How to Use Hilton Points for Disney Vacations
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So you want to take the kids (or yourself) to Disney World or Disneyland? You probably already know that a Disney vacation is no small expense. The price of the theme park tickets alone might make your eyes bug out, though we do have some tips such as hunting for discounted tickets on a site like Undercover Tourist, using your points to pay for tickets or paying with discounted Disney gift cards.
Saving on tickets is great, but you can also shave hundreds or thousands of dollars off the total trip cost by using Hilton points to pay for a hotel stay close to a Disney property -- both at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. Here's how to use (and earn) Hilton points to make your family's Disney dreams a reality.
Special Disney World Perks at Hilton Hotels
Hilton Honors members have lots of choices when it comes to Walt Disney World vacations. Even if you don't have any Hilton points available to you at this moment, have no fear as there are ways to earn the points you need to cover your Disney vacation.
When you hear the phrase "Official Walt Disney World Hotel," you may think of the resorts that Disney owns and operates itself, such as Disney's Contemporary Resort or Disney's Coronado Springs. And yes, those are official Disney properties. But there are a few other hotels that allow you to enjoy some of the same benefits as the on-property Disney resorts -- Hilton has several that fall in that category.
The benefits of staying at an Official Walt Disney World Hotel include access to Extra Magic Hours (when a park opens early or stays open late to Disney hotel guests) and the ability to book FastPass+ reservations for rides up to 60 days in advance of your arrival instead of the standard 30-day window available to off-site guests.
To point out the value of those benefits, from Sept. 1 – Nov. 2, 2019, there are "extra" Extra Magic Hours every single day:
- Magic Kingdom — including popular rides in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, from 7–8am daily
- Disney's Hollywood Studios — including Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, from 6–9am, as well as Toy Story Land attractions and more from 6:30–9am daily (Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is subject to capacity controls)
- Disney's Animal Kingdom — including Pandora – The World of Avatar and other attractions throughout the park, from 7–8am daily
Official Hiltons Walt Disney World Hotels
Many of the hotels in the Disney Springs Resort Area -- a complex packed with shops, restaurants and entertainment venues -- are Official Walt Disney World Hotels. Of the seven Disney Springs hotels that get these extra benefits, three of them are under Hilton's umbrella. (If you've been going to Disney World for a long time, you may know Disney Springs by its old name: Downtown Disney.)
Two other Hilton hotels in the Bonnet Creek are also Official Walt Disney World Hotels. In total, the official Hilton Disney World options include:
Points price: 29k–50k Hilton points per night
Each of the 229 rooms at the DoubleTree Suites is a suite and that's an incredible plus for families that appreciate having a bedroom separate from the living area. There are one- and two-bedroom suites that have private bedrooms (with doors) plus a living room with a queen sleep sofa, dining area and wet bar (consisting of a mini-fridge, microwave and coffee maker).
The daily continental breakfast buffet gets high marks, though you'll pay for it unless you are a Hilton Gold or Diamond elite. Mickey waffles and oatmeal are included in the continental spread but if you want any of the hot items (pancakes, biscuits, bacon, sausage, etc.), there's a $5 per-person charge.
The DoubleTree has a pool, whirlpool, splash pad, tennis court, fitness center and convenience store on the property. You'll read that this hotel is walking distance to Disney Springs but it's a long walk (about a mile), especially for little kids. The hotel also offers a free evening shuttle to Disney Springs.
You can take the free shuttle to the Disney parks or waterparks, but remember that like any hotel offering transportation to Disney, the first few buses of the day and the last few of the evening will often be crowded.
Points price: 36k–50k Hilton points per night
If your family prefers smaller, more compact resorts, the lakefront Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace might not be for you. It's a big complex with more than 1,000 rooms. There's a tower plus several low-rise buildings where you'll find a variety of rooms and suites. The large size, however, means plenty of amenities like several on-site restaurants, pools, a lazy river, rooms with a view of Epcot's fireworks and even a character breakfast on Sunday (characters from 8:30–11:30am). You can also walk to Disney Springs via the Pedestrian Skybridge. Online reviews note that some rooms are "tired" and are in need of refreshing soon.
Points cost: 32k–50k Hilton points per night
The Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista is the closest Hilton property to Disney Springs -- it's right across the street. At 814 rooms and suites, it's a bit smaller than the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace but like the Palace it also hosts a Sunday morning character breakfast. There are two pools, a whirlpool, a kiddie pool and three restaurants. Kids love the video-game arcade and adults appreciate the 24-hour pantry market that makes it easy to grab drinks and snacks for the room. Continental breakfast is included for Gold and Diamond elites and is basic but filling with pastries, breads, bagels, fruit and oatmeal.
Upgrade to include hot items, including omelets, for $7 per person. Like comments we've heard about the Palace, this hotel also has its share of "tired" rooms. A free shuttle takes guests to and from the Disney theme parks and waterparks.
Points cost: 49k–60k Hilton points per night
The setting here, on an expansive nature reserve, is lovely. Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is attached to the Waldorf Astoria so it's easy to walk between the two properties (via the meeting and event spaces) and enjoy dining venues in each. The absolute standout amenity at this property is the three-acre lazy river with waterslide. Your family could happily spend all day here. You can also rent pool cabanas, a nice luxury. The complimentary shuttle visits the Disney theme parks as well as Disney Springs. Hilton Gold and Diamond elites get a continental breakfast buffet -- fruit, cereal, yogurt, breads and pastries, oatmeal, grits and smoked salmon -- for free at the on-site Harvest Bistro ($18 per person for everyone else; the upgraded hot buffet with made-to-order egg dishes is $28 per person with a reduced charge for elites).
Points cost: 75k–80k Hilton points per night
Also situated along the Bonnet Creek nature preserve, the Waldorf Astoria is the luxury option when using Hilton points in Orlando. We've stayed there numerous times and have always enjoyed it -- especially when staying in a room with a view of Disney's fireworks (certain rooms have views of the fireworks from several parks). Foodies will love the Bull & Bear restaurant with entrees like flaming lobster on the spit and a 32-day dry-aged tomahawk ribeye. Shuttle service to the Disney parks is typically pretty efficient.
What Is a WDW Good Neighbor Hotel?
Here's where we dive a bit deeper in the Disney terminology. There are the Official Walt Disney World Hotels that we have been talking about thus far, but then there are also Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels. The two names sound similar, but the benefits of staying in the two groups of hotels are very different. A Good Neighbor hotel simply means that it's close to WDW (two to 14 miles), provides Walt Disney World information on-property, sells Disney World tickets on-site and offers transportation to Walt Disney World theme parks (though you may have to pay for it).
These hotels don't get access to Extra Magic Hours or 60-day FastPass+ bookings, but still put you pretty close to the magic.
The Hilton-branded Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels include*:
- Hampton Inn & Suites - South Lake Buena Vista (26k–30k points per night)
- Hilton Garden Inn Orlando/Lake Buena Vista (29k–40k points per night)
- Home2 Suites by Hilton Orlando International Drive South (22k–40k points per night)
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Lake Buena Vista – Orlando (31k–40k points per night
*Points per night as shown in Hilton's Points Explorer tool.
What About Hilton Properties With No Special WDW Designation?
Finally, don't cross a Hilton-brand hotel off your list just because it isn't an Official Walt Disney World Hotel or a Good Neighbor Hotel. If you're looking for the least expensive points option, you can look at the properties that don't have any particular WDW designation.
For example, I've seen award nights at both the Hampton Inn Orlando/Lake Buena Vista (a 20-minute drive to the Magic Kingdom) and the Hampton Inn Orlando International Drive/Convention Center (a 30-minute drive to the Magic Kingdom) as low as 20,000 points per night. A weeklong stay would cost 120,000 Hilton points (factoring in the fifth night free on award stays, the per night cost lowers to 17,143 points).
The current welcome bonus for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points plus a free night reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. That would more than cover a weeklong stay at either of these hotels that are both near Walt Disney World and offer a hot free breakfast to all guests every day.
Using Hilton Points at Disneyland
The hotel landscape at Disneyland is very different from at Disney World. For starters, outside of the three Disneyland properties run by Disney, there are no official hotels at Disneyland. Instead, you'll only find non-Disney properties designated as Good Neighbor Hotels. According to Disneyland, these are Disney-approved hotels that are close to the Disneyland Resort, but no special access perks are included. Also unique to Anaheim and Disneyland are that so many nearby properties are truly walkable to the park entrance, so you aren't really trading away convenience when you decide to use points for your accommodations.
*Points per night as shown in Hilton's Points Explorer tool.
Hilton Properties Near Disneyland
Points cost: 26k - 50k Hilton points per night
The full-service Hilton Anaheim, across from the Anaheim Convention Center, is within walking distance of Disneyland (about a half-mile). The footprint of the hotel is large and that means you'll get plenty of amenities including multiple restaurants, two pools (though you need to pay a fee to use the one at the health club), whirlpool, splash zone for kids and a ticket desk selling Disneyland passes. Rooms have a mini-fridge and coffee maker -- some have views of the fireworks. Like at some other Hilton properties, a common complaint we see online is that some of the rooms need to be refreshed.
But, you can't beat the location since you can walk to Disneyland in about 10 minutes.
Points cost: 38k - 50k Hilton points per night
Insiders will tell you that this is a great place to stay since it's near Disneyland's Toy Story parking lot. Just walk two minutes from the hotel to the parking lot and from there you can take the parking lot trolley to the park gates. Families also like this extended-stay property since rooms are more like apartments and include a full kitchen and separate living area. Finally, a hot breakfast buffet is included in the daily room rate for everyone and there is a manager's reception with light food served several nights a week.
Points cost: 34k - 50k Hilton points per night
This is a new hotel, so almost everything is sharp and clean. While some people will tell you it's walking distance to Disneyland, it really isn't ... unless you don't mind a 25-minute walk with the kids after a long day traversing the park. That said, it is just a five-minute drive to the theme park's parking areas. Hampton offers a free hot breakfast to all guests every day and some rooms have bunk beds.
Points cost: 44k - 50k Hilton points per night
Also about a mile from Disneyland (25-minute-ish walk or short drive), the DoubleTree has those yummy chocolate chip cookies it gives to guests upon check-in. Hilton Gold and Diamond elites get free breakfast here consisting of breads, cereals, fruit, yogurt, granola and hot entrees. Double rooms have two queen beds instead of double beds, so that's a nice perk for families. All rooms have a coffee maker, microwave and mini-fridge. There are suites if you need more space than a typical hotel room provides.
Points cost: 38k - 50k Hilton points per night
This all-suite hotel is a little more than a mile from Disneyland. Everyone gets a free cooked-to-order breakfast daily and there is also an evening manager's reception with light snacks. There is a pool, plus a whirlpool and fitness center. This is not one of the newest hotels in the area so expect to see some soft products -- like bedding or carpets -- that may need refreshing. But if you're a family that needs the space, these two-room suites may be perfect. Rooms have a mini-fridge and microwave and you can book a room with a view of the fireworks.
How to Earn Hilton Points
Now is a great time to piece together some Hilton bonuses as there are several cobranded credit card offers that deliver welcome bonuses that can completely cover a one-week stay at some Hilton properties located near the Disney parks.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card ( Earn 70,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership; $0 annual fee) (See rates and fees)
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points plus a free night reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. $95 annual fee) (see rates & fees).
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (Free night reward offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points plus a free night reward after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership; $95 annual fee) (See rates and fees)
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (150,000-point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months; $450 annual fee) (See rates and fees)
The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.
You can also transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Hilton, but the transfer ratio (1 Membership Rewards to 2 Hilton points) isn't always a good deal. You can sometimes find transfer bonuses that improve the deal a bit.
And of course, staying at any Hilton property on a paid rate -- from Waldorf Astoria to Conrad, Curio and other brands -- earns you points as long as you are a member of Hilton Honors and book direct or via a program such as Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts. (Speaking of which, the Waldorf Astoria at Disney World is bookable via Amex FHR.)
A Disney vacation can really do a number on a family's budget. Between airfare, lodging, theme park tickets, dining, souvenirs and more, the trip can be financially overwhelming if you aren't careful. Hilton Honors points may be your answer to a more cost-effective Disney vacation as there are some excellent Hilton-brand hotels to choose from, whether you're planning a visit to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Have you stayed at any of these properties? If so, we'd love to hear your thoughts.
Need more Hilton advice? Read these articles:
- Can Hilton’s Points Explorer Tool Help You Plan a Better Award Redemption?
- Maximizing Redemptions With Hilton Honors
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Hilton Honors
- The 10 Best Hilton Resorts for Families
- How to Redeem Points With the Hilton Honors Program
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex Surpass, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire Amex, click here.