The best points hotels near Disney World
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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
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.
FOR NO COST ASSISTANCE WITH PLANNING AND BOOKING YOUR NEXT DISNEY VACATION, CHECK OUT TPG’S DISNEY BOOKING PARTNER, MOUSE COUNSELORS. HERE’S WHY USING A FREE VACATION PLANNER CAN MAKE YOUR NEXT DISNEY TRIP BETTER.
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.
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).
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.
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.
“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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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