Disney World tips and discounts for military personnel
Good news for the people who are always wanting me to provide info for military families: I've got an interview today with Steve from MilitaryDisneyTips.com!
Disney World planning is difficult enough, but when you add military discounts and info on top of an already complicated process, it can seem way too overwhelming.
Today, Steve shares info on which discounts are available, what Shades of Green is like, who can take advantage of military discounts and lots more.
Let's dive in...
Steve: Hi Shannon, first thanks for the opportunity to share some info with your readers. My site’s mission is to spread the word about these sometimes confusing discounts as far as possible.
Shannon: First of all, who is eligible for military perks, discounts and privileges at Disney World?
Great question! The first thing to understand is that there isn’t just one Disney Military Discount; there are several offers available through several different Disney and the Department of Defense sources. Plus there are offers by many companies in the Orlando area. For this interview I’ll just focus on the main WDW offers.
There is apparently a difference between what active, retired and served-but-not-retired people can do. Can you explain the differences?
There are three important programs offered for the U.S. military community:
- The Disney Armed Forces Salute is a temporary offer (renewed year to year) with fantastic discounts - 50% off 4-day tickets which have either the Hopper, the Water Park Fun and More option, or both options and 30-40% off Disney resorts.
These can be purchased directly from Disney or from an on-base ticket office or Shades of Green. This discount is available at WDW and Disneyland.
Those eligible are:
- Current military members: Active Duty, participating Reservists and Guardsmen, and Coastguard members
- Retired members of the above
- 100% service connected, permanently disabled veterans
- Spouses of all the above (in lieu of the member)
- Foreign military stationed with U.S. Forces who have a U.S.-issued ID
- The Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way tickets have a permanent, slight discount. These tickets are the exact same tickets as those that can be purchased by the general public.
They come in 1 to 10 day ticket lengths with all of the various options that can be added (i.e. no expiration, park hopper, and Water Park Fun and More). These are sold at only a slight discount (4-8% depending on length and options) and can be purchased only at on-base ticket offices and Shades of Green.
Eligibility for these tickets is the same as the Armed Forces Salute above, except for no Foreign Military. This discount is available at WDW and Disneyland.
- Then there's Shades of Green Resort, the military owned and operated resort on WDW property. Shades of Green offers lower cost deluxe resort rooms on WDW property for military members and their supporters, with rates based on rank. Newer, younger members do not pay as much as senior members.
Shades also has a ticket office which sells all Disney tickets at a slight discount and the Armed Forces Salute tickets. They also sell discounted tickets to a full range of Orlando attractions.
The eligibility for Shades is much broader:
- Current military members
- Retired military members
- Other uniformed services (U.S. Public Health Service and NOAA Commissioned Officers)
- 100% service connected, permanently disabled members
- Involuntary and voluntary early separations from the military in their transition window
- Un-remarried surviving spouses of military members
- Foreign Military stationed with U.S. Forces who have a U.S. issued ID
- Current and retired Department of Defense civilian workers
And Shades of Green offers a special program in the months of January and September which allows anyone that served in the military who was honorably discharged to stay at the resort and use the ticket office (except for the Armed Forces Salute tickets).
What form of proof or ID is required in each of those categories? People have told me they've received conflicting info on that.
Basically, the required ID is the one issued by the organization the person is a member of. A DoD issued military ID (CAC Card) or retired ID, a DHS issued ID (CAC Card) or retired ID for the Coast Guard.
I do have a handy ID guide which was produced by WDW on my site.
For Shades of Green’s special offer for non-retired veterans, they’ll need to show their DD-214 (discharge paper).
When I wrote about the pros and cons of all Disney resorts, many people thought that I should've included Shades of Green. I know you wrote a whole eBook about that resort. Can you share some basic info on that resort and how it differs in perks from most on-site Disney resorts?
Sure, Shades of Green is located across the street from Disney’s Polynesian Resort, between Disney’s Palm and Magnolia golf courses. It shares a parking lot with the golf courses’ club house. In fact, Shades was one of the original Disney World Resorts. It operated under several names during Disney’s ownership, but always functioned as Disney’s golf resort.
Shades dates back to the time when the only other Disney resorts were the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Fort Wilderness Campground. It was a Disney Deluxe resort and has the largest guest rooms on property. All standard rooms feature two queen beds and a single sleeper couch.
Shades has a variety of restaurants, two outdoor heated pools, fitness and full spa facilities, tennis courts, and an Armed Forces Exchange store. They operate their own small fleet of buses which run guests to key locations on property (The TTC, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney and the water parks). Shades guests also have full use of Disney’s transportation system.
Shades guests are eligible for:
- Extra Magic Hours
- Theme park package delivery
Shades guests are not eligible for:
- Free Disney theme park parking
- Charging to their room from Disney locations
- Disney’s Magical Express
- Disney Key to the World/Magic Bands
The best perk of staying at Shades is the price; Standard and Poolside rooms range from $95 to $141 per night - based on rank - year round!
All purchases on Shades property, including room charges, are tax free. This is because Shades is a DoD facility and state and local taxes are not applicable on federal property.
I also love the low-key, friendly atmosphere. It is a smaller deluxe resort and everyone who stays there is part of the same "family." I find guests are much friendlier to each other than at the Disney resorts.
Eligible guests may sponsor non-eligible guests (family and friends) in up to three rooms and their spouse may also sponsor up to three more rooms, for a total of 7. That is great for hosting a family gathering. They offer several sizes of suites, from two to four rooms which can sleep from 6 to 12 people. Suites range in price from $235 to $375.
The ticket sales office is a great benefit. As I mentioned before, they carry all varieties of Disney tickets and passes at discounted prices, plus they also carry discounted tickets for many other attractions such as: Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Kennedy Space Center, Wet n’ Wild, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Gatorland, and many Orlando area Dinner Shows.
Shades also offers meeting and conference facilities as well as great options for weddings.
Other than being able to stay at Shades of Green, what are some of the best military discounts/perks/privileges?
There are some other great discounts and programs for military members.
As far as hotels go, the Disney World Swan and Dolphin offer a special military rate and the Downtown Disney Resorts offer a 20% military discount.
Many non-Disney owned Downtown Disney restaurants and merchants offer military discounts of from 10% to 25% off.
Each day at 5 p.m., in the Magic Kingdom Disney holds a Flag Retreat, the formal lowering of the flag for the day that takes place on military installations every day. Disney Cast Members and a special guest or two participate in the ceremony. Each morning, Disney Cast Members select military members or retirees at random to participate. It is a very moving event that everyone should try to see.
Moving off Disney property both Legoland Florida and SeaWorld parks (SeaWorld, Busch Gardens) offer special salutes of their own.
Many other businesses offer military discounts on everything from airport transportation to stroller rentals. My motto is to always ask if a discount is offered; it never hurts and it could definitely help.
I understand that Military Salute Tickets are discounted tickets that can be purchased on military bases, but the new FastPass+ system requires that you have park tickets linked to your account ahead of time. Am I correct in assuming that Military Salute Tickets can't be linked before arriving to Disney World? How do you suggest guests handle FastPass+ reservations if they plan to purchase Military Salute tickets?
Wow, this has been the biggest issue in our community lately!
Again, this is not a simple, straightforward topic.
First, military guests need to be staying at a Disney resort and have their reservation linked to their My Disney Experience account. Shades of Green is currently not eligible for all of the My Magic Plus enhancements. We don’t know yet if they eventually will be or not, once Disney’s testing is over.
The Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way tickets were never an issue as they are just like any other WDW ticket. You’d buy just them on Base and then link them to your MDE account using the number on the back, then start making your FP+ reservations.
What was in question was the Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets. These tickets require activation by Disney upon arrival when purchased on base. In previous years, AFS tickets bought on base were a hard plastic ticket with a cool patriotic logo. These were run through a machine and activated at Disney ticket windows.
But this year with the advent of the RFID tickets, Disney started a new procedure similar to the old Annual Pass exchange voucher system. When an AFS ticket is purchased on base, the member receives a plastic ticket with a Disney character and green background that looks exactly like the current RFID tickets, but it is nonfunctional. During the activation process it is swapped for the actual RFID ticket the person will use.
So our big concern was, if you linked the exchange voucher using the number on the back and then made FP+ reservations, would the reservations survive the activation and switching to a different ticket with different number on the back? WDW didn’t think so in our initial conversations.
But I’m very happy to report that I’ve had numerous reports from readers that their FP+ reservations are carrying over through the activation process! It’s a big win for the military traveler.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for WDW Prep readers, Steve. I appreciate it.
Thanks again for this opportunity to share with your readers Shannon!
I hope you found Steve's info helpful. I knew almost nothing before this and learned a lot.
Here are some helpful links on Steve's site where you can get more info on some of the topics discussed here:
- Disney’s Armed Forces Salute ticket info - http://www.militarydisneytips.com/Disney-Armed-Forces-Salute.html
- Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way tickets - http://www.militarydisneytips.com/blog/disney-military-discounts/regular-disney-military-discount-for-walt-disney-world-and-disneyland-tickets/
- Shades of Green info - http://www.militarydisneytips.com/Shades-of-Green.html
- Info on non-retired vets staying at Shades of Green - http://www.militarydisneytips.com/Shades-of-Green/Non-Retired-Veterans.html
- Steve's Shades of Green eBook - http://www.shadesofgreenguide.com/
- Disney FastPass+, MagicBands and military tickets - http://www.militarydisneytips.com/blog/walt-disney-world/disney-fast-pass-plus-magic-bands-and-military-tickets/
Will you be able to take advantage of any of the offers? Do you have questions or info to add?
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.