Disney World Tips and Tricks for Military Families

 

As you may or may not know, Disney offers discounts to members of the military. This includes both discounts on tickets as well as Disney World resort rooms. While this discount cannot be combined with other Disney World offers, it is most definitely a better deal than most other Disney World room only deals.

Who qualifies for Disney’s Military discount?

  • Current military members including active, reserve, National Guard, and Coast Guard.
  • Retired military members including active, reserve, National Guard, and Coast Guard.
  • 100% Service Connected Disable with “DAVPRM” code on their military issued identification.
  • Some additional exceptions are also included and up to the discretion of Disney

Please note that the member who qualifies your family/party for this discount must be present at check in and MUST present their military identification. Failure to do so will change the rate to the current non-discounted pricing, so book with caution and don’t try and cheat the system. IT DOES NOT WORK!

I’m qualified! What are the details on park tickets?

Disney offers two kids of discount tickets:

  • Armed Forces Salute
  • Regular Military Discount tickets

There is a big difference in these two types of tickets and you must be very careful in selecting which option is best for your family.

Armed Forces Salute has a much greater discount (almost 50%) but is only available in as a 4 day ticket (park hopper, water park fun and more, or park hopper + water park fun and more). Additionally there are blackout dates for the use of these tickets including peak times like the week of Easter, the before Christmas through New Years Eve, and the 4th of July (excludes Magic Kingdom only – but you wouldn’t want to go there anyways as it’s excessively crowded!)

Armed Forces Salute tickets also have a maximum of 6 tickets available to you for each offer period (typically end of September – end of September the following year). Disney may make exceptions for families with immediate families larger than 6 persons. Tickets may also be purchased for extended family members with your allotted 6 tickets as long as the qualifying member is present to present identification to activate the tickets once on Disney property.

Regular Military Discount tickets provide a roughly 5% discount off the general public rates (sometimes up to 8%). This discount does offer you many more choices as park tickets go including 1-10 day tickets, base tickets, park hoppers, and water park fun and more. You may have to be flexible if choosing your tickets as your military ticket office may not have exactly what you are looking for. You also have the option to purchase tickets at Shades of Green once you arrive, but you will be unable to make FastPass+ selections until your tickets are linked. This option is also better if you are looking to travel during any of the ticket blackout periods.

Link your tickets as soon as you purchase them to take advantage of FastPass+ service as both ticket options qualify you. Remember these important dates:

  • On Site guests (Disney World Resorts) – 60 days prior to arrival
  • Off Site guests (including Shades of Green) – 30 days prior to arrival
  • Day Guests (or guests not making a hotel stay) – 30 days prior to arrival

If you have a little princess who is dying to meet Anna & Elsa, you will need to set an alarm when day 60 rolls around or you will be out of luck. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

If you are traveling with extended family or plan on purchasing more than the maximum of 6 tickets, purchase as many adult tickets as possible under the military salute discount. Child tickets are a little less expensive, so you are saving more with on your adult tickets when comparing apples to apples.

Either option requires activation at the gate during first use which will require proper identification. If you are traveling with a larger group, please make sure you go to the same park the first day. After initial use, you may split up.

Disney World Resort Discounts

Disney typically offers an annual discount to members of the military and their families. Same inclusions as listed above apply for this room discount as well.  Typically, the discount looks a little like this:

  • Value Resorts – 30%
  • Moderate Resorts – 35%
  • Deluxe Resorts – 40%

The only exclusion I am aware of are the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation. This is of course subject to availability and black out dates which have historically included the week leading up to Easter through Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving day and Friday after Thanksgiving, and December 23 – 31. Be aware that if you arrival prior to one of these blackout dates, your length of stay will be included in this discount (which differs from many public room only offers).
You are also able to book up to 3 rooms with your military discount, although the qualifying member must be present, with proper identification, at check in for each room booked. They are not required to pay for every room.

Like any Disney package, booking a room only reservation will require 1 night’s room cost and the remaining balance is due upon arrival at your resort.

An additional benefit of this discount is Disney’s Dining Plan! While all Disney World packages require park tickets to add the dining plan, the military room discount does not! You can add either Plus Dining (or the full dining plan) or the deluxe dining plan. There is no discount to adding the dining plan, but with the money you save on tickets and your room it’s likely worth it! (You cannot use a free dining promotion if it is available at the time you are booking).

I’m sold! How do find out costs and book a room?

Unfortunately, you are unable to book any military discounted room online. You must call Disney reservations to do so (or contact your travel agent – lucky for you, you’re reading a blog of a Disney travel professional!) 🙂 You can also get a rough estimate by searching a room only offer on Disney World’s web site and doing your own math. While this is definitely not 100% accurate, it will give you a good idea before you call. You may want to be aware of any newly released discounts before calling that may inflate your wait time. You can find information by checking the Special Offers section of the Disney World web site.

Just mention the military discount when you call. You do not need to provide any proof of qualification for the discount over the phone (just on arrival). You will receive an email confirmation when you book your vacation package and it will link to your My Disney Experience account just like any other resort reservation! You will receive MagicBands and all the other benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel. You also qualify for Disney’s Magical Express Service saving you the cost and time of renting a car or booking alternate transportation.

What about Shades of Green?

Shades of Green is an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney World property. Be aware that this is NOT one of the Disney World resort hotels. While I cannot go into great detail about the resort or it’s amenities outside of what is available on the internet (as I’m a civilian), I can provide the following comparison between Disney World resorts and Shades of Green:

  • Cost: Cost of a Disney World Value room during peak season and Shades of Green are roughly the same cost depending on the booking category you qualify for at Shades of Green and your party size.  In a close race of cost after a comparison, choose a Disney resort as the benefits outweigh the difference of $100 or so!
  • Transportation: Shades of Green does have bus service to all Disney World theme parks. Once at the theme parks you are welcome to use any additional method of Disney Transportation to get around. Unfortunately this bus runs on a structured schedule which is often once an hour. Disney buses tend to run every 15-20 minutes continuously. If you miss a bus for a Disney resort, there is likely one right behind it! You must show proof of stay to board any Shades of Green bus. There are no requirements for Disney buses.
  • Airport Transportation: Shades of Green does not qualify for Disney Magical Express Service. You are able to book somewhat inexpensive shuttles, however you can’t beat the cost of free!
  • Parking at theme parks: Parking for Disney World resort guests is free at all of Disney’s theme parks. Unfortunately this benefit does not cover Shades of Green as it is not considered a Disney resort. The current cost of parking is now $17/day.
  • Dining Plan: Shades of Green guests unfortunately do not qualify for the dining plan as they are not resort guests. As noted above, you are able to add Disney’s Dining Plan to your room only package without the purchase of park tickets with the military discount.
  • Extra Magic Hours: Both Shades of Green and all Disney Resorts qualify you for Extra Magic Hours at Disney World theme parks. One of my favorite benefits!
  • FastPass+: FastPass+ service is available to add Disney World guests with valid park tickets. If you purchase tickets ahead of time, you are able to make reservations 60 days in advance at Disney World resorts and 30 days in advance at Shades of Green (as it is considered an “off site” hotel). Your tickets must be linked to your My Disney Experience account in either situation.
  • MagicBands: MagicBands are free to all Disney World resort guests. Any guest can purchase a MagicBand in the theme parks.

If cost is a major factor in your Disney World vacation, you may have a less expensive option (and a little bit more space) at Shades of Green over a Disney value resort. With such a great year round discount, you’ll save a great deal of money regardless of your resort category in a Disney World resort hotel.

A few other things to mention

  • If Free Dining is offered during your travel period, you may want to compare overall costs to see what will save you more money. At times it may be more advantageous for you to use a public offer over your military discount (but not often).
  • Once you arrive at Disney, check for discounts at stores (especially in Downtown Disney). You can save up to 20% on your purchases!
A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

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3 thoughts on “Disney World Tips and Tricks for Military Families

  1. My husband and I are planning on going to Disney World next year and we were planning on doing the Armed Forces Military Discount as long as it is within the time frame. Is there also a military discount for Memory Maker? If we purchase the tickets at the turnstyles, how can we link our tickets and Memory Maker to the My Disney Experience App?

    • Hi Andrea! No Memory Maker discount in any way shape or form. If you purchase your tickets at the gate (highly discouraged as part of the advanced planning process) you’ll have to ask the cast member helping you. Memory Maker added prior to your arrival will automatically be linked to your account. You won’t see photos on the app. You have to view them on the web.

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