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Forums Payment cards American Express Points earning strategy for Disneyland (LA) holiday in summer 2026

  • bm1976 8 posts

    Wasn’t sure where to put this question but as I would most likely be using AMEX to generate points, I thought the AMEX thread would be best. I know 2026 is a long way off but with the two year hiatus required for AMEX SUBs to be available I thought it would be useful to start planning now.

    The premise for my question is that in the summer of 2026 I would like to take my wife and two kids (they’ll be 7 and 10 by then) to Disneyland in LA. We will also visit Universal Studios, hire an RV to visit Grand Canyon and maybe, if we have time go up to Yosemite. Essentially remaking a holiday my family and I did when I was young. So finally the question;

    Considering my wife and I can start the AMEX churn this September, should we start the build up of points then or in 2024 closer to the actual holiday? This also leads onto the point that if I need Avios for the more pedestrian summer holidays we will take to Poland to see my wife’s family in 2024 and 2025, is it best maybe to earn Virgin/KLM/Air France points for the 2026 Disneyland holiday? And finally given people’s poor view of the BA hard product and the flight to LA will be long, is it better, if I keep with Avios for the 2026 holiday, to go with AA or another OneWorld carrier?

    Apologies for the long-winded question but struggled to get all my thoughts down in a more concise way.

    The Savage Squirrel 612 posts

    Not a helpful 1st reply, but….

    Do not hire an RV. Driving the passes and mountain roads in the Sierra Nevada is wonderful. Driving in the Sierra Nevada in an underpowered oversized bus is not. Same goes for the National/State parks in Arizona. ( Also; motorhome toilets…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMUg6T89LbU 😀 )

    “given people’s poor view of the BA hard product and the flight to LA will be long”

    BA fly Club Suite flights to LA already. It might even be all Club Suite by 2026. The hard product is absolutely fine. (The soft product YMMV).. There’s also enough flights that there’s a decent chance of snagging Avios availability on your preferred dates, while 4 seats on Virgin may be trickier. You will also be able to get two Amex 2-for-1s in play to further improve availability and reduce cost.

    OTOH Virgin points convert to Hilton so if you can’t use them for flights they might still come in very useful. Depends how much credit card spend you anticipate as to whether you can hit all these SUBs. Plan from there.

    bm1976 8 posts

    Thank you for the reply. Noted about the RV, although my parents, my two sisters and me did manage thirty years ago but more research is required.

    My first take was to fly BA and use the 2no. 2-4-1 vouchers we would have along with all the Avios earned, as per Rob’s article a few weeks back. Maybe I shouldn’t try and complicate things and just go with what’s easiest…

    Guernsey Globetrotter 653 posts

    Sounds like a great trip you are planning there @bm1976 !

    Definitely no harm in starting to build up your points war chest early. If you have any doubts at all about the route you’ll take then, as @Rob always emphasises, go for a convertible currency – earning Amex MRs but not switching into Avios/Virgin etc until needed.

    If you’re waiting on Amex card options til September then no harm in using the intervening six months on a Virgin card to see how you get on with it. They do fly LAX and at the moment and there look to be plenty of PE seat options recently released. Obviously a lot can change in 2-3 years but Virgin PE is often praised on here and certainly would be less expensive than Club/UC flights.

    Also start to consider where you may be staying, particularly for the Anaheim Disney visit. If you’re going down the Disney hotel route (and for a dream one-off trip then why not) there aren’t really any points options that I’m aware of… However, you could save a lot by staying in a non-Disney location if price is an issue. I remember Marriott have a lot of options near to the parks for instance.

    Finally, while I totally understand @Meta’s point about the RV issues, if you’re looking to save money then I’d imaging the RV park charges and increased RV hire over a conventional vehicle would still be a LOT less than a family room in most decent hotels.

    Enjoy the planning – to me it is all part of the fun and anticipation!

    Travel Strong 323 posts

    If you ditch the RV and drive it instead, Riata Ranch made an excellent stop off on the way too/from Yosemite near Sequoia National park. Horse riding, dogs, chickens, all at normal AirBnB room rates instead of the crazy dude ranch prices found elsewhere like in Colorado.

    Given the excellent BA Club Suite, the sign up bonus offers available, and the 241 vouchers without needing status – BA is an excellent choice here. Should be able to save and redeem with ease for round trip business class seats for all.

    Consider Page Arizona too, for many sights even more impressive than the grand canyon – Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe bend, for example.
    And why not go the whole hog – death valley too.

    A superb loop is: LA – Grand Canyon – Page – Las Vegas – Death valley + Mountain pass to Yosemite – Sequoia NP – LA

    OR finish in SFO… there is no one way fee on rentals in the south west, and availability on reward seats is even better than LAX.

    NigelHamilton 234 posts

    So I love motorhoming (we had one when the kids were up to about 12) and did every long holiday in it. We managed everything including Alpine passes no problem in a fairly low powered family van, and the kids loved it! Not done it in the States though and their motorhomes tend to be bigger (no idea about the power). As per @GuernseyGlobetrotter you will definitely find it cheaper. We were looking at California (the kids asked for a Non-Motorhoming holiday) and even before the dollar’s strengthening against the pound, family rooms in a cheap-looking motel started at £150/£200 a night. We ended up going to Canada instead where brilliantly located, 4 star hotels or great apartments were the same. An RV would have been much cheaper (I think it was £1,000 for a couple of weeks) and likely more enjoyable locations to stay.

    For the points earning, why not get the Barclays Avios credit card and then supplement it in September with the BAPP Amex, which will save you a fortune with the new pricing if you have 2x 2-4-1 and enough avios to cover the return? Although predicting whether that pricing will remain for 2 years+ is anyones guess!

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer 2,388 posts

    If you have a poor view of the BA product then don’t collect avios and go for an AMEX MR card instead and then you can move your points to other airlines.

    Not sure how this would affeect the churn opportunities though.

    bm1976 8 posts

    Thanks all for replies. I’m leaning towards BA for this now, starting the churn as soon as I can and leave in the Amex account until needed. As it is quite far away, I could even start the churn again before the time comes to book the flights.

    @Travel Strong, I was thinking driving up to San Fran – it’s exactly what we did but back then my father was an expat, which meant longer holidays. Not sure I could fit everything into the two weeks we would be taking this time.


    @NigelHamilton
    I currently have the Barclays. I started with the paid one and now have the fee free one for everyday spend but that’s a good point about supplementing, so need to remember to cancel Barclays and wait six months to apply again.

    nectar collector 294 posts

    Thanks all for replies. I’m leaning towards BA for this now, starting the churn as soon as I can and leave in the Amex account until needed. As it is quite far away, I could even start the churn again before the time comes to book the flights.

    @Travel Strong, I was thinking driving up to San Fran – it’s exactly what we did but back then my father was an expat, which meant longer holidays. Not sure I could fit everything into the two weeks we would be taking this time.



    @NigelHamilton
    I currently have the Barclays. I started with the paid one and now have the fee free one for everyday spend but that’s a good point about supplementing, so need to remember to cancel Barclays and wait six months to apply again.

    Re Barclays Avios card, you need to wait 24 months to be eligible for any signup bonus again. You can reapply 6 months after cancelling, but no SUB then. Also obviously no absolute guarantee in either case that you will be accepted again……

    The Savage Squirrel 612 posts

    Re: hotel costs: if only there was a website that told you all about how to collect points so you get free hotel rooms… 😀

    Don’t know the OP’s points-earning power or budget, but if it was an either-or choice between points for flying Club rather than econ’, an experience which lasts 11 hours, or points for staying in luxury hotels for free, an experience which might last weeks, then I’d be down the back of the aircraft every time. Well maybe not right down the back 😀 Virgin PE then, which I find perfectly comfortable for daytime flights. Others will think the exact opposite way, and that’s cool 🙂 Up to OP to decide for themselves.

    Lots of people do US road trips without spending anything on hotels at all….

    https://www.headforpoints.com/forums/topic/central-california-hilton-tour/

    Completely agree that if you are uncertain what you want, or your plans may change then a convertible currency (AmexMR) is more valuable than rewards in a single scheme to you right now.

    The Savage Squirrel 612 posts

    Also, if you’re considering touring between LA and SF then check out this thread and particularly Will in SJC’s superb advice half way down page 1.

    https://www.headforpoints.com/forums/topic/california-road-trip/

    degsy 156 posts

    I’d definitely start on the Amex trail as soon as you can rather than waiting (be careful you don’t start early though, well worth confirming exact dates first, if you can).

    As others have pointed out flexibility is probably key so far off – the last 2/3 years has shown you’re safest not to have all your eggs in one basket.

    And lastly, just to add my views on RVs – we did a Las Vegas to SF road trip via Yosemite & PCH about 10 yrs ago. Awesome experience but as has been pointed out these are slow vehicles. We found it typically took twice as long as google maps told us – we were 3+ hrs late arriving at our destination on the 1st night and it felt we were always playing catch-up after this. So guidance is not to be too ambitious.

    qc 264 posts

    Do either you or your wife have (or had in the last 2 years) a BA AMEX – if not today is the last day to apply for the BA Amex Premium Plus – you should both apply and you’ll bet 70k Avios each.

    bm1976 8 posts

    @qc yes, we’ve both had the card at some point over the last two years. Our earliest churn to get maximum points, excluding current higher than normal SUBs is this September.

    Thanks for all the RV feedback. I have family who used to live in LA, so was going to ask them for advice for full itinerary for the two weeks.

    Peter K 618 posts

    Not mentioned yet that I’ve seen, but don’t stint on Disney tickets.

    I went a few years ago to universal studios LA for one day and getting the fast pass made all the differece. I went on basically every ride in one day, whereas without it, in the normal queues, I might have managed 4. Don’t underestimate how long the queues for rides will be!

    BuildBackBetter 705 posts

    Might not help directly, but worth checking if the new payment apps (venmo?) would accept uk cards as these payment methods seem increasingly popular over there.

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