members of Marriott’s Bonvoy program, which means you can earn and redeem points on eligible stays. Both properties are currently Category 6 properties, which means 40,000 to 60,000 points per night, depending on the season. Additionally, you can take advantage of Marriott Bonvoy’s fifth-night free benefit, which gives you the fifth night free on all award stays. Also, when the rate is 50,000 points per night or less, you can use a Marriott up-to-50,000-point certificate — available with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card — for a complimentary night.

Marriott elite members can enjoy their normal benefits, including choosing the breakfast benefit that, on certain days, includes time with Disney World characters such as Chip, Dale and Pluto. And, if you time your visit right, you can even score a complimentary suite upgrade, very helpful for large families. An award room and free (or almost free) breakfast go a long way to making Disney World more affordable. You won’t get access to Disney’s complimentary Magical Express bus from the airport if you stay here, but you will receive plenty of other key benefits such as its proximity to the parks, 60-day FastPass+ and access to Extra Magic Hours that can help make your trip a great one.

Related: Ultimate guide to visiting Walt Disney World

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

“Official Disney World Hotels” located just off-site

There are a handful of properties that are just on the fringe of official Disney World property that normally offer those valuable Extra Magic Hours and better chances at scoring a FastPass to your favorite attraction by being able to book further in advance. The majority of these hotels are part of one of the major hotel chains.

Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista and the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace are solid choices, along with Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek (which has an awesome waterpark) and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. If you’re lucky, you can book one of the Hilton hotels for as little as 40,000 Hilton points per night, whereas the Waldorf Astoria is more often in the 80,000-points-per-night range. And, if you’re looking for extra amenities, you can pay cash at the Waldorf Astoria to get American Express Fine Hotel and Resort perks such as free breakfast for two and a space-available upgrade if you have a Platinum- or Centurion-branded card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Related: Booking hotels near Disney World with Hilton points 

Waldorf Astoria Orlando pool
Photo courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Orlando

If these hotels seem like the right fit for your Disney experience, you can boost your Hilton Honors points balance with welcome bonuses from cards such as the Hilton Honors American Express Card the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. (Here’s why the Hilton Amex Aspire is the best premium card for families.) The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Maximizing hotel credit card award nights

Best hotels near Disney World using points

The hotels listed above that confer some valuable Disney World benefits are high on our list and very near the parks. But, there are a few other properties not far from the gates of Disney World that also score highly on our list, especially right now while Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+ bookings are paused.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress borders Disney World, but it takes a bit of finagling to get from “here” to “there.” Still, it’s only about a 15-minute drive to the Magic Kingdom parking lots. This hotel is a solid upgrade opportunity for World of Hyatt elite members. Hyatt Globalist members will find plenty of opportunities to use Globalist suite upgrade certificates. The property also has a solid club lounge with plenty of breakfast and evening snack items, as well as a far-off view of the fireworks from the rooftop terrace.

Merlot, the hotel parrot, will greet you in the lobby of this Category 3 property where a free night in a standard room is 12,000 points. Hyatt has said it will roll out peak and off-peak rates in 2021, at which point the property will flex between 9,000 and 15,000 points per night. Elite members will be offered a glass of sparkling wine while they complete check-in.

The hotel has several activities on-site including kayaking, golf, tennis, a pool with waterslides and a swim-in cave. There’s plenty to keep your family busy if you’re taking a day off from the theme parks.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Related: Why the World of Hyatt credit card is great for family travelers 

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Faithful Marriott Bonvoy members were thrilled when Gaylord was folded into the Marriott program. A small collection of resorts and convention centers around the U.S., the Orlando version is perfect for families looking to be close to Disney World, but not too close. The Gaylord is just outside the park entrance, not far from Animal Kingdom, and is full of amenities.

Adults-only pools are perfect if you’re not on a family trip, or if your kids are old enough to play unsupervised in Cypress Springs Water Park, an exclusive amenity only available to resort guests. The on-site spa is another favorite of parents after a long day walking around a theme park.

Gaylord Palms is surprisingly affordable as a Category 5 hotel, or 30,000 to 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night (side note: TPG values Marriott Bonvoy points at .8 cents each according to our latest valuations). Combine the fifth-night free benefit for an affordable Disney World vacation. The only downside is you’re unlikely to get a complimentary suite upgrade or free breakfast as an elite member.

Related: How to use a Marriott 35k certificate

Best bang for your buck

For many families, Disney World vacations are about trade-offs. It’s hard to afford everything you and your kids want to do, especially with the consistent increase of prices at the House of Mouse and Harry Potter’s world just down the street. If you are new to the process, here are some examples of what a trip to Disney World truly costs.

Related: What it’s like at the newly reopened Universal Orlando resort

Below are some properties that offer a solid value for your investment, but won’t break the bank. They aren’t the best of the best in terms of luxury, but they will stretch your dollar while still providing an enjoyable vacation.

Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas is not far from the main gates of Disney World. This property is in the same Marriott award category as the on-site Disney World properties such as the Swan and Dolphin, which might make you wonder why it’s listed as one of our recommendations to get bang for your buck. For the same amount of points as those on-property hotels, Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas will give you a one-bedroom villa with a full kitchen and a bedroom separate from the living room/kitchen area. In some cases, you can snag a two-bedroom villa that sleeps eight for as little as 77,000 Marriott points per night. For a large family or one that wants to spread out, your points will get you a lot more real estate here.

Related: How to book two-bedroom suites with points

If you’re looking for a more traditional hotel stay that’s close to Disney World but won’t break the bank, check out both the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area and Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Area. One word, “Garden” is the differentiator between these two properties that otherwise essentially have the same name. They also share the same piece of land alongside Disney Springs. These hotels give you full access to Disney benefits such as Extra Magic Hours and the extended 60-day FastPass+ window, as well as free shuttle buses to the Disney World theme parks throughout the day.

At 30,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night (TPG values a Wyndham Rewards point at 1.1 cents based on their most recent valuations) the Wyndham Lake has nicer rooms. For half the points, Wyndham Garden is one of the best values for Wyndham points you’ll find. Guests of both properties can use the two outdoor pools, and younger kids will enjoy the splash zone.

Related: Best times to visit Disney World

Hotels with water parks and more near Disney World

Some hotels near Disney World have their fair share of activities included in the price of your stay. For families looking to trim expenses on an already-pricey Disney trip, these hotels with on-site entertainment options can be a great compromise. The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress mentioned above falls into this category.

Along with the Hyatt Regency, two IHG hotels not too far from Disney World are worth considering. The Holiday Inn Club Vacations: At Orange Lake Resort offers two-bedroom villas starting at 40,000 IHG Rewards points. There are seven on-site pools, a lazy river, a lake for water sports like paddleboarding and boating, golf courses and plenty more.

Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites-Waterpark is a colorful mix of pools and waterslides. Just 35,000 IHG Rewards Club points can score you a room with a kitchen or bunk beds. You’ll also have access to the waterpark, an arcade and mini-golf. A free, scheduled shuttle can get you to Disney World (the property is not far from the main gates).

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek also boasts a lazy river, waterslide, poolside cabanas and zero-entry pool.

TPG’s Richard Kerr also recently used 37,500 Marriott points per night to book a two-bedroom condo with a full kitchen, porch, two bathrooms and a washer/dryer at Marriott Vacation Club Harbour Lake in Orlando. Not only did his family have plenty of space, but the property also has a pirate ship water feature, a full-on splash park called Florida Falls, a waterslide, putt-putt golf course, basketball courts, pool tables, Ping-Pong and other outdoor recreation activities.

Photo courtesy of Marriott.
Photo courtesy of Marriott.

Best luxury hotels near Disney World

The past handful of years has seen a steady growth of luxury hotels around Disney World. Some of Disney World’s best onsite hotels, like the Grand Floridian or the Riviera Resort, provide plenty of luxury along with their premium price tag. But if you want luxury without the big Disney bill, there are some solid choices nearby.

The newest entry into luxury at Disney World is also the best. If you’re looking to redeem your points for suites, plush beds with luxurious thread counts and poolside cabanas, JW Marriott Bonnet Creek is your first choice. JW Marriott Bonnet Creek is surrounded on three sides by Disney World, but not technically “on property”. That’s OK because you can use Marriott Bonvoy points to stay here and still catch the free shuttle bus to Disney parks. A free night at JW Marriott Bonnet Creek ranges between 40,000 and 60,000 points per night, just like the Swan and Dolphin just down the road.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The hotel does have one notable trade-off. While Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+, key Disney World benefits, are currently on hold due to the pandemic, those benefits are not included in a stay at the JW Marriott. This is definitely something to watch as Disney World returns to normal….someday.

The welcome glass of champagne may help make you feel a bit better. If that doesn’t work, the luxurious guest rooms, a chance to score an awesome suite upgrade and two beautiful pools might do the trick. You’ll also find a miniature golf course, climbing wall and an expansive kids club for those days when you decide to avoid the theme parks.

As we mentioned earlier, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is another lovely hotel located in the Bonnet Creek nature preserve. On top of benefits like Extra Magic Hours and free shuttles to the parks, the Waldorf is a comfortable haven for redeeming points without sacrificing comfort at the end of a long park day.

Waldorf Astoria (Photo by Richard Kerr/The Poimts Guy)
Waldorf Astoria (Photo by Richard Kerr/The Points Guy)

Upscale restaurants, a spa and a golf course are just some of the amenities. Along with a pool and cabanas, Waldorf guests can also use the lazy river and waterslide next door at the Hilton Bonnet Creek. Other than being able to see the fireworks from the pool, you might forget you’re at Disney World while enjoying the luxury at Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes is another luxury gem, though it doesn’t have the proximity to the theme parks. About 20 minutes from both Disney World and Universal Orlando (if traffic is your friend), this property caters to those looking for an upscale hotel experience. As a Category 6 in the Marriott Bonvoy program, the 40,000 to 60,000 points per night (especially when combined with the fifth-night free on award reservations) is a pretty reasonable deal.

The property has an upscale spa and a beautiful golf course, both of which will hurt your wallet. The pools are geared more to adults, but younger kids will enjoy the lazy river at the adjacent JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes. You’ll also find tennis, kayaking, paddle boats, bike trails and plenty more all inside the Grande Lakes complex. Be aware that Ritz-Carlton hotels don’t generally extend breakfast benefits for elite members of the Bonvoy program.

Related: Mistakes to avoid making at Disney World 

Bottom line

A Disney World vacation can be an expensive proposition. Setting your Disney budget early on will help you immensely when it comes to planning your trip by narrowing your focus.

Sure, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is an incredible property to stay at during your Disney vacation. But, it can cost many hundreds of dollars per night, where the choices above can be had for as little as a nightly resort fee plus some hotel points (consider Hilton and Hyatt for the least out-of-pocket cash, as those programs waive resort fees on award stays).

You’re not giving up on the Disney experience by choosing to stay off-site. You are, however, saving plenty of cash that you can use for some of our favorite Disney activities, like purchasing Early Morning Magic to hit some of the most popular rides or splurging on a character meal if/when those return in the future.

There are plenty of hotels outside the gates of the most popular theme park in Orlando that are available using hotel points to defray your costs. Which one is right for you will depend on your goals, whether that means the lap of luxury or the biggest bang for your buck.

Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy

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